Brokering Britain
: The teaching of ESOL citizenship

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis gives an account of an ethnographically-informed case study of two ESOL citizenship courses offered as an alternative to the Life in the UK test. Using the concepts of ‘brokering’ and ‘stance’ I draw together four levels of context: theoretical debates about citizenship; the social and political events which led to the introduction of the citizenship programme; the institutions where the case study classes took place; and the pedagogy and interaction in the two classrooms.
The teachers are shown to adopt different stances on the political, institutional and local influences on ESOL citizenship: one, perceiving ESOL and citizenship to be synonymous, made few changes to her lessons whilst the other attempted to teach citizenship head-on. Analysis of the latter reveals that much of the curriculum content centred on a received notion of British culture, although some attention was paid to political citizenship knowledge and contemporary debates. A close examination of classroom talk shows that teaching about Britain required considerable relational and ‘stance work’ on the part of the teacher as she strived to make topics accessible to students and to mediate – or ‘broker’ – between them, the official programme and her own values and beliefs.
In both classes, citizenship remained at one remove from students’ local experiences, either because of its erasure from the syllabus, because of the urgent imperative of exam preparation or because, in attempting to mitigate the more troublesome aspects of Britishness, the teacher evaded certain citizenship related topics and positioned students more frequently as representatives of their countries of birth than as Londoners. The findings suggest that if citizenship is to be addressed meaningfully in ESOL, social and political content needs to be brought centre-stage alongside a language curriculum and pedagogy which develops the capabilities for active, participatory citizenship.
Date of Award2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorBen Rampton (Supervisor) & Celia Roberts (Supervisor)

Cite this