Towards an EAL community of practice: a case study of teaching in a multicultural primary school in Melbourne, Australia

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Abstract

As globalisation brings larger and larger numbers of immigrant or refugee children into mainstream schools across the world, this has created challenges for teachers wishing to address the language and wellbeing needs of these children. Earlier studies reported on successful professional mentoring programs, which focused on collaboration between individual teachers of English as a Second Language (ESL) and non-specialist classroom teachers. More recently, evidence is emerging of the value of a 'community of practice' (Kemmis et al., 2014) approach. This concentrates on building the professional learning capacity of the whole teaching staff, as much as individual teachers, teaching aides and administrative staff. This article is a narrativebased case study examining the experiences of teachers in a public primary school in Melbourne, Australia, with large numbers of immigrant and refugee students whose first/home language is not English. Interviews with 11 educators from all levels of the school show how teachers and leadership are working together in the school to enact a 'community of practice' approach to meeting the needs of English as an Additional Language (EAL) students in mainstream settings. The stories told by the teachers suggest that, notwithstanding the challenges, teaching EAL students in a highly multicultural school can be a positive and rewarding experience. Distinctive features of the stories reported here include: high levels of support for teachers that facilitated collaboration in their teaching and professional learning; informed use of EAL strategies that met the needs of linguistically and culturally diverse students; and a vibrant community of practice which supported and enriched teachers' everyday classroom and staffroom practices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)58-68
Number of pages11
JournalAustralian Journal of Language and Literacy
Volume42
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Keywords

  • EAL teaching
  • professional experience
  • teaching practicum
  • mentoring
  • pre-service teacher education
  • initial teacher education

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