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Enhancing an understanding of the pedagogical needs of culturally and linguistically diverse adult TAFE students

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Wright, F (2014) Enhancing an understanding of the pedagogical needs of culturally and linguistically diverse adult TAFE students. PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

The Australian education system has a recent history of recruiting significant numbers of international and migrant students whose first language is not English to study in Australian Technical and Further Education (TAFE) colleges. Many of these international and migrant students have come from Asian countries with different learning styles and cultural expectations associated with study and education. Although TAFE administrators have been keen to encourage Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) full-fee paying students and local migrant students to study at Australian TAFEs, there is some evidence that often only limited classroom based pedagogy adaptations are made for these students. The expectation is that CALD students will assimilate into the educational teaching and learning practices offered by TAFE. These TAFE courses have typically been designed for Australian students with proficient English language skills in writing, listening and comprehension. At the core of this research are two issues: (1) What are the learning styles of CALD students? and (2) How can TAFE teachers adapt their pedagogical practices to more effectively accommodate CALD students in their classrooms? The current study has been informed by Vygotsky's (1978) socio-cultural theory of cognitive development. The participants were CALD students who attended two large urban TAFE colleges and their teachers. The research is made up of three connected studies that investigated; (1) the perceptions CALD TAFE students have of their learning styles and problem-solving techniques; (2) the perceptions TAFE teachers have of their CALD students as learners and problem-solvers; and, (3) the effectiveness of Marion Blank's (2002) dialogue and cognitive processing strategies as a pedagogical intervention to enhance the learning of CALD TAFE students. The underlying theoretical linkage across these three studies is the notion that cognition, thinking, memory and language are closely related and interact in a dynamic interchange. This notion draws on Vygotsky's (1978) theory of cognitive development and Baddeley's (2004) memory research. In a second-language learning and communication environment, there are more memory capacity demands placed on the CALD individual. This can influence the person's speed of memory processing into the long-term memory as the person's first language interferes with the individual's ability to think and operate easily within the second language context. In these situations TAFE teachers need to adapt their language of instruction to better accommodate the CALD students who typically have more limited vocabulary knowledge, working in the second language context and are less likely initially to link quickly new information and concepts to their established conceptual knowledge of the topic being taught. In terms of the first study a cohort of 81 (52 female and 29 males) TAFE CALD students were administered the Preferred Learning Style Questionnaire (PLSQ) (Singelis, Triandis, Bhawuk & Gelford, 1995), and the Preferred Way of Problem Solving survey (PWPS) (Güss & Wiley, 2007). Based on a Rasch analysis of the students' surveyed responses it was identified that CALD students' perceptions of themselves as problem-solvers showed similar patterns for dealing with practical and interpersonal tasks and problems in an Australian setting, but it was also demonstrated that these students were not able to endorse the usefulness of their problem-solving strategies in study conditions in an Australian educational setting. It was also shown that the students preferred a collectivist approach to study, but were also interested in their individual performance as students. The length of time in living in another country also contributed to the CALD students' confidence to problem-solve in a culture and language different from their home one. The second study investigated the perceptions TAFE teachers had of their CALD students as learners and problem-solvers. This investigation was completed using an eight item survey based on Marion Blank's (2002) four levels of dialogue and cognitive processing. The four levels are: Level 1 – description, Level 2 – comparison, Level 3 – self-reflection and generalisation, and Level 4 – abstract reasoning. The TAFE teachers identified that the CALD students they had taught typically operated more at the lower levels and that these students had more difficulty with self-reflection, generalisation and abstract reasoning in an Australian educational setting. Overall, the TAFE CALD students' responses and the TAFE teachers' perceptions of CALD students' supported the argument that language proficiency and cultural knowledge influenced the potential of individuals to function effectively with higher order cognitive issues when they operated in a different cultural and language environment to that which they had come from. In study 3 the aim was to investigate an intervention to ameliorate the problems identified in studies 1 and 2. This intervention involved "teaching" three TAFE teachers who taught classes involving significant numbers of CALD students, how to adapt their teaching so that their instructional interactions used all four of Marion Blank's Levels of Questioning (2002). Teachers reported that the CALD students' behaviour in class changed after the intervention, with the students being more active in the classroom activities, asking questions, and clarifying assessment tasks. It was reported that there were significant differences in CALD students' understanding of what was required of them to complete assessment tasks successfully and structure their written material. In addition, interview feedback from the participating teachers and a survey of the CALD students indicated that they were supportive of the intervention. The findings are discussed in terms of the need for TAFE to develop a stronger pedagogy of instruction for CALD students, and the implications of the findings to socio-cultural theories of cognitive development and educational practice, particularly in the adult learning domain and with students from diverse backgrounds.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: socio-cultural theory, structured language approach, ESL students
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Date Deposited: 27 Oct 2014 05:45
Last Modified: 15 Sep 2017 00:59
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