Literacy Pedagogy in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Schools
In research on literacy in culturally and linguistically diverse classrooms, there is a growing awareness of the difficulties faced by language minority students in mainstream content areas, particularly those with interrupted schooling. In Australia, most of the 13000 refugees currently arriving each year under the UNHCR humanitarian program have severely interrupted schooling, and low levels of first language literacy. Recent studies indicate that teachers feel ill-equipped to cater to the needs and expectations of these students and that students struggle with the cultural, social and academic demands of school and mainstream subjects, inappropriate resources and texts for low literacy learners, and at times the learners’ own unrealistic expectations.
In Australia, most newly arrived low literacy refugee and immigrant students receive up to 12 months in an intensive English language program, after which they enter mainstream schools, with limited support from ESL specialists. We know that the provision of one-year programs of sheltered English immersion has been found to be ‘wildly unrealistic’. So how do young people with limited literacy grapple with the general school curriculum? Are there pedagogical approaches that maximise the engagement of students in literacy activities? What challenges do their teachers face? This paper looks at a case study of two schools with students who are highly culturally and linguistically diverse, and who struggle with all aspects of the curriculum. It identifies the challenges faced by the teachers, the approaches taken to literacy, and specific strategies that have worked to generate literacy outcomes for students.
Keywords: Refugees, Literacy, ESL, Cultural, Linguistic Diversity
Dr. Jennifer Miller
Senior Lecturer (Second Language), Faculty of Education, Monash University