Adapting to Diversity: Pedagogy for Taiwanese students in mainstream Australian secondary school classes
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This study investigated pedagogy for Taiwanese students in mainstream Australian secondary school classes. The aim was to explore the construction of pedagogy for these students within the communicative contingencies of both the classroom and the community of talk around the classroom. Accordingly, the study documented and explicated the ways in which teachers adapted geography lessons for Taiwanese students, and further, the fit of teachers' descriptions and explanations of those adaptations within broader school community debate over provision for ethnic minority students. The significance of the study resides in its contribution to educational research, policy and practice in conditions of cultural diversity and formal cultural inclusion. The study's contributions arise from its attention to the forms of teacher-student interaction that are often considered to be a major point of difference between pedagogy in Australia (and other Western nations) and in Chinese (and other Asian) contexts. The focus is on the degree of teacher-directedness or student-centredness, as demonstrated by such factors as rote learning and participation in whole class spoken activities. Review of the current literature indicated that such dispositions may not only be brought to Australian pedagogic contexts by Chinese students, but may also be constructed within these contexts themselves. Analysis of theoretical perspectives on culture and pedagogy that were of high profile in Australia during the 1990s indicated that the investigation of this possibility requires an approach that makes it possible to attend to the structuring of such contexts. Accordingly, this study was conducted from a perspective that made it possible to document and explicate the construction of socialising conditions within the communicative particularities of lessons for Taiwanese students as pedagogic practice enacted in classrooms, and of debate amongst those interested in the education of the students as pedagogic talk within a school community. The theoretical framework of the study drew primarily on Basil Bernstein's sociology of educational knowledge. This perspective provided the fundamental concepts for describing the categorisation of Taiwanese students in the teacher-student interaction of the classroom and in school community talk about such. Analytic concepts developed by researchers concerned with classroom talk were specified in Bernsteinian terms to facilitate the translation between these theoretical objects and the sets of lesson and interview data examined in the study. These concepts made it possible to describe the pedagogic activities of teachers and students, and their constituent social actions, as enacted in the lessons, and as constructed in the interview talk of school community members. The two data sets were produced and analysed by methods derived from the Bernsteinian perspective. The aim was to: i) test the generic and formal Bernsteinian sociology of educational knowledge; and ii) produce findings generalisable to culturally diverse Australian school settings. One of the main findings of the study was that the adaptation of geography lessons for Taiwanese, Chinese, Asian and other ESL students produced a more constrained and teacher-directed form of pedagogy than that which was provided for other students. The other main finding was that the geography teachers described and explained these adaptations by categorising the students as 'reluctant' in whole class spoken activities and 'dependent' in written seatwork activities. Other school community members interested in the education of Taiwanese students evinced substantial agreement in this regard. However, these interviewees constructed the 'reluctant' speech and 'dependent' seatwork of the students from complex collaborative and competitive positions available in professional-academic talk. This pointed to struggles amongst those who would inform the provision of pedagogy for Taiwanese and other Chinese, Asian and ESL students. The study's theoretical significance resides, in part, in its capacity to describe the moment-by-moment classroom interaction of Taiwanese students without pre-empting the empirical salience of categories of cultural identity. Rather, attention is focused on the ways that students are categorised according to their capacity to undertake particular communicative interactions, categorisations in which cultural identity is not necessarily made overtly salient. In this way the study refined and tested the Bernsteinian model of classroom practice, while also locating analytic tools for describing classroom talk within broader relations of social power and control. Methodologically, the study's significance arises from its capacity to generate descriptions of the particularity of classroom practice, and talk about such, as pedagogic practice and talk. For policymakers the study points to the professional-academic discourses that need to be made available to teachers if they are to engage in the conversations about pedagogy that are central to emergent, second-wave conceptions of cultural equity in the state of Queensland where the study was conducted. For practitioners questions arise from the possibility that the dispositions of Taiwanese and other Chinese, Asian and ESL students to teacher-directed forms of pedagogy may be constructed in Australian contexts. These pertain to the desirability of the outcomes of adaptations undertaken in the name of cultural equity, in addition to the implications of teachers' own professional-academic socialisation for debates over 'who' should get 'what' pedagogic provision. The thesis concludes with a discussion of the utility of the study's perspective and findings given current developments in the racial and cultural politics of Australian educational institutions.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
School of Cognition, Language and Special Education
Item Access Status
sociology of pedagogy