Working at the Edge: Accounts of Beginning and Novice NESB Teachers

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Sim, Cheryl

Johnson, Greer

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Australia is a multicultural country and as such, the Australian workforce should be reflecting that diversity. Logically, the teaching profession is no different from any other sub-group of the working populace. Policy documents that inform the profession of teaching explicitly refer to the necessity for nurturing and developing those who are new to the profession. A key part of the development and growth of newcomers to the teaching profession involves the exchange of ideas and knowledge between colleagues. Using the sociocultural theoretical framework of communities of practice, this study seeks to understand the positioning of new members of the teaching profession with respect to their communities of practice. The particular group of newcomers to the profession investigated are those who have a non-English speaking background and who have recently undergone teacher preparation courses in the state of Queensland. This study focuses on the accounts of interactions of a group of beginning or novice teachers who are from a non-English speaking background with other members of their particular communities of teaching practice. The abductive research strategy was used in this qualitative study. Data were generated through interviews, electronic diary recordings, face-to-face focus group and virtual focus group sessions. The participants had all completed at least two practicum experiences in schools or were in their first or second years of teaching at the time of data collection. The data generated consisted of the accounts of the participants’ experiences in their communities of teaching practice. These data were interrogated through the application of critical discourse analysis and positioning theory. Analysis of emergent small stories used by the participants in the telling of their accounts was supported by narrative analytic tools from sociolinguists such as Ochs and Capps (2001). The interactions of the participant teachers with established members of their communities of practice were shown to be influenced by the presence of an element of worldliness, defined as personal overseas experience through travel or migration, in the colleague teachers. Discourses of Race and Care were used by participants in their accounts. The study findings revealed that in some communities of practice, participants were positioned or had taken up positions at the edge of that community. Where a discourse of Care occurred, particularly when linked to worldliness, the study participants took up positions as legitimate peripheral participants of that community of practice The findings generated a model that can be implemented in any organisation to assist in the movement of newcomers to legitimate peripheral participants of their communities of practice and so allow continuation on their trajectories through that community (Lave & Wenger, 1991).

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Thesis (PhD Doctorate)

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Education and Professional Studies

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Teachers from non English speaking backgrounds

Novice teachers

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