Teacher strengths and needs for quality teaching in community languages schools

Year: 2019

Author: Qi, Jing, Mullan, Kerry, Chen, Guosheng

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Community language speakers form a rapidly growing population in the globalised context. Community languages schools in Australia have been a story of success, especially in terms of increasing student access to language education programs. Despite the availability of a range of community languages “to meet diverse student needs, desires, and aspirations” (Scarino 2018, p. 468), major challenges remain regarding, among others, ‘the capabilities of teachers who may or may not have been trained but willingly volunteer to offer their language to younger generations of children”, and “at a fundamental level, [that is] the nature of the programs offered and their meaningfulness to learners” (pp. 471-2). As in other states and territories, teacher training for community languages schools is a core part of Victoria’s sustainable strategies to address disjuncture and discontinuity in languages learning, and a shortage of high quality languages teachers in Victoria, particularly in regional and rural areas (Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, 2011, p.7). The partnership between universities, community schools and community languages Australia is crucial to sustaining this success through providing high quality training to current and potential teachers.

This paper is part of a larger study that examines how university courses can best support quality teaching for community languages schools in Victoria through teacher training. The large study is a multi-stage and mixed-method study that uses community-based participatory action research, ethnographic case study, and descriptive statistics (Creswell, 2015). Research design and instruments incorporate key dimensions of the Community Languages Schools Quality Assurance Framework (CLA, 2008). This paper reports on Stage 1 of this research, which identifies teacher strengths and needs for professional learning in relation to four (out of eight) dimensions in the Quality Assurance Framework. These dimensions were selected first because they are more directly related to teacher work. These include curriculum, teaching practice, purposeful learning, and monitoring and evaluation. Stage 1 data was collected through workshop observation, teacher surveys and group discussion, and analysed using iterative thematic analysis and descriptive statistics. Findings illustrate the characteristics of community languages schools and teacher work as compared to mainstream schools, existing strengths of community school teachers and their needs for further professional learning.