Culturally and linguistically diverse postgraduate students and academic practice

Year: 2021

Author: Iyer, Radha

Type of paper: Individual Paper

Culturally and linguistically diverse( CALD) domestic and international students are an essential group in the global education setting that universities aim to depict. The glocal university welcomes student  heterogeneity as adding suitable diversity, however those from non- western contexts are often perceived to have a deficit in academic literacy. This, then, results in CALD students being marginalised within the learning environment confronted by deficit discourse while they desire to belong to the academic context. The research question for this study is,  How do fluid subjectivities assist CALD students to engage effectively with academic practice?  Deleuze and Guattari’s theory of rhizomatic identity and associated notions of being and becoming was employed to move beyond a deficit discourse to examine what constitutes productive learning. Deleuze and Guattari (1987) discuss six characteristics of the rhizome,  multiplicity, connection and heterogeneity, assigning rupture, cartography and decalcomania illustrates diversity as positive. Multiplicity as rhizomatic enables to comprehend diversity as increasing in dimensions as it expands its connections to move beyond institutional discourses of deficit. The rhizome as cartography and decalcomania illustrates how new possibilities open through a new understanding of difference in academic practice as positive. The principle of rupture demonstrates how western knowledge systems could be challenged by the non- dominant or alternate forms of learning and knowledge systems.  The glocal context allows for students to acknowledge their difference and their subjectivities as fluid. Interpretive qualitative methodology was adopted to collect and analyse data. The students enrolled in a Master of Education core unit, in a university in Australia, were all linguistically and culturally diverse with previous degrees and work- experiences and often identified as global citizens having travelled and worked extensively.  Data collected from semester 2, 2015 –2018  involved pre- and post-study survey (30) and focus group or individual interviews with 30 participants. Researcher observations data   (n x 15) were also collected. The data was coded and categorized based on central themes that arose from the theoretical framework.   Themes of inclusion /exclusion, and rhizomatic self that emerged illustrated how the students experienced a normative and inflexible academic system that expected them to assimilate.  Data illustrated how institutional expectations of being a student consisted of homogenous academic operations. The theme of rhizomatic self, demonstrated how the students resisted normalisation by adopting fluid subjectivities through deterritorialization and with an understanding that while reterritorialization would occur they could interrupt such a process by perceiving diversity as a strength.