Reconceptualising linguistic repertoires in the Australian context.

Year: 2012

Author: D'warte, Jacqueline

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


Reconceptualising Linguistic Repertoires in the Australian Context.

Dr Jacqueline D'warte, University of Western Sydney.


Australia is a culturally and linguistically diverse nation. This diversity is embedded in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander societies and enhanced by the arrival of people from over 200 countries (Australian Census, 2006). Many people speak a language other than English within their families and communities. This linguistic diversity is a dynamic and enriching asset for Australia.

Current English curriculum documents acknowledge this diversity and ask teachers to recognize and build upon the skills students display outside of school in their homes and wider community. However, classroom teachers often struggle with finding ways to do this. Building on Orellana's (2010) curriculum work with bilingual students' skills translating and paraphrasing in US schools, this research involves Australian teachers in identifying how and in what ways they can create opportunities for their students' to reveal the diverse language and literacy skills and experiences they possess. This research considers how to support students in leveraging those skills and experiences for further development of English language and literacy. This paper presents research findings and reports on the implementation of English syllabus linked lessons and activities developed by the project team.

Theoretical framework

This study is informed by sociocultural perspectives that view everyday language practices as valuable cultural resources and funds of knowledge (Moll, Amanti, Neff, & Gonzalez, 1992) that can be built on in school. Research over the last two decades has revealed the rich sociocultural lives students lead in and out of school settings, and the dynamic literacy practices that accompany them. While this research continues to highlight students' repertoires of practice it also increasingly underscores how students' own learning and literacy experiences are not often reflected in the school practices in which they engage. (Luke, 2005; Street, 2003). Unfortunately, recent research suggests that despite teachers' best intentions deficit notions of English language learners persist in and out of school (Gutiérrez, Morales, & Martínez, 2009).


This study takes place in 2 primary and secondary schools comprising large numbers of LBOTE students. This study involves 4 self-nominated classroom and 4 ESL teachers and their students. Using curriculum developed by Orellana et al., 2006-2011 as a foundation, teachers and researcher design a series of lesson and activities for implementation. Research data comprises audio taped students and teacher interviews, curriculum artefacts, student work samples and field notes from lesson observations.