Learning to teach EAL in Victorian secondary schools: a sociocultural perspective

2017-02-22T03:35:13Z (GMT) by Nguyen, Minh Hue
Drawing on Vygotskian sociocultural theory, particularly genetic method and activity theory, and using a qualitative case study design, the present study explored the professional experiences of three preservice English as an additional language (EAL) teachers in secondary schools in Victoria, Australia. Specifically, it sought to understand the preservice teachers as learners of EAL teaching, the context of the EAL professional experiences, and the preservice teachers’ activity of learning to teach EAL in relation to personal and contextual factors. The study was conducted at Greystone University and its three partnership secondary schools in Victoria, including Redwood Secondary College, Greenfern Secondary College and Bluerock Grammar School. Research participants included three preservice teachers of the Graduate Diploma of Education program at Greystone, three mentor teachers working at the partnership schools, and two academics working at the university. Data were collected through interviews, stimulated recalls, the preservice teachers’ self-reflections, and analysis of documents, lesson plans, audio-recorded lessons, and teaching materials. Qualitative content analysis was conducted with the support of NVivo10 software. A joint activity system of preservice EAL teaching and mentoring was constructed for each preservice teacher/mentor teacher pair based on the results of qualitative content analysis, and this served as a unit of analysis. The study found that the preservice teachers brought a range of personal factors to the professional experiences and these developed in interaction with various contextual factors inherent in the practicum settings in shaping their professional experiences. Major personal factors included prior beliefs, educational experience, teaching experience, non-native English speaking (NNES) background, professional identity, emotions, and other personal factors. Influential contextual factors included policies, curriculum, rules, tools, division of labour, interactions with mentor teachers, learners, and other community members. Data analysis also shows instances of professional development as a result of the interaction between the persons of the preservice teachers as learners of teaching, the context of learning to teach, and the activity of learning to teach. All the three preservice teachers developed their professional identity as an important part of their professional socialisation process. Each participant also demonstrated areas of developing EAL teaching expertise through appropriation of mediating tools. The findings support the view that contextual and personal factors are crucial for understanding preservice teachers’ professional learning during the school-based professional experience and extend the literature on the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) professional experience by providing comprehensive and systematic insights into preservice school-based EAL teaching. Together with theoretical and research contributions, the study has a number of implications for EAL teacher education practices in terms of developing the knowledge base for EAL teaching and an effective model of professional experience for EAL preservice teachers.