ERG SES G 03, International Contexts in Education
The data and findings presented here form part of a larger design based research intervention aiming to develop the assessment literacy of Chinese international students enrolled in a university bridging program. This program teaches both English and academic skills and is an alternative entry requirment to an IELTS exam. This is an important area of study in terms of the large numbers of Chinese international students coming to Australia to obtain university degrees. In addition, it is essential that Australlian universities take into consideration the learning practices Chinese learners engage in. Assumptions about learning and teaching styles of the west as the norm still predominate and often leave Chinese learners marginalised. One of the key research questions is:
What practices in the EAP classroom can develop assessment literacy of Chinese international students?
As one of the initial foci in the teaching of assessment literacy was related vocabulary, teaching and learning of new words was an important focus in the intervention. Vocabulary had also been identified as an area of concern by teachers who were consulted on the development of the intervention. The aim is to discover practices that best suited the needs of Chinese international students studying in the Australian tertiary sector.
The practices of the learners are considered through the lens of the theory of practice architectures. This is useful as it can observe not only the learners practices in transition but also how the site of the Australian pathway program creates particular learning practices in students.
The design based research intervention involved two cycles, with consultation with teachers before and after each cycle. Feedback from students was also sought after each cycle. This feedback formed the basis of the following cycle and recommendations for future practice. A core feature of the design was to understands and integrate the learning needs as well as preferences and perspectives of the learners into the lessons. To achieve this, semi-structured interviews were conducted with six students participating in the intervention and three experienced teachers on the bridging program acting as informants on the intervention design. The data presented in this paper comes from the interviews with teachers and Chinese international students.
Findings indicate that students mainly rely on translation as a vocabulary learning strategy and struggle to transform receptive vocabulary to productive vocabulary. The students and teachers views on translation were in contrast; the students believed translation to be useful while the teachers presented a negative view of translation as a practice the inhibited English language learning. Analysis has shown that the practice architectures of the learning site hold in place the practice of translation as a vocabulary learning strategy. Key is the classroom arrangement of limited time allocated to vocabulary learning and unrealistic numbers of lexical item being assigned to students to learn create the condition for learners to translate but not learn to use the new lexical items. Recommendations include the need for translation to be recast as a practice of translanguaging that supports learners English language development and greater priority given to vocabulary usage development in the classroom.
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