The first two papers are 'partner' research, in which one team of researchers sought to understand the experience and attitudes of senior secondary language learners preparing for transition to tertiary learning contexts, and their preparedness for the different learning environment they would encounter; and the other looked at the same issue with new tertiary learners of languages. Robyn Moloney and Lesley Harbon's paper shows us how students in three schools in New South Wales responded to questions concerning motivation to learn languages, confidence in their own self-efficacy and capacity, and construction of a 'future self' that they envisioned they would be in tertiary learning contexts. Their findings indicate that assisting students to construct such an image, and to have aspirations associated with feelings of competence and motivation to continue to study languages do indeed seem to prepare students well for this significant transition. Carolyn Stott and Ruth Fielding, as the other half of the research team, found in their study of first-year university students in one Sydney university, that the transition to tertiary learning, and in languages in particular, is perhaps not as challenging as is assumed, with most students in their sample making a successful transition, without too many surprises confronting them. All these authors, however, point out that it is not always a smooth transition, and call for improved communication between secondary and tertiary languages educators, as a way not only of fostering smooth transitions, but indeed of promoting increased take up or continuation of language studies at university.
Andrew Scrimgeour provides further insights into both the diversity of learners of Chinese in Australian schools, and ways to consider responding to this issue, with curricula targeted to cohorts of learners of different backgrounds. He draws attention to the changing demographic in learners of Chinese in Australian schools, and to the drift away from the study of Chinese in the later years of school for all but background and first language users.
He takes us carefully through the different state and territory responses to this issue, and also expands on how the new Australian Curriculum for languages, with its three curricula for Chinese, recognising first, background and second language learner cohorts, are provided for across the years of schooling. While not offering a complete solution to this complex situation of infinitely varied calibrations of diversity, the new curriculum does at least target and provide for these three groups differently, and more appropriately than previous curricula, especially that designed for primary and middle years learners.
Finally, Matthew Absalom takes us back to the 'basic' of vocabulary learning, and the need for beginner learners to build and engage with an increasing bank of language that can be used for communication. In a pilot study to provide more data in an area of language learning that has insufficient research data, he considers beginner learners in a tertiary context engaging with four different approaches to learning vocabulary, including that provided by Education Perfect (formerly Language Perfect), offering online banks of tailored and/or general vocabulary sets for beginner learners. He has some perhaps surprising findings about which was most effective in this small study, but concludes that all methods tried increased language resources for students. It makes for interesting reading to consider how teachers of languages continue to engage with this issue, especially in an evidenced way, rather than relying on gut feelings about what works best- for all learners.
I hope you enjoy the issue.
University of New England
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|Date:||May 1, 2015|
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