School leadership attitudes towards EAL/D students and their commitment to professional learning for diverse contexts
Due to the increasingly diverse nature of classrooms in Australia, a great deal of attention has been understandably dedicated to the pedagogical approaches, resources and conditions needed to cater for the needs of English as an additional language or dialect (EAL/D) learners in mainstream settings (see Dobinson & Buchori, 2016; Taplin, 2017). However, research has demonstrated that while the practices that take place within the classroom are essential to supporting EAL/D students, the institutional practices of the school community driven and underpinned by school leaders’ positionings, views on and attitudes towards diversity are fundamental to the creation and facilitation of opportunities for teachers across the curriculum to support a socially-just environment for all learners, including EAL/D students (Brooks et al., 2010; Theoharis & O’Toole, 2011). To better understand the views of school leaders, this article reports on a study into principals’ perceptions about the diverse needs of EAL/D learners in mainstream settings. Grounded in the premises of qualitative research methodologies (Stake, 2010), data was collected through in-depth semi-structured interviews that explored (i) principals’ views on diversity, (ii) the perceptions and positioning of EAL/D students in schools, and (iii) the role of suitable pedagogical approaches and their commitment to opportunities for professional learning to enhance responsiveness to EAL/D learners’ needs in mainstream settings. Thematic analysis of the interview data revealed that principals’ views on diversity acknowledged the pervasive presence of Anglophone teaching and leadership staff in school communities which contributes to colourblind perspectives on and deficit framings of EAL/D students and of their needs. To address these systemic and structural issues which heavily impact the classroom, principals indicated that suitable pedagogical approaches are needed along with effective avenues for professional learning (PL) to support EAL/D students in mainstream classes. Though small scale in design, this study also contributes empirical data to this under researched area of principals’ attitudes towards EAL/D students.
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