What happens in your country? Teacher constructions of adult EAL students’ cultural identities
Keywords:EAL, language learner identities, adult migrant programs, AMEP
In a multicultural and settler society such as Australia, perceptions of the cultures and identities of students in the adult EAL classroom may have a significant impact on their language learning experiences. This paper reports on a study investigating how teachers of adult English as an Additional Language (EAL) students in Victoria, Australia, understand their students’ cultural identities, how they speak about their students’ language learning and how they perceive the challenges and opportunities that their students face in the learning process. Recent literature highlights the complexity of culture and identity in the adult EAL classroom, and has identified normalisation of stereotyped characteristics of language learners. Semi-structured interviews with three experienced EAL teachers were conducted, and a phenomenological framework was applied for the qualitative data analysis. The themes that emerged suggest that the teachers had a limited and even superficial understanding of their students’ cultural identities. Cultural stereotyping was evident when describing their students’ language learning experiences, and also when describing the challenges and opportunities that students have in their learning. The implications of these for the students’ additional language development are discussed.
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