Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Research Seminars in TESOL and Language Studies

The TESOL Research Network, Faculty of Education and Social Work, The University of Sydney invites you to attend the following seminar presentation.

‘It’s the nature of the subject’: Secondary teachers’ disciplinary beliefs and decisions about teaching English language learners in their content classes

Dr Margaret Gleeson
The School of Education, The University of New South Wales and the Faculty of Education at Victoria University of Wellington

Date: Friday 7th September 2012
Time: 13.00 – 14.00 pm

Venue: Education 459, The University of Sydney

Secondary school teachers in New Zealand are expected to ensure that English language learners (ELLs) understand the language forms of their subject as this accelerates academic learning. Since the implementation of a new national curriculum in 2007, many schools have participated in professional learning and development but it was unclear how subject teachers understood the mandate to focus on language. I interviewed and observed seven teachers from different high schools who had numbers of ELLs in their senior subject classes to investigate what they considered to be good teaching practice for these learners. Using a qualitative case study approach, I found that disciplinary beliefs shaped secondary teachers’ approaches to teaching English language learners within their subject area. The dominant epistemology held by the teacher’s curriculum community, such as whether knowledge is developed sequentially or by negotiation, appeared to affect their openness to applying systematic language teaching in their subject. Because certain pedagogical content knowledge was so deeply ingrained, and because teachers had limited familiarity with second language acquisition processes, some teachers seemed to overlook language teaching opportunities in their classes. This indicates an urgent need to develop subject teachers’ knowledge and skills about meaningful ways in which to connect disciplinary meaning and English language learning.

About Margaret Gleeson

Margaret Gleeson is a visiting fellow at the School of Education, UNSW from the   Faculty of Education at Victoria University of Wellington. She began her career teaching English and other curriculum subjects in secondary schools and has since taught in both the secondary and tertiary education sectors in New Zealand and overseas. She later taught adult new learners of English, and adults with limited literacy skills on courses integrating literacy development with work-skills content. Currently, she teaches adult literacy tutors. At the secondary level, she worked with subject teachers and ESOL teachers in Wellington schools from 2005 to 2010 as a professional development advisor, and prior to this was Head of ESOL/International students in a large secondary school.

Nowadays, she prepares student-teachers and experienced teachers to teach linguistically diverse students, and supervises local and international postgraduate students who have an interest in aspects of language and literacy education. Her doctoral study investigated how subject teachers in New Zealand secondary schools teach academic language to support English Language Learners within their subject classes, and explored their understanding of the relationship between subject matter and language forms. She is currently undertaking a similar study with teachers in Sydney.



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This is a free seminar. Please RSVP your participation at:

Map to Faculty of Education and Social Work

The Faculty of Education and Social Work is located on the Camperdown Campus. It is in the Education Building (A35) on Manning Road and is between the Old Teachers’ College and Manning Bar. To obtain a map, visit:

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