Melbourne Graduate School of Education - Theses

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    Participation and cultural and linguistic diversity: An in-depth qualitative inquiry of an Australian primary classroom
    Cabiles, Bonita Marie ( 2020)
    Educating for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) learners emerged as a policy ‘problem’ that gained attention from the 1970s to the 1990s through Australian multicultural education discourse, but since then has been marked by policy decline and instability (Harris, 1995; Jakubowicz & Ho, 2014). Researching this anew, this study explored how the problem of participation can be understood in the context of CALD learners. Participation remains an eminent yet ambiguous ‘buzzword’ in the field of education (Black, 2011; Thomas, Whybrow, & Scharber, 2012). This study contributes to the discussion of participation by offering a conceptual framework to understand the practice of participation in the context of CALD learners. In deploying this conceptual framework, this research engages with Bourdieusian conceptual tools: field, capital, and habitus—as heuristic devices to critically explore participation as a social phenomenon occurring in a CALD learning context. This study asks: How is participation understood, practiced, and experienced in the context of a CALD primary classroom? To critically explore the practice of participation in the context of CALD learners, this study undertook an in-depth qualitative inquiry of an Australian primary classroom. The class, referred to as Class 5/6k, was a highly diverse student cohort, culturally and linguistically, located in a major metropolitan city. The study found that many of the teachers’ taken-for-granted assumptions and practices about teaching CALD learners were constraining the students’ participation. This study also found that building social relationships was inherently challenging in a CALD classroom context. In foregrounding the subjective experiences of CALD learners, a key finding of this study has been the diverse and complex interests, needs, and capabilities of a highly diverse student cohort. The primary contribution of this study is the articulation of a conceptual framework for understanding participation in the context of CALD learners. This is referred to as ‘the teaching triad of participation’ consisting of ‘positionality,’ ‘resourcing,’ and ‘sociality’. As illuminated through the empirical research, these constructs in the teaching triad function in a relational and dynamic manner. Thus, the study encourages continued exploration of teaching practices that can work towards empowering increasingly diverse learners in the classroom through a holistic approach that considers the three constructs in the teaching triad. Finally, this study also encourages reflecting on possibilities for future research including further exploration of the affective dimension of participation and an examination of how issues of race and gender intersect with cultural and linguistic diversity.