Post-entry language assessment and academic literacy support for Indigenous English as Another Language or Dialect (EAL/D) students in tertiary education

Indigenous researchers and digital technologies in remote and very remote communities engaged in participatory action research enhancing professional pathways and identities. Presented at the Higher Education Participation and Partnership Program: National Forum on Indigenous Pathways and Transitions into Higher Education.

About the presentation

English language proficiency and particularly academic English literacy of students of non-English background (including Indigenous students) has been an area of concern for more than a decade in Australia (Cruickshank, Newell, & Cole, 2003) (Rochecouste, Oliver, & Mulligan, 2012) (Behrendt, Larkin, Griew, & Kelly, 2012) (Wilson, 2014). Furthermore, the literature around effective support that would meet the academic literacy needs of EAL/D students -and in this case Indigenous EAL/D students- within tertiary level education is still an area under researched (Bifuh-Ambe, 2011).This could explain a perception that universities are not prepared enough or structured efficiently enough to address the needs of Indigenous EAL/D students.

In the 1990s, a post-entry language assessment (PELA) was developed in Australia to help universities identify the level of language proficiency or academic literacy of admitted students at tertiary level (Read & von Randow, 2013). Another alternative to PELA was the introduction of common units for example the CUC100 Academic Literacies at Charles Darwin University (CDU) in the curriculum of first year undergrad students.

This paper will contribute in two ways. First it will add to the review and discussion of the literature around the academic English literacy needs and support for Indigenous EAL/D students at tertiary education levels (Bifuh-Ambe, 2011). Secondly it will explore current research that suggests if students, and in particular, Indigenous EAL/D students have met the pre-entry requirements, it does not mean that their level of English is sufficient to undertake tertiary courses and succeed in academia (Read & von Randow, 2013) (Rochecouste et al., 2012). Further Page and Asmar (2008) also found that Indigenous students who usually enter vocational education and training (VET) or higher education (HE) via non-traditional pathways have lower academic skills and literacy proficiency than non-indigenous Australians.

This paper will critically examine and discuss how CDU identifies the need of English support for entering Indigenous EAL/D students at the tertiary level. The paper will also examine the ways CDU currently assesses admitted Indigenous EAL/D students’ language proficiency; and whether theses post-entry assessments, via a PELA or CUC, clearly identify the needs of support of EAL/D students.In particularly how these assessments and supports develop their academic literacy in order to equally enable their success in tertiary education and, somehow contribute to student retention (Curry, 2004).

This paper will present findings about post-entry language assessment and support practices for Indigenous EAL/D students at CDU. Findings will be drawn from a range of semi structured interviews and narratives of first year lecturers, academic support staff and enrolled EAL/D students. Early exploration and data drawn from the Whole of Community Engagement Initiative highlight how Indigenous EAL/D students deal with English language proficiency. Findings may contribute to in informing lecturers’ pedagogy in dealing with Indigenous EAL/D students in tertiary education.

29 November 2017

Team Member Reflection: Terry Moore

Team Member Reflection: Terry Moore

​I joined the team in April 2016, just in time for the team meeting at Tennant Creek, where it was realised that the team needed someone to analyse the data that was being generated across the different communities.

Charles Darwin UniversityAustralian Centre for Indigenous Knowledges & EducationBatchelor InstituteNAILSMANTG

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