After writing the post about the South Australian Education Minister’s visit to my Indonesian language classroom, I sent both the minister, Susan Close, and the Premier, Jay Weatherill, a link to the post. Last month we received the following email from the DECD Chief Executive, Rick Persse, in a reply on behalf of Jay Weatherill.
Isn’t it wonderful that as a direct result of us attending the Country Cabinet, all levels of DECD are now familiar with TPRS pedagogy! How exciting is that?
We decided to concentrate on his concern that TPRS does not completely address the intercultural understanding aspect of the Understanding strand within the Australian Curriculum: Indonesian. We began by taking up his offer to contact Maribel Coffey, which we did both by phone and email. She promptly replied to our email with a kind offer to put us in contact with Gianna DeLeo and Rosa Garcia, 2 Languages Project Officers from her team.
Gianna and Rosa readily agreed to come out and spend a day with us to help us identify the intercultural learning gaps we may have and then provide practical strategies that will help us improve our teaching practise in this regard.
In preparation for their visit, both Gianna and Rosa researched TPRS which we truly appreciated. They were familiar with Stephen Krashen; every TCI teacher’s hero. Having an understanding of Krashen’s hypotheses and TCI meant that Gianna & Rosa could focus specifically on intercultural understanding in a TCI context without needing a TCI 101 along the way.
We arranged that Gianna & Rosa would visit us each in turn to observe us teaching a lesson, finishing up at Victor R-7 where we would all gather to discuss their observations and feedback.
For my lesson, I demonstrated ‘Kursi Luar Biasa’ (KLB) – largely because Annie & Sharon encouraged me to do so – but also because it is one of the most engaging ways I know to cover many of the curriculum content descriptors. Because KLB involves asking students personal questions, it provides students with a platform to talk about themselves, either truthfully or not! I actually prefer it when students lie (suggest bizarre answers) because it ramps up the engagement a hundred percent and makes it totally compelling!
Thanks to the wonderful sharing community that TCI is, I have now incorporated a PowerPoint into my KLB lessons due to Ibu Anne‘s generosity. Last term I visited her in Victoria to observe her teaching (and co-present at the Victorian Language Teachers Association Conference) and was blown away with how much more compelling her KLB lessons were with the written and pictorial visuals. Here is a page from my powerpoint to give you an idea:
Overall I was satisfied with the way in which I demonstrated how I incorporate intercultural understandings into my teaching. For example, the snake and dog pic in the above slide are included because they are 2 animals most of our Indonesian visitors have been significantly frightened of!
After the last lesson, I packed up my room quickly and raced over to Victor R-7 where everyone was already waiting for the conversation to begin.
Firstly Gianna & Rosa began by stating how impressed they are with the teaching that they had observed in our classrooms. They used adjectives like ‘exemplary’!! They both too commented on the high levels of student engagement in our rooms and the large amount of spontaneous Indonesian spoken by our students in class!
We then began to deconstruct ‘intercultural understanding’ using examples that Rosa & Gianna had observed in our classrooms throughout the day. They firstly congratulated us on how well we already integrate intercultural understanding into our TCI lessons and then offered us advice on an additional aspect that if incorporated, would elevate our practise to an even higher level.
Rosa handed us each a copy of the Investigating Pedagogies for Language-and-Culture Learning (see link below) which aims to outline the relationship between the TeFL Framework, ACARA: Languages & The Shape document and “in doing so highlights the intercultural orientation to language learning” (page 1).
This paper outlines the characteristics of language learning incorporating Intercultural Understanding – referred throughout as intercultural orientation.
Intercultural language learning is an orientation to language learning that represents a change in both the stance (the way we conceptualise language learning and the thinking that informs practice) and practice in the teaching and learning of languages and the pedagogy that supports such a change.
This intercultural orientation:
- respects the diversity of learners, teachers, contexts, languages
- focuses on the act of learning: student learning, teacher learning, community learning
- recognises teaching and learning as social (both intrapersonal and interpersonal), cultural (both intracultural and intercultural) and cognitive
- highlights both participation/action and reflection on the part of students as participants in communicating in the context of diversity
- recognises the powerful role of language and culture in learning; in fact, as the foundations of all learning
- sees both the process of communication (as the major goal of language learning) and the process of learning as interactive processes that entail the reciprocal interpretation of meaning
- recognises the integral relationship between teaching, learning and assessment
- understands learning, teaching and pedagogy to support language learning as including processes of inquiry for both learners and teachers.This intercultural orientation shapes the three key concepts that inform Languages education: language, culture, learning, and focuses on developing capabilities that are essential in the 21st century.
The specific skill that Rosa & Gianna recommend we hone centres around providing students with opportunities for intercultural and intracultural reflection. Rather than providing explanations to students about differing cultural practises, throw it back at the students and encourage them to consider the reasons themselves. An example of this could be around Indonesian etiquette which requires objects to be received and passed with your right hand, never your left hand. My students have often commented on this and previously I simply explained the reasons. Rosa recommends that instead, teachers could ask deeper questions to encourage students to look beyond the difference and instead consider it objectively and rationally. Questions could include asking why Singaporeans use their left and right hands but Indonesians don’t. Is this practise practical and when would it be sensible in Australia? Is the use of toilet paper or water better for the environment? Why do Australians use a water based toilet system when we are the driest continent in the world?
In other words, asking rich and thought provoking questions that encourage students to develop self awareness and self understanding through honest reflections around not only the comparisons between different cultures but also the differences within cultures.
…reflection is not a simple process of commenting on things such as the enjoyment or not of an activity. Specifically, it involves reflection on such matters as:
- the processes of interpretation – how we interpret/understand things as we do
- the assumptions that provide the basis for interpretation – why we interpret/understand things as we do
- our perspectives in relation to those of others
- our positioning in relation to that of others
- our expectations in relation to those of others
- our judgments in relation to those of others.
This kind of reflection is a necessary part of stretching students’ intellectual thinking and of ‘fostering deep understanding’ and exploring the construction of knowledge (3.2 and 3.3 of Domain 3 of the TfEL Framework).
Thus the teacher helps students navigate through multiple conceptions, assumptions, perspectives and personal understandings to help them arrive at new understandings that take into account the perspective of others in a productive way. This document acknowledges that this is an intricate process because student reflections happen spontaneously in the moment and requires engaging with specific student responses and ideas. as such it can’t be planned in advance but needs to be managed as it arises. (page 46)
Rosa explained too about flipping information to help students look at a cultural practise from another perspective. The example she gave was the western tradition of birthday cakes. Imagine a culture that puts fire on decorated food and then gives it to a child who then has to extinguish the fire by putting it out themselves by blowing on it before it can be eaten by anyone! Sounds quite bizarre when stated like that!
We were assured that these classroom conversations do not necessarily need to be long and detailed but more like a grammar pop-up and in doing so would become an engaging brain break. I really like the idea of prompting students with ‘why’ questions to encourage them to consider the reasons underlying different cultural practises. It truly resonates with me and I look forward to impromptu opportunities whereby I can ask deep and meaningful questions to encourage rich reflective and reflexive student thought. It is definitely an expertise I intend to develop! Surely this is how schools create open minded and respectful global citizens.
Thank you so much Maribel Coffey, Rosa Garcia & Gianna DeLeo. We really appreciate the support and encouragement we received from you all. Rosa and Gianna are both wonderful ambassadors of the Languages team. The entire experience was invaluable and we are so grateful that both Rosa & Gianna could spend time with us to work on addressing intercultural understanding in a TPRS classroom context. The conversations we had were thought provoking because developing cultural respect and empathy in students is of a critical importance in relation to global relationships. We are all excited to implement the advice given to us and develop our expertise in asking reflective questions.
We also really hope that early next term, Rosa & Gianna can visit us again to provide us with feedback on our updated practise and understandings to double check we are on the right path. We will also be scrutinising our school calendars to ascertain when our next Partnership Closure day is before inviting Rosa to again share her impressive expertise about intercultural understanding with the Fleurieu TCI PLN.
To finish up, I just had to share this quote from page 4 f the Investigating Pedagogies for Language-and-Culture Learning! If we could just tweak it slightly though so that the first ‘learn’ is changed to ‘acquire’……