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Journal article

Learning as reciprocal, interpretive meaning-making : a view from collaborative research into the professional learning of teachers of languages

14 Feb 2014

With globalization and advances in communication technologies, the movement of people and their ideas and knowledge has increased in ways and at a pace that are unprecedented. This movement changes the very nature of multilingualism and of language, culture, and language learning. Languages education, in this context, needs to build on the diversity of languages and other semiotic modes that learners bring to the classroom, as well as their diverse biographies and trajectories of experience, knowledge, language, and culture. Equally, the context demands a reconceptualization of the role of teachers of languages. Teachers enact the teaching of particular languages in their local context as members of distinctive multilingual and multicultural communities. They bring their own particular repertoires of languages, cultures, and histories of experiences that shape their frameworks of knowledge, understandings, values, and practices. It is these frameworks of interpretive resources that they use in mediating language learning with students who, in turn, use their own interpretive resources. In this article I draw on collaborative research with teachers of languages to investigate teacher understanding of the preconceptions, often tacit, that they bring to their teaching practice in the diverse interlinguistic and intercultural contexts of primary and secondary school education in Australia. I describe an expanded view of language, culture, and learning, the three fundamental concepts in languages education. Discussion follows on debates about the appropriate knowledge base and whether discourses about “learning to apply formal knowledge” and “best practice” in teacher professional learning are sufficient to assist in the development of teachers' capability to interpret their own teaching and learning practices and their students' learning as acts of reciprocal meaning-making in the context of local and global diversity.

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