Background papers

In 1998 and 1999 ACTA produced a series of papers focussing on key issues in teaching English as a second language at the time. The papers are still relevant today. ACTA Presidents Chris Howell (1998) and Penny McKay (1999) commissioned the papers from leaders in the field. ACTA has recently scanned and uploaded the papers here. We encourage you to read them!

ACTA Background Papers No.1 (1998)

Finding and showing the Way: Teaching ESL in the late 1990s

Alan Williams

This essay examines the role of the ESL teacher in the context of today’s sociopolitical culture. Williams begins by describing the conditions that pertained in the late 1980s, then compares this picture with the state of the discipline today. What is clear is that the circumstances have changed: multiculturalism has been politicised, ‘corporatisation’ is everywhere, and many ES:L teachers feel that their work is not appreciated as much as it once was. Williams argues that the profession may need to adjust its approach, though not its core values, if it is to continue to progress into the next millennium.

ACTA Background Papers No. 2 (1998)

Literacy ESL Broadbanding Benchmarking  - Papers by:Penny McKay, Joseph Lo Bianco and Dorothy Hoddinott

The Literacy Benchmarks and ESL

Penny McKay

McKay examines the impact that the federal government¹s Literacy Benchmarks will have on the ESL profession. She identifies the Benchmarks themselves as a manifestation of the government's desire to foster a managerial culture in our public institutions, whereby financial accountability is the overriding goal. McKay draws attention to the dangers that are inherent in the subsuming of ESL under the general heading of Literacy, and suggests possible ways of avoiding or minimising these dangers.

ESL Is it Migrant Literacy? Is it History?
Joseph Lo Bianco

Prof. Lo Bianco argues that the government policy of broadbanding specifically the focus on literacy as the main issue is effectively talking ESL into subordination. Lo Bianco makes several important points: for example, students whose mother-tongue is English will in effect have been learning the language for eight years by the time they reach year 3, whereas ESL students will probably only have been learning it for three years. Further, Lo Bianco argues, the errors an ESL student makes may be creative errors, which are a natural part of the learning process. The ESL program, Prof Lo Bianco concludes, is becoming lost in a haze of administration politics.

Literacy - meeting the needs of all learners
Dorothy Hoddinott

Like many of her colleagues, Hoddinott fears that broadbanding will lead to a loss of focus on ESL students and their particular needs. Under the government¹s broadbanding policy, ESL students are being subsumed into the general category of under-performing students, whereas they may not be under-performing at all. Hoddinott stresses the importance of recognising the differences between ESL students and ESB students, and argues that new benchmarks should be established that acknowledge and cater for these differences.

Discriminatory Features for ESL Learners in the Literacy Benchmarks
Penny McKay

In this paper McKay draws attention to some specific problems that the Literacy Benchmarks may present to ESL students (and their teachers). McKay discusses these issues, and offers suggestions relating to ESL learners that Benchmark developers may wish to consider.

ACTA Background Papers No. 3 (1999)

The Distinctiveness of English as an Additional Language: a Cross-Curriculum discipline. A handbook for all teachers

A paper prepared by the National Association for Language Development in the Curriculum (NALDIC) UK. Reprinted with kind permission.

Our ESL colleagues in the United Kingdom are facing a similar situation to ours in Australia - that of the reconceptualisation of our field of education. In Australia ESL is becoming increasingly subsumed into wider issues of ‘literacy' and the particular learning needs of bilingual learners are becoming increasingly invisible. This paper sets out to describe the distinctiveness of ESL as a field of education by defining its knowledge base, describing the range of learners, providing a perspective on the tasks that face ESL learners, by setting out teaching strategies that have been established by practitioners and outlining some of the key theoretical perspectives that inform the field. The information contained in this paper provides a well reasoned rationale for Australian ESL educators' claims that English as a second language is a field of education in its own right and not merely an aspect of the teaching and learning of literacy.

ACTA Background Papers No. 4 (1999) coming soon

ESL Teaching in the Global Hypermedia Environment
Chris Corbel

This paper examines the social, institutional and education changes that have occurred towards the end of the twentieth century, particularly those brought about by the increased use of technology and in particular computers. Corbel examines the impact these changes have had on the ESL field and reports on the findings of his research in this area. He argues that ESL teachers are ideally placed to make use of the emerging global hypermedia environment for ESL instruction and urges members of our profession to address the challenge to "redescribe" ourselves and take on additional roles as online teachers and learners.

ACTA Background Papers No. 5

Casualisation of the ESL workforce in Australia
Santina Bertone

This paper focuses on casual and temporary employment in the ESL (English as a Second Language) profession. It investigates the implications for the quality, range and accessibility of services when a significant proportion of teachers are employed und casual or temporary contracts.

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