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Windows into cultural understanding and unfamiliar freedom

By Martin Andrew and Celine Kearney


This paper explores our students’ experiences of community placement. Community placement is a safe and valuable way for advanced migrant and international learners of English to provide the “unfamiliar freedom” (Dlaska, 2000) necessary for learning for an unknown future (Barnett, 2004). Further, this happens within a context of the acquisition of cultural autonomy. The process of joining and becoming a part of communities of practice (Lave and Wenger, 1991), however peripherally, opens windows into aspects of culture, revealing to view Kiwi turns of phrase, behaviours, communication styles and thought patterns. Our research data was collected from year two Bachelor of Arts in English as an Additional Language (BA EAL) learners, whose community placement provided opportunity for reflection on their experience. Their diaries revealed that community placement contributes to the process where “authentic being” (Barnett, 2004) starts to form. In these reflective recollections, comprising the data for this study, the students record ‘windows into cultural understanding’ and moments where they describe their placement’s impact on their sense of self. Our study is backgrounded by the poststructuralist model (Norton, 2000) where identity involves “struggle”. This contributes to fostering “authentic being” and prepares students culturally for whatever self they need for their future global and/or national identities

Topics: Autonomy, Culture, Community, Identity, Reflection
Publisher: CLESOL
Year: 2007
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