Spotlight on a speaker - PETAA's 2021 Leading with Literacy Conference: Powerful Practices for All Learners

Dr Jennifer Hammond: Teaching EAL/D students: teacher knowledge, literate talk and literacy

Dr Jennifer Hammond is an Honorary Associate Professor in the School of Education, University of Technology Sydney. She has taught for many years in the fields of language and literacy education, English as an Additional Language (EAL) education and research design. Her research interests are in literacy development; classroom interaction, and the implications of socio-cultural and systemic theories of language and learning in EAL education.

With colleagues, she has completed research into the nature of high challenge, high support pedagogies designed to meet the needs of EAL students, including students of refugee background, in mainstream classes. She has published widely in these areas.

Jennifer will deliver two sessions, one for classroom teachers and one for school leaders, at PETAA's 2021 Leading with Literacy Conference: Powerful Practices for All Learners. Read our interview below to find out more about Jennifer and about her sessions, and don't forget to register for the Conference, taking place on 15 -16 October both online and in-person at the Aerial UTS Function Centre in Ultimo, NSW.

Hi Jennnifer! You’ll be speaking at our 2021 Conference, ‘Powerful Practices for All Learners’. What does that phrase mean to you?

The phrase is an important one because it acknowledges the power of education and its potential to impact positively on the lives of students. It also implies an inclusive approach to the education of all students, including those who are traditionally regarded as ‘disadvantaged’. So for me, the phrase reflects principles that I believe are central to equitable education for all students, but especially for EAL/D students. These include providing students with access to high challenge programs, as well as the necessary high support so they can successfully engage in challenging programs.

Can you tell us what attendees can expect from your sessions?

The session will highlight the interrelationship between curriculum content and academic language. It will also address the importance of supporting students’ oral language development, and building their capacity for literate talk as a way of bridging into literacy.

Many teachers are aware of these issues, but in the session, I want to focus particularly on implications of the issues for planning and implementing mainstream programs that challenge, include and support EAL/D students.

Can you tell us about a time that you saw positive change in the classroom from embracing these ideas?

In our recent Classrooms of Possibility research, we worked with teachers who worked with these ideas. We documented ways in which they planned and implemented programs that challenged students but also provided cognitive and linguistic support to enable all students, including recently arrived EAL/D students, to engage with key curriculum concepts. These programs enabled students to build from their existing knowledge to more academic understandings of concepts. They also enabled students to build their knowledge of the language necessary to talk and write about these concepts. And they were supported to ‘talk science’ (or history or geography) prior to being expected to ‘write science’. 

We observed impressive levels of student’s engagement and of learning in these programs. 

If you could change one thing about Australian classrooms, what would it be?

I would like to see a more consistent and systematic focus on language and literacy development – at a system level as well as in classrooms. This would include an emphasis on the role of language in learning and the interrelationship between language and content.  So it would include a more systematic emphasis on students’ oral language development as well as their literacy development throughout their school years, rather than just in the early years of literacy development. 

What’s one thing every teacher should know about literate talk?

That an understanding of literate talk (and of language and literacy development more generally) can help when planning and implementing programs that support all students, including recently arrived EAL/D students.

Join Jennifer and the rest of our brilliant speakers at the PETAA 2021 Leading with Literacy Conference: Powerful Practices for All Learners. Register now to attend online, or join us in-person at the UTS Aerial Function Centre in Sydney on 15-16 October 2021.

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