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Gleeson, M.E. (2021) Teaching content or teaching language? The dilemma facing subject teachers.

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conference contribution
posted on 15.11.2021, 23:25 by Margaret GleesonMargaret Gleeson
This paper explores how findings from studies of secondary school subject teachers in New Zealand may have relevance to educators who are currently implementing English as the Medium of Instruction (EMI) policies. Like EMI teachers in Vietnam, secondary school teachers in New Zealand have a mandate to ensure that emergent bilingual (EB) students understand how language is used to make meaning in their subject. The objective in both countries is for students to learn how to use disciplinary language to a high academic standard at the same time as they learn academic subject matter. However, secondary and tertiary subject teachers appear to identify strongly with their subject content and this seems to inform their pedagogical choices more than other influences, even directives to meet the language learning needs of EB students and learning from professional learning and development (PLD) initiatives. Subject teachers may find it challenging to engage with PLD programmes designed to assist them to identify discipline-specific language. They may resist learning about second language acquisition theories or linguistic pedagogies that support EB learners if these do not align to their existing beliefs and practices. Even when subject teachers have engaged in PLD, it may not be easy for them to integrate pedagogical language knowledge. Yet, without an understanding of how language shapes meaning, subject teachers may be unable to take advantage of rich language teaching opportunities in their classes. This session offers insights into content teachers’ beliefs and suggestions about how to address this urgent need to engage them with teaching approaches that connect disciplinary knowledge and language.


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Gleeson, M. (2021, November). Gleeson, M.E. (2021) Teaching content or teaching language? The dilemma facing subject teachers.

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Unpublished Paper

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