Learning in a second language.

Essay by cest_taeF, August 2006

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The presence of students of non-English speaking background(NESB) in Australia's higher education system has increased dramatically over recent decades. Less than 20 years later.internationalisation of the tertiary education sector in Australia has witnessed a tenfold increase in the number of overseas students. This phenomenon is taking place in universities where learners are participants in "a range of modes of instruction requiring students to take a more active role in the learning process (where) the ability to participate in and follow academic discussions can be critical". It was recognized decades ago that NESB students were experiencing problems participating in spoken acadmis discourse,and remains an issue "of broad significance across disciplines in tertiary settings".The great majority of studies of these problems rely on self-reporting instruments completed by students, and, sometimes, academic staff. Only a few attempts have been made to examine directly the oral interaction of NESB students in mainstream tertiary learning environments.

This study focuses on student initiations in tutorials, a specific discourse move in a complex and very larger educational experience and also how NESB students cope with the demands of English language oral interaction in the context of formal mainstream study,and how this relates to the learning that takes place.

Speaking and listening skills of NESB students have been identified as problematic in a variety of academic contexts. Barker (1991) ,investigated undergraduate Australian and Chinese students' preparedness to participate in a variety of oral academic interactions. They found Chinese students reported they were less likely than Australians to actively participate in discussions, tutorial, seminars and to express their own opinions, and that they consistently gave lower rating of their language abilities and confidence in using language in all the situations. James and Devlin (2001) found 29% of overseas students felt uncomfortable in group discussions. The...