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Submerged in the mainstream? A case study of an immigrant learner in a New Zealand primary classroom

Immigrant children from diverse language backgrounds face not only linguistic challenges when enrolled in mainstream English-medium classrooms, but also difficulties adjusting to an unfamiliar learning community. The culture of primary school classrooms in New Zealand typically reflects conventions across three dimensions: interactional, instructional task performance and cognitive-academic development. All three dimensions are underpinned by the culturally specific discourse conventions involved in language socialisation. New learners may be helped by classmates or their teacher to understand and successfully use these conventions, but left on their own they may sink rather than swim. This is a case study of one Taiwanese 11-year old boy, 'John', who entered a New Zealand primary classroom midway through the school year. John's basic conversational ability was sound, but he did not possess the interactive classroom skills needed to operate in the new culture of learning. Selected from a wider study of the classroom, transcript data from audio-recorded excerpts of John's interactions over several months with his teacher and classmates are interpreted from perspectives derived from sociocultural and language socialisation theories. The article concludes with a brief consideration of the extent to which John constructed, or was constrained from constructing meaningful learning experiences, and suggestions for further research and reflection.
Journal Article
Type of thesis
Barnard, R. (2009). Submerged in the mainstream? A case study of an immigrant learner in a New Zealand primary classroom. Language and Education, 23(3), 233-248.
This is an author's accepted version of an article published in the journal: Language and Education. © 2009 Taylor & Francis.