“It’s my think”: exploring critical literacy with low level EAL students

Harison, Rosemary
Strauss, Pat
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Master of Arts in Applied Language Studies
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Auckland University of Technology

This study explores the use of a critical literacy approach in a class of language learners who had low levels of literacy. The particular focus was on the teacher‟s role in the process and how she could implement this approach in such a way that the students would benefit. The study records the exploration of the relevant literature, the planning and implementation of the lesson, and her reflection on the process. The students had all arrived in New Zealand as refugees. They had limited English proficiency and were enrolled on a Training Programme at the Auckland University of Technology. The aim of this programme is to help students enter gainful employment or continue with their studies. To this end great emphasis is placed on students improving their English proficiency and entering the workforce or engaging in further study. Many of the texts employed in the classroom context underline the desirability and praiseworthiness of these goals. In this study 15 students drawn from a variety of sociocultural backgrounds were asked to deconstruct a text of a type often employed in the classroom and explore their reaction to it. Two experienced observers provided feedback on the lesson and the way in which it was implemented. The students worked in groups, where possible in their first language, and answered a series of questions on the text. They were also asked to write individual texts in response to the teaching text. The researcher then conducted interviews with the students which afforded them the opportunity to expand on and clarify these responses. The study concludes that classroom exercises such as these can be meaningful and empowering particularly when students assume the roles of narrators and advisors. However such lessons need to be carefully designed and structured if students are to gain real benefit from such as approach.

Critical literacy , ESL , EAL , Languages , Refugees
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