The ‘foreign’ language teacher: negotiating the culture of a school when unfamiliar with the language of instruction

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Teacher Development, 2018, 22 (4), pp. 519 - 536
Issue Date:
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© 2018, © 2018 Teacher Development. This article examines and theorises the experiences of 12 primary pre-service teachers at an Australian university, undertaking a two week professional teaching experience in Bangkok. This qualitative ethnographic study of our students’ and to some extent our own experiences draws on interviews, questionnaires and observations from the students, as well as reflective notes from two participating supervisors, and sets out to account for and understand the sources of the achievements and frustrations experienced by our pre-service teachers. The findings illustrate differences between the students’ overseas experiences and Australian-based experiences. These differences include organisational structures, teacher mentoring and cultural understandings, and the effects these had on the students. In particular, we distinguish the more readily observable structural nature of the schools in which the pre-service teachers were teaching, and the less visible cultural aspects that underlie these structures. We propose ways of helping students, as part of pre-departure briefings, to become more aware of these cultural underpinnings, with a view to helping them become more at ease negotiating intercultural workplaces.
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