December 11, 2014

Embracing diversity, creating equality: Research seminar presentation

Sarah Verdon with her PhD supervisors:
Sharynne and Sandie Wong
Today Sarah Verdon presented a summary of her PhD findings at the School of Teacher Education Research and Scholarship Brown Bag Seminar Series. Here is the title and abstract: 
Embracing diversity, creating equality: Supporting culturally and linguistically diverse children 
Effective communication is essential for social engagement, educational attainment and workforce participation. Australia, like many other English-dominant nations is becoming increasingly culturally and linguistically diverse. Therefore, an understanding of this diversity is essential for planning services to support all Australian children to become competent and effective communicators in ways that are responsive to their cultural and linguistic background. This presentation will describe of the findings of a mixed methods PhD thesis conducted in two parts. The findings of part 1 indicate that approximately 15.3% of 5,107 Australian children in a nationally representative study do not speak English at the age of formal school commencement. Australian children from both migrant and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds are linguistically diverse with some children learning up to 6 languages (Verdon & McLeod, 2014; Verdon McLeod, & Winsler, 2014a). The social and academic benefits of being multilingual are well documented and this research highlights the importance of balancing the development of children’s home languages and culture with the development of English for participation at school. Factors associated with home language maintenance among young Australian multilingual children included parental use of the language at home, the number of generations since migrations, type of child care, and the level of support and understanding from teachers and educational environments (Verdon, McLeod & Winsler 2014b). A mismatch was identified between the languages spoken by Australian children and the languages in which support services for speech, language and communication development were offered (Verdon, McLeod & McDonald, 2014).Part 2 of this research drew upon international expert opinion to identify aspirations and recommendations for supporting the speech, language and communication needs of culturally and linguistically diverse children (Verdon, McLeod & Wong, 2014). The realisation of these aspirations and recommendations were then examined through ethnographic observation of professional practice in 14 international sites in Brazil, Canada, Hong Kong, Italy, and the US identified as working with culturally and linguistically diverse populations (Verdon, 2014). This presentation will share the findings of this research which advocate for culturally appropriate, high quality, and equitable services for all children and identify approaches to practice that facilitating lifelong participation in educational, employment and social contexts.