English language support: A dialogical multi-literacies approach to teaching students from CALD backgrounds

Kate Berniz 1  and Andrew Miller 2
  • 1 Flinders University, Student Learning Centre, 5174, Sellicks Beach
  • 2 Flinders University, School of Humanities and Creative Arts, 5173, Adelaide


Students in Western university contexts require multiple literacies, numeracies, and critical capacities to succeed. Participation requires a blend of English language capacity, cultural knowhow, and cognisance of the often-hidden racialized assumptions and dispositions underpinning literate performance. Students from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds transitioning to Western university settings from local and international contexts often find themselves floundering in this complex sociocultural web. Many students struggle with the English language preferences of their institutions despite meeting International English Language Testing System (IELTS) requirements. Once enrolled, students from CALD backgrounds need to navigate the linguistic, semiotic, and cultural landscape of the university, both physically and virtually, to enter the discourses and practices of their chosen disciplines. Universities cannot afford to allow students to ‘sink or swim’ or struggle through with non-specialist or ad-hoc support. In response to a clear need for explicit and ongoing English language support for students from CALD backgrounds, the Student Learning Centre (SLC) at Flinders University in South Australia created the English Language Support Program (ELSP). The ELSP sets out to overcome prescriptive and assimilationist approaches to language support by adopting an eclectic blend of learner-centred, critical-creative, and multi-literacies approaches to learning and teaching. Rather than concentrate on skills and/or language appropriateness, the ELSP broadens its reach by unpacking the mechanics and machinations of university study through an intensive—and transgressive—multi-module program. This paper outlines the theoretical and pedagogical challenges of implementing the ELSP.

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