Papers & Workshops



Risk-Taking: Giving ESL Students an Edge


Ruth Gledhill and Dale Morgan

Northern Territory Department of Education, Alice Springs, Australia

The notion of risk as being integral to successful learning is widely accepted amongst classroom practitioners, especially those involved in teaching English to speakers of other languages. However it presents a paradox both in terms of the nature of risk and the conditions under which risks are taken. Little has been written about risk taking. Popular definitions do not adequately describe what we mean by risk in the classroom situation. As educators we accept our implicit understandings but seldom delve into just what is involved in the process of risk taking and how it can be fostered in our students. Implicit understandings are bound by culture and when working in cross-cultural situations it is imperative that we make our expectations explicit both to ourselves and our students, whose expectations of school and learning may be quite different. This paper aims to encourage teachers of Indigenous students to examine some of their implicit beliefs and hence become more sensitive to the needs of their students. We will look at just what it means for students, for whom English is a second language (ESL) to take risks in the classroom, and what steps teachers can take to reduce the element of fear that confronts and constrains their students. We will also examine some of the underlying principles of the First Steps program in relation to risk taking and the needs of ESL learners. If teachers are aware of these details they can design programs that will give their ESL students an edge to learning in and through English at school.
  Presentation Format: 90 min. workshop

RMIT, Melbourne, Australia

5-9 July 2000

Equipment: Overhead Projector