Identification and assessment contexts of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander learners of Standard Australian English: Challenges for the language testing community
Denise Angelo, Language Perspectives, Northern Indigenous Schooling Support Unit, Education Queensland
Volume 2, Issue 2, 2013
Abstract: The paper discusses the contexts of language backgrounds, language learning, policy and assessment relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (Indigenous) students who are learning Standard Australian English (SAE) as an Additional Language or Dialect (EAL/D) in the state of Queensland. Complexities surrounding this cohort’s language situations and their language learning are explained in order to reveal why existing processes are not reliably identifying nor assessing those Indigenous students who are indeed EAL/D learners. In particular, it is argued, EAL/D processes and assessment instruments need to acknowledge and respond to the challenges posed by the rich and varied Indigenous language ecologies generated through language contact. System-level data does not disaggregate Indigenous EAL/D learners, nor correlate their levels of second language SAE proficiency with their academic performance data. Indigenous students are, however, over-represented in Queensland’s National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) under-performance data and raising their performance is a national priority and targeted through many government initiatives. Indigenous students comprise a highly heterogeneous group in terms of their cultural, linguistic and schooling backgrounds, and Indigenous EAL/D learners, too, represent a diverse grouping which has only been included relatively recently in Australian second language assessment tools, and around which there has been little extensive discussion, despite significant complexity surrounding this cohort. This paper explores the background contextual issues involved in identifying and assessing Indigenous EAL/D learners equitably and reliably.
Keywords: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education, second language assessment, identification of learners of English as an Additional Language or Dialect (EALD)/English as a Second Language (ESL), contact languages, Indigenous education policy