‘How do normal people speak?’: Language and anxiety in international pre-service teachers’ professional experience

Submitted by: Haoran Zheng
Abstract: This research incorporates two related projects that explore the lack of confidence that international preservice teachers feel prior to and throughout their first Professional Experience (PE) in an Australian Early Childhood Education degree. Although international students need to satisfy a range of high stakes language requirements, research (Lo Bianco, 2010; Zheng, Keary & Faulkner, 2018) suggests that they feel inhibited in their use of English in professional experience settings. The lack of familiarity with Early Childhood pedagogical and play-based language leaves these students feeling anxious. Increasing numbers of international preservice teachers in Early Childhood undergraduate and postgraduate degrees require support to understand the language demands of EC settings. Project 1, the catalyst for Project 2, aimed to explore international undergraduate preservice teachers’ language challenges before and during their initial professional experience. A qualitative case study design was employed to collect pre and post PE data including interviews, focus group discussions and PE reflective journals.
The purpose of the second project was to provide postgraduate international preservice teachers with a better understanding of oral language expectations when interacting with young children. Before their first professional experience they engaged with video and simulation-based activities. Both projects used qualitative methods where participants were interviewed about their perceptions of their language capabilities for professional experience. A Bourdieusian framework was used to analyse data. Preliminary findings from both projects support second language theory (Lo Bianco, 2010). In both projects pre-service teachers encountered challenges interacting with children in English and lacked confidence fostering children’s literacy development. On the other hand, their own cultural and linguistic capital was yet to be recognised during the PE context. This reinforces the concept that multilingualism is a linguistic and cognitive resource that could be more effectively mobilised by both teacher educators and staff in Early Childhood settings.

Key words: teacher education, multilingualism, international pre-service teachers, international students, professional experience.  

Lo Bianco, J. (2010). The importance of language policies and multilingualism for cultural diversity. International Social Science Journal, 61(199), 37-67

Zheng, H., Keary, A., & Faulkner, J. (2018). “What is finger knitting?” Chinese pre-service teachers' initial professional experience in Australian Early Childhood Education. In A. Fitzgerald, J. Williams, & G. Parr (Eds.), Re-imagining Professional experience in initial teacher education. Singapore: Springer.