Towards culturally inclusive language assessments for Indigenous student

Children being recorded in the classroom with backpacks holding recorders
Children being recorded in the classroom with backpacks holding recorders

This ARC funded Discovery Project (DP170101735) “Towards culturally inclusive language assessments for Indigenous students)” began in June 2018 after a slow start due to delays in obtaining ethics approvals. The goal of the project is to collect language samples from 200+ children in both classroom and playground contexts. We collect around 60-90 minutes of recordings per child covering time in both contexts and teachers are also recorded in the classroom but only for the purposes of clarifying what is going on in the classroom if necessary for the transcription of the children. Data are collected from 5-6 children in each of grades 1, 3 and 5 providing a good spread of ages. To date we have collected data from seven schools, and more than 130 children; we were unable to collect further data in 2020, but will collect the remaining data in 2021. Recordings are then transcribed and the children’s language use is analysed to identify the range of languages and dialects they use and how these differ across classroom and playground environments.

We are particularly interested in exploring the ways teachers and others might be able to draw on the often extensive language knowledge the students bring to school to enhance the children’s experiences in the classroom. One approach to this is to use ‘translanguaging’ techniques to encourage discussion around different languages and dialects. ‘Translanguaging’ involves speakers being able to draw on all their language resources as determined by the context, who they are speaking to, and the topic, and its use in the classroom can also demonstrate to the children that their languages are valued and important.

We believe that incorporating aspects of translanguaging in to the classroom could help to promote a deeper and fuller understanding of the subject matter, could facilitate home-school links and encourage more inclusive language practices in the classroom. This would allow children to draw on their multilingual linguistic skills whilst acquiring Standard English by recognising that the students come from diverse background.

Project details


Australian Research Council (ARC) funded Discovery Project (DP170101735)

Chief Investigators

Jill Wigglesworth, University of Melbourne
Rhonda Oliver, Curtin University of Technology
Robyn Ober, Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education
Susy Macqueen, ANU
Tim McNamara, University of Melbourne
Ute Knoch, University of Melbourne