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Talking about knowledge in diverse classrooms: critical intercultural and cross disciplinary awareness and pedagogy. Dr Esther Daborn Language Centre Director. Intercultural and cross disciplinary journeys. Devon ‘egogs’ Malawian convent girls and Ngoni warriors Expat primary offspring

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Talking about knowledge in diverse classrooms: critical intercultural and cross disciplinary awareness and pedagogy

Dr Esther Daborn

Language Centre Director

intercultural and cross disciplinary journeys
Intercultural and cross disciplinary journeys
  • Devon ‘egogs’
  • Malawian convent girls and Ngoni warriors
  • Expat primary offspring
  • Private EFL schools
  • Battle scarred miners’ children in Dalkeith
  • Vet and seed tech students on world food issues in Edinburgh
  • Revolutionaries in Riga
  • Iranians & the internationalisation strategy at UoG, plus Chinese bearing flowers and Libyan families
to each context apply
….to each context , apply

‘Intercultural curiosity’ Byram (1997) and

‘evidence based methodologies’ for

  • Knowledge building
  • Meaning making
knowledge building
Knowledge building

Vygotsky (1986) Developmental psychology

Richards (1990): the Language Teaching Matrix:

  • Contexts/purposes
  • Learners
  • Teachers
  • Materials

Dialogic learning: Allwright (1984), Mercer (1995)

meaning making
Meaning making
  • Hymes (1966) – extended Chomsky’s view of ‘competence’ to include ‘communicative competence’
  • Every community engages with knowledge / uses language to encapsulate experience in a different way: (Halliday 1975) ‘learning how to mean’
  • Gumperz (1986) gave us the term ‘speech communities’ – extended to ‘discourse communities’ and ‘communities of practice’/ situated learning (Lave and Wenger 1991)
intercultural curiosity
Intercultural curiosity

The ‘on-going research agenda’ is therefore to learn about the beliefs and knowledge of others – ‘funds of knowledge’ to use in ‘dialogic teaching’.

For example, for international students at HEI level there is scope for significant discussion about the learning and thinking process behind the development and presentation of knowledge. 


international students@ uog
International students@ UoG
  • "We never learn language without learning at the same time the conditions of acceptability of this language.  In other words, learning a language means learning at the same time that this language will be profitable in this or that situation."  (Bourdieu 1994)
  • ‘No-one speaks (or writes) academic English as a first language . It must be learned by observation, study and experiment’. (Bourdieu & Passeron, 1994, p. 8).
cricket vs football
Cricket vs. Football

These are successful students, but this is a different game: what are the rules?

  • How do we talk about knowledge in Law? Accounting and Finance? In Medicine? In Engineering? In Education?
  • What are the roles of teacher and student? Who is the knowledge giver? Taker? Transmission vs. knowledge building?
  • How do we ask for things politely? Social distance: Direct vs. indirect?
modelling on pre sessional courses
‘Modelling’ on pre-sessional courses
  • Cross disciplinary investigations in communities of practice for talking about knowledge and systems of meaning making
  • Meaning making in the academic context: stance of writer/’voice’/ nominalisation
  • Applied Linguistics: audience/purpose/context
    • Ideational meaning
    • Interpersonal meaning
    • Textual meaning
modelling dialogic learning
Modelling dialogic learning
  • The relationship between teacher and student: the facilitator and guide
  • The role of interaction in learning in groups and in plenary
  • Tutorials formative feedback
  • The learning cycle: input / processing/ output through academic assignments: from ‘generic’ to ‘subject specific’ (working with receiving departments).
welcoming into a community
Welcoming into a community
  • ‘Gatekeeping’: assessment criteria, benchmarks
  • Success means no final IELTS exam required
  • Acceptance onto academic programme
  • Often leads to a ‘good’ first semester performance – example from Law
leaving the acculturation nest
Leaving the ‘acculturation nest’
  • Induction in Schools (e.g. Education)
  • In-sessional support
  • Essay checking service
  • Language café
  • SRC volunteer system etc
  • BALEAP (British Association of Lecturers in English for Academic Purposes) accreditation: Herriot Watt
xuan from vietnam talking about
Xuan from Vietnam… talking about

writing the introduction of an essay on language acquisition shows problems not over!

'I start with something very general and then the next sentence will be less general and the next sentence will be more specific and then I come to the thesis statement...But I mean sometimes when I wrote something, I want to put an anecdote to it but I think is it safe to write this way?...


But then in academic writing, they always structure, because when I learn IAP (Introduction to Academic Program) they tell us like this is the way you write it, like for example this is the introduction, you start with something very general and then it's like a triangle with the point to the bottom.

So usually we think it's safe to go with that way rather than try something different and you don't know how your lecturer is, whether she is very strict, for example very conservative, and then he or she may think okay this is a piece of formal assessment and he or she did it like an article on a magazine or a newspaper, Yeah, many times I also think that why do I just keep to the old style, I like to change, I like to be creative but I think okay then'

similar problems for home students
Similar problems for home students

(Self)-censorship: Lillis (2003)

2 students from BME backgrounds. 

  • One brings in her own views and gets the single word 'irrelevant' as comment, while the other decides not to mention her own thoughts, no doubt fearing that kind of put-down. 
the empire strikes back variation world englishes elf english as a lingua franca
The empire strikes back: variation, World Englishes & ELF (English as a lingua franca)
  • Successful communication between multilinguals (Seidelhofer (2001); Jenkins (2007)).
  • Bi-lingual teaching e.g. Maltese teachers: value the primacy of language skill for successful communication vs. expression of identity
  • ‘Translanguaging’
more recent situated literacies
More recent situated literacies
  • Teacher Learning for European Literacy Education / Comenius Multilateral Project
  • Education for Diversity: Supporting Newly Arrived Young People in Glasgow and Marseille/ Comenius Regio Project
  • SQA Qualifications design team Higher ESOL (no link!)
  • Chair of CLiE (Committee for Linguistics in Education)
to each educational level apply
To each educational level - apply

An ‘audience, context and purpose’ approach to

  • talking about knowledge across disciplines,
  • founded in applied linguistic descriptions of meaning making,
  • founded in principles of knowledge building


  • Language Curriculum Design and Socialisation, 2014, Peter Mickan, Multilingual Matters
  • Language in Education: social implications, 2014, Rita Silver and SoeLwin (eds), Bloomsbury,
  • A Language as Social Semiotic-Based Approach to Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 2014, Caroline Coffin and Jim Donohue
  • Translanguaging: Language, Bilingualism and Education, 2014, Ofelia Garcia and Li Wei Palgrave Macmillan