1.3 Students with diverse linguistic, cultural, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

What does this descriptor look like at different levels?

Students with diverse linguistic, cultural, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds is the third descriptor of the first standard of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers.

This descriptor requires teachers to understand and use teaching strategies that address the unique learning needs of students with different backgrounds. Whereas some of the other descriptors in the first standard look at different intellectual and physical differences between students, this descriptor is more about language, culture and background.

Students with different backgrounds do respond differently to different teaching strategies. Knowing the best strategies to teach your students is a key part of being a teacher. Culture, language and socioeconomic status are likely to affect different schools in different ways; for example you can bet that a school in a more affluent area will have fewer students who have experienced poverty than one in a poorer area. There are also schools that are more likely to have a higher refugee population for example, but all teachers need to be prepared for the full breadth of experiences that their students bring to their classrooms.

Graduate

What does it look like?

At the Graduate level, teachers are expected to demonstrate knowledge of teaching strategies that are responsive to the learning strengths and needs of students from diverse linguistic, cultural, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds.

As with many of the descriptors at this level, Graduate teachers are expected to be able to understand these concepts but they don’t necessarily need to implement them in their teaching yet. The key things that Graduate teachers need to understand are the differences between students with different backgrounds, how they impact their learning, and what strategies may be more effective for addressing these differences.

What evidence can I collect?

At this level, you only need to demonstrate that you know a range of teaching strategies that address the needs of students with different backgrounds. You will likely do this through your uni assignments that you do as a part of your university degree.

As you need to reach the Graduate career stage before you can graduate as a teacher in Australia, these assignments should be enough. You may want to put some extra time into researching different strategies to help support these students if you need more evidence.

Proficient

What does it look like?

At the Proficient level, teachers are expected to design and implement teaching strategies that are responsive to the learning strengths and needs of students from diverse linguistic, cultural, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds.

This descriptor is interesting as it states “design” teaching strategies. Many other descriptors for this standard require your strategy to be based on evidence, but here it encourages you to design some yourself.

As these different backgrounds, such as language and socioeconomic status, can become very complicated, you will likely need to be flexible and adapt any teaching strategies you want to use. Showing that you can adjust and design teaching strategies will demonstrate your ability to truly understand your students’ needs.

This descriptor also looks at the strengths as well as needs of these students. You must use strategies that extend your students’ strengths instead of just addressing their weaknesses.

What evidence can I collect?

At this career level, you will need to show evidence that you are actually teaching using these strategies. Lesson observations are the easiest way to do this.

Notes from a lesson observation will provide evidence for what teaching strategies that you are using, but you want to ensure that you also add some context. Any good lesson observation should include a context discussion, but if you’re using the notes for evidence you will want to document as much as you can. Some things to include in this document are:

  • The background of your students. This demonstrates that you know them and what factors impact their learning.
  • What strategies you have used.
  • Why you have chosen these strategies. Are they targeted at a particular student? Why? Have you needed to change/adjust your approach over time?
  • Reflection – how did the lesson go? What could be improved for next time? Do you need to tweak your teaching strategies? If a strategy didn’t work, why do you think that is?

You can of course also include lesson plans with annotations that cover these elements, but an observation gives direct evidence as well as another perspective on your teaching practice.

Highly Accomplished

What does it look like?

At the Highly Accomplished level, teachers are expected to support colleagues to develop effective teaching strategies that address the learning strengths and needs of students from diverse linguistic, cultural, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds.

At this level, you need to start working with other teachers to support them to implement strategies. Coaching is a good way to do this, or find another teacher who you are happy to team-teach with or observe each other’s lessons.

If you have formal professional learning groups at your school, these can be another great opportunity to work with other teachers. If you pool your resources, you can work towards a better outcome for more students and get some good evidence towards meeting this standard.

What evidence can I collect?

To provide evidence at this level, you’re going to need to show that you’ve been working with other teachers. Minutes of meetings are a great way to do this, as well as annotated plans that show not only your thinking, but the input that other teachers have had as well.

Lead

What does it look like?

At the Lead level, teachers are expected to evaluate and revise school learning and teaching programs, using expert and community knowledge and experience, to meet the needs of students with diverse linguistic, cultural, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Expertise is required to meet the standard at this level, and this doesn’t just come from formal research. You’re going to need to really understand your students by going out and being involved in the community.

Once you are an expert and have a firm grasp on how to support these students, you need to be applying this to change the processes at your school in a big way. You will need to be reviewing and giving feedback to improve site-wide processes and benefit all of your students.

What evidence can I collect?

For this level of this standard, you need to show that you are an expert. Evidence of some more unconventional professional learning such as being involved in community events or communication and consultation with the community is a great way to do this.

You’re also going to need to have evidence that you are applying your expertise on a whole-school level. Annotated documents such as policies, procedures and agreements with your feedback and suggestions are great for this, as well as minutes of meetings where these programs are discussed.

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