Language Teacher Research in Australia and New Zealand

Language Teacher Research in Australia and New Zealand
Ann Burns and Jill Burton (Eds). Virginia: TESOL, 2008, Pp. vii +249.

Reviewed by Brendan Moloney
The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

Burns and Burton have edited this collection of 13 articles on teaching English titled Language teacher research in Australia and New Zealand, but readers should not be misled by the title in that this collection of 13 articles on teaching in the tertiary sector may also apply to other teaching contexts in other parts of the world where teachers want to link research to practice.
In chapter 1, Burns and Burton provide an overview of the collection. As a starting point, the authors establish a framework for viewing the collection of works as that of a reflective teacher practitioner, with the explicit goal of exploring an inquiry-based attitude teaching . In working within this framework, chapter 2 examines Australian and Hong Kong university collaborations in educating teachers in Australia. Chapter 3 then examines whether or not learning about New Zealand social and cultural issues in pre-university English for Academic Purposes (EAP) classes helps students to be successful in their later university studies. The following chapter, chapter 4, uses action research to examine Australian immigrants learning of conversational strategies. On a somewhat different track, chapter 5 explores vocabulary recall and retention for students in Western Australia. More detailed analysis is suggested in chapter 6, which proposes successful strategies employed by students to conquer international tests, and chapter 7 argues that teachers of English should learn more about heritage languages. Chapter 8 goes on to suggest socio-cultural and political impediments to learning English in Sydney, and chapter 9 highlights the importance of critical thinking to post-graduate engineers. The final two chapters raise professional and ethical issues: Chapter 10 examines a teacher s existential problems in teaching English through a self-enquiry study, and chapter 11 examines issues of race, identity, and discrimination in Australia as channelled through a teacher s experience and observations of students learning English. The final two chapters explore literacy: Chapter 12 examines teaching literacy to deaf students in New Zealand through TESOL techniques, and chapter 13 explores the issues of reading comprehension for biology students.
When critically evaluating the text, one can see that the editors are clearly aware of an international audience, but arguably many international readers would find specific rather than generic studies on EAP of more interest. There is not, for example, a single article on Australian or New Zealand Englishes. A shortcoming of this book, therefore, is that there is little consideration (or discussion) of what is distinctive and unique about either New Zealand or Australian teaching. On the plus side, the book has several strong points: (1) It challenges stereotypes of Australian and New Zealand language teaching as being dependent on British or American methodologies and research; (2) it highlights the types and diversity of research being undertaken in Australasia; (4) and it offers a perspective on teaching English as a second language in these regions.

Consequently, while there are some limitations to this book, Burns and Burton have indeed brought together a collection of articles that certainly serve as a preliminary insight into Australian and New Zealand research results on English language education and thus has significance both in Australia and beyond in the field of Language Teacher Education.