Date of Submission



Internationally, research indicates that in primary schools English language learners (ELLs) receive the majority of their instruction from mainstream, rather than ESL specialist trained teachers. ELLs and their distinct language based learning needs present significant challenges to mainstream teachers who may have received no additional training to assist them to open up curricular access for these children. Nonetheless, the reality is that the mainstream teacher and her pedagogical and pastoral responses to these students are pivotal influences on their chances of achieving academic success. This study investigates the responses of two mainstream primary teachers in a non-metropolitan area in Australia to ELLs of refugee background in their classes. It seeks to identify the nature of the teachers' responses and the attitudes and knowledge of SLA research that they may draw on in formulating those responses. The study was designed within the theoretical framework of interpretivism. Consistent with this foundation, qualitative methodology and data gathering strategies were employed. The principal methodology was that of a case study (Yin, 2009) in which two teachers, Margot and Susanna, comprised the main unit of analysis (Merriam, 1998). Data gathering strategies included direct classroom observations in which field notes were taken, scores assigned for elements of the New South Wales Quality Teaching Framework (QTF) and evidence of implementation of the Curriculum Cycle (Derewianka, 1991) recorded. Semi structured interviews were also conducted. The data revealed that these teachers' principal response to their refugee ELLs was one characterised by the provision of pastoral care and the promotion of their social inclusion.;Although both teachers identified the refugee ELLs' learning challenges as being language knowledge-based, they enacted minimal pedagogical differentiation to address this and thus to support these children's access to curricular content. Consequently, refugee ELLs were not visible as a distinct group of learners in either classroom. These findings are considered in the last part of this thesis in terms of their implications for local education authorities and for teachers' professional learning.


School of Education

Document Type


Access Rights

Open Access


353 pages

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Faculty of Education