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					Re-thinking Assumptions of Student Expertise: ‘Out of Class’ Literacies of
African Refugee Youth

Greg Curran, Access Education Program

Refugee youth engagement and performance within mainstream classes in Australia is a hotly
discussed issue. Much of the discourse however, positions refugee youth as ‘lacking’ or in
deficit-related terminology – in respect to ‘literacy’ skills, capacities to learn in ‘traditional’ ways,
and future pathways.

This presentation reports on an in-progress project that seeks to gain a broader understanding
of the literacy and learning capacities of African refugee youth in level 3 of the ‘Certificate in
Spoken and Written English’ at Victoria University in Sunshine, Victoria. It does so through
examining:

     o   their favourite text types;
     o   what these texts mean to them;
     o   the circumstances in which they engage with them;
     o   how they engage with them;
     o   their text-related knowledge and skills.

As educators (in the AMEP program), we hope to tap into, work with, and extend the literacies
that our African students develop through their interaction with these texts outside of class – so
as to foster improved engagement and learning outcomes in our English classes.

This qualitative project is informed by the fields of New Learning and Multiliteracies. It is based
on small group discussions and activities within the classroom.

This presentation will report initial findings along with implications for curricula, teaching
pedagogies, and professional development of staff.




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