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Research process

The interrelated research processes designed to produce new research- based knowledge, to educate beginning L2 teacher-researchers and to stimulate beginning L2 learners' knowledge of Chinese are explained in this section. The Ningbo Municipal Education Bureau (China), the New South Wales Department of Education and Communities, and the University of Western Sydney (both in Australia) have formed a strong and enduring partnership which has as its primary focus the teaching of Chinese to second-language learners in Sydney schools. The three partners established a ten-year partnership (2008-2018) called the Research Oriented School Engaged Teacher-Researcher Education (ROSETE) program.

Planning was initiated in 2005. By 2006, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the partner organisations. Beginning in mid-2008, up to ten university graduates have come to Sydney to help stimulate the teaching and learning of Chinese by working as volunteers for ten hours per week in primary or secondary schools across the city. To do this work, these 'Ningbo Volunteers' undertake an 18-month course for a master's degree in education (research) at the University of Western Sydney. The knowledge the volunteers generate through their work experience gains added value through their masters' theses, which duly recognise that the knowledge and skills gained are vital to their developing capabilities as teacher-researchers. This ties the relationship between teachers-as-knowledge workers and researchers-as-knowledge producers (NSW Government, 2012).

The ROSETE Program has been framed to interrupt the (class-biased, elitist) dichotomy between liberalism and vocationalism in education and to stimulate questions about partnerships between educators and workers (and those without work or education) (Singh & Harreveld, 2014). This means acknowledging that those who prepare teachers are making a living and preparing their students to do likewise. Taking vocational preparation through the lived, concrete experience of (productive and reproductive) work as a serious educative undertaking provides the Ningbo Volunteers the opportunity to evaluate the teaching/learning of Chinese in Australia. They also come to understand the ways in which this country organises and distributes the work of language education, and to develop a comprehensive insight into the culture, structure and organisation of its schools.

To date, 65 Ningbo Volunteers have successfully participated in the ROSETE program. The volunteers collaborate in teacher action/know- ledge research to investigate learner-centred, learning focused ways to make Chinese learnable for beginning learners for primary through to secondary school. Thus, 'teacher action/knowledge research' works with body and mind, thought and action, experiencing and questioning, the educative experiences of work, and the continuous, cumulative process of learning (Dewey, 1944/1916). This approach of 'teacher action/knowledge research' recognises the origins of knowledge in the real world of teachers' purposeful work and the labour through which researchers create new knowledge.

The Ningbo Volunteers develop their capabilities for recognising and actualising the collective educative potential contained in their work experience, and organise their work in ways that become increasingly conducive to shared learning. In the short term, the volunteers learn the knowledge and capabilities of teacher-researchers. In the long term, they are able to continue learning about themselves, the meaningfulness of life and work, and the transformative potential of the body and mind. The sense and sensibilities of the ROSETE program differ from the individualism of the action research methods employed by language teachers (Crookes, 1993). Each volunteer produces knowledge of his/ her experiences of teaching and students' learning of Chinese as second language in Sydney classrooms. The ROSETE program is a decidedly innovative way in which to understand

  • 1. Positioning school students' learning as the primary focus for the training of a team of teacher-researchers,
  • 2. Structuring collaboration among Australian and Chinese school and university education authorities,
  • 3. Directly engaging with both the theoretical and linguistic knowledge available to Chinese teacher-researchers, and

4. Working collaboratively to disseminate the knowledge generated through this intervention-based teacher-research into other relevant languages.

The following sections analyse the data collected through the ROSETE program as a basis for generating new knowledge on how to improve school retention strategies for Chinese language learners from early primary to senior secondary school.

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