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Assignment 2: Critical Analysis of Research

Beyond learning English on arrival, adolescent refugee people face several issues in pursuing

education and training pathways in Australia. These issues range from, difficulty

transitioning from a refugee life, to an Australian school environment; getting placed in

classes that match their chronological age rather than their actual level of education

attainment; under resourced public schools that are unable to meet the needs of refugee

students; as well as, a difficult home environment (Refugee Council of Australia, 2016;

Dooley, 2015). Although there are many refugee students that go through their education

successfully, there is still a sizeable proportion of refugee students whose learning

requirements are not met. Therefore, it is pivotal that research is constantly evaluated for

currency and effectiveness, when it comes to educational programs, pedagogies and practices,

that can assist refugee students in terms of their education. The article Crossing borders in

preparing pre-service teachers for literacy in secondary schools in Greater Western Sydney,

Naidoo (2012), discusses the benefits on schools, teachers and pre-service teachers, as a

result, of the Refugee Action Support program (RAS), by analysing data from a case-study

conducted within a participating school, as well as, research on various strategies that will

help refugee students reach their potential in education. This article will be compared with

Ferfolja and Vickers (2010) article, Supporting refugee students in school education in

Greater Western Sydney, which takes a similar approach in looking at the perceived effects

on refugee students participating in RAS, but extends the study to include the perspectives of

teachers who assist in the coordination of the program at several school sites. Although both

studies have implemented various research methods, both qualitative and quantitative. In this

essay, the strengths and the weaknesses of the research design in each article will be assessed

according to the application of research analysis, but in summary, the findings of each article

show case the implications on refugee students, as a result, of the programs and strategies
implemented by the Refugee Action Support program, which has succinct relevance and

therefore application for teaching practice.

The purpose of Naidoos (2012) article was too discuss the benefits of the RAS partnership

program, which moves away from a one-size-fits-all approach to a more individualised

approach that works on celebrating diversity, providing role models and mentors, as well as,

implementing English language and literacy training so that refugee background students can

have the opportunity to transition into mainstream secondary schools more successfully. This

idea has also been replicated in the research by Ferfolja and Vickers (2010), but more

specifically, from the teachers who participate in the RAS program at various school sites.

Naidoo (2012) concluded that given the multifaceted needs of refugee students in Australian

secondary schools and the difficulties in transitioning to mainstream classes, it is clear that

students cannot reach their potential without additional support. In addition, Naidoo (2012)

found that the school-community-university partnership of RAS meets the needs, abilities and

learning styles of refugee background students, and provides them with a greater opportunity

to succeed. This idea has also been replicated by Ferfolja and Vickers (2010) study which

found that the RAS program assisted students transitions into mainstream schools by

providing them with the additional care they need, it also extends, to suggest that intensive

one-on-one coaching which allows students to take control of their own learning, can increase

the success of refugee background students over a period of time.

Both studies offer a wide-ranging review of literature in relation to how beneficial the RAS

program is in assisting refugee background students and both articles discuss background

information and existing statistics, strategies and programs, which influence the RAS

program. The article by Naidoo (2012), looks more closely at how the partnership between
school, community and university of RAS, not only benefits students, but explores benefits

for communities, schools, teachers and pre-service teachers through specific literacy

strategies and service learning programs. In contrast to Ferfolja and Vickers (2010) which

looks at relevant literature that has been continuously evaluated to monitor the effects of the

RAS programs and identifies areas that need improvement, as well as, looking at the effects

of RAS on participating refugee students from the teachers perspective. In summary, both

articles review of literature is well-structured containing useful and relevant information

about the effects of RAS, which is what is required of a literature review (Oliver, 2012).

The methodology and data collection process was addressed in detail in both studies, this

included both qualitiative and quantitative methods, which allowed the chief researchers to

investigate their data expansively. Yet, the data was conducted differently between the two

studies. Naidoo (2012) used qualitative research methods like semi structured, face-to-face,

and group interviews with a range of participants including: the Principal or Deputy

Principal, programs organising teacher, classroom teachers of RAS students and RAS tutors

(Western Sydney University students), as well as, organising focus groups with RAS students

present. The research focused on structure, effect and value of the RAS program, in addition

to, how it has been supporting teaching and learning in schools (Naidoo, 2012). On the other

hand, Ferfolja and Vickers (2010) used qualitative research methods, but incorporated

quantitative data in support, because they had a smaller sample size. For instance, the

researchers conducted two semi-structured face-to-face interviews which lasted between 30-

60 minutes with coordinating teachers at the beginning and end of the program. With the first

interview focusing on teachers observations of RAS students, also looking at RAS students

attendance, and the impact the program has had on them. The second interview looks at what

the students have learned, both academically and socially, and how the tutors contributed.

Ferfolja and Vickers (2010) also included quantitative methods, such as a questionnaire, pre
and post program, as well as, a rating tool, in support of their qualitative information. Naidoo

(2012) provide a sound discussion about their data-collection process, however, they do not

include any interview questions, unlike Ferfolja and Vickers (2010) who discuss what their

interview questions are addressing, and also provide what the pre-and post RAS

questionnaire and rating tool would assess. The fact that Naidoo (2012) neglected to include

the interview questions in the research article can suggest a flaw in the description of the

study, which allows for future researchers to construct another case study to attain the same

information.

Both studies were interested to look at the effect the RAS program had on refugee

background students, and key differences can be compared between the two studies in

relation to their methodological approaches. Naidoo (2012) used a wide range of participants

for their sample, including Principal/Deputy Principal, programs organising teacher,

classroom teachers of RAS students, as well as, RAS students themselves. While, Ferfolja

and Vickers (2010) sample included only coordinating teachers. Although this sample offers

the perspectives of coordinating teachers, it is also restricting, as it does not consider the

responses of the RAS student themselves and if they find the RAS program effective. It is

important to note that although their numerical data (questionaires and rating tool) are used to

support the teacher interviews, Ferfolja and Vickers (2010) highlighted the limitations of a

small sample size by making note that due to the fact that the sample size is small, there has

been no attempt to use statistical tests that might lead to broader inferences based on these

data. Overall, it would have been interesting to see a larger sample size that reflected the

classroom outcomes so that trends can be linked to the wider RAS participants.

Moreover, the similarities, as well as differences, between both studies and their research

findings are explored. Naidoo (2012) discusses the RAS partnership program and the benefits

it has on RAS students, schools, teachers, and pre-service teachers, by focusing on the writing
of the perceptions of teachers, Principal/Deputy Principal, coordinating teachers, tutors and

RAS students. This approach is appropriate when discussing the benefits of the

RAS program. Whilst, Ferfolja and Vickers (2010) explores the benefits of the RAS program

through the perceptions of teachers through mixed method research, which is appropriate in

this case as it is used to increase the validity of the interviews (Gall, Gall, & Borg, 2014).

However, in saying this, both studies wanted to explore the effects, as well as, the benefits the

RAS program had on students. The interviews conducted in the study by Naidoo (2012) have

indicated that the success of the RAS program was based on a number of factors, including

the needs of refugee students, the structure of the program and family/community

involvement and resources. Moreover, the results indicated that due to the structure that the

RAS program provided, such as, consistent and regular support, actually strengthened the

effectiveness. Additionally, the participants highlighted that the program was engaging, this

is significant because it instils confidence and raises the status of refugee background

students in a school setting, meaning that students in the RAS program conveyed more self-

assurance and confidence in their academic performance at school (Naidoo, 2012). Although

Ferfolja and Vickers (2010) used only teachers perceptions to evaluate the effectiveness of

the RAS program, they too found similar conclusions. The results concluded that the RAS

program enhanced the students ownership of their learning as it gave them the opportunity to

identify areas where they felt they needed assistance. However, there were still some

differences, for instance, in contrast to Naidoo (2012), Ferfolja and Vickers (2010) concluded

that opportunities to learn in the safe space provided by RAS also enhanced the students

understandings of the Australian social context, especially through reading and discussing

newspaper articles and the internet, meaning that students were attaining cultural capital

(Bourdieu, 1977) that is not only relevant in the school environment, but a broader

community/social environment also. In addition, Ferfolja and Vickers (2010) highlighted a


crucial point that is not discussed in Naidoos (2012) study, such as, in NSW, Year 10

students who gain N awards for assignments are at risk of not being awarded their school

certificate. However, with the aid of their RAS tutors, students could complete outstanding

tasks, enabling them to complete their course requirements. Even though there is no Year 10

certificate anymore, it is still a vital point to raise, because it highlights how the RAS

program gave the students the opportunity to attain an understanding of the institutional

practices that were relevant at the time. Although there is a focus placed on improving

academic skills, Ferfolja and Vickers (2010) concluded that for refugee students,

acculturation to the social expectations and institutional practices of the mainstream are

crucial for their development, because without understanding these practices, they are less

likely to be engaged in the classroom, however, the teachers concluded that the RAS program

provided the necessary time and space to support students in enhancing their learning.

Both articles discuss the implications towards the field of education through teaching

practices that supports refugee background students become more successful in Australian

schools, in their conclusions. Both articles makes it clear that schools cannot deliver the

various forms of learning support that are required by refugee background students, unless

they gain additional assistance. RAS meets the needs and learning styles of students and

provides them with a greater opportunity to succeed (Naidoo, 2012). Both articles indicate

that students were engaged, motivated to learn and successfully completed and submitted

assessments on time (Naidoo, 2012; Ferfolja & Vickers, 2015). If programs like RAS were

offered in disadvantaged areas would see the enhancement of status of students from refugee

backgrounds by establishing an environment within the school, where they would have the

chance to show their skills and showcase aspects of their culture, countries of origin and

personal experiences. This is important because as teachers there is a responsibility to create

and maintain supportive and safe learning environments for students (Australia Institute for
Teaching and School Leadership, 2011, Standard 4). This is achieved through the RAS

program as it helps students develop intercultural understanding as they learn to value their

own cultures, languages and beliefs, and those of others. It involves students learning about

and engaging with diverse cultures that recognise commonalities and differences, as well as,

forming connections with others and establishing respect (Australian Curriculum, Assessment

and Reporting Authority (ACARA), 2012). Intercultural understanding helps develop

students to become active and informed citizens with an appreciation of Australias social,

cultural, linguistic and religious diversity, and the ability to relate to and communicate across

cultures at micro and macro levels (ACARA, 2014).

In conclusion, both articles have donated knowledge in the field, and have showcased the

effects and benefits of the RAS program, related to the success of refugee background

students. Even though more research should be in looking at the impact of the RAS program,

the findings have been promising. Notably, both articles have concluded similar

recommendations that intensive coaching delivered by the Refugee Action Program can meet

the needs of refugee background students and enhance their success during their time in the

education system.
Reference List:
Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) (2014). Australian
Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. Retrieved from
http://www.acara.edu.au/

Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. (2011). Australian professional
standards for teaching. Retrieved from Education Services Australia website:
http://www.aitsl.edu.au/australian-professional-standards-for-teachers/standards/list
Bourdieu, P. (1977). Outline of a theory of practice (R. Nice, Trans.). Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press. (Original work published 1972).
Ferfolja, T., & Vickers, M. (2010). Supporting refugee students in school education in
Greater Western Sydney. Critical Studies in Education, 51(2), 149-162.
Gall, M. D., Gall, J. P., & Borg, W. R. (2014). Mixed-Methods Research. Applying

Educational Research, (pp. 474-494). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Naidoo, L. (2012). Refugee action support: Crossing borders in preparing pre-service


teachers for literacy teaching in secondary schools in Greater Western Sydney.
International Journal of Pedagogies and Learning, 7(3), 266-274.
Oliver, P. (2012). Succeeding with your literature review: A handbook for students.
Maidenhead: Open University Press.