Personalised learning is just one technique that can help students from a refugee background to succeed.

To help immigrants from a refugee background to settle in New Zealand, they are provided with the opportunity to study English. But these immigrants tend to find studies more difficult than other ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) students, because they are also coping with educational gaps, resettlement issues and past traumatic experiences. They might succeed in their ESOL class, but then struggle to transition successfully to mainstream tertiary education or to work.

Amber Fraser-Smith, one of our ESOL teachers, was concerned about the high drop out rate for students from a refugee background who went on to further tertiary education. She undertook to research what more ESOL teachers could do to help their students continue to be successful beyond their ESOL study. She developed the COMPASS model to guide teachers:

  • Collaboration: Teachers can work with other teachers and with students, to find out what works for them, eg reading aloud to students.
  • Orientation: Teachers should introduce students to our systems.
  • Multiple literacies: It's not just about learning English but also helping students understand New Zealand colloquialisms, te reo words they will hear, and technical language.
  • Personalised learning: Course content shouldn't be straight out of a textbook but targeted for what individuals need to know in their discipline, whether for further study or for work.
  • Advocacy: Help students to navigate the next step in further education or employment.
  • Strategising: Students and teachers can work together on how to solve a problem.
  • Self-care: Teachers need to set appropriate boundaries to avoid secondary trauma and to avoid becoming too personally involved in their students’ lives.

Amber is in the process of making her research results available to ESOL teachers in New Zealand refugee settlement cities.

June 2020