Teaching mixed-ability groups at tertiary level: The case of Italian
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Teaching languages to mixed-ability groups of learners is quite common in post-secondary University courses, particularly in the case of Italian. This is due to such factors as the widespread teaching of Italian at primary and secondary level, and the very diverse degrees of exposure to Italian and/or Dialect of the background learner. In such situations it is of paramount importance that the students perceive the learning environment as responding to their linguistic needs. This article presents a classroom-based research study of a group of post-secondary learners of Italian at the University of Sydney. It explores some major issues related to their linguistic diversity and discusses the pedagogical intervention that was put in place to respond to their needs. The article focuses upon the establishment of a positive and collaborative learning environment and the adoption of a flexible curriculum as two crucial factors that contribute to promote students’ positive attitudes and to turn the composite nature of the group from an issue to an asset. Furthermore it aims to inform classroom practices of colleagues involved in similar instructional settings.