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Exploring EAL Practices at Deanesfield Primary School: Embracing Multilingualism for Enhanced Learningw

Introduction

The present research is related to the practices that are prevalent in Deanesfield Primary School with respect to EAL. The children who are defined as EAL learners are those whose first language is other than English who are living and attending school in England (Schneider & Davies-Tutt, 2014). Young children learning L2 are said to be one of the fastest growing segments of the global population (Kan & Kohnert, 2005, p. 380).

The study seeks to understand how teachers and schools encourage, welcome and embrace L1 to aid learning for children; the School strategies of incorporating L1 to encourage students and further their learning; and the teaching techniques that allow L1 to help develop L2.

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The research has been conducted with mixed methods research approach. The research collected primary data by administering questionnaires to teachers and this chapter discusses the findings and results of the data analysis. The chapter will commence with a brief discussion on the methodology employed for the research and then proceed to discuss the findings and results generated from the questionnaire data. This section is followed by a more in depth discussion and a section on critical analysis of the findings.

Methodology

The research was conducted in the Deanesfield Primary School. The school has a substantial population of EAL learners and it identifies 38 percent of its students to be learning English as an additional language. The school has an Inclusion Manager, who is a person from the staff nominated with responsibility for EAL provision.

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Participants’ data was collected through questionnaires administered to teachers teaching from Year 1 to Year 6. The school EAL policy was studied to understand the practices and policies followed by the school. This data was collected and analysed using qualitative methods. Thematic analysis of the data was done to structure the findings of the research.

The methodology employed for this research is qualitative research. As such, research may use approaches that are qualitative or quantitative or even mixed methods. These approaches contrasted in their methodologies (Creswell, 2013). Qualitative approach is more subjective and open and flexible. For that reason, it allows the researcher to collect and analyse detailed and nuanced perspectives of the participants. Qualitative research is ideal for research studies that are interpretative in nature, or studies that involve multiple narratives, and allow greater insight into the topic (Creswell, 2013).

The present research was focussed on gaining more insight into the perspectives of the teachers on the strategies that are used for EAL learning in schools. This research is informed by the theory on EAL and this has guided in the forming of questionnaire as well. Therefore, qualitative methods are useful here.

The benefits of qualitative research are that it is flexible in formulating the design; provides greater emphasis on narratives; and can be moulded to fit the demands of the study. As this method would have allowed the researcher to ask open ended questions to the participants and not be bound by pre-specified methods or hypotheses, the researcher found this to be the appropriate method for research (Willis & Jost, 2007, pp. 53-54).

The rationale for using the qualitative methods of research was that this would have enabled the research to capture the detailed perspectives and experiences of participants. Quantitative research may enable the researcher to draw conclusions for a large number of people, provide effective analysis of data, control bias and investigate relationships within the data. But it is also dry, unable to record stories, provides limited understanding of context and is not participant-driven. Moreover, the participant sample for the research was small and therefore quantitative research would not have been appropriate for the research.

Ethical concerns were also considered. The teachers were informed of the nature and objectives of the research and their anonymity has been protected by the researcher. The data was collected by the voluntary participation of teachers.

Findings

The data collected through the questionnaires was analysed thematically and the principal findings are presented in this section.

Strategies in place to support EAL learners

The first question in the questionnaire asked the participants to identify the strategies used to support EAL learners. 6 participants answered this question. The responses given by the teachers suggest that the teachers identify a number of strategies that are in place for the support of EAL learners. Some of the strategies that were identified recurrently by most of the participants are as follows:

Assessment of L1 proficiency and prior knowledge of other subjects by school: This was identified by each of the participant. P 3 wrote:

“I teach Math to year 2 students. At the beginning of the school term, I assess EAL learners for their individual proficiency levels in L 2. I do this so that I know how to approach teaching for the class as a whole, while taking into account that some students may need more support in explanations and understanding of some key terms in the curriculum.”P 6 wrote:

“I teach Science to year 6 students. Sometimes we get students who have recently moved to the UK from non-English speaking countries. Then there also are students who are EAL learners from earlier class but they may not have achieved complete proficiency in English. So I spend the first few days of the term trying to understand and assess the EAL proficiency of individual students and sometimes there may be as many as 5 or 6 students in the class that need to be assessed.”

These and other responses from participants suggest that teachers of Deanesfield Primary School do assess L 1 proficiency levels in their classes.

Continuing EAL support: This was identified by all the participants barring P 4.

Monitoring the attainment and progress of students: This was identified by each of the participants.

Effectiveness of the strategies

One of the questions in the questionnaire asked whether the participant considered the strategies used for EAL as effective. Out of the six participants five participants answered this question in affirmative. P 4 is the only participant who answered the question in negative.

P 1 wrote in response to the question:

“The strategies are reasonably effective. I have observed that monitoring the progress of the students has helped to identify the key strengths of individual students, which can be further honed in order to help them achieve proficiency in L

2 On the other hand, P 4 wrote:

“No, I don’t particularly think that the existing strategies are effective. I have observed that students are more responsive when they learn English speaking with their friends and peers. I feel that there are a number of strategies that can be useful in helping attain L 2 proficiency for EAL learners that we need to try more. For instance, we could try specialist EAL teaching with the help of or in partnership with EAL specialist teachers. Or we could also try more peer support such as pupils paired for studies and reading, etc.”

Specific effective strategy

Each of the participant identified a specific strategy for EAL learning that they found was effective. Out of the 6 participants 4 participants identified use of creative EAL learning techniques such as: role play, use of drama, use of visual material, as the most effective strategies. One participant identified peer support as the most effective strategy for EAL learning. P 4 wrote:

“Students should be allowed to withdraw from the class for some time during the school. They should be allowed to use this time to fraternise with their peers. Talking to friends and playing can lead to faster learning as compared to the more formal and structured class room environment.”

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Discussion

The findings of the research suggest that the teachers of the school are generally optimistic and positive about the strategies in place for EAL learning. The teachers have identified the strategies, which in their opinion are the most effective for EAL learning. The strategies that are identified across the participant responses are: assessment of L 1 and L 2 proficiency; continuing EAL support; use of L 1 for L 2 proficiency; and monitoring the progress of EAL learning. The strategies that are identified by the participants are also recognised in the Ofsted good practices (Ofsted, 2012).

Students who are learning English as a second language are generally categorised into stages dependent on their level of proficiency or learning required for proficiency. Hester (1990) has identified 4 stages: Stage 1 characterises students who are new to English; Stage 2 characterises students who are becoming familiar with English; Stage 3 characterises students who are becoming confident as users of English; and the final stage 4 characterises students who are very fluent users of English in both social and learning contexts. This is the widely used model for the stages of competence in EAL learner’s English usage (Read, 2012, p. 25). This model can be used by teachers for assessing the proficiency of students. This can help teachers formulate their initial individual targets and also create lessons that are informed by language structure and vocabulary.

The responses given by the teachers to the questionnaire suggest that in the Deanesfield Primary School, teachers have an EAL policy set by the school, which includes the strategies that are identified by the teachers as those that are being used in class. These strategies are in conformity with the recent research that suggests the use of these strategies for EAL learning (Ofsted, 2012). The responses of the participants suggest that participants are informed by the principles of the school policy and they are accordingly using techniques and methods of teaching that are in conformity with the school policy.

The EAL policy of the school provided insight into the policies and practices that the school follows with respect to its pupils who are learning English as an additional language. A thorough reading of the school policy statement revealed some important aspects of the school policy with respect to EAL. The school considers it to be one of its aims that it should be an inclusive school. Thus, there appears to be an awareness of the fact that inclusiveness is a positive attribute for the school.

In the school policy, support for EAL is aligned with the learning objectives of the school. Here, the school policy is reflective of the nature of barriers that are encountered by students in learning, where the students have EAL.

The key principles that are followed in school policy for EAL are: (i) all teachers are responsible for teaching English as well as other subject content; (ii) teachers

must make meanings and understanding of the words in curriculum explicit; (iii) encouragement for students for using their home language within the school environment; (iv) lengthened support (of up to 10 years) for acquiring proficiency in learning additional language; (v) use of L1 for acquiring proficiency in L 2; (vi) important role of teachers and staff in modelling use of language.

The responses given by the teachers in the questionnaires suggest that the teachers are aware of and apply the principles of EAL learning that are prescribed in the school’s EAL policy.

There are two points here in the key principles that are interesting. First, the school policy encourages L 1 use within the school environment; and second, L 1 usage for acquiring proficiency in L 2 is encouraged. This is interesting because this shows an acceptance by the school of the bilingualism technique for EAL instead of the total immersion technique. Bilingualism and total immersion are the two broad methods that have traditionally informed EAL learning (Wardman, 2012). Bilingualism allows the use of first language to support the learning of English. On the other hand, total immersion seeks to teach English without L 1 usage at all within the classroom setting (Wardman, 2012). Total immersion method has gained support in the UK in the last few years (Wardman, 2012). However, the school EAL policy and the responses given by the teachers show that bilingualism as a technique is being followed in the school EAL policy. Recent research by Ofsted also supports bilingualism technique for deriving best results from the EAL learning, where Ofsted has taken the example of the Greet Primary school, where Ofsted has said that the school’s bilingual policy and the use of L 1 as a method for effectively supporting a child to learn English has been effective in EAL learning (Ofsted, 2012).

The responses given by the teachers to the question on the effectiveness of the strategies applied for EAL suggest that the majority of the teachers are of the opinion that these strategies are effective in EAL learning. However, one teacher’s response suggests that the strategies are not effective. This teacher was P 4 and in the opinion of this teacher, there is a need for implementation of other techniques as well. This teacher mentioned specialist EAL teachers and peer support strategies that may be useful in deriving more effective results for EAL. This is supported by research which suggests that specialist teachers and bilingual teachers can complement the efforts of teachers for promoting EAL learning (Ofsted, 2012).

The statements made by P 4 can also be seen in the context of best practices that also focus on use of games and other creative activities for EAL learning. A recent report by Naldic (2007) lists a number of techniques that can be used for EAL learning. These techniques include playing games because the focus for pupils when they participate in games is on participation and enjoyment, which helps them in learning EAL in a non-threatening and relaxed atmosphere (Naldic, 2007). Pupils learning EAL get accustomed to tuning in to different speech sounds which they also enjoy and learn from by playing games based on auditory discrimination (Naldic, 2007, p. 16). Other creative techniques that can be useful for learning EAL are musical activities, use of visual support, illustrations and home-made books for learning EAL (Naldic, 2007). Use of literary coach, specialist EAL teachers or bilingual teachers may also be useful in effective EAL learning as reported by the Ofsted considering the experiences of the Aston Academy Manor school (Ofsted, 2012).

Considering the research that suggests the effectiveness of the use of visual aids, creative activities and peer support for EAL teaching, the responses of the participants suggest that the school is following effective strategies for EAL learning. The teaching strategies that are encouraged by the school’s EAL policy, identify the key vocabulary areas for each curriculum and involves use of enhanced opportunities for speaking and listening including use of drama techniques. Additional supports are provided in the form of visual support and grammar support. Moreover, parental and community support is also encouraged. Parental and community support is suggested by a research to be a good practice and an effective technique for EAL learning (Arnot, et al., 2014).

An effective strategy that was suggested by P 4, that is withdrawal from classroom so that students can learn while they play and talk to their peers, also finds support in a research that suggests that withdrawal from class helps pupil feel more confident and allows them to understand things better that they would in the class (Chen, 2009). This strategy may be followed in the school but the responses given in the questionnaires do not suggest that the strategy is being followed.

The school EAL policy includes that assessment rules also require that there should be a regular monitoring of progress in EAL learning. Moreover, pupils are allowed to be assessed for knowledge and learning in L 1 if that would be more effective in depicting the knowledge gained by the pupil. Again, this relates to bilingualism approach, which allows use of L 1 to learn L 2.

Critical reflection

Conclusion and suggestions

The research was a small study that was set in a school in order to explore the recent trends in best practices for EAL learning in the school. The findings of the research suggest that the teachers have positive perceptions about the use of EAL strategies and most of the teachers consider the strategies to be successful in EAL learning.

The research helped to identify the practices that the school follows for EAL learning in the school policy and also helped to ascertain the teachers’ perceptions about these strategies. The findings suggest that the strategies that are most commonly followed by the teachers of the school are: assessment of L 1 and L 2 proficiency; continuing EAL support; use of L 1 for L 2 proficiency; and monitoring the progress of EAL learning.

Based on some of the responses of the teachers and the current literature on good practices in EAL learning, the following suggestions are made in this research:

Teachers should be encouraged to use the Peer support strategy for EAL learning;

The strategies of initial assessment of proficiency in L 2, continued support and regular monitoring of the progress should be continued as these are considered to be effective;

Efforts must be made to identify more techniques and methods that can be used for EAL learning based upon current literature or primary research; and

Specialist EAL teachers or bilingual teachers may be used for EAL learning Further research can be conducted in this area by involving students as participants. The present research was conducted with the participation of teachers. While this helps in gaining insight into teacher perceptions, an insight

into the perceptions of the students is also needed as this will help in gaining an understanding on the areas where the students need more support and also understanding the student perceptions on the strategies.

References

Arnot, M. et al., 2014. School approaches to the education of EAL students: Language development, social integration and achievement, Cambridge: The Bell Foundation. Chen, Y., 2009. Language support for emergent bilinguals in English mainstream schools: an observational study. Language, Culture and Curriculum, 22(1), pp. 57-70. Creswell, J. W., Klassen, A. C., Clark, V. L. P. & Smith, K. C., 2010. Best Practices for Mixed Methods: Research in the Health Sciences, s.l.: Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR).

Creswell, J. W., 2013. Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Choosing Among Five Approaches. Los Angeles: Sage. Kan, P. & Kohnert, K., 2005. Preschoolers learning Hmong and English: Lexical-semantic skills in L1 and L2. Journal of Speech, Language & Hearing Research, 48(2), pp. 372-383. Naldic, 2007. Primary National Strategy: Supporting children learning English as an additional language Guidance for practitioners in the Early Years Foundation Stage. [Online] Available at: https://www.naldic.org.uk/Resources/NALDIC/Teaching%20and%20Learning/ealeyfsguidance.pdf

[Accessed 16 February 2017].

Read, O., 2012. ‘Good practice’ for pupils with English as an additional language: patterns in student teachers’ thinking. RESEARCH IN TEACHER EDUCATION, October, 2(2), p. 24–30. Schneider, D. C. & Davies-Tutt, D., 2014. School approaches to the education of EAL students Language development, social integration and achievement, s.l.: The Bell Foundation. Ofsted, 2012. English as an additional language: briefing for section 5 inspection. London: OfSTED.

Wardman, C., 2012. Pulling the threads together: current theories and current practice affecting UK primary school children who have English as an additional language. London: British Council.

Willis, J. W. & Jost, M., 2007. Foundations of Qualitative Research: Interpretive and Critical Approaches. Thousand Oaks: Sage .

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