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Teaching strategies refer to the processes, procedures, techniques, methods, systems and structures used by instructions during the content delivery process. According to Ismail (2011), the adoption of various strategies is seen as a responsible to the ever changing needs of learners, as well as the preferences of stakeholder groups such as members of the community, parents and guardians, and government authorities charged with activities such as curriculum design and implementation. In addition, variations in the teaching strategies adopted among institutions and at different levels of learning have been associated with the changing demands in not only current and perceived future workplaces but also due to the need to responds to the demands of learning levels in higher education; a trend that implies that the teaching-learning process at the lower or preceding levels needs to be aligned to the demands and requirements that the affected learners ought to meet before proceeding to these higher levels. It is also worth highlighting that the nature of the teaching resources used has been changing due to the need to respond to issues such as globalisation in which there has been a need to prepare learners to meet the different needs that these external processes demand; with the use of various resources perceived to be a critical alternative towards the fulfilment of this goal (Ismail, Al-Awidi & Almekhlafi 2012).
Whereas lower levels of learning have been associated with changes in both the resources used and the teaching strategies adopted from one geographical zone to another, educational contexts marked by the presence of EAL learners have been imperative to examine due to their capacity to form foundations for enabling the learners to embrace dynamism while striving to fit in the rest of the society within and beyond the teaching-learning environment. This study focuses on some of the strategies and resources currently used with EAL pupils, as well as some of the improvement strategies that could be adopted and implemented towards improved outcome provision at the individual and group levels.
According to Kasapaglu-akyol (2010), English as an Additional Language (EAL) learners are those who may be fluent in other dialects or languages but English is not their first language. Given that the learners may be versed with several other languages, the term English as a second language (ESL) is not used in such circumstances. Recent statistics suggest that in the UK, about one in every eight children is an EAL learner (Chohan 2011). Furthermore, these learners have been affirmed to learn best when they feel esteemed and secure in supportive environments, are encouraged (rather than be corrected continually) because language speaking is prone to mistakes, which are part of learning, and are involved in practical activities dominated by a hands-on experience. Similarly, the learners have been observed to learn best when the teaching learning process is relevant to their respective levels of development in a meaningful manner that is supported by concrete and visual experiences (Gagné & Parks 2013).
Another subject of debate has been the issue of attainment. Specifically, regions such as England and Wales have demonstrated an enduring difference in attainment between English speaking pupils and their peers in the bilingual group. It is also worth noting that over time, differences between the attainment of mother tongue English speaking pupils and that of bilingual learners has narrowed. However, regional variations have continued to widen (Baradaran & Sarfarazi 2011). Whether these variations can be attributed to the nature of the teaching strategies and the resources exploited are worth examining; aspects that this study seeks to unpack.
These EAL learners come to the country from different places and for different reasons. While some come to seek asylum, others come for business and other related reasons. The EAL learners cover those children conceived in the UK but who speak other languages other than English, such as French, Spanish, Arabic, Mandarin, Portuguese and Tamil among others. A great number of these learners have little or no experience in schooling.
There are various reasons as to why it is necessary I examine the international perspectives in EAL learning. One of the major reasons is the mixed outcome; there are both positive and negative outcomes. Some excellent teaching practices being employed are EAL-friendly. Also, good command of English has been determined by the majority of primary school teachers thus leading to positive outcomes. Additionally, most instructors, as well as the schools, are determined to receive additional help to facilitate the EAL-teaching strategies. Despite these positive aspects, there are negative outcomes that have also been reported due to certain reasons. One of these is that some institutions lack enough qualified EAL teachers. In other cases, the help needed to facilitate understanding of the methodologies and principles of EAL are missing. As such, the instructors are not able to develop effectively and appropriately develop lesson plans.
Globally, the emphasis is being put on the role of integration as an integral characteristic of policy development in EAL learning. Students learning EAL share certain common characteristics with those students who speak English as their first language. However, these students learning EAL portray some different need from the other students, by the fact that they are not only learning in another language but also through the said language. Another reason is that they are from different backgrounds. The EAL students are taught within the normal curriculum, but their learning needs are distinct. These students have two major tasks, they are supposed to learn English, and they are also supposed to learn the context of the curriculum. The learning context affects both of these since the student will be affected by their culture, attitude towards them, ethnicity, language, and religion. The EAL pedagogy is based on using strategies and techniques to meet the language needs as well as the learning needs of the EAL students in different teaching contexts.
It is important to explore theories and models that assist in understanding how language development works with cognitive and academic development. Language development requirements are often covered by competence in the oral language. Studies show that newly arrived EAL students can develop survival English in a period of 12 months and conversational English within three years. The conversational fluency is perceived as Basic Interpersonal Communicative Skills (BISCS). Research shows that it takes about five and seven years for these students to be at par with their monolingual colleagues.
One of the characteristics of pupils perceived to have gone through an effective EAL learning program involves the capacity to use English confidently; especially regarding the level of competence (or learning level). In addition, these learners are characterised by the development of effective models of written and spoken language to not only foster an internalisation but also apply new subject-specific vocabularies (Jones Reutzel & Fargo 2010). It is further notable that these pupils are aware of the audience, genre and context. According to Ghandoura (2012), the pupils’ feelings of confidence to express themselves within ranges of contexts such as those involving peers and adults depict effective learning. Furthermore, these pupils are able to acquire new skills and knowledge and apply them in an appropriate manner while recognising additional language skills. A study by Pour-Mohammadi, Zainol Abidin and Cheong (2012) revealed that the pupils may take initiative to manage language acquisition processes in an active manner (by using and reading bilingual materials); a state of independence that translates into confidence during transfer between English and first languages as learning tools.
Effective EAL learning environments are also marked by the teachers’ genuine relationships with pupils, the instructors’ capacity to understand the cultural backgrounds of pupils, an understanding of the pupils’ individual needs, and the presence of involvement and English conversations beyond the classroom (WIDA Consortium 2012). Other predictors of effectiveness in EAL program implementation include the provision of meaningful lessons, an appropriate level of classroom management, the attitude of flexibility, and excellence in interpersonal communication skills (Read 2010). The following section provides the problem statement that forms the basis on which this study is based and aims to address.
With a steady increase in ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversity reported and associated with the force of globalisation, school settings have been exposed to similar a trend marked by an increasingly state of linguistic and cultural diversity (Lee 2012). The implication is that EAL learners or pupils represent substantially growing segments of school populations. For example, the years 2004-2005 witnessed EAL enrolment nearly double in the U.S. public schools (Ismail 2011). Imperative to note is that the rise in the number of institutions offering EAL programs and the respective increase in enrolment has been marked by observations that a significant section of such institutions are yet to achieve quality education. Specifically, trends in the teaching strategies adopted while providing knowledge and skills to EAL learners are yet to receive an in-depth analysis. In addition, some of the resources that the current state of EAL programs adopts or utilises have not received an in-depth examination, given the changing nature of user needs and stakeholder preferences that demand dynamic approaches to teaching-learning processes (Ismail, Al-Awidi & Almekhlafi 2012). It is also worth noting that the probable and practical recommendations projected to yield better outcomes regarding the teaching strategies and resources used in a quest to improve the level of EAL learner performance are yet to be made based on a fast-changing world of linguistic knowledge and skill attainment (Kasapaglu-akyol 2010). As such, this study seeks to highlight the three issues while seeking to sensitise audiences and the stakeholders about the need for intervention towards quality realisation in EAL learning.
In the current study, the main aim is to establish trends in the teaching strategies adopted while providing knowledge and skills to EAL learners. Other related research objectives are stated as follows:
The central research question is what are trends in the teaching strategies adopted while providing knowledge and skills to EAL learners? Other questions include:
The study is important in various ways. For example, an examination of the current teaching strategies and the resources used will aid in unearthing potential weaknesses and the detrimental outcome of these demerits on the overall quality of learning among EAL pupils. In so doing, effective strategies that could aid in countering the weaknesses of current strategies and resources will be established and, upon incorporation into the curriculum implementation process, improved outcomes or performance among the learning groups might be realised. In addition, the study is important because it will sensitise education authorities about the need for facilitation in EAL learning, as well as the trickledown effect of this facilitation in achieving parity or narrowing the skills and knowledge gaps in language learning. It is also worth highlighting that this study is important because it will give an insight into the relationship between dynamic approaches to instruction and the effectiveness of learner preparation for higher levels of learning and, the eventual placement in workplace settings characterised by task force diversity. Lastly, this study is important because its quest to identify some of the current teaching strategies and resources will help institutions offering EAL programs to meet local, national, regional and global standards of competence. Indeed, the outcomes and recommendations will advocate for high quality in teaching, high levels of academic achievement among EAL learners, and ensure equity in access (based on the analysis of the available resources and the respective recommendations that will be made for purposes of adoption and implementation).
This study adopts a content analysis technique in which the existing scholarly contributions from secondary sources (regarding some of the teaching strategies and resources used in the context of EAL learning) are used to gain an insight into the selected subject. As such, the study uses secondary sources that may have used different methods such as the qualitative approach, quantitative study, and the mixed studies approach. An adequate number of the existing secondary sources of data will also be selected to assure validity and reliability of the outcomes presented in this study. Some of these sources include journals, e-books, magazines, newspapers, books, and other online sources. Indeed, the sources of data will be selected randomly to avoid biased generalisations regarding the teaching strategies and resources that the current EAL learning program adopts in various parts of the world. It is also note worthy that the results will be collected and presented or analysed in an objective manner to enable the provision of informed recommendations that emanate from previous evidence, rather than manipulate or interfere with the outcomes.
Given that the study is based on a content analysis technique in which data is collected from internal and external secondary sources, various limitations are expected. For example, studies that utilise secondary sources have been associated with the limitation of social desirability bias due to the possibility of the researcher’s manipulation or interference with outcomes form the existing scholarly contributions. Indeed, this adversity will be addressed by analysing the existing data about teaching strategies and resources in EAL learning in their original form and in an objective manner. In addition, the aspect of intellectual property rights will be observed by acknowledging the contributors of the information used; upon which the study is projected to adhere to ethical specifications governing the research process.
In current EAL programs, the strategies adopted and resources utilised have been determined by factors such as learning styles, learning intentions, the language focus, and contexts in which teaching-learning processes occur. One of the strategies involves modelling and demonstration. Whereas all pupils may be instructed by giving clear instructions ion which the teachers not only refer to but also display critical vocabularies, the case of EAL learners is different. Specifically, the latter group’s learning context is characterised by demonstrations of instructions in a practical manner. Regarding the modelling procedure, examples of types of language demanded during the performance of certain or specific tasks are displayed in terms of the text or genre, sentence, and word levels (Chohan 2011). Another approach entails collaborative learning. In this case, all pupils may engage in group and paired talk that is dominated by directed or reading activities related to the text. However, instructional groups charged with the EAL learning group stretch beyond these processes to focus planned talk or oral interactions in such a way that understanding is monitored and reinforced via questioning. Similarly, collaborative learning in EAL contexts implies that opportunities for oral rehearsal are provided (Gagné & Parks 2013).
Other strategies include differentiation, the use of first language, and the assessment and evaluation of learning outcomes. Regarding the concept of differentiation, EAL groups characterised by good language role models are identified and exposed to differentiated tasks based on the level at hand. In addition, EAL pupils exposed to the differentiation strategy apply learning by paired, group and whole class work before engaging in individual activities (Baradaran & Sarfarazi 2011). On the other hand, the strategy involving the use of first language is applied in such a way that the understanding of key concepts and vocabulary is enhanced through acknowledging the EAL pupils’ linguistic skills in existence. Regarding the adoption of outcome assessment and evaluation as a strategy for knowledge and skill provision in EAL learning, the aim is to inform forward planning. As such, the approach involves error analyses that aid in the identification of language development while striving to inform forward planning whose central goal lies in the improvement of learner performance (Jones Reutzel & Fargo 2010).
The use of first language has also been noted as a key and contributory approach due to its capacity to enhance regular transfers between English and the EAL learners’ first languages. Indeed, the strategy depicts value for the first language of the pupils and, in turn, fosters motivation and self-respect (Ghandoura 2012). Additionally, the first language technique provides room for the learners to learn colours, numbers and simple phrases through pairing in situations where same language groups exist. Some of the support activities related to the use of first language as a teaching strategy in EAL learning include listening to stories taped in bilingual language, the use of bilingual displays, making bilingual books, the use of community and home languages in role play and drama, and asking groups such as community members, staff and parents to provide additional bilingual support to the EAL learners (Pour-Mohammadi, Zainol Abidin and Cheong 2012).
In relation to the teaching resources, one of the categories entails visuals. Provided in wide varieties of formats, these resources include artefacts, television, computer programs, picture dictionaries, flash cards, and photographs. Others include diagrams, pictures, and sets of picture cards through which EAL pupils could communicate needs. Notably, an example of a computer program used as a teaching resource for EAL learners is Clicker 4 (WIDA Consortium 2012). Key visuals form another category of teaching resources. According to Read (2010), key visuals refer to processes through which information is organised or presented diagrammatically (or in visual forms). Examples include mind maps, pyramid diagrams, flow charts, and matrix charts. Others include Venn diagrams, timelines, and tables. Indeed, this approach is used to support or complement key words and key language in which short vocabulary lists characterising key words are given for respective units. Through key word and key language strategies, simple pictures are used to illustrate the key words while the latter are pre-taught before a lesson or unit through parents, support assistants, or bilingual peers (Lee 2012). It is further observed that the key word and key language procedure at the EAL level is achieved through the creation of glossary books for the learners to record the key languages and new words. In situations where literacy is evident regarding the pupils’ first language, the key language and new words ought to be recorded in both languages because the first language plays the role of offering definition (Ismail 2011).
Teaching resources for EAL pupils have also been documented to exist in the form of dictionaries. With various types of dictionaries provided, examples of the content gained include common words used in English, pictures and illustrated topic glossaries. Similarly, bilingual dictionaries play an important role in situations where the EAL pupils exhibit confidence in written first language. A strategy that has been documented to play an additionally critical role in fostering success during EAL learning processes concerns the use of talk. According to Ismail, Al-Awidi and Almekhlafi (2012), there is a positive correlation between planning opportunities for talk and improved performance among EAL learners. Therefore, “silent” periods form part of developmental stages in EAL learning, and that the learning group does not necessarily have to be forced to respond. Rather, activities may be created for scaffolded talk (Kasapaglu-akyol 2010). Therefore, the “talk” strategy is likely to be more effectiveness when paired discussions are used (such as in first language whenever possible) prior to the commencement of written work.
According to Chohan (2011), adoptions of collaborative activities as effective teaching strategies in EAL programs cannot be overemphasised. Through group tasks, EAL instructors are likely to facilitate belonging, experimentation and involvement with language. Similarly, collaborative activities imply that peers could model the language; a teaching-learning context that translates into a non-threatening environment (Gagné & Parks 2013). Parental involvement has been documented to be another crucial approach responsible for the improvement of outcomes in EAL learning. By developing the ability of parents to reinforce and support school work from home environments, this approach ensures that an open dialogue is created to place the school or learning institution in a better position to be informed about pupil development (or progress) (Baradaran & Sarfarazi 2011). Specific practices associated with parental involvement include the use of bilingual language assistants or interpreters at meetings, visiting the learners at home with interpreters, advising parents about the process of supporting pupils in the children’s’ development of English language (such as sharing reading materials in first languages), and guiding the parents about curricula and education systems (Jones Reutzel & Fargo 2010).
Traditionally, two main techniques have been used to assist EAL learners; bilingualism and total immersion. Whereas bilingualism is focused on using the learners’ first language to support the learning of English, total immersion does not incorporate the children’s first language. Most schools, in England, today apply total immersion in teaching. However, due to insufficient research, there are no pieces of evidence that can support this technique and this is a major setback. Also, this technique lacks guidelines on how teachers can best support these learners. The only advantage of this technique is that it is easy to implement and execute.
The government previously outlines standards that show what teachers are expected to do to play their role effectively. In the outline, it was stated that teachers are expected to understand, support and engage learners, and this is particularly emphasized for teachers handling EAL learners at all stages of English proficiency.
In total immersion, new EAL learners are put straight into English speaking classroom or separated for specified English lessons before being admitted back into the mainstream class for other subjects. In each case, there is little or no chance for a child to apply the first language to help them in their learning. Research shows that schools that have outstanding performance despite having EL learners are an exemplar for the other schools where the child’s first language is applied in learning. It is crucial to evaluate what the schools might have in common to make remarks. In one study, the age and language stage was considered before deciding what techniques to apply. It was obtained that oral rehearsals, paired groups, practical tasks, visual clues and pre-teaching worked best in supporting EAL learners. It is interesting to note that the same study cited the use of the child’s first language as an appropriate technique for helping a child to learn English. In another school, where the learners’ first language is regarded crucial, the learners are given home visits in their language before beginning classes. They are then provided with a vocabulary book together with a bilingual dictionary. In the next stage, they are assigned a trained partner who speaks the same language as them. After the first examination, the school gives a learning experience based on previous talk and knowledge. The learners’ targets are set, and lessons are based vocabulary and language structure. This case study indicates that both pre-assessment, use of learners’ first language and talk are fundamental to EAL learners.
Several documents have been developed by the previous and current regimes to help early EAL learners to make substantial progress they can within the total immersion context. However, the question that remains is whether these techniques support teachers in giving quality service to the learners who have English as a second language. No document has been developed for teachers to outline how to support EAL learners. As such, most teachers get surprised when they are presented with learners with little or no English, and they are supposed to make them progress.
The primary National Strategy (PNS) was introduced in 1998, and it gave clear guidelines for teachers on what learners are expected to learn. The document, when updated in 2006, suggested that EAL learners be taught the same curriculum as any other learner but with the help of their cognitive and academic language in different contexts. The notion of full immersion with English has been supported by individuals who states its main aim as to facilitate rapid acquisition of language. The government believes that the fundamental responsibility for maintaining mother tongue lies with the ethnic minority society themselves. Someone would question whether these conclusions are based on educational research or just political views. Additionally, these ideologies may not be entirely useful if resources are not available to facilitate them. Bridging the gap between learners who have free meals and those with none, is a huge political matter, at the moment. Some of these learners will be the EAL learners, and it will be interesting to observe how it plays out.
Cajkler and Hall (2012) suggest that complete evaluation of language capabilities of teachers is necessary to identify hidden linguistic potential in schools which can be exploited to help the EAL learners. The emphasize that new teachers should possess an awareness of different languages before qualifying to teach. There is a need for facilitation to support existing teachers who offer their services with less language awareness.
Several studies support the use of the first language in early EAL teaching. These studies remark that when learners can learn to read in their language, they can easily transfer these skills when learning English. These studies support bilingual studies whereby; the background knowledge is offered to the child’s first language, literacy is provided in the learners first language, and beginner are placed in a mainstream class where they learn their first language as they slowly move to English.
Even though this program has worked in some settings where learners speak a single major language, it is not clear how effective the technique can be used in England where a single classroom has learners speaking different languages. Providing first language assistance to all these learners would mean incorporation of many additional resources. As such, this technique is not practical in schools in England, with the current budget cuts.
The first main recommendation, in as far as developing a novel strategy, is to include the parents in the strategies. For a very long time, the role of parents in EAL learning has not always been clear. The technique that is selected should be one that brings on board parental involvement. The parent can play a role in reinforcing school’s work when the learners are at home. The parent should also develop open dialogues for the schools to be informed about the leaner’s development. The curriculum should also be explained to parents so that they are aware of what their children are learning and how they can help.
Another recommendation is that, since every individual has different learning needs, it would be necessary for the stakeholders to put in additional resources to bring on board the trained professionals in this specific field so as to tackle every child’s need differently and effectively. It is these trained personnel who will be able to tell the needs of each student as well as the techniques that best address their needs.
The last recommendation is that comprehensive research should be done to test the various dimensions of the topic. For instance, the research should be on test subjects with customized conditions and complexities so as to evaluate and understand the various strengths and weaknesses of each strategy. This approach would then enable the researchers to match every child’s learning need with a specific strategy. The report can then be implemented in the education sector to address the problem once and for all.
There are no definitive outlined rules for best practices when dealing with EAL learners. However, the proposed government policies together with little research are indicating that factors that are believed to have desired impacts on EAL learners. Most of these techniques seem to be similar to both early EAL learners as well as advanced EAL students, something that is interesting.
The use of buddy technique for new EAL students, customized learning, individual learning objectives, initial assessments, interactive learning surrounding and opportunity to talk with others are fundamental for EAL students. Debates have risen on whether learners should be withdrawn from the classroom or left in the mainstream when they join schools as early EAL learners. Similarly, there is a major debate on whether the learners should be encouraged to apply their first language within the classroom to facilitate their understanding of vocabulary and tasks. Most strategies expect teachers to focus on teaching English and not the learners’ first languages, despite the fact that many studies support the application of the learners’ first language.
The language used should be based on every leaner’s needs. Early EAL learners need some time out of the mainstream classroom to help their learning. However, a majority of their learning should be based in class so that they learn from role models who speak perfect English. It is also evident that teachers need additional training in this area. The application of DfE documents available may provide teachers with more confidence in teaching EAL learners. However, there is a need for additional development. The support that is available has not been implemented effectively by the stakeholders, and additional research is necessary to validate this.
Professional coaches are being incorporated in schools to improve the teaching standards. This strategy has resulted in an outstanding impact on the schools’ and teachers’ confidence levels. This is a promising area, and more research is necessary to determine if it is more effective compared to other strategies. Having an individual who is trained in teaching EAL learners in both early and advanced stages, offering services within the school could maybe be the most effective strategy for helping teachers to implement the best practice standards in mainstream classrooms.
The question on how to effectively support EAL students is likely to continue being asked since the number of EAL learners is always on the rise. More research on these strategies is necessary for establishing key standard techniques that can be applied.
The discussions and points on this paper can be compared by those of others to come up with ways of developing EAL techniques as well as best practice within the development meetings for learners. Monitoring can then be done to assess whether the suggested support facilitates the development of best practice standards by teachers in their different settings.
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