Chapter One: Introduction
Among the factors that influence the academic success of students is their ability to understand the coursework taught in the classrooms, which is determined by their proficiency of the languages used. This implies that learning a language that is commonly used in teaching has a significant contribution towards the academic success of the students. One of the commonly used languages by many learning institutions is English, but it is not the first language for most of the international students. The high rate of immigration in the modern world has led to diverse population of students in learning institutions, where majority of them have other first languages. The academic performance of such students is negatively affected by the poor proficiency of English as it is a dominant language used in most schools (Burgoyne, Whiteley and Hutchinson 2013, p. 145). For the students to be at par with the rest of the population, there is a need to develop learning methods that allow them to study the language in the mainstream classrooms. The practice will enhance equality in all the learning institutions, giving all the students equal chances of academic excellence.
This paper discusses the strategies that can be adopted by the education system to ensure that the students who have English as their second language compete favorably with the rest of the students in class. The choice of topic is motivated by the experience I have as a learning assistant and I believe that implementing suitable strategies in the mainstream secondary school classes may have a positive impact on the academic achievement of the students. Provided with extra support, I believe that students who have English as their second language can improve their proficiency. This enhances their confidence in the language as they communicate with their peers also. The paper is based on a study conducted in a girls’ secondary school located in Southwark, Borough. The students are aged between 11 and 19, with majority of them having other languages as their first language. The main races in the school include Africans, Caribbean and Whites who make up 27, 25 and 15 percent of the students respectively. Only 60% of the students have English as their first language and the rest are mostly trilingual, with more than 63 languages spoken by the diverse population of the students. The school has an inclusion department that caters for the statemented and EAL students. Out of 114 staff, 66 help in teaching while 48 help support the students who need special attention.
Chapter Two: Literature Review
To enhance equality in the education sector, it is important to ensure that the students have a relatively friendly learning environment. This implies that students who are not proficient in English need to be at par with their fellow students who speak English as their first language. Conducting a study on methods that can be used to improve the academic performance of the students is important in enhancing equality for all in the education sector. The study is important as it may be used by educators in setting a curriculum that allows for the EAL students to be assisted in achieving their academic goals. Supporting the students in the mainstream secondary school setting is a challenge for many educators because they have to balance the attention given to the EAL students and the rest who are proficient in English (McEachron and Bhatti 2005, p.175). The teachers are faced with the challenge of covering the expected course work as they support the EAL students.
Distinctiveness of the EAL
In the modern world, students are faced with a number of challenges that negatively affect their academic achievement. Some of these challenges include complexity of the coursework as well as the transition from one level of school to the other (Burgoyne, Whiteley and Spooner 2009, p. 341). However, EAL students have unique challenges that other students do not have and they negatively affect their academic performance. Teaching these students in the mainstream setting is not fair because they cannot compete with the other students equally.
The main unique challenge that the students face is the fact that they learn the course work using a language that they do not understand perfectly, making it hard for them to excel academically (Demie 2013, p. 55). Such students have a difficult time in school as they are expected to learn the curriculum content as well as English language, yet they have the same timeframe with the rest of the students. It is therefore important to develop strategies that are focused on improving their language proficiency as well as learning needs of the curriculum. The main aspects that should be considered in developing these strategies include language, cognitive and academic development.
Factors that may hinder success of EAL students
There are various barriers that make it hard for the EAL students to excel, despite the efforts by their teachers to support them. One of the primary factors that act as a barrier to the success of EAL students is the feeling that they are not part of the school community due to the language barriers (Leung, C. 2005). To eliminate this, the teachers have a duty to structure lessons in an inclusive way that allows all the students to participate in the learning activities. The EAL students should be encouraged to be involved in the learning activities by allowing learning activities such as games that are not conducted in English. The other barrier to the success of EAL students is the stressful pats experiences as well as uncertainty that may affect their concentration in classes. It is important for both teachers and other students to understand the learners and ensure they have a friendly learning environment (Cline and Shamsi 2000).
One way of supporting the students in such cases is using the buddy system that allows the students to interact with other students who may be able to understand them better. The teachers should then monitor the students closely to ensure that the system is working on well. The other barrier is the sudden change in the environment that may affect the concentration of EAL students in class (Leyden, Stackhouse and Szczerbinski 2011, p. 215). Some of the students may not be used to being away from their families and they may develop antisocial behaviors such as being withdrawn due to loneliness. This affects their interaction with the other students and consequently affects the pace at which they learn English.
Proposed strategies in supporting EAL students
Among the proposed strategies that can support the students is the creation of a friendly environment that allows them concentrate better on education. One of the ways that the learning institutions can achieve this is by structuring interesting lessons that do not bore the students, but rather draws their attention from the beginning to the end of the lesson. The other strategy is by ensuring that the students are engaged in the learning process thus enabling them to gain optimally from the learning process (Cameron 2002, p. 160). The teachers should also consider using teaching methods that encourage the students to speak up as well as write in English so as to ensure that they develop both the written and the spoken English in the mainstream. To enhance their oral English, the teachers should ensure that the EAL students work in small groups that have other students whose oral skills are good. The lessons should be structured in a way that promotes interaction among the students so as to improve their skills.
The teachers also have a responsibility of informing the parents about the importance of imparting English proficiency skills to their children as a way of supporting them excel. The move is aimed at encouraging the parents to help the children in their homework or hire a private coach for them so that they do not lag behind in classes. To be able to learn both English and curriculum content, the EAL students must devote a lot of time and energy towards school work (Koyalan and Mumford 2011, p. 118).
In some cases, the performance of the EAL students is affected by their past stressful life. Some families are refugees, having run away from situations such as civil wars and the students lack emotional and financial support that may in turn affect their performance. The learning institutions therefore have a duty to ensure that the students are supported through different interventions such as providing them with free meals and uniforms. This enables the students to settle in their academic life better as they have less stressful learning environment and it becomes easy for them to learn both English as well as coursework.
Placing a pupil in a class that is a year below their former levels is also another strategy adopted by some learning institutions, but it is critics claim that the approach reduces the morale of the students (Hertzberg and Freeman 2012). The EAL students find education boring in such situations, especially if the academic tasks involved are simple. To ensure that such students retain their interest in education, the teachers need to explain to them the importance of English language proficiency. Setting up a language assistance department is a crucial move aimed at ensuring that the students are supported in achieving their language skills.
It is evident that EAL students need support for them to prosper in their academic life. However, going by the available literature this may not be an easy task because there is a research gap in the field. Most of the proposed strategies in supporting EAL students enrolled in mainstream secondary school focus on the methods that the teaching staff can use to support the students. Although the students spend a considerable time with the teachers, there are other parties such as the colleagues and parents that can equally support them develop their English literacy skills. This implies that there is need for further research on the strategies that can be used by the parents and friends in supporting these students.
Chapter Three: Methodology
The study was conducted using exploratory mixed methods research that involves the use of both qualitative and quantitative methods. In this type of research design, data is collected using both qualitative and quantitative techniques (Fawcett and Lynch 2000, p. 68). Data analysis is also conducted using the two research designs. In the current study, qualitative data was collected using face to face interviews and classroom observations. The analysis of the qualitative data collected was conducted using coding method. The quantitative data on the other hand, was collected using questionnaires and the analysis was conducted through SPSS. The main reason for using the exploratory mixed method research was to gain a more accurate data from the field due to the use of different designs.
Sampling method and sample size
To save the financial resources and the time used in conducting the study, convenience sampling method was used. The sampling strategy is suitable because it allows data to be collected at a central point thus avoiding the need to travel to different locations to collect data (Creswell and Clark 2007). The collected data wasfrom a girls’ academy school in Southwark, Borough. The nature of the sample was diverse in terms of culture, age and occupation. Data was collected from the students, teaching and professional support staff. The sample size in qualitative data does not determine its accuracy, thus data collected using interviews and observations was minimal. Classroom observations were used to collect data on students and teachers in one classroom comprising of 20 students. The teaching students comprised of 40% Africans, 40% Caribbean and 20% White students. Face to face interviews were conducted on 10 support staff. The study also involved the distribution of 30 questionnaires to the teaching staff and 20 for the professional support staff.
The study entailed using human respondents in research thus making it necessary to consider ethical perspectives of the society. Involving children in the study is a sensitive aspect that demands high ethical considerations (August 2003). Prior to the data collection exercise, the researcher obtained a permit from the school’s director and explained the significance of the study to the education sector. The participants were assured of the confidentiality and autonomy of information provided (Chowdhury 2014, p. 40). The data was only collected on the participants that gave consent for the same, even after obtained permit from the director. To ensure that the children gave their consent willingly, the researchers explained to them the importance of the study and they were also offered small gifts as a token of appreciation.
Chapter Four: Interpretation and Analysis of data
The data collected on students, teaching staff and support staff indicates different levels of efficiency for the proposed interventions. Each category of the respondents showed varying perceptions on parental involvement, inclusive teaching and the buddy system. The support staff in particular seems to support the buddy system more as they believed that the system enhanced the development of oral skills for the students (Haworth 2009, p. 2180). Through the system, the students are able to interact better with the assigned buddies and this helps them improve their spoken English, making it easier to interact better even with the others students. The strategy was least supported by the students, mainly due to the fear that they would be uncomfortable due to unfamiliarity of the school. The support staff strongly believes that the parents have a significant role to play in ensuring that the EAL students are supported. They may do this by hiring private English coaches for the students to ensure that they understand the language better. The teaching staff was in support of inclusive teaching methods as they help the students develop their skills.
The teaching methods entail ensuring that the lessons are structured in a way that encourages the participation of all the students in the teaching process (Mistry and Sood 2010, p. 113). An example is by involving students in learning activities that are not exclusively conducted in English such as singing games. Participation of the students in group activities is also important in developing their proficiency in English as they interact with their peers.
Chapter Five: Impact on practice, recommendation and conclusion
It is evident that the teachers, professional support staff as well as the parents have a great role to play in ensuring that the EAL students excel. The mainstream secondary schools have a part to play in ensuring that the students have a friendly learning environment that caters for their academic, financial and emotional well-being (Fumoto, Hargreaves and Maxwell 2007, p. 149). The provision of financial support such as paid meals and subsidized school fees for the needy students is a sure way of enhancing the performance the students as they are able to concentrate on their studies better. For the teaching process to be effective, all students must be accorded a favorable learning environment where they feel as part of the school community. The teachers therefore, have a responsibility of ensuring that the students are attentive and participate in the learning process by structuring the lessons in a way that supports the strategy.
It is recommended that the parents, teachers, fellow students as well as the professional support staff have a role to play in supporting the EAL students (Andrews 2009). It is the duty of learning institutions to ensure that the parties are aware of their significant contribution towards the success of the EAL students. The school should also offer other support services such as offering accommodation for the refugees, paid meals as well as counseling sessions for the EAL students who may have painful past experiences (Guilfoyle and Mistry 2013, p. 65). The institutions should also ensure that the learning environment support the students by ensuring that they are well inducted into the community. The learning institutions should instill a culture that does not tolerate acts such as bullying so as to encourage healthy interactions among the students.
In conclusion, there is a need for researchers to focus on strategies that support EAL students, but without concentrating too much on the teaching staff. Apart from the teachers, the students can develop their skills from other sources such as theircolleagues and professional support staff. It is also important to research on the best strategies to use in implementing the methods used to support the students. The effectiveness of the supportive strategies is determined by the extent to which the involved parties are able to integrate the proposed practices into the system.
Andrews, R., 2009. Review of research in English as an Additional Language (EAL). Institute of Education Under Contract from Training and Development Agency for Schools. London: NRDC.
August, D., 2003. Supporting the Development of English Literacy in English Language Learners: Key Issues and Promising Practices.
Burgoyne, K., Whiteley, H.E. and Hutchinson, J.M., 2013. The role of background knowledge in text comprehension for children learning English as an additional language. Journal of Research in Reading, 36(2), pp.132-148.
Burgoyne, K., Whiteley, H.E. and Spooner, A., 2009. The comprehension skills of children learning English as an additional language. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 79(4), pp.735-747.
Cameron, L., 2002. Measuring vocabulary size in English as an additional language. Language Teaching Research, 6(2), pp.145-173.
Chowdhury, S., 2014. Ethical considerations in research with children. Bangladesh Journal of Bioethics, 5(1), pp.36-42.
Cline, T. and Shamsi, T., 2000. Language needs or special needs? the assessment of learning difficulties in literacy among children learning English as an additional language: a literature review.
Creswell, J.W. and Clark, V.L.P., 2007. Designing and conducting mixed methods research
Demie, F., 2013. English as an additional language pupil: how long does it take to acquire English fluency? Language and Education, 27(1), pp.59-69.
Fawcett, A.J. and Lynch, L., 2000. Systematic identification and intervention for reading difficulty: case studies of children with EAL. Dyslexia, 6(1), pp.57-71.
Fumoto, H., Hargreaves, D.J. and Maxwell, S., 2007. teachers’ perceptions of their relationships with children who speak English as an additional language in early childhood settings. Journal of Early Childhood Research,5(2), pp.135-153.
Guilfoyle, N. and Mistry, M., 2013. How effective is role play in supporting speaking and listening for pupils with English as an additional language in the Foundation Stage? Education 3-13, 41(1), pp.63-70.
Haworth, P., 2009. The quest for a mainstream EAL pedagogy. The Teachers College Record, 111(9), pp.2179-2208.
Hertzberg, M. and Freeman, J., 2012. Teaching English language learners in mainstream classes. Primary English Teaching Association Australia.
Koyalan, A. and Mumford, S., 2011. Changes to English as an Additional Language writers’ research articles: From spoken to written register. English for Specific Purposes, 30(2), pp.113-123.
Leung, C., 2005. English as an additional language policy: Issues of inclusive access and language learning in the mainstream.
Leyden, J., Stackhouse, J. and Szczerbinski, M., 2011. Implementing a whole school approach to support speech, language and communication: Perceptions of key staff. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 27(2), pp.203-222.
McEachron, G. and Bhatti, G., 2005. Language support for immigrant children: A study of state schools in the UK and US. Language, Culture and Curriculum, 18(2), pp.164-180.
Mistry, M. and Sood, K., 2010. English as an Additional Language: assumptions and challenges. Management in Education, 24(3), pp.111-114.
Scott, C., 2009. Issues in the development of a descriptor framework for classroom-based teacher assessment of English as an additional language.TESOL Quarterly, 43(3), pp.530-535.
Skinner, B., 2010. English as an Additional Language and initial teacher education: views and experiences from Northern Ireland. Journal of Education for Teaching, 36(1), pp.75-90.
Sood, K. and Mistry, M.T., 2011. English as an Additional Language: is there a need to embed cultural values and beliefs in institutional practice? Education 3–13, 39(2), pp.203-215.