Friday, November 29, 2013

Unlocking the Research of English Learners

Summer 2013, AMERICAN EDUCATORUnlocking the Research on English Language Learners

I keep going back to three articles from the Summer 2013 issue of American Educator.  I’ve reverted from my digital ways and have printed them out to reread, highlight, and ponder whenever a spare moment or two presents itself. I consider them a must read for every educator no matter what role you are in. 

Unlocking the Research on English Learners

What We Know—and Don’t Yet Know—about Effective Instruction By Claude Goldenberg

Rather than giving the reader a list of instructional strategies on the best practices needed to teach content to our English Learners (ELs), the author recommends four important research based principals. A surprising note by the author stated there is actually little research on common effective practices with ELs, yet there are more than 5 million attending our nation’s schools!

  • Generally effective practices are likely to be effective with ELs. (Core Foundation)
  • ELs require additional instruction supports. (Supplemental Support)
  • The home language can be used to promote academic development. (Intentional Environment)
  • ELs need early and ample opportunities to develop proficiency in English (See details in second article.)

What can we do now with the limited amount of research to support our actions? The author recommends to put aside our beliefs and work collaboratively to ensure all of our students succeed. In practice, we must ensure the components of a professional learning community are in place to allow teachers the time to do the intense work that needs to be done for equitable student achievement.

English Language Development 

Guidelines for InstructionBy William Saunders, Claude Goldenberg, and David Marcelletti

In this article the authors give educators 14 ELD guidelines around four essential questions based on the findings of the again limited research.

  • Global: WHAT should state, district, and school policy commit to for ELD instruction?
  • Organization: HOW should ELD instruction be organized in schools?
  • Curriculum: WHAT should be taught during ELD instruction?
  • Instruction: HOW should ELD be taught?

Moving away from what is best to what works, as demonstrated by “careful weighing of evidence” rather than “strong opinions” of experts.

Dual Language Learners 

Effective Instruction in Early ChildhoodBy Claude Goldenberg, Judy Hicks, and Ira Lit

“At best, instruction in the home language contributes to growth in both English and home language skills; at worst, there’s no difference in English achievement but an advantage in home language achievement.” As educators we can create these settings for our young dual language learners by:

  • Employing children’s home language in the early childhood curriculum.
  • Comparing effective practice for DLLs and English speakers in English-only programs.
  • Promoting language development in English and the home language.
  • Involving families in supporting children’s language learning.
  • This suggests our preschool educators can and should use the child’s native language when and where possible to support their learning by applying specific strategies to build their English language skills.

I hope you too have a chance to read, reread, reflect and share its contents with teachers, staff and colleagues.

No comments:

Post a Comment