Bilingual education in the United States: an historical overview and examination of two-way immersion
Volume 67 Number 2, 2015; Pages 236–252
The article reviews the five most common types of language education for English language learners (ELLs) in the USA, also describing their historical context and rationale. The ‘submersion’ approach disregards ELLs' first language, conducting all education in English. While the aim of submersion is to advance the student’s English skills as fast as possible, research has found that it is not the most effective way to do so. Another approach is English as a Second Language (ESL) or English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). It involves targeted instruction in English for ELLs, by specialist teachers, separated out from other students. At primary school level it is likely to take the form of individual instruction outside of an ELL's usual class, while in the middle years whole ELL classes are more common. A variant of this model sees the ESL teacher working with ELLs within the mainstream class. ESL may be helpful when the school needs to provide for several different language groups. However, research indicates that ELLs need between four and nine years’ instruction to reach grade-level English skills when assisted only via the ESL method. The third approach is known as ‘early exit’ or ‘transitional bilingual education’ (TBE), through which ELLs are instructed in both languages for a few years as a transition to English-only instruction. TBE is once again seen as a strategy to teach English as quickly and effectively as possible; the phase-out is intended to discourage dependence on the first language, which is understood as a barrier to English proficiency. TBE has been found more effective in improving English skills than ESL, perhaps because it gives ELL students more opportunity to apply their first language skills while learning English. TBE, like submersion, tends to be found in areas where there are few ELLs and/or where educational resources for them are most limited. The fourth approach is variously called ‘late exit’, ‘maintenance’ or developmental bilingual’ education. The first language continues to be taught, and is used for longer periods of time than under previous models. Under this approach, proficiency in first language is understood as both a goal its own right as well as being a means to enhance English language learning. Over the last few decades in the USA there have been powerful political moves to reduce or ban non-English language classes for ELLs, on the grounds that they inhibit the learning of English. In response, supporters of bilingual education have turned to a fifth model that offers more extensive exposure to ELLs' first language: two-way immersion (TWI), also called dual language education and bilingual immersion. Both languages are used for instruction during the course of the school day, for ELLs and also for native English speakers wishing to acquire the other language. TWI programs may commence prior to kindergarten; they may run for five years or across all the school years. TWI programs have grown swiftly in the USA, driven by the rise in numbers of ELLs. Research has found TWI is successful in promoting language proficiency, academic achievement and positive student attitudes toward school. Conditions encouraging success include high local concentrations of the target language group; suitable teachers; community support; a good general climate in the school; and commencement of the program in the early years of learning. To attract well qualified teachers it may be helpful to set up a foreign exchange program, supporting teachers from overseas internships, accommodation and opportunities to improve their English. (To purchase this article go to the Taylor and Francis home page and type the article title into the search box.)
Key Learning AreasLanguages
Subject HeadingsEnglish as an additional language
United States of America (USA)
Exploring emergent literacy development in a second language: a selective literature review and conceptual framework for research
Volume 15 Number 1, March 2015; Pages 3–36
The article reviews literature on young bilingual children's emergent literacy, and proposes ‘a preliminary conceptual framework’ on how the issue may be addressed. Emergent literacy refers to ‘developmental precursors to reading and writing’ and the environments in which they form. During this phase children learn to link syntax and meaning in oral language, and become acquainted with code-related skills as they begin to link letters and syllables with sounds. Children’s later variations in reading development are ‘firmly in place’ by this stage. While there has been considerable debate over the exact relationship between phonological awareness and reading development, there is ‘a growing consensus’ that the importance of oral language to overall early literacy development has been neglected. The acquisition of literacy is more complex for bilingual children. When they start receiving reading instruction in their second language they are likely to struggle at first, but potentially this problem is ‘brief and easily overcome’ since they have matured cognitively during acquisition of first language, and already have experience linking text, sound and meaning. Their literacy development in the second language will however be influenced by the degree of similarity in the writing systems of the two languages, eg whether or not they are both based on alphabets or on characters. Bilingual children’s literacy development will also be heavily influenced by the home environment. Apart from formal literacy instruction, this influence includes exposure to books, stories and songs, mediated by parental interactions, expectations, and role modelling. The article includes a section focusing on the issues facing young bilingual children in Hong Kong.
Teachers’ use of linguistic scaffolding to support the academic language development of first-grade emergent bilingual students
Volume 14 Number 4, December 2014; Pages 534–561
Dual language (DL) education is a model under which students from majority and minority language groups experience substantial amounts of their content instruction in each language; it is thus designed to develop bilingualism and ‘biliteracy’ among both groups of students. Research on DL education often focuses on the equity of coverage between the two languages, sometimes finding that the coverage of the minority language is ‘less than one would expect’. Important though this issue is, researchers should also attend to other questions, including the issue of how to facilitate academic language development through DL education. Academic language includes ‘content-specific vocabulary, complex grammatical structures and morphologically dense words’ which may be ‘conceptually abstract as well as linguistically dense’. The current study examines one aspect of this issue: the linguistic scaffolding that DL teachers apply to develop students’ oral language. Such scaffolding might involve the teacher in explaining new language at the point of need, for example, or joint presentations to the class by one student and the teacher. It may also involve repeated exposure to key language, sometimes through repetitive use of terms. Scaffolding occurs at both a micro level – within a particular interaction or instructional episode – or at the macro, or longer-term, level. The author was a participant-observer in the classrooms of three first-grade DL teachers, during a study covering the 2009-10 school year at a public K-5 school in an ethnically diverse, socially disadvantaged area in the USA. Approximately 25% of students at the school spoke Spanish as a first language, with many others speaking other minority languages at home. The school had a DL Spanish-English immersion program and at the time of the study had a school-wide focus on academic language development. Findings from the study highlight the need for the teacher to know their students, and attend to the way that individual students use language for particular ends, in particular contexts, during micro-level class interactions. It also involves the teacher frequently shifting focus between the individual student to the whole class, for example by encouraging students to support one another as they struggle for the correct means of linguistic expression.
Subject HeadingsBilingual education
Language and languages
A meta-analysis on the effectiveness of bilingual programs in Europe
Volume 85 Number 1, March 2015; Pages 92–128
Bilingual education involves the teaching of some school subjects in a language other than the usual language of instruction. It contrasts to the strategy of submersion, under which all children are taught in the mainstream language normally used in the school. Research studies have supported the value of bilingual education as a means to improve the English skills, cognitive development, academic performance, school retention and self-confidence of English language learners. However, it is sometimes seen as a hindrance to these students’ cultural integration into mainstream society, linking as it does to controversies around ‘nationalism, immigration and the politics of multilingualism’. Most research on bilingual education has focused on the USA. The current meta-analysis considers five studies of bilingual education within the European context. It identified ‘a small positive effect… for bilingual over submersion programs on the academic achievement of language minority children, particularly in reading’. The article includes tables setting out types of bilingual programs, meta-analyses of bilingual programs conducted in the USA, and the five programs covered in the current meta-analysis.
Subject HeadingsBilingual education
Assessing vocabulary learning in early childhood
Volume 14 Number 4, December 2014; Pages 459–481
The growth of young children’s vocabulary is of interest to teachers, school leaders, policy makers and researchers. A range of methods are commonly used to measure the vocabulary of young children. The article reviews the effectiveness of these methods: it reports on research undertaken for the Early Reading First projects, which focused on finding effective ways to measure both the breadth and depth of young children’s vocabulary knowledge, and their general and specific word knowledge. The researchers found that normed, general measures of vocabulary such as the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT) are helpful in assessing the general vocabulary of groups of students. Such measures are therefore likely to be valuable to researchers or system authorities wishing to evaluate particular programs, but will be unhelpful to teachers whose purpose is to develop and assess their students’ knowledge of specific words. Measures in which the child is asked to define the meaning of particular words are useful but underutilised tools. They are also ‘conducive to on-the-fly informal assessment opportunities’. To address significant problems in terms of reliability and validity, more than one measure should be applied at any one time, selected to complement one another. The choice of measures should also be heavily influenced by the aims driving each particular assessment.
Early childhood education
Transitions to school: reframing professional relationships
Volume 34 Number 4, 2014; Pages 392–404
Children very often move to school from earlier forms of education and care. In NSW children move from non-compulsory preschool to kindergarten as the first year of compulsory schooling. However, children’s transition to school from earlier education sites tends to be adversely affected by discontinuities in understandings of children, program content and pedagogical approaches. The authors review literature on the issue, before describing a collaboration between teachers in the two sectors. Literature on transitions to school identifies four ways in which staff in both sectors relate, and understand their relationships. Through functional links school educators explain their expectations in terms of school readiness to before-school peers, who later send information and written records about children to the school. This form of connection is heavily weighted toward schools and children’s readiness for school, neglecting the distinct educational contribution made in earlier years. There are systemic links, which involve joint meetings and activities; these are more equal between sectors but may still involve ‘defensiveness arising from readiness pressure’. Partnership and networks provide closer forms of collaboration between sectors. The greatest level of collaboration takes place through dialogic interaction, where staff from both sectors work together to discuss, understand and coordinate their respective contributions to children’s education. Relationships are facilitated by providing time to meet and by aligning timetables; by discussions around each sector’s curriculum and pedagogy; by wider perspectives that allow for children’s lives beyond education sites, and involvement of the broader community. It is important, however, that efforts to improve collaboration are not misunderstood as pressure to homogenise the two sectors. Concerns about these discontinuities led to the creation of the Building Bridges Professional Learning Community (BBPLC), a collaboration between teachers at a NSW primary school and a co-located long day care centre. The article reports on the impact of the BBPLC in 2013, before and after action research undertaken by participants. The participants worked together to identify concerns, establish goals, and develop and implements action plans. These plans covered transition activities for children, professional learning activities for teachers, and data collection. Following this the group reflected on their work, which informed further planning. Evidence about the BBPLC’s impact was obtained from interviews with six participants: two kindergarten teachers and the assistant principal at the school, and two teachers and the director of the long day care centre. By the end of the 2013 action cycle, the participants showed an awareness of functional, systemic, partnership and dialogic aspects of their relationship, with dialogic concepts ‘profiled most strongly across both sectors’. (To purchase this article go to the Taylor and Francis home page and type the article title into the search box.)
Subject HeadingsEarly childhood education
Transitions in schooling
A study of STEM assessments in engineering, science, and mathematics for elementary and middle school students
Volume 115 Number 2, February 2015; Pages 66–74
An increasing number of jobs require knowledge of more than one field of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). There is a need for new models of STEM learning and assessment, in which the STEM disciplines are integrated rather than treated as separate subjects. An integrated approach allows for STEM to be situated in social contexts of interest and meaning to students. A recent US study has examined ways to ‘develop, scale and validate’ grade-appropriate assessment items for engineering, science and mathematics. The items were to be used with a curriculum developed by teachers and aligned to state-mandated standards for these subjects. The study is part of a wider project developing integrated curricular materials for years 4-8; the four-year project is currently in its second year. The assessments were found to ‘represent psychometrically sound instruments sensitive to STEM-oriented curriculum’.
Key Learning AreasMathematics
Subject HeadingsTechnology teaching
Building a community of collaborative inquiry: a pathway to re-imagining practice in health and physical education
Volume 39 Number 2, 2014; Pages 45–57
Three university researchers describe their engagement with four generalist primary school teachers, in a New Zealand project that explored ways to re-envisage Health and Physical Education (HPE) in primary schools. The teachers were based at two ethnically diverse schools closely connected to the University of Waikato, and taught classes variously covering years 3-6. The project involved group discussions over 2011-2013, informed by classroom observations, participants’ journals, student work, school documents, advertising materials sent to the schools, class blogs, professional development material and other resources. During this process the teachers were exposed to critical interpretations of current issues in HPE, of the kind ‘not necessarily easily accessed’ by educators. One of these issues was ‘the discriminatory, moralising and pernicious’ orthodoxy that prevails in the representation of obesity, which ‘can work to narrow perceptions of what counts as good health’. Initially the teachers ‘did not appear to be cognisant of the potential impact’ that such narrow and prescriptive notions of wellness could have on their students. During the discussions the teachers became more sensitised to their students' anxieties about their bodies, and how certain popular representations of obesity fed into students' insecurities. During the discussions four ‘big ideas’ were adopted. One was the need to help students develop ‘informed critical literacy around health’, to enable them to question messages about health they receive from the media, family members, the wider public, and the school. Another concept was to extend students’ concept of wellbeing from the physical to the social, emotional, mental and spiritual. A third concern was for students to widen their view of physical activity, moving beyond traditional ball sports, games running and other ‘mechanistic and functional’ behaviour, to include other enjoyable activities such as flying a kite. A fourth concern was to teach interpersonal skills more explicitly. These discussions led to the documentation of a group ethos, and preliminary exploration of alternative practices in the four classrooms. To disrupt entrenched assumptions about PE, it was decided to rename the subject 'Everybody Counts'. Another decision was to trial one new practice at the start of the new, 2012 school year: the teachers collectively decided to implement the explicit teaching of interpersonal skills. Many of the project’s ideas reflect the Teaching as Inquiry approach within the Effective Pedagogy section of the New Zealand Curriculum.
Key Learning AreasHealth and Physical Education
Subject HeadingsSocial life and customs
Teaching and learning
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