Summer 2019, Volume 12, Issue 2
Sunshine State TESOLL Journal
Preparing for South East Regional SETESOL
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Front cover image: Petitioners are sworn in as new citizens in front of the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights during a naturalization ceremony at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., June 18, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson) https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2014/06/18/first-lady-welcomes-50-new-americans-national-archives
Tony Erben, Ph.D. University of Tampa
Keya Mukherjee, Ph.D. Saint Leo University
Editorial Review Board
Laura Ballard, Ph.D. Florida State University
Maria R. Coady, Ph.D. University of Florida
Ester de Jong, Ph.D. University of Florida
Katya Goussakova, Ph.D. Seminole State College
Xuan Jiang, Ph.D. St. Thomas University
Jennifer Killam Broward College
Michelle Kroskey University of Central Florida
John I. Liontas, Ph.D. University of South Florida
Terri Mossgrove WIDA
Sergei Paromchik, Ph.D. Hillsborough County Public Schools
Robyn Percy-Socha, Ph.D. Full Sail University
Cheryl A. Shamon, Ph.D. Saint Leo University
Lindsay Vecchio,Ph.D. Alachua Public Schools
Caroline Webb Broward College
The manuscript should appeal to the instructional, administrative, or research interests of educators at various levels, such as adult education, K-12 issues, or teacher education issues.
• The manuscript should be substantive and present new ideas or new applications of information related to current trends in the field.
• The manuscript should be well written, clearly organized, and carefully proofed.
• A complete reference list should be supplied at the end of the manuscript, and the entire manuscript should be formatted according to guidelines in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 5th Ed. (2001) or later.
• Manuscripts should generally be no longer than 15-20 double-spaced pages.
• An abstract of 150 words or less should accompany each manuscript.
• A biographical statement of 50 words or less should be included for each author. Information should include current job or title, institution, degrees held, professional experience, and any other relevant information.
• Please include a cover letter with the name, postal and e-mail address, and phone number of the first author (or other contact person) clearly noted.
• Manuscripts must be submitted in electronic format as an e-mail attachment. Manuscripts must be submitted in Microsoft Word). Camera-ready figures and tables are requested.
• Manuscripts are accepted throughout the year and sent out for review. Reviews may take up to three months. Revisions are usually expected within one month (30 days) after receiving the initial review.
Book Review Guidelines
• Materials reviewed must have been published within the last three years.
• Reviews should be a maximum of three pages. (double spaced).
• Each review must provide complete bibliographic information, a description of the book/material, the audience for whom it is designed and how well it accomplshes its purpose.
• A cover letter should provide the author's name, email address, telephone number and a brief (25 word) bibliographic statement.
• Reviews should be sent as an email attachment.
Florida Sunshine State TESOL Journal Summer, 2019
Manuscripts may be submitted via the Sunshine State TESOL www site: https://sunshinestatetesol.
wildapricot.org/page-1075471 or send to Tony Erben at firstname.lastname@example.org
Interested in being a manuscript reviewer? Please contact Keya Mukherjee at email@example.com and detail your area(s) of expertise, a brief bibliography, and if relevant, select publications from the past five years.
Interested in advertising? Submit an inquiry through the Sunshine State TESOL www site or email Keya Mukherjee at firstname.lastname@example.org
Florida Sunshine State TESOL Association is an affiliate of TESOL International Association.
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About Sunshine State TESOL Journal
The Sunshine State TESOL Journal is a refereed journal published annually by the Sunshine State Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc. The main purpose of the Journal is to provide a forum for TESOL professionals to share ideas and research on second language teaching and learning. The Journal welcomes submissions of manuscripts based on research projects, classroom practices, conference presentations, and other professional activities of substance and interest to the general membership.
A double-blind review process is used in which submitted manuscripts are distributed by the editor to two-three reviewers with expertise in the areas addressed in each manuscript. Written comments by reviewers and a recommendation on acceptance are returned to the editor, who then communicates the comments and decision on acceptance to the authors.
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It always fills my professional heart with pride to read how vibrant our ESOL professional community is here in Florida. This past year, SSTESOL established an actual SSTESOL Press and our first publication will be a 40 Year anniversary overview of ESOL-based research, practice and advocacy in Florida. Similarly, SSTESOL will host the South East Regional conference this year in November in Orlando and in 2024 Tampa, Florida will host the International TESOL Convention.
Keep those submissions coming! We have a wonderful editorial board and each reviewer provides great feedback to each author. If your submission is not immediately accepted, read through the feedback and make those revisions with an eye to resubmit at a latter date. If you are interested in becoming an editorial reviewer for the SSTESOL Journal, please send me an email with C.V. at email@example.com.
Our SSETESOL members want to read about your research, your practice and/or your work in ESOL! If you have never submitted to a journal, we invite new research, manuscripts that describe classroom practice or thought pieces on advocacy or theory in ESOL. If you are a K-12 ESOL teacher, you probably do things in your classroom that other ESOL teachers across Florida would love to read about or see. Did I write "see"? Since the SSTESOL Journal is an e-publication, you can also send in annotated videos of your classroom practice! The videos don't have to be long. They can describe an activity that works well for you when working with pre-production ELLs, with Elementary ELLs or with adults. If you are unsure, send me an email and let me help you.
In this Summer 2019 issue of the SSTESOL Journal we have an array of articles and reviews. I hope you enjoy them. BTW, we had an acceptance rate of 30.5%.
Lastly, let me thank our SSTESOL board members for their unwavering support as well as my co-editor Keya Mukherjee from Saint Leo University and the rest of the editorial board who give up their time to make this journal a worthy professional platform.
Tony Erben, Ph.D.
SSTESOL Editor & 2017-2018 Past President
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On behalf of the Sunshine State TESOL (SSTESOL) board, I would like to express appreciation to you, our journal readership. As you know reading is more than a passive activity, it’s a dialogue between author/s and reader. We hope that you find insight and inspiration from the words written on these pages and that you are moved to speak, comment, question, challenge, reflect, and respond to the contents herein.
An engaged audience helps us realize our goal “to highlight and facilitate vibrant professional dialogue about research- and theory-based practices as well as practice-oriented theorizing and research in Florida.” We are so pleased you are our conversational partners.
The professional conversations will continue at the Southeast Regional TESOL Conference scheduled from November 5-9, 2019 in Orlando, Florida. The theme of the conference this year is Future Tense: Entering the Age of Empowerment. Of course, the pun is intentional and yet optimistic. You may wonder, “What do you mean?” The thought behind this year’s theme is that while future funding streams, political forces, and demographic shifts may be changing the ways we work and the populations we serve, TESOL professionals remain steadfast advocates of English learners. We are future-oriented and empowered. To that end, we have an excellent line-up of speakers who are going to speak on topics that matter to TESOL researchers and practitioners alike. We look forward to seeing you in Orlando in November.
See you in Orlando 2019!
Michelle Ploetz, Ph.D.
SSTESOL President 2018-2020
TESOL at a Crossroad: Issues Surrounding Non-Native English Speaking Teachers
University of Central Florida
Since the pioneering work of Phillipson (1992) and Medgyes (1994), it took nearly a decade for the large body of non-native English-speaking teachers (NNESTs), that is, 80% of English-language teachers worldwide (Canagarajah, 2005), to receive substantial attention from researchers. While this is most surprising, a comprehensive body of literature in the recent decade did investigate the social and pedagogical impacts of NNESTs in the global spread of English as the lingua franca. This research paper identifies, synthesizes and discusses the most relevant, influential and timely NNESTs studies in the existing literature, placing special emphasis on ESL (English as a Second Language) contexts. The background of NNESTs research and pertinent theoretical constructs are discussed first, followed by the syntheses of key and/or current empirical NNESTs studies featuring teacher education and teacher identity issues for NNESTs. Implications yielded by these studies are also provided.
Florida Sunshine State TESOL Journal
We observe that linguistic theory has been gradually moving away from its tradition of considering native speakers (NSs) as the only reliable source of linguistic input (Chomsky, 1965). Ever since Paikeday’s (1985) influential work “The Native Speaker is Dead!”, which argued that native speaker identity exists only in linguists’ imagination and advocated for using the term proficient user of a language to refer to all speakers who can successfully use it, many linguists (e.g., Davies, 1991; Swale, 1993) have devoted to show the inappropriateness of using the dichotomy approach to differentiate native and non-native speakers (NNSs). The field of English language teaching was called to re-conceptualize the ownership of English (Widdowson, 1994), considering that English has become the global language with NNSs estimated to outnumber NSs by three to one (Crystal, 2012). Although researchers and authors in the field still use the terms NS/NNS due to its practical convenience when constructing argumentations, theoretically, they object to the dichotomy and aim to work towards eradicating the nativeness orientation in language teaching professions (Selvi, 2014).
It is in this context that the myth of NSs as ideal teachers of English has been contested. Researchers in the field (e.g., Kramsch, 1997; McKay, 2003; Phillipson, 1992) started to examine native English-speaking teachers’ (NESTs) and non-native English-speaking teachers’ (NNESTs) professional legitimacy by examining the advantages possessed by each group. Refuting the unspoken premise that NESTs are better than NNESTs as reflected by biased workplace and hiring practices, it has been argued that NNESTs, estimated as 80% of English-language teachers worldwide (Canagarajah, 2005), have their own advantages and contributions, and therefore can be as qualified as or even more successful than their NS peers. For instance, NNESTs provide to their students real models as they themselves are NNSs who are able to speak English well (Edge, 1988; McKay, 2003). Compared with monolingual NNS teachers who do not understand their students’ native languages and cultures, NNESTs’ multilingual and multicultural background made it easier for them to understand, predict, and empathize with the difficulties and needs of their students culturally as well as linguistically (Arva & Medgyes, 2000; Canagarajah, 1999; McNeill, 2005). They can also, if teaching in EFL (English as a Foreign Language) settings, use the students’ native language to their advantage (Medgyes, 1994).
As evident in the emerging body of NNEST research and entities, the growing realization of NNEST issues in the past two decades is now considered to be a movement, referred to as the Nonnative English Speaker in the TESOL Movement (Braine, 2010). The movement emphasizes the need of a change to move away from the traditional “monolingual, monocultural, native-speakerist” view of teaching, learning, and teacher education in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) and move to promoting the new discourses of “mulitilingualism, multiethnicism, and multiculturalism” (Selvi, 2014, p. 575). In doing so, the movement aims to renegotiate and transform the everyday practices, workplace culture, and hiring processes in TESOL to characterize “democracy, justice, equity, participation, and professionalism” (Selvi, 2014, p. 573).
However, despite the progressive discussions of NNESTs in the academia world, we do not yet know how far the reality - the geographical, political, and linguistic context within which NNESTs are teaching - is from the desirable professional milieu promoted by the Nonnative English Speaker in the TESOL Movement. It must be noted that a large number of NNEST literature were non-empirical think-pieces rather than empirical studies (Moussu & Llurda, 2008). Thus, with the purpose of gaining a more comprehensive understanding of NNESTs’ educational and professional status quo, this paper introduces and reviews literature on NNESTs with an emphasis on NNSs ESL teachers. Only peer-reviewed empirical studies were chosen to be discussed in detail, covering two main aspects: (a) teacher education for NNESTs and (b) attitudes towards NNESTs from different perspectives (i.e., as seen by themselves; as seen by the students; as seen by administrators).
Teacher Education for NNESTs. Graddol (1999) extrapolates that the majority of trained ESL/EFL teachers in the world must be NNESTs, considering the rising demand in English instruction worldwide, especially in the outer and expanding circle of English (Kachru, 1985). NNESTs are traditionally found to teach EFL students, though in recent years some are starting to teach in ESL contexts as well. Moreover, there is a growing body of pre-service and in-service NNESTS trained/being trained in English-speaking counties, mainly, in TESOL programs.
Literature investigating teacher education for NNESTs were mainly conducted in such programs. Interestingly, Moussu and Llurda (2008) state that no studies on EFL TESOL programs have been conducted. However, it is my conjecture that such studies were likely conducted and published in the local languages of the research settings rather than in English, and therefore are not identifiable by searching in English databases. Therefore, it is important to acknowledge that the literature on teacher education for NNESTs identified (e.g., England & Roberts, 1989; Govardhan, Nayar & Sheorey, 1999; Llurda, 2005; Moussu, 2006; Polio, 1994) is inevitably unilateral, as it mostly depicts the teacher education for NNSs teacher candidates in the ESL context.
Llurda (2005) examined 32 TESOL graduate programs in North America and investigated, unprecedentedly, the practicum supervisors’ perspectives and assessments of their NNS students’ practice teaching and skills. Using a written questionnaire, the researcher inquired about the general characteristics of the NNS students in these programs and the practicum supervisors’ view on (a) the NNS students’ English skills and proficiency as compared to NSs’, (b) their likelihood of finding and securing professional opportunities after graduation, and (c) influence of language and teaching skills on successful language teaching. The major findings pointed to the variability in NNS teacher candidates’ language skills, and how such variability impacts their chances of success in teaching. Apart from higher level of language awareness than NSs, most NNS teacher candidates’ language skills, especially communication skills, were perceived as inadequate, even though these NNS students had already passed certain English language proficiency tests in order to be accepted by highly competitive programs. The practicum supervisors recommended the NNSs to teach primarily low-level classes. They also agreed that the NNSs would feel more comfortable teaching in their own countries rather than in an ESL context where a high level of proficiency and communicative skills were perceived as necessary, which is contradictory to Canagarajah (1999)’s claim that NNESTs will be better teachers in the ESL context compared with NESTs.
Based on these findings, Llurda (2005) concluded that language proficiency, more so than pedagogical skills, is a necessary condition for NNESTs to become effective language teachers. Richard (2010) puts language proficiency at the top of the list of ten core dimensions of expertise in language teaching. Especially in the case of NNS pre-service teachers who intend to work in an ESL context, their command of English is found to affect their self-image as professionals, which in turn, impacts the way they teach and interact with students (Gan, 2013; Sin, 2008). Therefore, language improvement, as the research argues, needs to be incorporated as a central element in ESL teacher education programs to improve the NNSs student teachers’ linguistic competence.
In addition, Llurda’s (2005) study discussed some interesting facts about the NNS population in the TESOL programs in North America. In his study, 36% of the teacher candidates were NNSs of English who are predominantly from three Asian countries, namely China, Japan, and Korea. Among them, 78% were likely to return to their countries after graduation. Similarly, Liu (1999) found that, among all TESOL students in North America, Britain, and Australia, approximately 40% were NNSs. Polio (1994)’s survey on 43 NNS M.A. TESOL students indicated that 90% of these students planned to return to their countries to teach English after obtaining their degrees, and 72% of the students were from Asian countries. The high percentage of prospective EFL teachers in the TESOL programs in English-speaking countries suggests a need for the teacher education curriculum to adjust accordingly, so that the pre-service teachers can be adequately prepared to teach in an EFL setting. However, research (England & Roberts, 1989; Govardhan, Nayar & Sheorey, 1999) in the field points out that TESOL programs did not seem to meet such learning needs, partly due to monetary and staff limitations.
It is equally important to ascertain whether the TESOL programs adequately prepared NNESTs who intended to teach in ESL contexts, under the assumption that such contexts are more linguistically challenging and demanding for such individuals. It is more likely in the ESL context than in the EFL context that the NNESTs have to face skepticism from students, colleagues, and administrators. Findings from several studies (e.g., Amin, 2004; Medgyes, 1994) revealed ESL students have a stronger desire to study with NS teachers and tolerate more of their teaching mistakes, while NNESTs constantly feel the need to work extra hard to prove themselves so as to be accepted and respected by their colleagues, students, and English-language program administrators. Such feelings could further be linked to their own sense of inadequacy and inferiority as NNESTs (Reves & Medgyes, 1994). All these aspects interact with each other and have co-constructed the context in which NNESTs develop, negotiate, and establish their professional identities while pursuing professional recognition and success, as discussed in the following.
Attitudes towards NNESTs
As seen by themselves. NNEST issues have been extensively studied from the teachers’ point of view. A great number of empirical research (e.g., Reves & Medgyes, 1994; Samimy & Griffler, 1999) has focused on teachers’ self-perceptions of their non-nativeness, their linguistic and pedagogical abilities, as well as challenges and problems they face in their work environments. These studies have provided insightful observations of NNESTs beliefs using methods such as surveying, observation, interviewing face-to-face and/or by email over a period of time. The following three studies were chosen to be discussed in detail as they provide insights into the NNESTs’ self-perception in different contexts and at different levels.
As an example of early studies on NNEST issues, Reves and Medgyes (1994) conducted a large-scale international research survey that revealed the poor self-image perceived by 216 NNSs EFL/ESL teacher participants from 10 countries (Brazil, former Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Israel, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, Sweden, former Yugoslavia, and Zimbabwe). The results of the study suggest that the participants noticed differences between NNSs and NSs, and such differences, mainly due to differing English-language proficiency, biased their self-image and attitudes towards teaching. Acknowledging their important role as NNESTs in English education notwithstanding, they preserved the perpetual fear of making mistakes and their students’ resulting judgment. Suggestions regarding improving their public image and their self-confidence included "frequent exposure to authentic native language environments and proficiency-oriented in-service training activities" (p. 364).
Focused on a Spanish EFL context, Llurda and Huguet (2003) investigated how the 101 NNESTs participants in primary and secondary schools perceived their language and pedagogical skills and their beliefs on the NS-NNS debate. The researchers quantitatively analyzed oral survey data. Results displayed interesting similarities and disparities between primary and secondary level NNESTs teachers. Secondary teachers showed more confidence in their skills than primary teachers (i.e., general proficiency, grammar, knowledge of grammatical rules, and reading comprehension), while a lower level English proficiency was not perceived as the cause of difficulties in teaching English for primary teachers. In the case of the participants’ perception on the NS or NNS debate, half of the primary teachers indicated that they would hire more NSs than NNSs in a language school setting, suggesting they may be more influenced by the notion that NESTs make better teachers, as compared with their secondary-level counterparts, most of whom (65.6%) believed that being a NNS was an advantage. The participants also exposed a clear preference for British culture, when it comes to cultural learning.
In Butler’s (2007a) study with 112 Japanese elementary teacher participants, three questionnaires were used. Results revealed about 60% of the participants believed NSs were the best ESL/EFL teachers and only 13% did not. This belief was found to be associated with three factors. The first one being the participants’ self-assessed English proficiency levels. Specifically, the participants self-evaluated themselves as having stronger skills in reading than in writing and speaking (fluency, grammar, and vocabulary). The teachers who believed they had the lowest English proficiency were also those who most strongly believed that English was best taught by NSs. The second factor that contributed to their supporting the NSs fallacy was their attitude towards nonstandard forms of English, as these teachers believed that only ‘standard English’ (British and American English) should be taught to EFL students. The last factor was a quite interesting one. For some Japanese teachers, because they had great pride in Japanese language and culture as NSs of Japanese, they also believed that only NSs of English can best demonstrate English language and culture, and therefore perceived NSs as better teachers of English.
Meanwhile, research on NNSs ESL teachers’ self-perception mostly focused on challenges and problems they face in their work environments. Amin (1997), for example, interviewed five ‘visible minority’ women ESL teachers in Canada for her study. These teachers expressed a sense of disempowerment as they perceived that their students stereotypically believed Caucasians are the only ones who know real and proper English and who can be authentic ESL teachers. These female teachers also believed that their difficulties in establishing authority were also because of their gender. Thus, according to Amin, ESL students naturally associated authority and legitimacy with white, native-English-speaking Anglo males. This partiality towards whiteness was also corresponded by Golombek and Jordan’s (2005) interviewees.
Focusing on ESL teachers, Maum (2003) examined 80 teachers in terms of their beliefs and experiences as native and non-native teachers in adult education. An interesting finding in this study was that while NNESTs evidently expressed their frustration towards their “marginalization in the profession”, while their NSs colleagues were not aware of any discrimination against NNS teachers (p. 162).
In summary, the empirical research findings on in-service NNESTs seem to be consistent with the aforementioned teacher education literature in that, again, linguistic deficiency was highlighted as almost a determining factor in the perceptions of NNESTs as competent teachers by others as well as by themselves. It seems that not only pre-service NNSs teachers face issues with their linguistic abilities and sense of adequacy, for in-service teachers also demonstrated the same concerns in spite of their more extensive education and experience. Especially for NNSs ESL teacher participants in these studies, they generally felt it was harder to feel qualified and appreciated in an ESL context. The literature typically depicted them as marginalized, discriminated against, low in self-esteem, constantly self-conscious and self-questioning, as well as sensitive to stereotypical perceptions in their classrooms and other workplaces. The dominant belief relating to NS/NNS dichotomy and the native-speakerism were found to be deeply rooted in NNESTs’ minds (Huang, 2018). Only a few studies (Liu, 1990; Tang, 1997) revealed contradicting and somewhat positive findings.
However, from the approach of teacher identity research, the consistent findings in the NNESTs’ self-perception research point precisely to the major problem in the existing NNEST literature: the solidification of NNESTs into a single group. Building upon the concept of identity as situated, multiple and dynamic, teacher identity research on NNESTs observes how NNSs teachers negotiate their sense of self with relation to their students and the social, political, cultural, and professional environments in which they are located. Steinbach and Kazarloga (2014) construe that “teacher’s attitudes are connected to their perceptions of their own competence in the language and their identities, which are both heavily dependent on the geographical, political, and linguistic context within which they are teaching (p. 320)”. Huang (2014) argues that the current NNEST image in the literature seems rigid and polarized. Park (2012) calls for more studies that seek understanding of the diversity within the NNESTs.
Thus, new perspectives (e.g., teacher identity research) and different research methods emerged in the literature. Some argue for the need to look into the diversity of NNESTs (Huang, 2014), whereas others call for more classroom-observation based empirical studies (Moussu & Llurda, 2008). Furthermore, researchers in the field are trying to identify alternatives to the problematic NS-NNS dichotomy. Ellis (2004), for example, suggested looking at teachers from a multilingual/monolingual perspective. Modiano (2005) argues that NNESTs are in a better position to promote diversity because compared with the NEST peers who may prefer one variety of English over another (e.g., British English, American English), NNESTs do not present such preference.
As seen by the students. It has been noted by Moussu and Llurda (2008) that studies on student perspectives have a fairly recent history. These studies were conducted based on the assumption that teachers may not always be objective and accurate judges of how their students perceive them. Also, as accented-ness plays a vital role in social recognition, a number of studies investigated how the NNESTs’ accents affect students’ attitudes towards them (e.g., Kelch & Santana-Williamson, 2002; Butler, 2007).
Repeating the design of a study initially conducted by herself in 2002, Moussu (2006) explored 1040 ESL students in the U.S. in terms of their attitudes towards NESTs and NNESTs, the possible factors that influenced students' responses, and the effects of time on students' attitudes. Two questionnaires were completed first at the beginning and then at the end of a semester. Results showed that overall there was no significant mean difference between the students' attitudes towards NESTs and NNESTs. Students generally rated slightly more positively towards NESTs, although students taught by NNESTs held a significantly more positive attitude towards NNESTs. Positive attitudes towards both NESTs and NNESTs increased significantly with time and exposure. Also, interestingly, among all the factors, students’ and teachers' first languages were found to strongly influence students' attitudes. Students with an Asian language background (Korean, Japanese, Thai, and Chinese) held more negative attitudes towards NNESTs, while Portuguese, French, Spanish, Arabic, and Turkish speaking students were often very positive about both NESTs and NNESTs. In the meantime, the NNESTs who looked or sounded more like native speakers of English as imagined by the students were more appreciated than those who did not. Additionally, NNESTs were not necessarily perceived as their traditional image of grammar experts but could be well-valued listening/speaking teachers.
Another study into students' perceptions was conducted by Mahboob (2004), also in the US. In Mahboob’s study, 32 student participants enrolled in an intensive English program (IEP) provided written responses illustrating their opinions on NEST and NNESTs. Using discourse analysis, four coders classified the students' comments according to linguistic factors, teaching styles and methodology, and personal factors. The study findings indicate that NNESTs were viewed positively primarily for their experience as ESL learners, followed by other factors such as grammar, affect, oral skills, methodology, hard work, vocabulary, culture, ability to answer questions, and literacy skills. The negative comments were associated with the NNESTs’ oral skills and culture. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these weaknesses of NNESTs perceived by the students were viewed to be the strengths of NESTs. Negative verdicts on NESTs were related to grammar, lack of experience as an ESL learner, ability to answer questions, and teaching methodology.
Butler (2007b), similar to Kelch and Santana-Williamson (2002), investigated students' attitudes towards NNESTs’ accentedness. In Butler’s study, 312 Grade 6 Korean students were asked to evaluate different accented tape-recordings of the same person with American-accented English (a native speaker model) and Korean-accented English (a nonnative speaker model). Her results showed that the American-accented recording/teacher model was preferred over the foreign-accented counterpart by the students, but no significant difference in students’ comprehension of the two was observed. Also, the students imagined the American-accented teacher as being more confident and fluent in English and possessing better pronunciation. These results were in line with Kim’s (2007) finding in an ESL context that students seemed to prefer teachers with a less foreign accent. The reason they gave for such preference was that teachers with less foreign accent are easier to understand. However, the results of the study actually showed that students understood NNSs just as well as they did NSs. This finding is important because it suggests that students’ perceptions of intelligibility did not always reflect the reality and that negative attitudes towards NNSs did not necessarily affect intelligibility.
To summarize, the findings of the studies on students’ opinions of NNESTs revealed that students generally perceive their NNSs teachers positively, in contrast to the NNSs teachers’ negative self-perception and concerns of students’ negative attitudes. In fact, NNESTs’ experience and professionalism are recognized as more important than their non-nativeness. When interpreting these finding, nonetheless, one must bear in mind that the students’ attitudes towards NNESTs, just as the teachers’ beliefs about themselves, are context specific. In addition, suggestions to challenge the possible stereotypical thoughts students’ hold towards NNS teachers have been discussed. It is proposed that students should be exposed to international cultures, languages and accents, based on the fact that students with those exposures can recognize and value NNESTs’ strengths significantly more than students who never had such international exposure (Fox, 1992).
As seen by intensive English program administrators. IEPs are generally the English training providers to international students in US universities. This setting needs to be incorporated into the discussion of NNESTs because it is these programs that have the decision power to provide (or refuse to provide) jobs to NNESTs in an ESL context. In fact, Mahboob, Uhrig, Newman, and Hartford (2004) showed that the percentage of NNESTs in the IEPs is shockingly low. In their study, fewer than 8% of the teachers were NNESTs among the 118 IEPs surveyed. Nearly 70% of the program administrators admitted that the NS criterion was a key factor when they make hiring decisions.
The research on the IEP administrators also opened up discussion of the working relationships between IEPs and TESOL programs. Flynn and Gulikers (2001), for example, suggest that TESOL programs should offer courses in applied linguistics and curriculum design, as well as the opportunity for NNS teacher candidates to observe and teach in different contexts (primary and secondary schools, community colleges, IEPs, etc.) to better equip those who intend to work in ESL contexts so they can be considered suitable job applicants. However, Reid (1997), after surveying several IEP and TESOL program administrators, concluded that no common ground could be reached by the two groups of administrators (IEP and TESOL) as there was great disparity between their goals and beliefs. This may be a contributing factor to the observed reality where IEP administrators seem to constantly face a shortage of qualified NESTs, while a growing number of NNS TESOL graduates are waiting for an employment opportunity but are simply not being considered.
IEP administrators’ attitudes towards NNESTs and their hiring practices and beliefs (e.g., Flynn & Gulikers, 2001; Moussu, 2006; Mahboob et al., 2004; Reid, 1997) as documented by the literature were commonly associated with the typical NNESTs image. Moussu (2006) examined 25 IEP administrators’ perception on NS and NNS teachers’ strengths and weaknesses. On the one hand, the administrators’ perceived strengths of NNS ESL teachers include their pedagogical skills as well as their strong collegiality, dedication, creativity in teaching and high academic and proficiency standards and expectations for students. On the down side, three major weaknesses of NNESTs’ in the administrator’s mind were foreign accent, over-dependence on didactic presentation of grammar and focusing too much on grammar, and lack of self-confidence.
When asked about hiring criteria, the administrators valued past teaching experience, degrees in language education, international experience, and native-like fluency in English the most. As IEP programs are essentially businesses, some participants also noted that hiring NSs was often a political and financially-driven move, usually based on the assumption that NSs teachers are more appealing to the customers of these programs - international students.
On the bright side, responding to the unfair treatment of NNESTs, the leading scholars in the NNEST Movement (George Braine, Jun Liu, Lia Kamhi-Stein, and Aya Matsuda) have called for institutionalized responses to advocate for NNESTs. Influential organizations in the field, such as the TESOL International Association and CATESOL, have passed resolutions, issued white papers, and formed interest/support groups with the intention to raise awareness towards NNEST issues and transform the discriminatory hiring and workplace practices. Nevertheless, Selvi (2014) points out that the suitability of such initiatives needs to be maintained and that the NNEST Movement’s theoretical and practical knowledge base is yet to be broadened, as discrimination against NNESTs continues to exist across the world (Mahboob & Golden, 2013)
In the past two decades, the study of non-native English-speaking teachers has begun to receive extensive attention from the field of language teaching and research. This growing research field addresses the theoretical discussions of NS-NNS dichotomy, concerns with issues relating to NNESTs’ educational and professional status quo, and works towards the goal of empowering NNESTs. Especially in recent years, the growing realization of NNEST issues and research efforts have resulted in the NNEST movement, with the vision of creating a more democratic, participatory, professional, and egalitarian future for the TESOL profession (Selvi, 2014).
In this paper, through reviewing the literature on teacher education for NNESTs as well as attitudes towards NNESTs from different perspectives (i.e., by themselves, by the students and by administrators), some interesting, ongoing dialogues between these various perspectives were observed and discussed. Key insights gained from this review include the need to better prepare and empower NNESTs through (a) ongoing language as well as teaching skills training; (b) professional development activities in avoiding self-discrimination and challenging the deeply rooted NS/NNS dichotomy and the native-speakerism; and (c) initiatives that drive IEP and TESOL administrators to offer institutionalized support to NNESTs and cultivating inclusive workplace culture and hiring practices.
Through these debates, the NNEST literature, with its short but rich history, seriously challenged the fundamental premises of English language teaching and delineated the manifestations of privilege and marginalization in the TESOL profession. The current field of TESOL, according to Selve (2016), is at “a new crossroads of change and transformation” with new hope and direction for a future that embraces the “ethnic, racial, cultural, religious, and linguistic parameters of diversity” among all English teaching professionals (p. vii).
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President’s Corner 4
Editor’s Commentary 5
Ying Xiong TESOL at a Crossroad: Issues Surrounding Non-native
English-speaking Teachers 7
Robin L. Danzak Translanguaging the Gulf: Teens in Mexico and the United States
Franz Bokel Collaborate to Create Multilingual, Expository Texts 16
Maria Coady Preparing Future Teachers for English Language Learners:
Amber Peretz A Single Case of Study Abroad in the Dominican Republic 28
Kristina N. Bustamante Results from a Morphological Awareness Pilot Study
Carla Wood for English Learners from Spanish-English Migrant Backgrounds 39
Eric Dwyer Elementary and Secondary Content Area Vocabulary: A Pilot Study of
Claudia Grigorescu High Frequency and Academic Vocabulary in K-12 Textbooks 53
Hamed Shafiei English Learners’ Perceptions of Motivation 64
Lynn Carver Making a Difference for ELLs with Technology 74
Book & Literature Reviews
Carla Wood Making Connections: A Review of Instructional Practices
Cynthia Delarosa on Connectives for English Learners 80
Alexandria Hadden New Ways in Teaching Speaking, Second Edition (2018) 88
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Translanguaging refers to bilinguals’ natural, active integration of languages across diverse contexts. For García (2014), “translanguaging is rooted in the belief that bilingual speakers select language features from one integrated system and ‘soft assemble’ their language practices in ways that fit their communicative situations” (p. 150). Theoretically, the concept of translanguaging represents an important paradigm shift in bi/multilingualism: the movement from a monolingual perspective, in which languages are seen as separate, to a more dynamic, bi/multilingual perspective that assumes a negotiation or “shuttling between” (Canagarajah, 2006) languages in an integrated system.
As much of the world and thus schools become multilingual spaces (Blackledge & Creese, 2014; Creese & Martin, 2003), students naturally and spontaneously engage all languages at their disposal to communicate socially (Leonet, Cenoz, & Gorter, 2017). Taking this a step further, we inquire, what happens when we purposefully invite translanguaging in the classroom? This was the question that inspired the project, Translanguaging the Gulf.
Translanguaging the Gulf was a collaborative writing project involving bilingual, adolescent students in Yucatan, Mexico and Florida, United States. The project stemmed from the first author’s visit to Yucatan in 2012 as part of a university partnership, where the three authors discovered a natural connection based on mutual interest in language teaching/learning and bilingualism. The experience involved spending time at a rural secondary school whose teachers and students were excited to engage in creative projects promoting multilingual writing. The first author already had a working relationship with an equally enthusiastic and innovative, middle school ESOL teacher in Florida. Thus, conditions were ideal to establish an international, translanguaging community comprised of highly engaged students and teachers in two, multilingual classroom settings.
From Mono- to Multilingual
Current understandings of bilinguals and the multilingual nature of today’s classrooms have shifted from a monolingual frame to a dynamic, multilingual perspective (Danzak, 2015; Franceschini, 2011). It appears, in fact, that the prevailing discourse of the field has finally come to terms with Grosjean’s (1989) proclamation, “The bilingual is not two monolinguals in one person” (p. 3). That is, rather than considering a bilingual’s linguistic repertoire as a pair/set of separate and exclusive language systems, we have embraced bi/multilingualism as a dynamic integration of systems that interact in complex and adaptive ways (García, 2014).
As a reflection of this paradigm shift, researchers and practitioners now describe bilingual language practices with terms like language negotiation and “shuttling between languages” (Canagarajah, 2006, p. 589), translingualism (Canagarajah, 2013), code-meshing (Young, 2007), and chaining (Gynne & Bagga-Gupta, 2013), all of which highlight the dynamic, integrated nature of bilingual language use, particularly in multilingual contexts. Similarly, classrooms may be considered holistic (Cenoz & Gorter, 2011) contexts where bi/multi/plurilingual students have multicompetence (Cook, 1992; reconsidered and expanded by Franceschini, 2011), described as a bilingual’s ability to interact and make sense of his/her world through multiple, interconnected languages. This expanded, dynamic, and integrated perspective of bilingualism is the framework for the concept of translanguaging, and underpins the Translanguaging the Gulf project.
Early conceptions of translanguaging described bilingual students’ ability to fully make sense of what they are learning by employing both of their languages (Lewis, Jones, & Baker, 2012). The idea, which remains today, is that bilinguals may be exposed to academic content in one language, and engage with it in another, deepening their understanding through this process. In fact, it is argued that translanguaging not only promotes understanding, but also supports students’ development of the emerging language, encourages collaboration among fluent and emerging speakers, and facilitates home-school connections for bilingual students (Lewis et al., 2012). In a review of translanguaging scholarship from a sociolinguistic perspective, Creese and Blackledge (2015) concluded that the practice and pedagogy of translanguaging promotes bilingual students’ complex, dynamic language repertoires and identities.
In the current context, the term, translanguaging has been expanded particularly by Ofelia García (2009, 2014) and colleagues, both in the general classroom context (García & Sylvan, 2011; Lasagabaster & García, 2014) and with respect to school writing (Velasco & García, 2014). Lasagabaster and García (2014) described translanguaging as fostering “the dynamic and integrative use of bilingual students’ languages in order to create a space in which the incorporation of both languages is seen as natural and teachers accept it as a legitimate pedagogical practice” (p. 557). A few studies have systematically explored translanguaging in classrooms; these are discussed next.
Translanguaging in classrooms
Building upon a foundation of content and language integrated instruction and “el tratamiento integrado de diferentes lenguas (TIL)” (integrated treatment of different languages, p. 119), Apraiz Jaio, Pérez Gómez, and Ruiz Pérez (2012) described the project-based, translanguaging practices in a multilingual (Basque, Spanish, English) classroom of year-three, secondary school (Educación Secundaria Obligatoria, ESO; age 14) in Spain. These authors argued that plurilingual education is not simply language teaching, but a means to develop students’ communicative competencies across languages and a medium through which content-based learning takes place.
Apraiz Jaio and colleagues (2012) illustrated how TIL might look in a classroom using “communication projects” (p. 131): multimedia, multilingual products integrating content from diverse disciplines. For example, for the project, Health for All, students produced a Basque monograph on health issues in developed vs. developing countries, a Spanish glossary of nutrition terms, and an English presentation on self-care. The authors emphasized that all teachers in multilingual contexts must share a deep understanding of language function and acquisition, and be prepared to integrate language into the teaching and learning of academic content across the disciplines. However, in this example, the described multilingual projects maintained separate languages across sub-topics and media.
Along similar lines and in the same cultural-linguistic context (Basque Country, Spain), Leonet, Cenoz, and Gorter (2017) introduced structured, pedagogical translanguaging practices into 5th and 6th grade, multilingual classrooms during Basque, Spanish, and English language arts. Guided by teachers, students developed multilingual “linguistic landscapes” (p. 220) of their town and wrote stories in all three languages. These activities supported students’ metalinguistic awareness through the discovery of cognate words in the former activity and similarities in narrative text structure across languages in the latter. For Leonet and colleagues (2017), the goal was to depart from the traditional language separation (i.e., “multilingual solitudes”, p. 116) that occurs in language instruction, even in multilingual classroom contexts. These authors concluded that purposeful, pedagogical translanguaging offers opportunities for students to appreciate cross-language comparisons and activate all linguistic resources, including those of less-proficient languages.
Indeed, the idea of developing student linguistic repertoires more holistically is supported by Schalley, Eisenchlas, and Guillemin’s (2016) commentary on the critical role of literacy instruction in cultivating students’ proficiency in minority languages (including mother tongue languages). This is especially relevant for the participants of the current study: Spanish heritage speakers in the United States (where instruction is English-dominant), and Indigenous language speakers in Mexico (where instruction is Spanish-dominant).
Finally, looking specifically at translanguaging in writing, Velasco and García (2014) explored translanguaging as a self-regulating mechanism for young, bilingual students learning to write in elementary school. The authors provided examples of translanguaging during text planning, drafting, and final composition, demonstrating that for bilingual learners translanguaging supports text production at all stages. Through these examples, Velasco and García also argued that the use of translanguaging practices in writing could support vocabulary acquisition, word retrieval, and rhetorical engagement.
While the research reviewed here considered the impact of translanguaging in multilingual classroom contexts, none of these inquires systematically examined multilingual products for patterns of students’ translanguaging practices. The project, Translanguaging the Gulf, approached this goal by inviting bilingual, adolescent students to create multilingual, expository texts to inform international peers about issues in their communities and analyzing the written products for language use and types of translanguaging practiced. The following research question guided this qualitative exploration: How do bilingual, middle school students in Yucatan and Florida apply diverse linguistic resources (i.e., use translanguaging) in the collaborative production of expository texts?
The Context: Multilingualism in Yucatan and Florida
In Mexico, nearly 70 indigenous languages are spoken, with Maya representing the second largest group of speakers after Nahuatl (Instituto Nacional de Estadística, Geografía e Informática, 2017). Almost all of the 800,000 Maya speakers in Mexico live in the Yucatan Peninsula, with the majority in the State of Yucatan. Notwithstanding the large percentage of Maya speakers in Yucatan, linguistic inequality persists when, for example, bilingualism reflects the bifurcation between public and political life in Spanish and domestic life in Maya (Lizama, 2008). This inequality is also evident in supposedly bilingual schools, where Spanish often dominates as the language of instruction (Mijangos, 2010).
While Maya-speaking students in Yucatan are faced with the challenge of acquiring academic Spanish to be successful in school, as of 2009, the Ministry of Education in Mexico launched the Programa Nacional de Inglés en Educación Básica (PNIEB; National English Program in Basic Education), requiring English language instruction beginning in elementary school. Thus, bilingual students in Yucatan currently find themselves in multilingual classrooms in which they daily negotiate the use of Maya, Spanish, and English in social and academic contexts (Bokel, 2012).
In the case of the United States, the U.S. Census Bureau (2016a) reported that 11.7% of public school students were foreign-born, and 26.6% were born to foreign parents, reflecting the cultural and linguistic diversity in classrooms. In Florida, the percentage of individuals for which a language other than English is spoken at home is 28.3%, compared to the national average of 21.1% (U.S. Census Bureau, 2016b).
Bilingual students in U.S. schools are serviced by a variety of programs, depending on the state. In Florida, middle and high school students who report speaking a language other than English at home are tested and may qualify for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes. ESOL teachers may or may not be bilingual, but support students’ English language development and, often, their sociocultural transition to school in the U.S. as well.
Translanguaging the Gulf took place at two, public school settings: In Yucatan, in the year-3 (U.S. equivalent grade 9) classroom of a rural secondary school and, in Florida, in the 7th and 8th grade ESOL classroom of a suburban middle school. The authors collaborated with teachers at both sites to facilitate the project over 12 weeks during the spring semester.
The Participants and Their Communities
The participants in Yucatan comprised the complete year-3 class, totaling 40 students, aged 14-15 years. These teens were speakers of Maya, Spanish, and English, varying in their experience, usage, and proficiency of each. On the questionnaire, all 40 Yucatec students reported speaking Spanish, 39 reported speaking Maya, and 6 English. For all of them, Spanish was the dominant language of schooling, and English was a school subject. Maya was not formally studied at school; however, some teachers spoke Maya and used it in the classroom socially and to support instruction.
Of the 40 participants in Mexico, 37 were born in the state of Yucatan, and the remaining 3 in Campeche, just to the south. All the students grew up in the general area of the school. The Yucatec school, which serves approximately 135 students, is in a rural village in the southwestern region of the state, with a population of just over 2,000. Over 76% of the adults in the village report speaking Maya (PueblosAmerica.com, nd). Agriculture is the primary economic activity in the village and its surrounding region.
Participants in Florida were ESOL students in grades 7 (22 students) and 8 (21 students), aged 12-15 years. These students were primarily speakers of English (40) and Spanish (34); however, several spoke other languages including Otomí (another indigenous language of Mexico) (3), Italian (2), and Portuguese (2). One student each spoke Albanian, Arabic, ASL, Chuukese, Haitian Creole, Hmong, Lao, Russian, Thai, and Ukrainian.
The Floridian students’ number of years of experience in U.S. schools varied and thus, did their English language proficiency. Nine students had arrived in the U.S. within one year or less, 10 students reported 2-4 years of U.S. schooling, and 24 students had spent 5 or more years in U.S. classrooms. Thirteen had never been educated outside the U.S.
The Florida school is in a suburb on the west coast, with a population of approximately 35,000. A public middle school for students in grades 6-8, the school served approximately 1,200 students at the time of the study, including 55 enrolled in ESOL.
As explained initially, Translanguaging the Gulf was born during a visit of the first author to Yucatan. In a visit to the secondary school, Author 1 met the students and invited them to create multilingual, autobiographical, “About Me” comics (e.g., Bennett, 2009) to introduce themselves to the students in Florida. Later, the Floridian students replied with their own comics, and the project began.
At both sites, during February, working in groups of 2-3, students identified and researched issues of importance to their communities. They then developed their multilingual, expository texts to report on these issues. Although we discussed general guidelines regarding expository text construction, the term, ‘text’, was loosely defined to maximize student choice: they could use any media (e.g., Microsoft Office tools, online media, photographs, video) to create their products. Similarly, the term, ‘multilingual’ was used openly, allowing the students to determine which language/s they would incorporate and how to do so. The choices the students made regarding the use of the multiple languages at their disposal, and their linguistic outcomes, led to the results of the study.
In early March, the finished texts were exchanged electronically between the sites and distributed for peer review. The students followed a peer review guide that elicited feedback (positive and recommendations) regarding the clarity and interest level of words, sentences, and the overall project. Toward the end of March, the Floridian students submitted their peer reviews to the Yucatec students. Due to local timing issues (Easter holidays), the Yucatec students returned their peer reviews in mid-April. After receiving the peer reviews, students at both sites were given the opportunity to revise their texts. Also in March, all participants exchanged letters to further get to know each other.
Because not all groups submitted revised texts, the original, first draft texts were used for qualitative analysis. The purpose of the analysis was to identify, categorize, and count different types of translanguaging practices present in the students’ texts. To do this, notwithstanding the type of text created (for the most part, text types included Word documents from Yucatan and PowerPoint presentations from Florida), all texts were entered into Systematic Analysis of Language Transcripts (SALT) software and divided into T-units, which consist of main clauses and related subordinate clauses (Hunt, 1965). Coding was carried out in an iterative fashion over two phases: Phase 1 codes identified language/s and/or media used in each T-unit; Phase 2 developed codes to identify the students’ translanguaging practices in mixed-language T-units. We also used SALT to calculate standard measures of text productivity: total number of T-units and total number of words.
n Phase 1, each T-unit was coded for language/s used. A T-unit could be coded as one language (e.g., SP for Spanish, EN for English, MY for Maya), or a combination of languages (e.g., SP-EN, MY-SP). Additionally, codes were added to identify pictures and other media (e.g., web link, embedded video).
Phase 2 was more complex. T-units coded with multiple languages in Phase 1 were further coded based on how the two –or more- languages were used. These a posteriori codes (after data collection; Constas, 1992) were based on the authors’ own analysis of the students’ linguistic behaviors, seeking to identify and classify their potential motivation for translanguaging. Codes created at this phase included translation, adaptation, cultural reference, and divergence, among others (see Table 1 for explanation of codes and examples).
All codes were discussed at length among the authors, as well as with two student research assistants. All authors are bilingual English-Spanish, and the Yucatan-based authors have a working knowledge of Maya. The Yucatec research assistant was an undergraduate student of English Language Education and a native speaker of Maya. The U.S. research assistant was a graduate student in Speech-Language Pathology with a basic understanding of Spanish. Each research team initially coded the texts local to them, and the other team code-checked. Concerns and disagreements were discussed as they arose throughout the process, leading to a series of coding
Table 1: Translanguaging Codes for Multilingual T-Units
decisions and revisions agreed upon by all researchers.
The Yucatec student groups produced a total of 19 texts, and the Floridian groups, 16 (9 from grade 7, and 7 from grade 8). Topics varied across the two sites; however, both sites identified and addressed problems at school and in the community as well as issues related to local culture (see Table 2). Note, all quotes from student texts included here are verbatim, including original spellings and mechanics.
Table 2: Text Topics/Project Titles by Students at Both Sites
Text Media and General Content
Regarding media choices, the Yucatec students exclusively used Microsoft Word to produce documents comprised of written content (often headed, “Report”), interviews, and student-created photographs with captions. Most Yucatan texts (17 of 19) included transcripts of conversations with community members about the selected issues. Interviewees included three alcoholics, a cattle rancher, a baseball player, a Jarana dancer, gang members, a firecracker-maker, a local commissioner, various churchgoers, and a teen mother. The photographs, often of the interviewee and his/her environment/activity, enhanced the texts’ informativeness and offered a window into the community.
The Floridian students primarily used Microsoft PowerPoint to create their texts; one group used Prezi, one used the online, digital poster maker, Glogster, and one used Publisher to create a trilingual brochure. All groups included plentiful images (both student-created and downloaded), along with a few web links. Two groups also included student-produced videos. Nine texts opened with explicit research questions. Four did interviews; however, unlike the Yucatec students, Floridian students summarized interview outcomes rather than offering transcribed dialogue. Two groups used Survey Monkey –including resulting graphs- to assess fellow students’ perceptions of bullying and racism.
Majority Text Language/s
Obviously, students at both sites used English, Spanish, and Maya (used exclusively by Yucatec students), and combinations of these in their texts. Regarding majority text language/s (language/s in which most of each text was composed), the “Report” portions of the Yucatan texts were composed primarily in Spanish, with the use of Maya (and Maya-Spanish) when appropriate (see Translanguaging results below), and some English. For all interviews, except that of the baseball player, the transcripts were reported in Maya (often mixed with Spanish), evidencing its prevalence in the community. Of the 17 interviews, one was translated line by line into Spanish, 1 into English, and 1 summarized in English. The Yucatec students often captioned their photographs in English.
The Floridian students used mostly English in their texts and tended to translate headings or targeted sections to offer paired, bilingual texts in English and Spanish. Students who spoke other languages incorporated these via translation as well. For example, Farmworkers and Local Parks texts included sections in Chuukese and Thai. Two groups opted to present a text in its entirety, in two or more languages, in separate files: Computers (English and Italian), and Florida Theme Parks (English, Spanish, Ukrainian). Table 3 quantifies the languages used, by total number of T-units, across both sites.
Table 3: Number of T-Units by Languages/s for Each Site
This portion of the analysis examined the conditions under which the students integrated diverse languages in their texts, specifically, why one language was employed within the broader context of another. The Phase 2 codes addressed the following translanguaging practices: translation, use of a proper noun, adaptation, cultural reference, divergence, filler, and author’s language choice (see Table 1). In this section, we explore each of these practices in detail, offering examples. The patterns are explained in order
Table 4: Total Number of T-Units Classified for Translanguaging Type for Each Site
of most to least frequent, and exclude ALC and FLR, due to their extremely low incidence. Table 4 summarizes the frequency of translanguaging practices observed.
Translation (TRANS; total instances: 345). This was the most frequently used translanguaging practice overall, used almost exclusively by the Floridian students as their primary strategy (337 instances, vs. 8 instances from Yucatan). Translation was also the only code applied at both the word-level and the T-unit-level. As reported above, Floridian students translated headings, sentences, and even entire texts. As an example, the Grade 8 text, Bullying (Figure 1) represents a typical pattern in which the authors translated their research questions and headings but reported survey results in English only. Although a couple of texts were translated in their entirety (Computers, Theme Parks), most of the Florida texts made use of translation in headings and bulleted lists, for example, of the students’ research questions.
Figure 1: Typical Use of Translation and Divergence in Florida Texts - Bullying
On the other hand, the Yucatec students used translation more sparingly. For example, in Raising Cattle, the students included an interview of a farmer, conducted in Maya, translated into English: “¿Bi’ix a tseenti’ick a waka’ax? (How do you raise your cattle) [TRANS]”. In all cases, translation was rarely prefaced or explained, with the exception of Traditional Maya Dress, which discusses different types of embroidery: “… el más difícil de costurar es el xocbichuy, o punto de cruz [TRANS], el cual se hace a mano. Los bordados se combinan, en ocasiones, con la técnica de "manicté" (del maya xmanikté [TRANS])…”. Here, the students used the culturally appropriate Maya word, xocbichuy, to identify a stitch, then translated it into Spanish (punto de cruz). Later, they identified another techique, manicté, in Spanish, offering the Maya equivalent, xmanikté, in parentheses.
Proper nouns (PN; 167). Students at both sites frequently used proper nouns in their original language, without translation, within a different language context. Examples from Florida included English names of various software programs in the Italian text, Computers, the school name in English on a Spanish slide in Immigration, and the English-named websites, Google and Survey Monkey, in Spanish slides in Racism.
The Yucatec students most often used proper nouns in Maya to name their village and surrounding areas, in Spanish language contexts. However, they also incorporated Spanish language titles like, Don, and Señora, in English texts. The Spanish version of Alcoholics Anonymous, Alcohólicos Anónimos, was also used in Maya contexts.
Divergence (DIVG; 131). Used fairly frequently at both sites, this practice involved the use of a word or phrase in its original language, in the context of a different language, when no common translation or usage was available. Divergence was used most commonly in Maya language contexts, when Spanish was integrated to express, in several texts, time-related expressions (horas, meses, años, edad), which do not exist in Maya, as well as other concepts without known Maya equivalents (e.g., contaminación, fútbol, posición, religión).
In the Florida texts, divergence appeared most (32 of 40 incidences) in the Italian version of Computers, where English terms like, laptop, desktop, and power supply were incorporated in English. The Grade 8 text, Bullying, used the English word, bullying, in Spanish contexts, and Local Parks included English words, picnic and camping, in the Spanish context.
Adaptation (ADPT; 42). The Yucatec students applied this translanguaging practice in nearly all observed cases (41/42), primarily in Maya texts, where Spanish words were incorporated and adapted to Maya morphosyntax. Indeed, the only evidence of adaptation on the part of the Floridian students was the expression, “placas de skate,” to create the word, skateboard, in Spanish, in The Mall.
In the Maya context, adaptations were observed for both verbs and nouns. Examples of adapted verbs included, “cre’etik” (crees; Pollution), “fumartik” (fumas; Tobacco), and “sentirtik” (sientes; Alcoholism), all of which apply the Maya morpheme, -tik, indicating a second person singular subject (you), to Spanish verbs (to believe, to smoke, and to feel). Several nouns were adapted by adding the suffix, -o to a sentence-final Spanish word to indicate, in Maya, an interrogative form: “cuateso” (buddies) and “deporteso” (sports), in an Alcoholism text, “religiono”, in the Religion text.
Cultural reference (CULT; 40). This translanguaging practice described references to cultural elements (clothing, holidays, foods, dances, etc.) that students opted to maintain in the original language, within a different language context. Again, the Yucatec students provided the majority of cultural references in translanguaging contexts (34/40 instances). In the case of the Florida texts, The Mall evidenced a cultural reference where the English slang term, “snapbacks” (baseball caps) was maintained in a Spanish context. School Clubs also maintained the English word, “stepping”, in a Spanish context, to describe the type of percussive dance that this group performs.
Cultural references in the Yucatan texts included many references to local culture: “mestizo” (referring to traditional Yucatec clothing), “jarana” (a traditional dance), “huipil” (Maya dress), “huaraches” (sandals), and “guayabera” (embroidered men’s shirt), to name a few. These local, cultural terms, of which many originated from Maya, were preserved in Spanish in the context of both Maya and English in several texts including Maya Culture, Traditional Maya Dress (5 texts), and Traditional Music.
Multiple strategies. In many cases, especially where Maya was involved, students integrated a variety of translanguaging practices in their texts. This is exemplified in the interview of Don Manuel, in Raising Cattle:
We spoke with Don Manuel [PN] [EN-SP].
1; ¿Bi’ix a tseenti’ick a waka’ax? (How do you raise your cattle) [MY-EN] [TRANS].
Ki’i tseenti’ick ye’etel saka’a (I raise them with zacate [DIVG]) [MY-EN-SP] [TRANS].
2; ¿Bi’ix akana’nti’ik awaka’ax? (How do you take care of your cattle?) [MY-EN] [TRANS].
Ki’i kana’ntick tiola ma’a u kimick ki’I tesnti’c sam’samal cada 5 horas [DIVG] [MY-SP]. (I make sure they don’t die. I look after them every 5 hours) [MY-EN] [TRANS].
This text incorporates three different translanguaging practices: 1) translation from Maya to English; 2) the integration of a Spanish proper noun (Don Manuel) in an English T-unit; and 3) two instances of divergence: Spanish, “zacate” (the grass fed to the cattle) in an English T-unit, and the use of a time expression in Spanish, “cada 5 horas”, in a Maya T-unit.
Translanguaging the Gulf is an example of how, when invited to use translanguaging in expository texts composed for an authentic, international audience, bilingual adolescents strategically incorporated diverse aspects of their linguistic repertoires to communicate more effectively with their multilingual peers. Indeed, translanguaging choices were influenced by students’ perceived linguistic profiles of their readers, as well as their own sociocultural context, reflecting real-life language practices inside and outside the classroom.
Despite sharing the same, open-ended assignment, students in the two settings applied different media and favored diverse translanguaging practices. The Yucatec students produced primarily written reports with captioned photographs, perhaps reflecting their experience with expository writing in textbooks. On the other hand, the Floridian students’ use of PowerPoint and other multimedia sources may have been influenced by their ESOL teacher’s high-tech classroom and her encouragement of students to engage with multiliteracies (New London Group, 1996) during class time.
Yucatec students: Fluid integration of languages
More importantly, bilingual students in Florida and Yucatan employed diverse patterns of translanguaging practices. The Yucatec students incorporated a natural, holistic approach based on the social-linguistic practices of their community, using translanguaging at text-, sentence-, and even word-level structures in their products. At the text level, Yuctatec students generally used Spanish, the dominant language of schooling, for the expository text of the written reports, while presenting interviews with community members in Maya. They incorporated English –a less-proficient language- briefly, where they felt comfortable (e.g., picture captions), for the benefit of the Florida audience. Within these text segments, students code-switched to incorporate Maya cultural words in Spanish, and Spanish words and concepts that could not be expressed in Maya (divergence). Notably, in Maya, students translanguaged at the word level, adding Maya inflectional morphemes to Spanish root words (adaptation). As noted by the Yucatec research assistant, the majority of Maya speakers are never formally instructed to write in Maya. Thus, the Yucatec students made an attempt at “spontaneous biliteracy” (Reyes, 2012) in Maya, necessitating students’ use of translanguaging strategies (divergence and adaptation) at the word and sentence levels to express meaning in their writing.
At the text level, the Yucatec students’ separation of languages for different communication tasks (informing, interviewing, describing) is similar to the Basque students’ use of different languages for distinct parts of their communication projects presented by Apraiz Jaio, Pérez Gómez, and Ruiz Pérez (2012). However, the Yucatec students’ systematic integration of translanguaging at the sentence and word levels goes beyond this, and is reflective of bilinguals’ “soft assembly” of languages suggested by García (2014). This strategy also suggests a discursive resource that could be employed pedagogically to counteract the otherwise growing monolingualism in Yucatec education, as pointed out by Lizama (2008) and Mijangos (2010).
Floridian students: Formalized language practices
The Floridian students generally offered texts composed in English with headings or targeted sections translated into Spanish for the benefit of the Yucatec audience, or other languages to demonstrate their bilingual resources. Thus, translanguaging was more focused on text-level structures. There were some within-sentence occasions of code-switching, generally to incorporate English words not known in Spanish or other languages (divergence).
It seems that, for the Floridian students, developing texts for school purposes incentivized a more formal type of translanguaging behavior (translation). In a positive light, students’ use of the assignment to practice text translation may have offered benefits similar to those reported by Leonet, Cenoz, and Gorter (2017), i.e., increased metalinguistic skills and awareness of cognates. However, from a more critical perspective, it may be hypothesized that the monolingual paradigm of U.S. schooling has trained these participants to keep their linguistic repertoires separate in school-based text production.
Implications for Translanguaging in School
Similar to previous research involving pedagogical translanguaging (Apraiz Jaio, Pérez Gómez, & Ruiz Pérez, 2012; Leonet, Cenoz, & Gorter, 2017), participants in the current project demonstrated the strategic and adaptive nature of translanguaging in their texts. In Translanguaging the Gulf, it was up to the students how to incorporate their various languages for an authentic purpose: to communicate with bilingual peers in another country. Thus, translanguaging was invited and unregulated (i.e., free-choice), allowing students to discover and apply strategies they determined most appropriate for different communicative purposes and/or their perceived audience.
As researchers, we were interested in allowing students to use language as they wished, and observe and interpret their translanguaging practices. Educators, however, are encouraged to take similar projects a step further. After students compose their texts, teachers could guide students in identifying and discussing different translanguaging strategies, building metalinguistic awareness and helping them see how languages were integrated and for what purposes. Teachers and students could brainstorm, with examples, different types of translanguaging practices and discuss contexts in which their use would be appropriate and to what benefit. For example, the class might examine how code-switching may ideally express the names of cultural items or practices (e.g., jarana, huipil, Día de los Muertos), but also consider the importance of taking into consideration the linguistic experience of the intended audience and making appropriate modifications (e.g., including translations or explanations). These discussions could increase students’ awareness of the linguistic flexibility they have at their disposal as bilingual writers, while also refining their social-linguistic skills in informing and engaging diverse readers. Such heightened awareness, in turn, can feed into practical community development projects outside of the classroom; for example, “village walks” (Bokel, 2018) where students translanguage their immediate environments, for instance, by presenting their classmates to their family in their native language, while presenting their family to classmates and teachers in the dominant classroom language on the same occasion.
Challenges and Conclusions
It is worth mentioning some methodological challenges. School scheduling and technology issues made it more difficult than expected to exchange student texts and peer reviews in a timely manner, thus preventing a complete collection of revised texts. It is recommended that, before launching an international, collaborative project of this nature, the facilitators assess considerations of feasibility and timing.
As mentioned previously, code development and coding of the multilingual texts was an iterative and flexible process. The students’ diverse applications of translanguaging practices in their written texts guided the creation and revision of codes throughout data processing and analysis. This required both flexibility and continuous communication among the researchers. For example, regarding divergences and adaptations, it was, at times, challenging to determine whether the word in question was a loan word used more or less ubiquitously in the other language (e.g., “computer” in Italian, “béisbol” in Spanish), a local variation (e.g., “cuates”), or a student-created term. Thus, knowledge of local dialect and language use was critical in making coding decisions.
Finally, in some cases participating classroom teachers felt that students should address “culturally relevant” topics (loss of cultural identity in changing dress codes) instead of their preferred topics of choice (alcoholism, teenage pregnancy). Again, this requires both flexibility and continuous communication among all participants.
Overall, Translanguaging the Gulf was a positive opportunity for bilingual students to draw upon and share their language and writing skills for a school project that connected them to their own communities and peers in another country. The project provided an engaging forum in which students participated enthusiastically, confirming their positive feelings toward the experience in written reflections. Ultimately, when invited to compose multilingual, expository texts for an authentic purpose and audience, these students demonstrated the adaptive, flexible, and strategic nature of translanguaging in expository writing, an important genre of the language of schooling.
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 The first author’s former institution, University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, had established a relationship with Universidad Autónoma del Yucatán, based on the Sister Cities International partnership between Sarasota and Mérida. The goal was to foster student exchange, virtual collaboration in language learning, and research collaboration.
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Translanguaging the Gulf: Teens in Mexico and the United States Collaborate to Create Multilingual, Expository Texts
Robin L. Danzak, Franz Bokel and Humberto Cervera
Emerson College, Programa de Ingles en Educación Básica Yucatán and Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán
Translanguaging describes how bilinguals integrate diverse languages naturally and adaptively in varying contexts. In Translanguaging the Gulf, bilingual adolescents in Mexico and the United States researched local issues and created multilingual texts to inform their international peers. Participants were 40 Maya-Spanish-English speaking students (aged 14-15), attending public school in Yucatan, and 43 English Learners (primarily Spanish-English speakers) (aged 12-15), attending public school in Florida. Texts were analyzed qualitatively to identify and quantify diverse translanguaging practices, including translation, adaptation, cultural reference, and divergence. Yucatec students integrated more translanguaging options based on multilingual social and community practices, whereas Floridian students relied primarily on translation to accommodate the Mexican teens or demonstrate language skills. Outcomes evidence students’ diverse and purposeful language use and highlight the value of engaging bilinguals in meaningful, multilingual text production for an authentic audience.
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Submission Deadline for the Spring 2020 Issue of SSTESOL Journal is October 1st, 2019
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The mismatch between teachers in the United States (US) who are predominantly white and monolingual, and an increasingly racially and linguistically-diverse student population has been largely documented in the literature (Landsman & Lewis, 2011; Milner, 2009). For instance, Marks, Yeager, Gatrell, and Bennett (2018) note that “slightly less than ten percent of US college students have first-hand international experiences from study abroad participation” (p. 1593). In the context of teacher preparation, study abroad remains an “under-researched, under-theorized, and under-evaluated” option for teacher candidates (Phillion, Malewski, Sharma, & Wang, 2009, p. 325).
While the student population in the U.S. grows more diverse, the teaching force remains largely white and monolingual. In The Condition of Education, federal data on the racial breakdown percentage of teachers in public elementary and secondary schools in 2016 was 80% White, 9% Hispanic, 7% Black, 2% Asian, and 1% two or more races (National Center for Education Statistics, 2016). This creates a gap between the lived experience of white monolingual, predominately female, teachers and the diverse students with whom they work. The National Education Association (NEA) recently proclaimed that it was “time for a change” in order to prepare quality teachers for 21st century diverse learners (National Education Association, 2014, n.p.).
Our focus is on the growing number of ELLs in US schools, juxtaposed with a predominantly white, monolingual teaching force (United States Department of Education, 2016). The number of ELLs across the United States is approximately 5 million, and ELLs represent more than 10% of the K-12 student population (NCES, 2015). More specifically, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) notes that while almost half of all children under five years of age are considered racial or ethnic ‘minority,’ 80% of bachelor’s degrees in education were awarded to non-Latino whites (AACTE, 2016).
Scholars question the preparation of white monolingual teachers to work with diverse learners (Howard, 2006; Tatum, 2003; Valenzuela, 1999), and there remains the question of how best to provide field experiences for teacher candidates in order to best prepare them for ELLs’ learning needs. This paper examines study abroad as a field placement experience for white teacher candidates (TCs). It focuses on the experiences of one TC who participated in a study abroad in the Dominican Republic (DR) and how she navigated complex social issues before, during, and after the experience. This study answers the question: How can study abroad prepare teacher candidates for ELLs?
Theoretical Framework: Quality Teacher Education for English Learners
This study is framed by sociocultural theory, a theory derived from the field of psychology and the work of Lev Vygotsky (1978). Sociocultural theory posits that individual development occurs as a result of human interaction, and this is influenced by the social and cultural context in which humans live, work, and participate in communities. Concepts such as culture, language, race, and ethnicity contribute to the ways that humans make sense of themselves (ontology) and the ways that they make sense of the world (epistemology).
Sociocultural theory can be applied to educational contexts. It underscores the relationships between students and teachers and acknowledges the situatedness or context of how teachers interact with students and how they support student learning. How teachers interact with students, the instructional decisions they make on their behalf, and the relationship that they build with students have deep implications for learning.
This is critical for teachers of students from non-mainstream, culturally and linguistically-diverse background. For instance, Lucas, Villegas, and Freedson-Gonzalez (2008) have identified several important areas that contribute to preparing high quality teachers and the knowledge, skills, and dispositions they need to work with ELLs. They suggest that teachers need (a) knowledge and skills that reflect a contextual understanding of their ELLs, including students’ home background, culture, and language(s); (b) knowledge and skills that link effective instructional practices to ELLs’ backgrounds and individual learning needs; and (c) the ability to navigate educational policies and practices at the local school, district, and state levels to ensure inclusive learning environments. Coady, Harper, and de Jong (2016) have further noted the relationship between these areas and what teachers of ELLs need to do (see Figure 1). In addition to the actual practices that teachers engage in for ELLs, it has been theorized that quality teachers of ELLs are reflective of their own practices, use students’ home languages as a resource for learning, as act as advocates for ELLs and families (Author, 2019; Zeichner & Liston, 2013).
Study abroad has the potential to address the first area—preparing high quality teachers—because theoretically the experience can contribute significantly to teachers’ knowledge about ELLs’ home languages and cultures, especially when the experience takes place in a country from which immigrants come. In addition, study abroad experiences can build empathy and critical consciousness, or an understanding of different power status among social groups. Critical conscious refers to “the role of power in larger social structures and one’s own responsibility to act in the interests of the oppressed” (Palmer & Menard-Warwick, 2012, p. 18). Palmer and Menard-Warwick found that developing critical consciousness was direct outcome of a short term study abroad to Mexico with TCs.
Figure 1: Enhanced Knowledge and Skills of Teachers of ELLs
High Quality Teachers of ELLs
Related to the first area of the theoretical framework, high quality teachers of ELLs “must learn about ELLs’ personal linguistic histories and cultural experiences, both within and beyond school” (de Jong, Harper, & Coady, 2013, p. 91). This aspect of the framework goes beyond simply knowing your student to more detailed and nuanced understandings of the individual, sociocultural, and historical contexts of students’ lives. The same research acknowledges the difficulty that mainstream teachers of ELLs have to understand the home languages and cultures of their ELLs, including where students are from, home literacy practices (Coady, 2009), and—for immigrant students—what their prior educational experiences in their home countries were like. It is not uncommon for teachers to focus on the immediate needs of the classroom teaching and learning but fail to connect the realities of ELLs’ lives and their learning in school (Coady, 2019; Emdin, 2016).
The second area that research shows builds expertise of teachers to work with ELLs is teachers’ ability to modify and differentiate instruction for ELLs based, on teachers’ pedagogical skills and knowledge-base of teaching. This pedagogical content knowledge of ELL teachers includes knowledge of how the English language works as well as how to ensure that language is visible across all academic content areas (Cummins, 2000; Turkan, de Oliveira, Lee, & Phelps, 2014). Yet when asked about their ability to connect students’ language and culture to classroom instruction, teachers frequently feel un- or under-prepared for the task (Coady, Harper, & de Jong, 2016). The ability to differentiate instruction based on ELLs’ linguistic and cultural background underscores the need to know ELLs and to connect their backgrounds to learning.
The third area of high quality teachers of ELLs is teachers’ ability to navigate local, state, and national educational policies and practices on behalf of their ELLs. Educational policies include not only local school district procedures but also state- and national-level policies such as federal acts (e.g., Every Student Succeeds Act, federal immigration policies) that affect the education of immigrant children in general and ELs in particular (Coady, Heffington & Marichal, 2017). Teachers who effectively respond to ELLs’ learning needs recognize that they must communicate with non-English speaking families in their home languages in effective ways. Taken together, these three areas of our theoretical framework describe a detailed scope of expertise that is essential to high quality teachers of ELLs.
Study Abroad as Field Experience
One area that holds promise for preparing teachers for English learning children is study abroad programs as field experiences. Scholars (Reyes 2009; Teague, 2010) argue that field experiences such as study abroad are effective in building high quality teachers for ELLs because they can inform teachers directly of the context and background of many of their students, particularly those who have immigrated to the US. Research in this area is limited, but some research demonstrates the transformative effect that study abroad has on teacher candidates (Kasun & Saavedra, 2016; Phillion et al., 2009; Reyes, 2009; Teague, 2010), and even short-term study abroad programs of two weeks or less have potential to affect TCs (Coady, Heffington, Lopez & Olszewska, 2019).
For instance, Teague (2010) studied the change in attitude and beliefs of six TC participants, who engaged in a cross-cultural field experience during their teacher education program. Each participant spent 15 hours in a diverse community setting over the course of one semester. Teague found that the participants’ views of diverse learners reflected “increased and more accurate knowledge” of ELLs and families (p. 205) after their field experience ended. Participants’ beliefs of ELLs were overall more positive upon completion of the field experience, and they felt better prepared to work with ELLs in classrooms.
In their three-week study abroad program in Honduras, Phillion et al. (2009) investigated the perceptions of 54 TCs. The authors sought to connect the experience with specific pedagogical practices for US classroom teachers. The scholars found that students grappled with three main areas: social class (namely living in extremely poor communities), gendered assumptions of US women when they were in Honduras, and racial and ethnic diversity. The authors used individual student experiences to describe the transformation that students experienced, noting “the lived experience of studying abroad provides preservice teachers the intellectual and critical starting point for multicultural awareness of the educational, social, and political relationships between their lives and other cultures” (p. 335, emphasis added). Thus, study abroad may begin critical conversations among TCs that lead to more effective instructional practices on behalf of ELLs.
Kasun and Saavedra (2016) studied identity disruption among eight teacher candidates who participated in an indigenous study abroad in Mexico. Using critical ethnographic methods, the scholars aimed to “decenter participants toward the ends of learning decolonizing pedagogies” (p. 692). They found that their TCs became more socially aware, empathetic and engaged in “deep personal introspection” (p. 695) during the program. The empathy that TCs displayed before and after the experience moved from more superficial notions of empathy toward acknowledging shifts in power relations, leading to personal and social transformation.
A continued challenge of study abroad for preservice teacher education programs have numerous state and national performance standards that makes deviating from such highly-regulated programs nearly impossible. TCs must consider how they can take time away from their teacher education program in order to participate in study abroad. For example, at our institution, coursework associated with study abroad is often not recognized as meeting undergraduate pre-requirements for the teacher education program. Thus, study abroad for preservice teacher education programs remains an add-on experience that can be both costly and time consuming. In sum, although there is a dearth of research on study abroad as an avenue for preparing high quality teachers of ELLs, data demonstrate that study abroad is a promising and potentially transformative experience for future teachers of ELLs.
To explore the potential of study abroad to better prepare teachers for a diverse student population, we examined one teacher candidate’s experiences of study abroad in Santiago de los Caballeros, an urban city in the Dominican Republic (DR). Amber was attracted to the program due to its promise of living and teaching in a developing Spanish-speaking country. The local area housed a community-based non-profit organization, Acción Callejera (AC), that provided social services, including food, healthcare, and educational support, to children in the DR who lived in extreme poverty. Some of the children were orphaned, and others had experienced home abuses. The AC program was an after-school program during the academic year and a full time program for students during the summer months. Funding for AC derived largely from grants from the US Agency for International Development (US AID, 2017). It was through the AC program that study abroad participants would be teaching during the DR study abroad.
At the time of the study abroad experience, Amber was a TC at a university in the state of Florida. She participated in a five-year teacher preparation program that awarded a Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) degree upon completion of the program. Amber was in her final semester of the undergraduate portion of the program (4th year undergraduate) and was looking forward to teaching in her own classroom. The DR study abroad program was a six-week experience located in Santiago de los Caballeros, the second largest city in the DR and the fourth largest in the Caribbean. The DR is an island nation situated on the island of Hispaniola, which is shared with the Republic of Haiti. Since the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010, Haitians have sought refuge in the DR and form a significant part of the DR labor force. Some Haitian children—native Creole speakers learning Spanish as a second language—participated in the AC learning centers where many needs were filled, such as food, educational support, and other social services.
The barrios or neighborhoods in which the study abroad students were placed to teach were extreme poverty settings. ‘Extreme poverty’ refers to conditions where people are deprived of basic human needs such as safe drinking water, sanitation, and healthcare (United Nations, 1995). Children and families who participated in the AC programs lived in homes constructed of corrugated metal and cardboard. They lacked running water and paved streets. When rains were heavy, the alleyways and streets flooded, making access to school sites impossible. Children attended classes in the AC learning centers of each day of the summer. Each learning center had a paid lead teacher, but the teacher was not required to have a teaching credential because the centers were not officially part of the public school system. Primary education in the DR is compulsory and free, but education is not compulsory at the secondary level. Amber was already committed to learning the Spanish language personally and professionally through a prior study abroad program in Costa Rica. She was aware of the necessity for a wider world perspective in her personal preparation as an educator. She felt that the DR program abroad would provide learning and exposure to the language, culture, pedagogy, and productive reflective skills that she sought to refine as a teacher candidate and subsequently as a new teacher. Maria was a faculty advisor to the DR study abroad program and the direct supervisor of Amber during the project.
In order to examine the DR study abroad program and its effect on one TC, the authors used participatory action research methods, which aligned the research process with “those people whose life-world and meaningful actions are under study” (Bergold & Thomas, 2012, n.p.). Before the program began, other TCs were interested in participating in this program; however, the 6 week length of the program, language requirement (intermediate or higher fluency in Spanish), and time and cost were barriers to other TC participants. Students from different majors outside of education also participated in the DR study abroad program. The original goal of the DR program was to pair education with non-education majors to collaborate and provide educational services to the Dominican students. However, with Amber as the only education major, the supervising faculty member, Maria, established an individualized work plan for the study abroad and was able to work more closely with her.
With the reconfiguration of the program, journaling between Amber and Maria took on a central focus. In addition, the scholars chose to journal because Amber’s departure to the DR preceded Maria’s, and journaling was an important mode of reflection and communicating during the experience. The initial idea for journaling was to communicate any particular needs and resources that Amber identified while in the D.R. (e.g., school supplies and books) that Maria could later bring with her to the DR, because she arrived several weeks into the program after Amber arrived. It was only after Maria arrived in Santiago, the city where the study abroad took place, that journaling took a new focus—one where Amber reflected critically on the DR experience and her work with the children in schools. In essence, journaling became a space where the teacher candidate was able to make sense of the experience and raise questions about education, teaching, and learning, as well as cultural issues surrounding the community.
The second data collection method used was oral co-construction of the experience through conversations between Maria and Amber. Amber’s teaching partner, Karen (pseudonym), also contributed to her understanding of the teaching and learning experience and was a sounding-board throughout the entire six-week study abroad program. Karen was not in a teacher education program but in an intensive, undergraduate nursing program. She assisted, however, in all of the preparation of the lessons and discussed the plans with Amber and with Maria. The researchers, along with Karen, debriefed after each teaching experience at the school setting in the DR. Maria took extensive notes during the debriefing meetings and co-planned and co-designed curriculum for the children before each of the following classes.
One of the activities that both researchers conducted together was adapting an early Spanish literacy curriculum called CANTA to the local education environment. CANTA, which is currently owned by Pearson Education, was a Spanish curriculum for Spanish speaking children and grounded in sound-symbol correspondence and vocabulary. The curriculum was designed in the 1990s but was offered to Maria by a bilingual educator to use in the DR. The entire series, Canta, Deletrea, Lee, & Escribe (Sing, Spell, Read, & Write), used sounds and song as a foundation for building literacy. The series consisted of audio recorded songs, small books for children to create and read based on letters and sounds, BINGO games for them to recite sounds of letters, and writing tasks and materials to extend literacy.
Once they were in the DR, the researchers realized that the children had a wide-range of literacy skills, from beginning sound-symbol correspondence to intermediate levels of reading. Those levels did not necessarily match the grade levels of the students. For instance, grade 5 (about 10 years old) children did not necessarily have a grade 5 literacy level. In addition, as noted earlier some of the children were Creole speakers with low literacy levels in Spanish as a second language. The researchers adapted the CANTA curriculum by matching the various activities such as a phoneme-awareness BINGO game to children’s reading ability levels, forming small groups for literacy development. They also co-planned their work at the study abroad office in Santiago where materials and copies of the early literacy books were organized and prepared for students to read. Maria took notes after each planning meeting with Amber and documented their upcoming activities for the following classes.
Finally, together the researchers analyzed the materials used and visible classroom culture (collectively, material culture) in the classroom. This included books and reading materials that existed in the AC classrooms, curricular materials, and the mission statement of AC. Amber captured the learning environment with pictures of the classroom, the school, and students’ work. For example, she created “maps of their community” with the DR students in her classroom and captured the images with her camera. She later used those materials for further reflection about the challenges and successes of implementing literacy lessons at AC.
Data analysis in this study was constructionist in nature. Both researchers played different roles in the experience of the DR study abroad, but their collective insights into the DR study abroad program was co-created. Bergold and Thomas (2012) note that because of the “individuality and self-determination of the research partners in the participatory research process, these strategies cannot be canonized in the form of a single, cohesive methodological approach, such as, for example, the narrative interview or qualitative content analysis” (n.p.).
To analyze the data, the researchers first segmented the reflection journals chronologically into three parts. They identified the early departure period (early May, 2016), the end of the experience (late June, 2016), and six months after the study abroad ended (about December, 2016). The rationale for these segments was to examine beliefs and views before, during, and after the DR experience, with a specific focus on determining what impact the experience in an extreme poverty setting had on Amber’s later teaching with ELLs in Florida. Amber was already committed to finding a teaching job; thus, this study aimed to see the ways in which Amber stated that the DR experience affected her work as a new teacher of ELLs. Data from each of those time periods are presented below.
In addition to chronologically segmenting the journals, the researchers co-constructed their experiences by reading and re-reading the dialogue journals, as well as Amber’s final, reflective essay of the experience. The authors highlighted places that were repeated in the data, creating categories that demonstrated significant learning and shifts in Amber’s knowledge and the effect of study abroad. For example, the researchers noted key words that held rich or multiple meaning in the experience such as what “safety” meant. For example, Amber was afraid that the second faculty member for the DR program, a Spanish language instructor, would not be sympathetic to her safety concerns related to transportation in Santiago. “Safety” involved not only transportation but also the transition into and out of extreme poverty neighborhoods, being a woman in the country, and the commitment to the students who lived in high poverty areas. Thus, the concept of ‘safety’ in this study abroad included emotional safety, bodily safety, and commitment. The authors worked to co-identify solutions to those different areas (transportation, gender and sexuality, and teacher commitment) of the teaching experience in the DR. This example demonstrates how initial data were coded openly, e.g., “safety”, were interpreted and later axial coded across data sources into codes of transportation, gender, and commitment.
Findings: One Teacher Candidate in the Dominican Republic
Only Amber as one of the 22 university students who participated in the DR program was participating in an accredited teacher education program at the time of the study. Other students were Spanish, science, arts, and engineering majors. Amber had knowledge and skills to organize and manage a classroom, write learning objectives, and identify instructional strategies and assessments. Her primary objective for participating in the DR program was to strengthen her experiences with children from linguistically-diverse backgrounds. In reflecting about the initiation to further her preservice education by studying abroad, she noted that
[d]uring a class in the midst of my teacher preparation program, a professor told us to take a look at the people in the room. What demographic did I see? I looked at my peers, and saw an overwhelming reflection of myself: white, middle-class women. This moment altered the track that my personal teacher-preparation would take as I realized the contradiction of the increasingly diverse student population and the current majority of white, middle-class female teachers.
The rationale for participating in a study abroad to the DR was to address the gap between diverse students’ backgrounds and Amber’s background as a white mainstream teacher. Three main themes emerged from the data and this case study. First was the notion of diversity and feeling like an outsider in a new environment. Second was building relationships to facilitate student learning. Finally, the third theme was connecting the experience to US classrooms.
Being an outsider
Amber quickly came to realize this stark contrast among teacher and student backgrounds come to life as she lived and taught within the culture of the DR. Knowledge about the gap between white monolingual teachers and the growth in culturally and linguistically diverse students in the US was insufficient but came to life during the DR study abroad program. With her perspective flipped—that is, being the only white person in the AC classroom—Amber became ‘hyper aware’ of how different she was from the people around her. Although she had a low intermediate level of Spanish, her limited proficiency in Spanish became another barrier. She surmised that this was how some children might feel every day in a ‘typical’ classroom in the US. In one of her early reflection journals, she wrote:
Today was our first day in the salas [classrooms]. We walked into the classroom and met the teacher and almost were immediately left to have the classroom to ourselves. We did not expect this nor were we prepared… There was also such an extreme lack of materials that creating an activity was hard. I was also struggling heavily with the language barrier, which will be a constant struggle these next six weeks.
As Amber continued to plan and implement lessons within the salas, challenges persisted, and she began to see important educational differences between the DR and the US. The experience also became more difficult for Amber because she believed that high quality education should consist of structure, management, and learning objectives for students, as they do in the US. She described the sense of feeling that students were missing the opportunity to learn and that they would not have the advantage of high quality classrooms. Amber wrote,
Inside the classroom in the DR I was placed in, things grew more difficult. The classroom itself was located in a high-poverty neighborhood where the children would arrive somewhere around 8:00 A.M. and leave whenever they wanted to. There was no enforcement in keeping the children in the classroom… I realized that the classroom operated… without learning objectives, classroom management, or assessments to gauge student learning.
In addition to the limitations surrounding learning, Amber documented her concerns of safety and transportation to Maria. She dreaded taking the local conchos, private vehicles that operated as a paid taxi system throughout the city. She was not prepared for the dangers of crossing the streets to hail a concho. In addition, she was vigilant of the constant sexual invitations, sounding as “tsssks,” from local men and could not put on the clothes she was comfortable wearing in the US for fear of drawing unwanted attention to her physical body.
While the learning environment remained a challenge, as each day passed, Amber gained cultural competences she could only acquire through persistence and open-mindedness in the country. Four weeks into the field experience, Amber’s reflections began to take on a new perspective. The clothing style became less physically uncomfortable as she became accustomed to the heat, her Spanish speaking abilities increased, and important relationships with the students grew. A hopefulness was fostered as she navigated life outside of her comfort zone. She continued to build relationships with the children who regularly showed up at the learning center, and she was determined to use her skills and knowledge as a TC to facilitate the students’ learning. In a journal entry midway through the DR study abroad, she noted
I took out the homemade flashcards we made (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division), and students started playing games with them on their own and practicing their math facts! I gave stickers to the winners. It was truly amazing today. We had a couple of students stay in the classroom for the whole three hours. That has not happened before.
The researchers also navigated the safety issues surrounding entering and leaving the barrios and physical spaces. As white women, they acknowledged that their physical appearance affected their work and heightened their awareness of race, social class, and gender. Most importantly, Maria felt that personal safety was paramount. After meeting one afternoon to plan the following class lessons, Maria suggested that together they take an individual taxi to the neighborhood school. This was one of the most difficult decisions to make, because it meant departing from the program requirements of using public transportation.
Building relationships for learning
Added to the negotiation of race, social class and gender, Amber realized that she was learning how building relationships with students and classroom management took time and effort, and that they were integral to student learning. By the end of the six week study abroad program, she wrote,
Ultimately, we provided the students a structured learning environment where they were able to… wait in a line without pushing, and complete the activity that was taking place. By the end of our time in that classroom, I saw pride in students’ faces when they completed an assignment or project. They almost always asked to hang their products on the wall for everyone to see.
Continuing her journal entry, Amber acknowledged that the students taught her more about herself as a future teacher than she taught them about language and literacy. For instance, she realized that learning involved significant social engagement and development, that students had different learning needs and styles, and the local environment and access to resources affected student learning directly. One student, for example, in the program had significant welts and discomfort due to contaminated water that could not clean his wound. Amber and Karen cleaned the wound with bottled water each visit and continued to monitor the student. By the close of the study abroad period, Amber’s reflections also revealed the critical impact of teaching to the whole child. It was impossible to expect academic content to be a priority for kids who had infected cuts, intense hunger distractions, and houses that had just flooded from the rain; children experiencing adversity. She came to understand how her content lessons would be taught in vain if her students’ basic needs were not first met.
Finally, Amber also gained a more in-depth understanding of a student-centered teaching approach. She saw the need to modify each lesson and to differentiate the activities to truly reflect the lives of the students in her class—their literacy levels, interests, culture, and strengths. For example, dance, an integral part of Dominican culture, became a frequently-used break strategy; group work was essential because collaboration and discussion were culturally-effective strategies to promote learning; and assignments were often in the form of games as student engagement often peaked in this way. The role of culture in learning was evident as the researchers continued to reflect upon and adapt the lessons in the AC program.
Connecting to US classrooms
Six months after the study abroad ended, Amber began to show the impact of the program and a critical perspective that revealed deep empathy for children in the DR. She was able to connect her experience in the DR with work as a new teacher of ELLs in the US. She wrote,
I learned how to make less into something more. I learned that despite my privileged upbringing, I had a capacity to connect with… disadvantaged students. I had to ask myself in the final days of my program if those children really were “disadvantaged.” While my students in the United States complained about not having a Mac computer, the students in Santiago found learning in the plants outside the classroom... I returned to the United States with a perspective that seemed completely foreign from the one with which I started. I felt a higher competence in empathizing with my students. I had more patience and felt less stressed when things didn’t go as planned.
The cross-cultural aspect of her teaching took shape in two ways: by learning to have less control and by seeing the benefit of the sociocultural classroom environment. Amber’s classroom became one of less control and an environment with a student-centered approach where students were better able to self-regulate their own learning.
After her experience abroad, Amber noticed specific competencies that she attributed to the learning gained in the DR. Her lessons in the US flowed with constant student oral discussion, which lead to more authentic and abundant learning for all students. She treated misbehaviors as demonstrative of student requests for help, and she translated her experiences with children in the DR directly to the needs of her students in the US. She incorporated multiple teaching strategies which responded culturally to some of her most diverse learners, such as music, language, and various links between real life and academic content. In short, Amber developed the skills to become a confident teacher of students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
Study abroad has the potential to build teachers’ knowledge of ELLs and to address the mismatch between the increasing number of diverse students in the US and a white monolingual teaching force. Amber’s experiences alerted her to how culture affects learning in the US and in the DR, particularly in terms of social class differences, poverty, and resources in education. Transportation was another area that caused considerable reflection and discomfort due to the expectations of safety and availability of transportation in the study abroad program. Having to make decisions and navigate the social environment in the DR heightened the awareness of the researchers to what new, immigrant ELLs in the US might experience. Changes in teaching for Amber occurred over a medium period of time and was facilitated through journaling, talking through social and educational differences, and reflecting on the experience of the DR both during and after the study abroad program ended.
Scholarship on education and teachers indicates that reflection is one of the most powerful tools that a teacher can develop and use (Brookfield, 2017). Brookfield notes, for example, that a critically reflective practitioner “hunts down” one’s assumptions in order to question and challenging inequities in and across educational contexts (p. 3). More than a century ago, Dewey (1916) noted that good teachers reflected on their observations of children, their professional knowledge, and their teaching experiences so that they could nurture each child’s learning. Amber similarly used reflection as a tool for understanding and making sense of the extreme poverty learning environment and used dialogue journals as a way to question, challenge, and identify solutions to problems.
Of the three areas above that the researchers believe facilitates the preparation of teacher-leaders, knowledge of the context of ELLs is most aligned to study abroad and its implications for teachers. For example, working and traveling in an extreme poverty setting, navigating transportation, safety, gender, social class, and addressing the physical needs of low income students heightened Amber’s awareness to her potential students’ various home experiences. In addition, Amber’s knowledge of the background of students became more acute as she tied that information to new knowledge in school, referred to as ‘building background knowledge’ with ELs (Echevarria, Vogt, & Short, 2010). Study abroad experiences—particularly those that take place in locations from where immigrant ELLs come—may be most useful for teachers to gain a deeper understanding of the context of education for their students.
Phillion et al. (2009) noted two main challenges for 21st century teacher education: first is how to work with diverse students; second is how to develop teacher candidates’ global competencies. This case of study abroad achieved both of these aims by addressing global competencies with teaching diverse ELLs. However, two main questions for study abroad programs and teacher educators remain: first, is a six-week study abroad too long (or too short) to build teacher competencies or critical reflection? The authors wondered if a shorter study abroad would achieve similar outcomes because Amber’s shift in her work with the students appeared to emerge at and after week 4 of the DR program. The question of length of time abroad may be important one for students in preservice teacher education programs, who are locked tightly into coursework that is difficult to modify.
A second question is should there be a fixed curriculum for TCs in study abroad settings, or is there a benefit to creating curriculum and materials once there? Phillion and colleagues (2009, p. 333) found that a “carefully planned study abroad curriculum” provides white TCs with the opportunity to explore and teach multicultural and global issues. It is not clear if that will become part of Amber’s classroom in the future, but further longitudinal data would illuminate this issue. The DR study abroad had a less structured format and curriculum, which made application of the DR materials and curriculum to US classrooms less clear from its inception.
Finally, there is a greater need to examine post study abroad reflections, perhaps a year or more after the program ends. High quality teachers of ELLs and teachers continually reflect on their practice and observe their students in order to work most effectively (Dana & Yendol-Hoppey, 2014). The benefits of study abroad may not be immediately known. Reflection that focuses on key differences between US and foreign classrooms such as classroom management and culturally-relevant literacy and literature would be most useful to help connect the study abroad experience to US classrooms and to build global competencies that address diversity in the 21st century.
Study abroad has the potential to deepen teachers’ knowledge of ELLs by illuminating teachers’ understanding of students’ home languages, their home country, and cross-cultural connections to classroom management and instructional practices. This case study has demonstrated how one TC was not only transformed by the study abroad experience, but also how her reflection during and after the experience allowed her to acquire what scholars refer to as ‘enhanced knowledge and skills’ (de Jong, Harper, & Coady, 2013). These knowledges and skills went beyond content knowledge of the classroom and included the qualities of connecting students’ home languages, literacies, and cultures to the mainstream classroom, navigating international spaces and cultural differences, and building upon individual literacy levels and differentiating learning. Although this study was limited to one student’s experience, the depth of her awareness of ELLs and the global competencies she acquired will benefit both herself and the future students she will teach.
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Preparing Teacher Candidates for English Learners: A Case of Study Abroad in the Dominican Republic
Maria Coady & Amber Peretz
University of Florida
Study abroad has the potential to support the development of teacher-leaders to work with English language learners (ELLs). In this paper, we describe the national context of teacher education for ELLs in the United States (US). We highlight recent literature on study abroad as a field placement experience for teacher candidates and describe a program in the Dominican Republic that took place in 2016. We focus on one teacher candidate, who engaged in teaching at a non-governmental organization (NGO) called Acción Callejera for children living in extreme poverty. The candidate was supervised by a university faculty advisor. Data included candidate reflections, a dialogue journal with the faculty advisor, and observations from the teaching experience. Findings demonstrate how the candidate navigated complex social issues of poverty and literacy. We offer implications for study abroad as a field experience for future teachers working with ELLs in the US.
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Much of the language used in classroom instruction involves vocabulary that is less likely to occur in non-academic environments. This academic vocabulary includes low-frequency words composed of multiple affixes contributing to a word’s meaning, its grammatical role in a sentence, and its semantic relationships to other words (Nagy & Townsend, 2012). Given the occurrence of academic vocabulary in texts, recommended practice includes explicit and systematic instruction on academic vocabulary and academic English for English language learners (ELLs) (Baker et al., 2014; Gersten et al., 2007).
Word Knowledge and Morphology
Vocabulary knowledge involves the meanings of words and their semantic and syntactic relationships with other words (Nagy, Carlisle, & Goodwin, 2014). One type of word knowledge is morphological awareness (MA). Morphological awareness is the explicit awareness of the smallest semantically meaningful units (i.e., roots and affixes, or morphemes) within a word, and their semantic and syntactic contribution to a word’s meaning (Carlisle, McBride-Change, Nagy, Nunes, 2010). Morphological awareness also includes knowledge about morphemes’ sounds and spellings, making it a skill that aligns closely with many academic demands (e.g., comprehending academic vocabulary and reading; Apel, 2014; Kuo & Anderson, 2006). Morphological awareness facilitates students’ ability to analyze semantic and syntactic relationships between words, particularly because word families are groups of words structured around a shared morpheme (Bauer & Nation, 1993). For example, MA enables the following word analysis: farm is related to farmer because both involve the root farm, a place where crops are grown. Farmer is a noun for a person who works on a farm because of the agentive -er.
Morphology is the domain of language that determines how morphemes are manipulated within words, and instruction in morphology has included a variety of strategies including teaching the meanings of affixes and roots, analysis of words into component morphemes, and highlighting morphological patterns (Goodwin & Ahn, 2010a, 2010b). Morphological interventions have highlighted both inflectional and derivational morphemes (Nagy et al., 2014), which serve different purposes. Derivational morphemes (e.g., agentive -er) are later developing than inflectional morphemes (i.e., suffixes that mark tense, plurality, or possession) (Kuo & Anderson, 2006). Derivational morphemes are prefixes and suffixes that create word families with different parts-of-speech (e.g., “to speak” and “the speaker”) or words within the same part-of-speech that carry different meanings (e.g., “farm” and “farmer”). Academic vocabulary words are largely comprised of derivational words (Nagy & Townsend, 2012). Of the research on morphology and morphological interventions, more has focused on derivational knowledge in the later elementary grades (Reed, 2008).
A positive relationship between MA and vocabulary in Spanish-English speaking students has been reported by multiple studies. These studies have used standardized vocabulary measures to quantify students’ breadth of vocabulary. Goodwin et al. (2011) correlated linguistically diverse students’ responses to a derivational MA measure (the Extract the Base [August et al., 2001]), and an expressive vocabulary measure (Woodcock Language Proficiency Battery Picture Vocabulary [Woodcock, 1991]). Results indicated a significant, strong positive relationship (Goodwin et al., 2011). Kieffer and Lesaux (2012) strengthened the evidence for the positive relationship between MA and vocabulary in students from Spanish-speaking households. In their linear growth curve model, results indicated student growth on MA from fourth to seventh grade was correlated with vocabulary growth during the same time. MA was measured using a similar derivational morphological measure (based on Carlisle ); vocabulary was measured using the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test – Revised [Dunn & Dunn, 1997]). Bivariate correlations between MA and vocabulary at each year were strong and positive (rs = .51-.57), and the correlation between latent growth was also strong and positive (r = .67). Students’ initial true (i.e., modeled) 4th grade vocabulary and initial true MA was correlated (r = .69), but initial vocabulary did not predict growth in MA, nor did the reverse (Kieffer & Lesaux, 2012). Finally, Goodwin et al. (2013) presented evidence that MA supported vocabulary knowledge which then supported reading comprehension in a structural equation model of reading comprehension in Spanish-speaking ELLs. The relationship between MA and vocabulary supports the hypothesis that MA is related to other literacy skills in ELLs, such as reading, and is important for teachers to consider when planning formal instruction (Kieffer, 2013).
Potential Benefits of MA Instruction
For ELLs in addition to other student populations, research has indicated that MA is a developmental language skill (Anglin, 1993; Bowers, Kirby, & Deacon, 2010; Kieffer & Lesaux, 2012; Kuo & Anderson, 2006). The previously described longitudinal analysis (of fourth through seventh grade students from Spanish-speaking homes) resulted in a model of significant MA development (Kieffer & Lesaux, 2012). According to Kieffer and Lesaux’s (2012) model, students’ improved MA by about 9.13 points per year on the morphological decomposition task, a task which is similar to MA measures employed in the present study.
Results from a meta-analysis on morphological intervention research indicated that MA instruction supported students’ phonological awareness, morphological knowledge, decoding, and vocabulary (Goodwin & Ahn, 2010b). Additionally, results from another meta-analysis on students with literacy difficulties, including ELLs, suggested morphological interventions resulted in larger gains for those students, as well as resulted in improvement to their reading fluency and comprehension (Goodwin & Ahn, 2010a). Finally, recent vocabulary interventions indicated that students improved vocabulary knowledge and MA following instruction that provided systematic and explicit MA strategies (Goodwin, 2016; Lesaux, Kieffer, Faller, & Kelley, 2014; Lesaux, Kieffer, Kelley, & Harris, 2014). Despite the importance of morphological instruction, Silverman, Proctor, Harring, Mitchell, and Meyer (2013) found that teachers rarely employed morphological strategies when teaching vocabulary. Regardless of the overall lack of classroom instruction using morphology as a word learning strategy, the authors’ analysis indicated that the observed morphological instruction significantly contributed to students’ vocabulary growth (Silverman et al., 2013).
Potential benefits of MA instruction on vocabulary knowledge is explained by several theories. Kieffer (2013) and Nagy Berninger, Abbott, Vaughan, and Vermeulen (2003) relate MA with the quality of lexical representations (Perfetti, 2007), and with the access and retrieval of vocabulary during literacy tasks (Ehri, 1992, 1994). Carlisle’s (2000) review of MA interventions describes theory relating MA and vocabulary through sub-lexical forms of word knowledge (Adams 1990; Seymour, 1997). Theories described by Adams (1990) and Seymour (1997) recognize Chomsky’s (1970) observation that English spellings of morphemes are likely to be maintained even if their orthographies (i.e., letter representations) are not decoded into component sounds. According to these theories, as students learn about morphemes they build sound (phonological) and spelling (orthographic) awareness at the level of the syllable and the morpheme, strengthening vocabulary knowledge.
Although accruing evidence supports the recommendation to provide explicit, systematic vocabulary instruction including MA strategies, there is a lack of research that applies this recommendation to instruction with ELLs, particularly ELLs from migrant-worker backgrounds. A student from a migrant background is defined as “a child who is, or whose parent or spouse is, a migratory agricultural worker, including a migratory dairy worker, or a migratory fisher” (EDFacts, 2017, p. 23). Students from migrant backgrounds may move between school districts on a temporary or seasonal basis in accordance with family employment opportunities. Students from migrant-worker families are at-risk for low vocabulary knowledge (Wood Jackson, Schatschneider, & Leacox, 2014), and encounter other linguistic barriers, economic instability, and reduced access to quality education and health services (Florida Advisory Committee, 2011). The most recent data from the U.S. Department of Education indicate Florida was ranked third out of states with the largest migrant student population (USDOE, NCES, 2005, as cited in FAC, 2011), serving more than 2,500 students from migrant backgrounds (FAC, 2011).
Age When Instructing ELLs
Although migrant worker populations are not equivalent to immigrant populations, research on language development from immigrant populations may provide some insight on bilingual language development in migrant children. When working with immigrant populations, previous research has demonstrated individual child differences in English vocabulary and morphology attainment based on age of arrival to the United States (Golberg, Paradis, & Crago, 2008; Jia & Aaronson, 2003; Jia & Fuse, 2007), which may be likened to age of English exposure. Jia and Fuse (2007) discuss the Critical Period Hypothesis (Lennenberg, 1967), L1 [first language] Transfer account (Lado, 1957, as reviewed by Gass, Behney, & Plonsky, 2013), and Environmental account (Jia & Aaronson, 2003) as theoretical explanations for such findings. The Critical Period hypothesis predicts that after childhood, native-like attainment of the second language is constrained by biological maturation (Lennenberg, 1967; as cited in Gass, Behney, & Plonsky, 2013; & Jia & Fuse, 2007). Whereas, transfer accounts consider the impact of native language knowledge, and environment accounts focus on the impact of variation of quality of English language exposure across age on second language acquisition (Jia, & Aaronson, 2003; Jia & Fuse, 2007).
For example, Jia and Fuse (2007) used evidence from their previous findings (Jia et al., 2002) to justify a comparison of the effects of age on English morphology when acquisition occurs before and after age 9. Although the researchers (Jia & Fuse, 2007) found no age differences in acquisition of tense versus non-tense morphemes, regular or irregular morphemes, or morpheme errors, there was evidence of an effect on mastery of morphemes (defined as 80% accuracy in obligatory contexts). Initially, the authors identified mostly non-significant positive correlations between age and individual morpheme mastery (indicating a trend toward an older learner advantage). However, by the fifth year of English exposure a younger learner advantaged became significant (a negative correlation between age of U.S. arrival and morpheme mastery). While age of arrival did predict some variance in third person singular (-s) and regular past tense (-ed) morphemes, a language environment measure better predicted variance. The language environment measure was based on a composite of English input and output that students were exposed to at home, in school, and with friends.
To evaluate the MA and vocabulary in participating ELLs from Spanish-speaking migrant family backgrounds the following research questions guided analyses.
1. How do ELLs from Spanish-speaking migrant family backgrounds perform on MA assessments before and after a four-week pilot MA intervention?
2. What is the relationship between students’ pretest and posttest MA performance and their performance on a standardized measure of vocabulary?
To recruit participants and obtain parent consent, the authors collaborated with an educational agency that provided a summer school program. The program was designated for children of migrant workers living in the panhandle region of Florida. The researchers provided program leaders with a short researcher-created questionnaire along with the consent paperwork to provide to parents of enrolled students. Ninety-two percent of participating parents returned the form, completing all or portions of the questionnaire.
Thirty-six students participated in the pilot intervention (56% female), which was approved by the Office of Research (HSB 2017.21273) at a large university in the Southeast. Students were in grade 4 (n = 13, 36%) grade 5 (n = 10, 28%), grade 6 (n = 8, 22%), and grade 7 (n = 5, 14%). Grade-levels corresponded to students’ grade-level during the academic school year before the summer term. Students’ average age was 11.89 years (SD = 1.36; min. = 8.58, max. = 14.67). Twenty-three parents provided students’ age of English exposure, which on average was 6.00 (SD = 4.19; min. = 0, max. = 13). Parents reported that most students (n =10, 44%) were exposed to English by age four, and (n = 15, 42%) most students were first exposed to English in school. Figure 1 displays students’ first English environment, and Figure 2 displays students’ age of English exposure. We do not have formal data to speak to students’ length of stay in the United States or years of schooling.
Figure 1: Students’ First English Environment
Figure 2: Students' Age of English Exposure
Most parents (n = 26, 72%) reported Spanish to be the home language. One parent reported English and Spanish as the home language, and nine parents did not provide home language details. Figure 3 displays parents’ highest education. Mothers’ reported a higher level of education than fathers, and most parents had their highest level of education at the elementary level (kindergarten through grade 8).
Figure 3: Parents' Highest Education
Data collection occurred on-site with the summer program. This included two sites, one elementary school and one university site. Students were in multi-grade classrooms. Teachers instructed grade 4 with grade 5 (n = 19) and grade 6 with grade 7 (n = 11) at the elementary school, and all four grades were instructed together for the pilot intervention at the university (n = 6). All classroom teachers participated a one-hour workshop on morphological awareness directed by the researchers the week before program commencement. The workshop included a lecture, brief video, dissemination of intervention materials, small group discussion, and question and answer time with the researchers. All teachers, except for one who was added as a co-teacher later due to large 6th and 7th grade enrollment, had experience teaching in the program during previous years. The students’ school district was classified under Title I, indicating low socio-economic status, and the educational agency reported 100% of participants were of Hispanic ethnicity and white racial backgrounds.
Core Components of the Pilot MA Intervention
This study is in response to the need to increase research testing the application of MA instruction to ELLs from Spanish-speaking migrant backgrounds. The authors piloted supplemental MA instruction during a summer educational program designated for migratory students. To develop supplemental MA instruction, the authors prepared a pilot MA curriculum following recommended practices to support vocabulary learning. Recommended practices found to support ELLs’ vocabulary learning include: (a) using a language-rich curriculum with systematic, explicit instruction; (b) repeating target exposures in meaningful contexts; and (c) leveraging Spanish cognates (Carlo et al., 2004). These recommendations served to establish the foundation of the pilot intervention.
The supplemental instruction was designed to provide 15-minute daily lessons on specific affixes. Each week, lessons targeted one affix which was modeled in academic vocabulary words selected from the Academic Word List (Coxhead, 2000). Classroom teachers implemented the daily lessons. Students received workbooks that contained visuals and worksheets for each lesson. The authors provided a glossary of targeted base words to assist students when inferring the meaning of a morphologically complex word containing a target affix. Teachers were provided binders of lesson plans that contained an overview of each activity, optional scripting for lesson implementation, student grouping recommendations, a materials list, and answer keys to student workbook pages. A week before the intervention, the authors provided teachers with an hour of training on affixes, word analysis, and how MA supports literacy. Teachers discussed the instruction and communicated with the researchers during the training and throughout the pilot study. The pilot curriculum was presented in English. However, teachers called attention to cognates of English target words to provide a link to students’ home language and to facilitate learning.
The authors developed the pilot instruction to include evidence-based strategies for increasing students’ MA and vocabulary learning. Specific language learning strategies included: (a) bombardment, or consciousness raising through frequent exposure to targets with repetition (Ardasheva, Wang, Adesope & Valentine, 2017; Apel & Diehm, 2013; Axelsson, Churchley & Horst, 2010; Silverman et al., 2013); (b) active practice composing sentences using targets within meaningful linguistic contexts (Ardasheva et al., 2017; Biemiller & Boote, 2006; Elley, 1989; Ukrainetz, 2015); (c) links to existing knowledge by pairing targets with synonyms, expansions, and associations to enhance breadth and depth of vocabulary (Apthorp et al., 2012; Baumann, Ware, & Edwards, 2007; Beck & McKeown, 2013; Dalton, Proctor, Uccelli, Mo & Snow, 2011); and (d) visuals to show derivational conversions and to depict word meanings (Apel & Diehm, 2013; Gersten et al., 2007). Following each activity, teachers provided content reviews with checks for understanding, which was supported by the optional scripting for teachers in the lesson plans.
Description of Activities
To introduce students to morphological word analysis, the first day of instruction was dedicated to teaching concepts and labels for the following terms: affix, base word, prefix, and suffix. Teachers introduced each concept with a simple definition (e.g., “Affix – word part that attaches to the beginning or end of a word”), examples, and a learning activity. For example, the instructional activity for “affix” involved a group of words and a list of the affixes contained in all of the words, except for one affix which was missing. Following a discussion on morphological combination, students were required to find the missing affix.
For prefixes and suffixes, activities included the following: students read a definition for each affix term (i.e., prefix or suffix) and the definition for one affix example (e.g., “Un- means not”). Next, students read sentences demonstrating simple morphological analysis (e.g., “Detours are not cool. They’re uncool.”). Then teachers asked students to provide a new base word to combine with the targeted affix example. Finally, students read a non-example (e.g., “tr-” is not an affix). The non-example demonstrated three words with the same spelling at the beginning or end of the words (e.g., “tried, trusted, true”). Non-examples served to demonstrate that affixes exist because they possess a unique meaning, not only because they have the same spelling. During the second week, teachers introduced the concept of roots (i.e., affix bases that cannot stand as a word along) using similar activities. Teachers also presented translated lists of targets which were cognates, or words containing similar sounds and spellings in Spanish and English (e.g., for the prefix “re-”, English “respond” and Spanish “responder”).
After introductory lessons, which included the first day of the first two weeks, students received instruction targeting the meaning of the following affixes and their vocabulary words; “-ful”, “re-”, “trans-”, and “-ment.” Instruction each week typically followed a sequence where students reviewed morphological analysis for three targets (e.g., harmful, powerful, stressful). The analysis presented a visual and a definition for the affix and the base word separately, then showed a visual and a definition for the new word when the two were combined. For bombardment, the lessons provided multiple examples of the affixed vocabulary in a short story written to be accessible to an average second grade reader (i.e., Lexile scores ranged from 390 to 550; Lexile, 2018). Students identified target vocabulary during reading and discussed the targets to answer comprehension questions. Other typical instructional activities included discussion using affixes to generate new words, discussion of cognates, morphological analysis to deduce word meanings, sentence completion tasks, sentence generation tasks, and small group activities (e.g., BINGO, “make a poster”) that involved definition-matching or definition production with words that contained the targeted affixes.
Morphological Awareness. Three MA measures were used to document students’ MA at the beginning and end of the pilot intervention: (a) the Extract the Base (August et al., 2001), (b) the Word Decomposition Task (adapted from Kieffer and Lesaux [2012a]), and (c) the Nonword Task (adapted from Kieffer and Lesaux [2012a]). All three measures were read aloud by the test administrator to reduce the influence of decoding on responses. The Extract the Base (ETB) is a group administered 28-item assessment where students wrote the simplest base word of a morphologically complex stimulus word to complete each sentence. The maximum raw score on the ETB is 56 points. This assessment is based on research by Carlisle (1988) and Anglin (1993) and was validated on students monolingual and bilingual in English and Spanish and who included English Language Learners (Goodwin et al., 2011). The sample’s reliability on the ETB (n = 27) was good (Cronbach’s alpha = .95).
The Word Decomposition Task (WDT) and the Nonword Task (NT) are researcher-adapted, group-administered assessments based on measures used by Kieffer and Lesaux (2012a). The WDT is a 27-item assessment, with the same structure as the ETB, but the WDT was designed to include intervention targets in a later full-scale intervention study. The maximum raw score on the WDT is 27 points. The sample’s reliability on the WDT (n = 27) was also good (Cronbach’s alpha = .93), irrespective of whether scoring penalized for orthographic (i.e., spelling) errors.
The NT is a 17-item multiple-choice assessment which also requires students to complete sentences. Response options consist of four pseudo-words ending in true derivational suffixes. Students must select the nonword containing the derivational suffix that correctly fulfills the obligatory grammatical role of the word missing in the sentence. The maximum raw score on the NT is 17 points. The sample’s reliability on the NT (n = 27) was adequate (Cronbach’s alpha = .55).
Vocabulary. Students’ vocabulary was measured using the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test Fourth Edition (PPVT-4; Dunn & Dunn, 2007). The PPVT is an individually administered measure of students’ receptive vocabulary. Students select the picture of an orally presented vocabulary word from a group of four pictures until eight or more errors are produced. Participants’ standard scores are compared to a normative sample with the following demographic characteristics; 62-63% white, 15-17% Hispanic, 7-14% of examinees with parents with less than a grade 11 education, and 27-40% located in the southern U.S. Reliability for the normative sample was good (Cronbach’s alphas = .96-.94) (Dunn & Dunn, 2007).
Students completed MA assessments during the first and fourth week of intervention. The primary researcher administered all three MA measures to classroom groups, approximating one hour and fifteen-minute assessment sessions with five-minute breaks between assessments. The order of test administration was counter-balanced across classrooms groups to reduce training effects between the ETB and WDT. Research assistants (RAs) collected assessments immediately upon completion.
RAs scored responses to the ETB following published procedures (Goodwin et al., 2011). Each ETB item received full credit if the answer provided the correct base word using correct orthography (earning two points). If students provided the correct base word but committed a spelling error phonetically similar to the target word, the response earned partial credit (one point). Responses that failed to produce the base word or contained other morphological errors (e.g., including a plural “s” for a non-plural) earned zero credit. Responses to the WDT were scored using a researcher-created rubric. Each item was scored twice using separate criteria. For the first dichotomous score, students were awarded one point for supplying the correct base word using correct orthography (WTDO). For the second dichotomous score, students were awarded one point for supplying the correct base, but students were also provided the point if the response contained a phonetically-justifiable orthographic error (WTD). Finally, responses to the NT earned one point for every correctly selected multiple-choice item. For all MA assessments, points were summed to obtain a total raw score per assessment for each student.
Four RAs entered students’ written ETB and WDT responses into an electronic database with an interrater agreement of 90% or higher. For the NT, two RAs scored and entered students’ selections into an electronic database. Six discrepancies were resolved by a third RA and confirmed by the researchers.
Vocabulary assessment was completed one week after the first MA assessment session. The primary researcher and an RA administered the PPVT-4 to individuals according to the assessment manual’s standard procedures in a quiet location outside of students’ classrooms. All responses were scored, summed for a total raw score, converted into a standard score, and entered into an electronic database by an RA. A second RA independently rescored all PPVT-4 tests, double-checked the database entries, and flagged twelve discrepancies. The primary researcher compared and resolved all discrepancies.
The complete database organized data for 28 variables including students’ demographic information, parent education levels, the MA measures (including an additional MA measure not analyzed in this paper), the PPVT-4, and vocabulary measures collected from student-produced written language samples not analyzed in this paper. Of 1,008 data points, 17.26% (174 data points) were missing, representing a typical amount of missing data for educational research (Dong & Peng, 2013; Enders, 2003). One student missed all MA pretests, ten students missed all MA posttests, and of students with both MA pre- and post-test data one missed the PPVT. Three one-way ANOVAs indicated that pretest means on the ETB, WDTO, and NT were not significantly different between students with and without posttest data (F[1, 33] = .29, p = .60; F[1, 33] = .89, p = .35; F[1, 33] = .24, p = .63).
To answer the first research question, means, standard deviations, and paired t tests were conducted to summarize the sample’s performance. Spaghetti plots visually represented individual students’ response to the pilot intervention. To further examine performance, frequencies of growth patterns, and means and standard deviations of students who demonstrated positive growth were computed. To answer the second research question, partial correlations between pretest and posttest MA assessments (ETB, WDTO, and NT) and the PPVT raw scores were conducted. Partial correlations were used to control for the effects of variance in students’ chronological age on the relationships. A Bonferroni correction for 36 correlational tests was computed to correct for any increase in type-1 error resulting in a p-value of .001389 or less to indicate statistical significance.
Table 1 summarizes MA assessment means, standard deviations, and pre- to post-test difference scores for the group of students with pretest and posttest data. Paired samples t-tests found a significant increase in students’ ETB (t = 2.84 , p < .01) when using the uncorrected alpha level of .05. The sample’s 4.16 points average increase on the ETB was equal to a gain of 7% points in total accuracy. Students’ increase in WDTO/WDT did not reach significance (t = 2.02 , p = .06, t = 1.28 , p = .21). Because the scoring criteria for WDT was less stringent than WDTO, all students scored the same or higher on WDT than WDTO at each time point. However, this pattern was not observed in individuals’ difference scores. The mean difference in NT was tested using the nonparametric Wilcoxon signed ranks test due to violations of the t statistics’ distributional assumptions. Visual analysis of a boxplot of the NT score distribution revealed a collapsed upper whisker with four high outliers, and a significant one-sample Kolmogorov-Smirnov test suggested departure from normal distribution (Z = .27, p < .001). When using the uncorrected alpha level of .05, nonparametric results indicated a significant difference between students’ pre- and post-test scores, with lower pretest NT scores (p = .011).
Figure 4: Spaghetti Plots of Student Growth on MA Assessments (n = 25)
The sample’s average standardized vocabulary (PPVT, n = 24) was below the PPVT’s normative average. An average PPVT standard score is 100 with a standard deviation of 10, and the sample scored below three standard deviations (M = 66.33, SD = 27.39). Because vocabulary knowledge develops across the lifespan, correlations between MA and vocabulary controlled for the sample’s varying age by partialing out variance attributable to age. Tables 2 and 3 show Pearson partial correlations between MA measures and vocabulary controlling for age. There were significant positive correlations between the ETB and vocabulary (rs = .81, .89, ps = <.0001) and WDTO and vocabulary (rs = .84, .75, ps = <.0001) at both time points. The relationship between NT and PPVT did not meet the criterion for significance following a Bonferroni correction (pretest r =. 57, p = .005; posttest r = .55, p = .006). Correlations between MA measures are also provided.
Table 1: Means and Standard Deviations of Students with Pretest and Posttest MA Assessments (n=25)
Table 2: Correlations Between MA Pretests and Receptive Vocabulary controlling for Age
Figure 4 displays spaghetti plots of students’ individual growth patterns on the MA assessments. Students demonstrated similar patterns of growth on all MA assessments. Most students increased their accuracy beyond standard errors of average performance across both administrations of MA tests. On real-word derivational MA measures (WDT/WDTO and ETB), 36%, 48%, and 52% of students displayed positive growth respectively. On the NT, 60% of students displayed positive growth. Table 4 summarizes students with positive growth and the average amount of growth in raw points and percent accuracy per MA measure. The largest number of students with positive growth was on the NT measure. Average positive growth, when considering the differences in the scales of the tests, was the largest for the WDT and NT. The 5.33 points average increase on the WDT was equivalent to a gain of 20% in accuracy for the 9 students with growth on this task. The 2.73 points average increase on the NT was equal to a gain of 16% in accuracy for the 15 students with growth on this task. Five students displayed a pattern of growth beyond standard errors of average performance on all ETB, WDTO, and NT MA measures. Finally, growth in any one MA measure was not correlated with growth in any other MA measure between the ETB, WDTO, and NT (rs = -.21 to .16, ps = .32 to .48).
Table 3: Correlations Between MA Posttests and Receptive Vocabulary Controlling for Age
Table 4: Students’ Positive Growth on MA Assessments Beyond Standard Error of Average Pre-/Post-Performance
Given previous validation of the ETB with students from similar linguistic backgrounds (Goodwin et al., 2014), the means and standard deviations for this study’s subgroup of students with positive growth on the ETB were further explored in conjunction with their vocabulary performance. ETB scores for this subgroup of students are displayed in table 5. Despite the PPVT’s significant correlations with the MA tests, visual assessment of a scatterplot between ETB difference scores and vocabulary did not suggest any relationship between the PPVT and ETB growth. Scatterplot analysis of ETB difference scores and ETB pretest performance suggested a weak, negative relationship, which was supported by the partial correlation coefficient using the uncorrected p-value (r = -.42, p = .02).
The primary aim of this study was to examine the feasibility of implementation of a pilot MA intervention and to expand the knowledge base on the MA performance of ELLs from Spanish-speaking migrant family backgrounds. In addition, this study attempted to determine if students’ MA was related to their receptive vocabulary to demonstrate evidence of a connection to prior research. The successful implementation of the pilot intervention supports the feasibility of teachers’ implementation of a morphological intervention in daily English language arts instruction. This adds to the existing literature, particularly in light of the existing literature suggesting that teachers rarely employ morphological strategies in business-as-usual instruction when teaching vocabulary (Silverman et al., 2013). The pilot intervention project suggests that although business-as-usual does not typically include an emphasis on MA during vocabulary instruction, it is feasible to integrate MA within a short supplemental program. Additionally, the results demonstrate the malleability of students’ MA skills in response to instruction, which is consistent with previous findings reported in the existing literature (Goodwin, 2016; Lesaux, Kieffer, Faller, & Kelley, 2014; Lesaux, Kieffer, Kelley, & Harris, 2014).
Further, students’ improvement on the MA measures, which required students to identify base words within derivational vocabulary or to identify the derivational affix that fits the context of a sentence, is encouraging given the relatively short interval of instruction. These results align with previous research demonstrating teachers’ use of word relationships and morphology to be an effective instructional strategy (Silverman et al., 2013). The positive relationships resulting from this study’s correlational investigation between MA and vocabulary extend the hypothesis that MA is relevant to vocabulary development in ELLs from Spanish-speaking migrant family backgrounds.
The general pattern of improvement in students’ MA performance may be linked to several properties of the investigated pilot curriculum. First, the curriculum systematically introduced affixes through demonstrating the affix’s meaning in context by using visuals and definitions that related the affix to multiple words. This, in addition to embedding MA instruction in a variety of linguistic contexts (e.g., word-level to text-level reading and writing tasks), followed an integrated approach to instruction found to be more supportive of student development (Bowers et al., 2010). Second, the collaborative nature of the activities may have supported ELLs’ development because students had multiple opportunities to negotiate meanings through interactions with a variety of peers to augment comprehensibility of language input (Carlo et al., 2004).
The relationship between MA and vocabulary demonstrated in the current study is consistent with relationships reported in the literature review (Goodwin et al., 2011; Kieffer & Lesaux, 2012). The positive relationship between MA and vocabulary investigated in other larger groups of Spanish-speaking ELLs (e.g. Goodwin et al., 2011; Kieffer & Lesaux, 2012) was similarly apparent in this smaller sample of ELLs who were from Spanish-speaking migrant family backgrounds. The relationship between MA and vocabulary supports theory relating MA with quality of vocabulary representations in the lexicon and access to vocabulary in the lexicon (Perfetti, 2007). In this sample, better performances on the ETB and WDTO at both time points were associated with more developed receptive vocabulary. Although significant and very strong relationships were observed between MA (ETB and WDTO) and vocabulary, this relationship did not extend to growth in vocabulary, nor with one measure of MA. The lack of a relationship between vocabulary and growth in ETB may imply that growth in MA is not constrained by students’ English vocabulary level. However, these results may also imply that the benefits of four weeks of instruction in MA may not be strong enough to transfer gains to vocabulary growth. This implication should be interpreted cautiously since this was a MA pilot study, and thus a pre- and post- assessment for vocabulary growth was not administered. Even so, measurable distal (i.e., vocabulary) change was not expected due to the limited (i.e., four-week) intervention duration.
MA performance between the ETB and WDTO, which employed similar tasks, demonstrated a positive correlation, supporting the validity of the researcher-created WDTO assessment. However, the NT was not correlated to the ETB at either timepoint nor to the WDTO pretest. The lack of a consistent relationship between the NT and other MA measures as well as vocabulary may indicate that students’ development of syntactic knowledge associated with morphemes is separate from vocabulary knowledge relating base words with their affixes in morphologically complex derivational vocabulary.
Limitations and Future Directions
Because this was a pilot-study on the classroom implementation of the early stages of a MA intervention with a unique student population, the study design contained several inherent limitations to drawing conclusions regarding the effects of the MA intervention. The analyses were unable to account for other variables relevant to ELLs (e.g; length of stay in the U.S., years of schooling, quantity and quality of English exposure). Therefore, the results of this study offer preliminary evidence to suggest what researchers or teachers may expect when attempting to perform similar instruction with ELLs from similar language and migrant backgrounds. Limitations to inferences generated by the results of the current study, as well as possible directions for future research, are described below.
Teachers’ style and individual variation in lesson implementation may be related to trends in individual differences in students’ performance; however, it was beyond the scope of this pilot project to test teacher effects. Although teachers were provided with lesson plans that included optional scripting for increased programmatic support for each instructional day, observations indicated that teachers varied in their implementation of the intervention. For example, one teacher provided elaborated examples and related instruction to students’ recent experiences while another teacher followed the optional scripting to keep lessons short and concise.
Another limitation of the current study was the small number of students per grade which restricted the analysis of grade-level differences in response to MA instruction. This limitation is common in the existing literature base, as few MA studies include sufficient numbers of students from multiple grades, limiting implications for effective instruction at specific grades (Nagy et al., 2014). Future research would benefit from including larger numbers of students total and per grade level in order to further explore the relationship between performance and growth in MA and vocabulary after participating in MA intervention.
In addition to limitations presented by a small sample size, this study used a pre-post design utilizing the same MA measures at each time point without a comparison or control group. Therefore, unmeasured third variables or a test-retest effect may have influenced students’ performance. A test-retest threat to validity may be mitigated by the fact that students were required to take multiple MA assessments, and they participated in vocabulary assessment between pre- and post- MA assessments, limiting their ability to memorize individual items. Additionally, students were required to take MA assessments in a different order from pre- to posttest.
In addition, the duration of the present study prevented investigation into age effects. It is important that educators be aware of age as a relevant factor to consider when instructing ELLs, both students’ chronological age and age of first English exposure. A similar comparison between younger and older students’ morphological performance to comparisons such as in Jia and Fuse (2007) was not warranted in the current study due to limited data collection points (two data points spanning a four week period). The age effect in Jia and Fuse (2007) was evidenced due to the longitudinal study design, where data from the same participants were collected over multiple sessions. Future research on this topic would benefit from utilizing a longitudinal design with greater than two data points over a protracted period of time, such as five years, as was required by the native Mandarin speakers in the study by Jia and Fuse (2007) to demonstrate significant age effects.
Unmeasured third variables may have affected student’s MA results. Because the study did not have a control or comparison group it is impossible to determine if patterns of growth were caused by the pilot intervention or by specific components of the intervention. Unmeasured student internal and external variables may influence the rLationship between MA and vocabulary in ELs from Spanish-speaking migrant backgrounds and how students learn from MA instruction. These variables may include the age of English exposure, the quantity and quality of English exposure, the linguistic relatedness between two languages being developed, parent education, and the consistency in students’ language instruction given a migratory background. Future research involving MA instruction should randomly assign students to a control or comparison group to test if MA intervention results in greater MA gains compared to students receiving business-as-usual or specific components of the pilot instruction. In addition to controlling for third variable effects, future research should compare the effectiveness of differing lengths of MA instruction. It is possible the short instructional duration of four weeks may have limited students’ potential to benefit from instruction.
In conclusion, results from this pilot study demonstrate the feasibility of classroom teachers’ implementation of pilot MA instruction and describe the MA and vocabulary of ELLs from Spanish-speaking migrant family backgrounds. A proportion of students across all grades demonstrated growth on MA measures, and overall, students performed better on MA measures following MA instruction. Correlations between MA and vocabulary in this group of students demonstrate the need for future research to determine how relationships between the two variables are influenced by the type of MA measure. In addition, future research exerting experimental control by comparing MA intervention to a control group will strengthen the rationale for providing explicit MA instruction in the classroom.
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Results from a Morphological Awareness Pilot Study for English Learners from Spanish-English Migrant Backgrounds
Kristina N. Bustamante, Carla Wood and Rachel Hoge
Florida State University
In this study, English learners from Spanish-speaking migrant family backgrounds were enrolled in an educational program that piloted a four-week morphological awareness (MA) curriculum. All instruction occurred in English, and classroom teachers implemented investigative MA lessons in addition to business-as-usual instruction. Investigators administered MA assessments at the beginning and end of the program. Investigators also administered a vocabulary assessment to answer a correlational research question. Of the students with complete pre- and post-test morphological awareness data (n = 25), significant differences between pre- and post- performance were found for all MA measures, with better performance on the post-test measure. Correlational analyses demonstrated strong and positive correlations between two MA measures and receptive vocabulary. Results support the use of morphological awareness instruction for English language learners (ELLs).
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During training sessions for the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP), workshop leader Lydia Stack (personal contact, 2012), reported that workshop attendees regularly ask her for advice regarding how to select and target academic vocabulary. While the profession touts an ongoing message that English language learners (ELLs) need 5 to 7 years to academic language, seemingly many professionals feel ill-at-ease with the idea of selecting vocabulary items that happen foster effective academic progress.
In the meantime, corpus linguists (West, 1955; Coxhead, 2000) have offered lists of vocabulary which may seemingly showcase which words are most frequently represented in texts, implying that initial focus upon these lexical items may provide an efficient means of directing students toward specific vocabulary that could assist them in college. This article asks, however, to what degree these vocabulary items may be representative of the language elementary and secondary students receive in their schooling—most particularly from their textbooks.
ELLs, K-12 contexts, and vocabulary
When ELLs enter any English-medium class for the very first time, they might enter a room similar to that suggested by Celic (2009), whose classroom is a festival of print—posters, labels, various language and literacy development charts, sentence strips, writing resource tables, computers, electronic tablets, learning spaces, and leveled books, including resources in the students’ home languages. And if the children are really lucky, there will almost assuredly be a word wall. Naturally, one does not simply put up a word wall and depend on new ELLs’ reflective examination of it at their own volition. Instead, teachers often foster contextualized use of the word wall words, leading students through word games, puzzles, or other lexical activities (Shaptoshivili, 2002; Eyraud, Gilles, Koenig, & Stoller, 2000), thereby promoting multiple hits of vocabulary such that each word may then move into a child’s long-term memory (Schmitt, 2000). In other words, vocabulary instruction is overt and explicit. The acquisition of many words can be enabled through pictures or movement; they’re concrete. Other words, though, often the academic vocabulary, are abstract and aren’t learned with such ease.
In Florida, most ELLs find themselves in mainstream classes before they use English at near-native-like rates (Robinson, 2011). Thus, students’ negotiation of English-delivered content—particularly Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies—is often automatically more difficult. In Florida, as a result of the Florida Consent Decree (Florida Department of Education, 1990), all elementary school educators and all Language Arts teachers and Reading coaches, including those in secondary schools, are asked to complete English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Endorsement programs before working with ELLs, thus levying them a document of expertise regarding their training (Florida Department of Education, 2001).
Mainstream teachers may easily find themselves girded to a curriculum which forces them to implement materials which include statements of ESOL strategies at the bottom of lesson plans (Reeves, 2010; Hu, 2011). In other words, they may be directed to curricula and supporting texts that cater only tangentially to ESOLers’ needs. In fact, a Council of the Great City Schools survey (Uro & Barrio, 2013) showed that at over 80% of respondents claimed that their mainstream materials serve their ELLs either “somewhat” or “not at all.” Resultingly, many ELLs find themselves in classes where teachers may have had some training for ESOL but end up not conducting ESOL-adjusted classes at all (Dwyer & O’Gorman-Fazzolari, in review). Such phenomena seemingly perpetuate Collier and Thomas’s (2001) admonishment that students whose English language skills limit their academic progression often find themselves in classrooms that fail to support their content learning.
Vocabulary with respect to primary and secondary level mainstream English Language Arts coursework has gained even additional emphasis in the U.S. with respect to newly established Common Core requirements (Council of Chief State School Officers and National Governors Association, 2013). As a foundation for establishing a curricular trajectory aiming for a goal of so-called “career readiness,” six so-called shifts were named in the state of New York’s approach to the Common Core:
Shift 1: PreK-5 Balancing Informational and Literary Text
Shift 2: 6-12 Knowledge in the Disciplines
Shift 3: Staircase of Complexity
Shift 4: Text-Based Questions and Answers
Shift 5: Writing from Sources
Shift 6: Academic Vocabulary (EngageNY, 2013; emphasis added).
Calling for concentration on academic vocabulary a “shift” is remarkable. Such acknowledgment comes decades after the narratives of Cummins (1979), Collier and Thomas (1989), and Hakuta (1999), who herald students’ mastery of academic language as necessary to graduate, reporting that the amount of time one needs between entering the U.S. as an ELL and the time one passes the state exams can be on the order of five to seven years. Thus, such a shift may be aligned with curricular approaches of elementary and secondary ESOL program designers. Often-touted lesson plan designs—e.g., the Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach (CALLA) (Chamot & O’Malley, 1994) and the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) (Echevarria, Vogt, and Short, 2012)—mention academic vocabulary and suggest that it be an integral consideration of lesson planning.
Beck, McKeown, and Kucan (2002)—who are touted with respect to Common Core principles (Liben, 2014)—delved deeply into the concepts of academic vocabulary. They support explicit teaching of vocabulary for native English speakers, and they trumpet the merits of learning academic language, particularly with respect to teaching specific vocabulary items based on a teacher’s analysis of words as they reflect on three tiers:
· Words that are important to the story but that can be dealt with very quickly.
· Words that do not call for attention; students will understand it, and more knowledge is not needed to understand the story.
· Words that are needed to understand the situation the author uses to set up the story, but can be quickly described as "those things that stick out.
· More precise information is not required for this selection.
· Importance and utility: Words that are characteristic of mature language users and appear frequently across a variety of domains.
· Instructional potential: Words that can be worked with in a variety of ways so that students can build rich representations of them and of their connections to other words and concepts.
· Conceptual understanding: Words for which students understand the general concept but provide precision and specificity in de-scribing the concept.
· The rest of the words do not play key roles in the story, nor is their unfamiliarity likely to interfere with comprehension. (paraphrased here from Beck et al’s Reading Rockets web column)
While many educators agree that vocabulary is vital to one’s literacy and educational development, even with Beck’s guidelines, the degree to which vocabulary is addressed in any class, ESOL or mainstream, can still be still cloudy. Despite 30 years or so of such narrative, Ester DeJong (personal contact, 2013) reports that teachers can barely detail what academic vocabulary really is. She reports, instead, that teachers describe academic vocabulary as a cognitive concept, not necessarily a linguistic one. Indeed, for many teachers, teasing academic vocabulary from street language might just be as abstract a concept as any new vocabulary item for a student of novice language proficiency.
If mainstream teachers are uncertain as to which words are academic and which are not, we probably need to offer more exactitude and certainty for them. Furthermore, if mainstream teachers have increasingly more ESOLers in their classes and increasingly tighter pacing guides (Smith Turner, 2015), they themselves will wish to be specific with respect to narratives that direct their students toward developing academic language as effectively and efficiently as possible.
Thus, in spite of the work of curriculum designers—both in the ESL world and in mainstream U.S. public school policy—addressing which vocabulary to teach in any content area, especially for students of novice English language proficiency, still seems in need of a major boost. However, to our knowledge, there has been little research dedicated to understanding how vocabulary aligns with school children’s academic needs.
So, what is academic vocabulary?
When Baumann and Graves (2010) sought to understand the meaning of the term academic vocabulary, they found “a plethora of terms and meanings” (page 4). Ultimately, they found definitions such as Townsend’s (2009), who states that academic vocabulary are “used across content areas, have abstract definitions, and are a challenge to master” (p. 242). For many, this entails dividing academic vocabulary into at least two categories—
1. general academic vocabulary, which entails words which are Pilgreen (2007) “the basic terms used to communicate the tools and tasks across content areas” (p. 239), and
2. domain-specific or content-specific vocabulary, which are, as Marzano and Pickering (2005) suggest, specific terms students need in order to possess “the academic background knowledge they need to understand the content they will encounter in school” (page 1).
Before Beck, McKeown, and Kucan offered their tier-based guidelines, researchers offered hints of what academic vocabulary is and how content might be addressed in lesson designs. Cummins (1979) describes a simpler kind of language, known as Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS), referring to basic language one learns and uses in social situations such as school playgrounds. Contrastingly, he compared BICS the more abstract school-based academic and abstract vocabulary one needs to succeed in school, known as Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP). When comparing Cummins’s BICS and CALP with Bloom's (1956) taxonomy, the lower-level set of language — knowledge, comprehension, and applicability — might characterize BICS, while the higher-level set — analysis, synthesis and evaluation — seemingly represent CALP. Cook (1989) similarly identified varying levels of discourse, reaching from the most global and complex to the most rudimentary: relationships, shared knowledge, discourse type, discourse function, conversational mechanics, cohesion, lexis and grammar, and sounds and letters. Thus, in terms of academic language, lexis is but a sliver of the academic language picture.
Conversations surrounding the Common Core, at least in terms of linguistic development, sport attention to many facets of language not limited exclusively to vocabulary. In fact, many authors (e.g., Fillmore & Fillmore, 2013; Hakuta, 2013) appropriately critique over-emphasis upon vocabulary as a promotion of content learning, suggesting that a vocabulary is really only a subsection of the larger picture that is complex language that ELLs need to succeed along with their native English speaking peers. On the other hand, academic language and content area complexity may not proceed without a serious examination of the vocabulary that underlie it. To do so, we might first examine how concepts of academic vocabulary have unraveled.
Researchers (e.g., Coxhead, 2000; Nation, 2001; West, 1955) developed extensive lists of vocabulary words often found in English-medium materials. West (1955) counted words from common everyday publications and established the First 1000 words and Second 1000 most commonly used words. Coxhead (2001) noted that West’s word lists account for approximately 85% of all words used in academic texts and college textbooks and annals covering the fields of Law, Math, Science, Social Studies, and so forth. As a result, she developed a list of 570 academic words that account for nearly 10% of all academic language found at college level. Out of a corpus of over 3 million words, Coxhead included only words appearing 100 times in the corpus and at least 10 times in four disciplines. In other words, her evidence suggested that knowledge of these particular vocabulary items should enhance and advance one’s academic development no matter the subject area, much as Pilgreen describes in his definition of general academic vocabulary.
In using such word lists, Nation (2001) reported that comprehensible input of and attention to specific academic vocabulary is crucial in the development of one’s language learning. His work implies that ELLs need to be equipped with sufficient academic vocabulary in order to decipher sentences from their instructors and in their textbooks. Several pre-tertiary level schools have attempted to use Coxhead’s AWL in their programs in an effort to assist students with college preparation, including O’Donovan (2008), who explained that his Garfield Charter school used AWL words extensively with ELLs. Thus, while there has existed a sense that the AWL, albeit written with college students in mind, has a role to play in efficient curriculum design for primary and secondary learners, many teachers may yet not have a comfortable grasp of this lexicon.
Cobb (2013; adapted from Heatley and Nation, 1994) developed an online vocabulary profiler, known as LexTutor, which helps us analyze any text. In a nutshell, LexTutor hunts for occurrences of
· West’s first 1000 most commonly used words in English (K1)
· West’s second 1000 most commonly used words in English (K2)
· Coxhead’s Academic Word List (AWL)
· Words that fall outside any of the first three lists (off-list).
In each case, a word is counted as a dictionary form of the work as well as its inflected forms (e.g., relevance, relevant, irrelevant), counting any instance of such an inflection as a single member of a word family.
The composite of West’s K1 and K2 lists, as wells as Coxhead’s AWL, represents 2570 word families. Cobb explains in his analysis that 80% of words tend to come from the K1 and K2 lists. However, representation of the remaining words, including AWL words, is so low that learners should try to infer meanings of the words through context, ultimately constructing a lexicon such that “95% of the running words are known in an average text, which a series of experiments show is the point where independent reading and further acquisition through inference become reliable” (Cobb, 2002, page 242).
The last of these bullet points is just as important as the first three, as they include vocabulary reflecting a particular field, much as Marzano and Pickering observer. In fact, we speculated that words falling into the low-frequency realm are often those that are subject-specific—for example, metamorphosis from Science, cosine from Math, protagonist from Language Arts, and feudalism from Social Studies.
Academic vocabulary in mainstream classes
As mentioned previously, Coxhead’s AWL was developed with college level texts. Use of her AWL has, as a result, targeted adult learners. Some publications—for example, Soars and Soars’s (2010) American Headway—have planned their texts by strategically implementing Coxhead’s AWL. However, there have been few comparable studies regarding such academic vocabulary for students at elementary, middle, or high school levels. In other words, the degree to which the AWL is applicable toward K-12 considerations, namely content area classrooms, has been given little attention.
The Common Core Standards focus on Language Arts and Math, but do address the notion of informational reading through content, i.e., Science and Social Studies. Again, Common Core narrative points to New York’s shifts—PreK-5 Balancing Informational and Literary Text and 6-12 Knowledge in the Disciplines—suggesting an even stronger emphasis on extracting information and drawing conclusions in context. In other words, Science and Social Studies will be important venues from which complex academic language growth is to be fostered.
The TESOL (2010) professional organization agrees, offering this position comment:
Common Core Standards can and should include: (a) the linguistic demands for each of the content areas to aid all educators working with English language learners, and (b) information on how English language learners at different proficiency levels might equitably attain specific standards. This information is the kind of “clear signposts” needed by all educators working with English language learners on how these students can move along the way to the goal of college and career readiness (page 2, emphasis added).
To our knowledge, researchers who are counting such words have looked at almost exclusively at college level vocabulary or works crafted chiefly for adults; however, we know of no accounts of lower level vocabulary for students at elementary, middle, or high school levels. With such in mind, we posed the following research questions:
1. What is the representation of K1, K2, AWL, and off-list words in K-12 content area textbooks?
2. To what extent is academic vocabulary represented in elementary and secondary textbooks?
This article then examines the vocabulary pertaining to four content areas—Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies—as these words play roles within the larger linguistically complex environment that is children’s textbooks in elementary and secondary settings.
In this study, a small corpus consisting of just over 156,000 words across 52 primary and secondary school textbooks was developed. The textbooks were available in the public school textbook collection at a major southeastern U.S. university. The textbooks came from four subject areas—Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies—one textbook for each of the grades, kindergarten through 12th grade. From each text, the researcher and assistants opened the book at a random spot and started transcribing until at least 3000 words were typed. The quantity of 3000 was chosen for two reasons. First, it represents a quantity of words approximating the totality of the four lists; in other words, if Nation, Coxhead, and Cobb are correct, seemingly one needs to conquer 3000 word families in order read academic texts with a degree of comfort. Second, it represents an experience that an ELL student might face upon arrival into a new classroom with a new text, thus attempting to answer this question: What kind of vocabulary will an ELL face upon entering a new class and beginning use with a new text?
Each group of words was then entered into the LexTutor engine and analyzed for representation of words into the categories of
· K1 - the first 1000 most commonly used words in English;
· K2 - the second 1000 most commonly used words in English;
· AWL - Coxhead’s Academic Word List; and
· “Off” - words that fall outside any of the first three lists, known as off-list words or less frequently used words.
The following assumptions and caveats were included with respect to the research design and data analysis:
· that the AWL is most likely a valid list;
· that K-12 students, particularly ELLs, would benefit from knowing the words on this list; and
· that a goal of going to school is to prepare for university work.
What is the representation of K1, K2, AWL, and off-list words in K-12 content area textbooks?
Table 1 shows the number of instances any word—as parsed into K1, K2, AWL, and “off” categories—appeared in each grade’s subject area text. Table 2 indicates the proportion of words, again analyzed into the four categories, found in each slice of the grade’s corresponding content area textbook.
Table 1: Number of K1, K2, AWL (in bold), and off-list words per book
The results indicate that more than 80% of all vocabulary comes from the K1 vocabulary list. Many of these words will be more than just BICS vocabulary. They too come into play with respect to academic language, representing content-specific nuances, much in the way Quinn, Lee, and Váldez (2013) identify the Science-related examples force, work, and, space. The remaining 20% of all vocabulary is composed of K2, AWL, and off-list words. This is in contrast to Cobb’s college-level word analysis that shows both K1 and K2 words arriving at this proportion. In other words, the K1 words are seemingly used more in pre-college texts.
Table 2: Proportions by percent of K1, K2, AWL (in bold), and off-list vocabulary per book
K2 words account for just under 10% of the vocabulary at any grade level. In fact, students will likely see K2 words approximately 1/8 of the time they see K1 words. This suggests that ELLs may need to devote extra time studying such vocabulary and teachers may need to teach it more than they might imagine in order to assert that ELLs learn them.
AWL words account for no more than approximately 4% of all vocabulary, even though Coxhead’s reports a rate of 10% in college texts. Thus, if Coxhead’s claim that AWL language is helpful in promoting higher order learning across disciplines, we see the challenge with respect to elementary and secondary schooling. If such language is to be learned, ELLs will likely need substantially more exposure, access to, and regular practice with AWL vocabulary than is presented in texts.
Off-list words then account for the remaining vocabulary, and we can ask teachers to use their intellect, much as Beck suggests, regarding the degree to which these words are make-or-break words in the texts assigned to students. While this paper argues that such practice should be performed less, it does not imply that such activity should be eliminated altogether. Doing so, however, should not be as difficult. Many off-list words include numbers, names of places, and names of people, thus making the process of elimination with respect to choosing vital vocabulary fairly easy.
To what extent is academic vocabulary represented in elementary and secondary textbooks?
If we look exclusively at the AWL related results, we observe that students encounter approximately 4/5 of all AWL vocabulary in secondary school, as observable in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Proportion of AWL words in elementary and secondary texts
But more importantly, if we analyze the AWL tallies by grade and subject area (Figure 2), we see evidence that Social Studies may be the content area presenting the most difficult vocabulary. Here’s the K-12 breakdown from this study:
Social Studies – 33%
Math – 25%
Science – 22%
Language Arts – 20%
Such proportions are also represented in secondary grades 6-12:
Social Studies – 32%
Math – 27%
Science – 22%
Language Arts – 19%
In other words, the secondary English Language Arts texts received less academic vocabulary attention in texts than the other subject areas. In fact, of the 13 grades, Social Studies texts showed the most AWL representation in eight of them. In grades K-5, the Language Arts texts received more attention than those of Math and Science, while still lagging way behind those of Social Studies:
Social Studies – 34%
Math – 21%
Science – 21%
Language Arts – 24%.
Figure 2: Representation of AWL words per grade per subject area
Finally, if one analyzes these data with respect to the number of particular AWL words, we can guess the degree, during any period of 3000-word chunks of four content-area textbooks, to which new ELLs will encounter AWL words, based on the grade they enter school (See Table 3). For example, new ELLs entering 8th grade might encounter 76 AWL words or over the course of studying the four content areas, each area with its representative 3000-word set of lessons. However, in order to succeed at the rate of native English speakers, those 8th graders would also need the AWL words previously taught. Thus, these ELLs would need on the order of 265 AWL word families in their lexicon in order to participate on par with native English speakers their very first day. This estimation is of course likely understated as the running total in this chart only accounts for the 3000-word chunks, which might be covered in no more than say a week or two; it does not account for the additional AWL words one could learn over the course of an entire school year. Nevertheless, we now have a quantifiable narrative to which we may describe the degree to which academic language, particularly in terms of learning abstract vocabulary, is difficult and may necessitate the 5 to 7 years for full acquisition. Furthermore, we see the daunting prospects for acquisition of such vocabulary for any ELL entering secondary school, especially any student of particularly novice English proficiency level.
Table 3: Number of AWL words to be learned, by individual year and by cumulative estimation
An examination of the off-list words (see Figure 3) indicates further emphasis of difficult vocabulary with subjects other than Language Arts. A post-hoc analysis of variance based on subject area shows no significant differences in off-list vocabulary use across grade levels (p=.51). When spliced for elementary and secondary grades, however, elementary texts show similarly no significant differences in off-list word quantities (p=.62), while secondary school texts do (p=.048), indicating stronger presence of off-list words in Science and Social Studies.
Figure 3: Representation of off-list words per grade per subject area
Such results then prompt, especially regarding Language Arts, consideration of as the criticality of off-list words. In grades 6-12, off-list words only accounted for 4 to 8% of all vocabulary (average 6.1%), meaning that the degree to which critical vocabulary appears in novels or stories is similar to that of the other content areas. In other words, it behooves us, no matter the subject area, to address lower frequency vocabulary, especially that which is vital to the meaning of any article, with keener concentration. On the other hand, any assumptions that English Language Arts and corresponding teachers should be the primary recipients of ESOL training are highly questioned with these results. In fact, these results suggest that Social Studies, Science, and Mathematics instructors should receive substantial training with respect to ESOL, particularly those teaching at secondary schools.
In addition, we see substantial proportions of off-list words represented in early ages, including a rather high proportion in the kindergarten Language Arts text. Such bodes as troublesome for ELLs at younger ages as many find themselves working daily through phonics-based procedures. While useful for native English speakers who already have the words in their heads, phonics may be problematic and retarding for new language learners who must not only parse unusual sounds (Irujo, 2007), but then must also acquire the meanings of low frequency words. Other words, namely K1 and K2 words, are more accessible and probably more important with respect to propelling their English acquisition in efficient and timely manners.
The presence of academic language and low frequency vocabulary (AWL + “off”) again is evident when one calculates the proportion of words in the four subject areas. Again, Social Studies requires that students spend substantially more energy on academic and low frequency vocabulary (See Table 4). In fact, of all subject areas, the number of difficult words observable in the Language Arts texts is smaller than each of the other three subjects.
Table 4: Overall K-12 proportions of vocabulary by subject area as parsed by category
Two concepts are worth pondering as a result of this study. First, there seems to be an under appreciation for Social Studies as a subject area with respect to the vocabulary it provides for fostering academic language and critical thought. In several ways, Social Studies emerges as a primary candidate in which academic language may be presented, studied, and practiced. Such is contrary to current thought in terms of secondary teachers and who should have first consideration with respect to assisting ESOL students. Certainly, as Social Studies classes are often the principal forum where students discuss multiculturalism and how societies get along with one another, the results here are remarkable these courses may also be the location where the most complex academic learning takes place, at least from a linguistic standpoint. Those complex discussions of cultural comparison may be tremendous catalysts for including ESOL students’ cultural backgrounds into lesson designs. Thus, in addition to cross-cultural and critical thinking, this venue may be the most vibrant with respect to promoting linguistic complexity. As such, it behooves Social Studies instructors to advance their own professional development with respect to ESOL students as much as possible.
Second, the results of this study suggest that perhaps all secondary teachers working with ESOLers should attain such a higher level of professional development. First, most of the academic language appears during secondary grades, not primary grades. The case of Florida’s Consent Decree, which requires with respect to secondary teachers that only English Language Arts instructors and Reading coaches receive enough professional development to attain licensure, stands now as questionable as it appears that other subjects’ instructors and their students might be more likely to encounter the most difficult language. Indeed, this study highlights the need for all secondary teachers to receive far more training with respect to ESOL students.
It should be noted that the degree to which these statements are made is through a lens of a very small linguistic corpus. Indeed, further inquiry is required to the extent that we examine at least ten times as many words via the complete examination of many more textbooks before making any full-fledged conclusions. Furthermore, the pigeon-holed use of a particular grade level book, at least with respect to its supposed recommendations, may not necessarily correspond directly to actual grade-level use of that book, a consideration particularly pertinent to secondary school where students of varying grades may sit in any class. Finally, the language teachers choose to utter in support of textbooks and curricula also merits detailed analysis, as this inquiry only provides modest insight regarding written stimuli.
Still, the results of this study bring us closer to understanding reasons why ESOLers may actually need five to seven years to catch up academically. It also gives us direction toward a goal of understanding the distinctions between materials written for college students and those written for children. Finally, it alerts us that a good deal of linguistic complications probably occur when students are older and not necessarily in their Language Arts classes. Indeed, this study suggests if we are to assist all ELLs in their linguistic and academic growth throughout their schooling, we may not be pointing students in a direction that efficiently fosters academic vocabulary development.
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Elementary and Secondary Content Area Vocabulary: A Pilot Study of High Frequency and Academic Vocabulary in K-12 Textbooks
Eric Dwyer and Claudia Grigorescu
Florida State University and University of Miami
For nearly three decades, researchers of young English language learners (ELLs) have suggested that a reason for low ELL graduation rates in U.S. high schools is their failure to master academic language in English. The instigation of the Common Core promoted the notion that reading for information should cut across all content areas. In Florida, as mandated in the Florida Consent Decree, elementary teachers, as well as secondary English Language Arts teachers or Reading coaches, are charged with assisting ELLs in the acquisition of linguistically complex language promoting critical thinking. Thus, any curriculum design akin to the Common Core implies that content area teachers—including those of Math, Science, and Social Studies - should similarly engage in ELLs’ linguistic needs.
Meanwhile, corpus linguists have amassed word corpora unveiling specific academic vocabulary, suggesting that mastery of 2570 word families can help ELLs work with college texts. This pilot study investigates the degree to which such lexical items appear in a small corpus represented by 52 elementary and secondary textbooks. Results show that Social Studies texts seemingly supply students with the greatest quantity of academic vocabulary. It further indicates that the bulk of difficult vocabulary appears in secondary grades, offering further detail with respect to deepening linguistic obstacles ELLs face in school. Results suggest that 1) instructors of all major subjects should engage in far deeper professional development with respect to ELLs’ literacy development and 2) any exclusive burden on Language Arts instructors is questionable.
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The motivation to learn a second language is an important area of research in second language acquisition studies. Without sufficient motivation, learners are unlikely to learn a language or continue to learn to high levels of proficiency. Over the past four decades, numerous studies have been conducted on motivation and second language learning in order to understand why students feel motivated to learn a second language, how they remain motivated, and how teachers can best tap into students’ motivation in order to advance their language learning. To date, studies on motivation have relied heavily on quantitative research methods (Csizér & Dörnyei, 2005; Engin, 2009; Huang, 2008; Khany & Amiri, 2016; Kim & Kim, 2015; Mori, & Calder, 2015; Mulalić & Obralić, 2016; Nourinezhad, Shokrpour, & Shahsavar, 2017; Rajab, Roohbakhsh Far, & Etemadzadeh, 2012; Rubenfeld, Sinclair, & Clément, 2007). When using quantitative research methods, scholars of motivation and second language learning have overlooked the nuanced and contextual understanding of the role of motivation in learning English as an additional language (EAL). In contrast, this study uses qualitative research methods to gain insight into second language motivation from the perspective of EAL students. Hearing voices of EAL students can help scholars and EAL teachers to have a deeper understanding of students’ perceptions of motivation and use that knowledge to cultivate motivation among their students.
This paper explores EAL students’ perceptions of motivation using a qualitative perspective, in order to learn from EAL students; how they perceive, define and describe motivation; and the role that they feel motivation plays in learning English in today’s globalized world. This is important since EAL teachers’ views of EAL students’ motivation to learn English may not necessarily match the learners’ views, and teachers may make incorrect assumptions about students and their purposes for learning English and their level of motivation. In addition, hearing voices of EAL students can help teachers to have a better understanding of motivation and consequently use that knowledge in order to cultivate motivation among students.
Review of the Literature
There is a wealth of literature on the role of motivation in learning English as an additional language; however, as noted above, most of studies have been conducted using quantitative methods. These studies used questionnaires and surveys to collect data and some of them insisted on the need for standardized questionnaires for the study of learner motivation. The findings in these studies align with the overall framework of L2 motivation in the literature. These studies discuss the correlation between the ‘Motivational Components’ and the ‘Preferred Learning Components’ (Mulalić, & Obralić, 2016). Specifically, the authors show that learning a second or foreign language is predicated upon students’ positive motivation (Engin, 2009). Here we discuss how the scholars in the field have defined motivation and how motivation and language learning have been examined in the literature.
Learner Motivation in the Context of Globalization
Importantly, the context of language learning has changed significantly over the past 30 years, particularly as a result of globalization (Cheung Matthew Sung, 2013; Lamb, 2004; Ryan, 2006; Ushioda, 2017). In today’s global world, the pressure to expand English worldwide cannot be underestimated as the English language plays a critical role in modern communication, especially in commerce and tourism, the airline industry, and increasingly in schools (Crystal, 2012). Globalization is defined as “the power of creating a world without boundaries where people communicate, share, and do business” (Altan, 2017, p. 764). As English is the medium of all these activities, its dominance is indisputable (Graddol, 2000). Thus, the demand to learn English as an additional language in the global context continues to increase.
Today, English is a global language, and perceptions surrounding learning and using English continue to evolve (Cheung Matthew Sung, 2013). Lamb (2004) argues that the motivation to learn English as an additional language in the global context is less likely to be concerned with integration into the culture of native English speaking countries and more concerned with using the language for social and economic gain, and speakers who have bicultural identities.
Types and Definitions of Motivation
Motivation plays a key role in learning a second language. According to Csizér and Dörnyei (2005), “It is universally accepted that motivation plays a vital role in academic learning in general, and this is particularly true of the sustained process of mastering a second language” (p. 616). Dörnyei (2003) asserts that it is “important to restate that learning a second language is different in many ways from learning other school subjects” (p 3). This is because language is both the content of learning and the medium of learning, and language is nuanced, constructed, and a social event. According to Williams (1994), “Second language is socially and culturally bound, which makes language learning a deeply social event that requires the incorporation of a wide range of elements of the second language culture” (as cited in Dörnyei, 2003, p. 4).
Scholars use various terms to refer to motivation and categorize motivation into two major types: internal and external. Internal motivation refers to an intrinsic or inner sense that compels one to do something or to behave in a specific way. Harmer (1999) defines motivation as “some kind of internal drive which pushes someone to do things in order to achieve something” (p. 51). He continues to explain that a language learner may be motivated, for example, by the enjoyment of the learning process or by fulfilling one’s own desire to learn. In contrast, external motivation is extrinsic, which refers to external, environmental, or contextual factors that may influence one’s behavior. Extrinsic motivation is caused by any number of outside factors including but not limited to the need to pass an exam or the possibility of future job opportunities (Harmer, 1999).
Orientation versus Motivation
The term ‘orientation’ has been used in the literature and differentiated from learner motivation. Gardner (1985) states that orientation is not the same as motivation; however, motivation reflects one’s underlying rationale for studying a language. An integrative orientation occurs when the learner is studying a language because of a desire to identify with the culture of speakers of the target language (Gardner & Lambert, 1972). In other words, the language learner tends to be integrated with or aims to be integrated with the target language community. In contrast, instrumental orientation describes factors concerned with motivation derived from external sources including but not limited to financial rewards, furthering a career, or seeking promotion. In their work, Gardner and Lambert (1972) found that language learner motivation was stronger for integrative than instrumental purposes. The dichotomy of instrumental versus integrative and external versus internal is likely to be false. For example, Csizér and Dörnyei (2005) used quantitative research methods to investigate various dimensions of learner motivation. They found seven generalized aspects that affected learner motivation, including integrativeness, instrumentality, vitality of the second language community, attitudes toward the second language community, cultural interest, linguistic self-confidence, and milieu. The authors describe milieu as something that “relates to the general perception of the importance of foreign languages in the learners’ immediate environment” (Csizér & Dörnyei, 2005, p. 619). Hence, according to recent learner motivation research, learners of languages have multiple and complex reasons for taking on the momentous task of learning an additional language.
Our review of literature on motivation and second language learning indicates that the data from the majority of empirical studies have derived from surveys and/or questionnaires. Survey and questionnaire data are useful when attempting to understand a phenomenon across many subjects. For example, as described by Dörnyei and Csizér (2002), “The seven aforementioned dimensions originally emerged from factor analysis, and the multi-item scales that were formed on the basis of these factors displayed satisfactory internal consistency reliability. They also displayed remarkable consistency across the five different target languages examined and across time” (as cited in Csizér & Dörnyei, 2005, p. 20). The usefulness of quantitative analyses cannot be underestimated. However, there remains a need to investigate second language learning motivation using qualitative methods from EAL students’ perspectives. We aimed to learn more about EAL students’ views regarding their motivation to learn English, particularly in light of global language demands and how their motivation affected their individual learning. Thus, the research question for this study was: how do adult EAL students perceive their motivation to learn English at a university-based intensive English program in the US?
This focus is important, because in the current context of globalization, with its accelerated uses of technology for communication and the proliferating need for English as a medium for communication, professional advancement may intersect with the ability to interact with speakers of English.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study was to investigate how adult English learning students perceived their motivation to learn English and how this influenced the process of learning English as an additional language. Learning English is increasingly important for those who wish to live, study, or work in an English speaking country or to communicate in English with native and non-native speakers of the language. People from around the world move to English-dominant countries such as the US, and regardless of the reason why they come, some knowledge of the language is important in order to function effectively in schools and the broader society. EAL teachers might find that cultivating students’ motivation to learn English influences English learning processes. In other words, we postulate that motivation to learn English among adult students will facilitate their learning. Thus, examining how adult English learners perceive their own motivation is a step toward building links between the purpose of EAL and learning. Moreover, exploring this topic from EAL students’ perspectives can expand our understanding of what motivation looks like in today’s global context and how it helps, if it does, language learners. In today’s global context the need to learn English has increased dramatically. English has become a dominant force in the media and Internet-based communications. English is a common language utilized in computer technologies (Wolk, 2004), online gaming (Li, Chiu, & Coady, 2014) and other specialized and international communication. Furthermore, teaching English to children at younger ages is part of the curriculum of many countries (Bland, 2015). Therefore, we believe there is a need to investigate L2 motivation from students’ perspectives in a qualitative manner.
According to Rajab, Roohbakhsh Far, and Etemadzadeh (2012), “Most researchers and educators would agree that motivation is a very important factor in language learning without which even gifted individuals cannot accomplish long-term goals; whatever the curricula and whoever the teachers are” (p. 419). However, one can argue that effective instructors with the help of strong and engaging curricula may motivate students. There are several factors linked or connected to English learners’ success, and motivation is one. Thus, there is a need to investigate motivation from English learners’ perspectives as insight into motivation may help EAL teachers to enhance students’ learning. Noted earlier, prior work has not fully explored second language learner motivation using qualitative methods from the perspective of the learner. Therefore, this study aims to answer the following research question:
· How do adult EAL students perceive their motivation to learn English at a university-based intensive English program in the US?
Although this study does not intend to investigate how EAL teachers can foster, enhance, or cultivate motivation, findings from this study may help EAL teachers to achieve this goal by informing them of learners’ perceptions of their motivation. Furthermore, this study offers some implications for practice that EAL teachers could use in order to cultivate motivation among their students.
Significance of the Study
This study is significant for two main reasons. First, it was conducted using qualitative methods, and there is a dearth of research on motivation and EAL students using those methods. The data in this study derive from face-to-face interviews with participants who were identified during sampling selection as ‘highly motivated’ EAL students. It is significant in that most of the studies on motivation and second language learning and/or second language acquisition have been conducted using quantitative methods, and data are typically derived from questionnaires using Likert-type scales and ranges. Secondly, we need to investigate what teachers and the literature assume about motivation and why there might be a discrepancy between the teachers’ and the literature’s understandings. Although we did not aim to investigate teachers’ points of views, we believe that the findings in our study have implications for EAL teachers. EAL teachers can use findings from this study in order to cultivate motivation among their students. Although qualitative studies generally offer findings that are unique to the context, findings from this study may be transferable, to some degree, beyond the scope of this study. One extension of this work is with EAL teachers at different grade and age levels, and a second extension is EAL teaching across different linguistic and cultural groups, and across national settings, such as from the US to Australia.
We used qualitative research methods to answer the research question. We were specifically interested in gaining insight into both EAL students’ perceptions of their motivation and how they defined motivation. Their self-regulation and definition helped to unravel how participants perceived motivation in the process of learning English. This section discusses the methodological process for this study and includes the following sections: research perspective, research setting, site selection, participant sampling, data collection procedures, data analysis, and data trustworthiness.
The epistemological stance for this study is social constructivism. Creswell and Poth (2018) state that “in social constructivism individuals seek understanding of the world in which they live and work. They develop subjective meanings of their experiences – meanings directed toward certain objects or things” (p. 24). This perspective is relevant to this study, because of our interest in individual EAL students’ views of their motivation as learners of English. We proffer that our participants’ views of motivation may differ from the views described in prior research. While a review of literature indicates that most of the studies on motivation have been conducted quantitatively and data were collected through surveys and questionnaires, here we followed an inductive methodological and analytic process to understand English learners’ views based on interviews we conducted with them.
The setting for this study was an adult intensive English language institute at a major university in the southeast US. According to Creswell and Poth (2018), “[a]n important step in the process is to find people or places and to gain access to and establish rapport with participants so that they will provide good data” (p. 148). Adult EAL students from around the globe attend intensive English programs to improve their English language skills for many reasons, including but not limited to pursuing their education in the US, aiming to immigrate to the US, obtaining jobs in an English-speaking country or a country where English is used for business or work purposes. At the time of the study, the English language institute was home to over 300 students from around the world. The diverse student population in this language institute characterized the setting.
We used convenience procedures to identify the site. The site was situated at an institution that was accessible to us and, at the time of the study, was home to students from over 29 countries including Brazil, China, Colombia, Italy, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Spain, Syria, Togo, and Venezuela. Prior to Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval for this study, we contacted the institute’s director via email, received the verbal permission for the study, and subsequently obtained written consents from participants. We explained what the purpose of the research was and submitted the semi-structured interview questions to the director for approval. The school director requested the IRB form in order to begin recruiting potential participants.
After receiving the IRB approval and obtaining the permission from the director of the English language institute, the associate director of the institute provided us with individual instructors’ contact information and a list of potential classes where we could recruit participants. We used the following three criteria to recruit participants: the participants should be at upper intermediate or advanced level of English language proficiency due to the fact that the interviews were conducted in English and the participants should have a high enough proficiency in English to communicate comfortably in oral English; the participants should be considered ‘highly motivated’ based on instructors’ perception of the student; and the participants should be considered sociable and willing to engage in conversation. Please note that the interviews were conducted in English because the participants spoke different first languages and thus we were unable to conduct the interviews in their first languages.
After receiving the teachers’ contact information, we emailed three teachers, one of whom welcomed us to her classroom. Author 1 spoke with the students about the study and explained what we intended to investigate. Immediately, six students volunteered for an interview. We assumed that those who volunteered would be more extroverted, sociable, and willing to chat about their experiences as English learners and their motivation to learn English.
Five out of six participants showed up for the interview. One mentioned that she could not attend the interview due to her busy schedule. Since we aimed to collect data from more participants, we contacted another instructor who taught two upper intermediate level English classes. Although Author 1 went directly to both of the classes, no one volunteered. A week later, we made a third attempt by contacting another teacher and went to her class. Fortunately, we successfully scheduled four additional interviews in another upper intermediate class and interviewed three of those volunteers. Therefore, eight adult EAL students participated in this study, which helped to obtain theoretical saturation. In qualitative data analysis, theoretical saturation refers to the researchers’ analysis of the data to the extent that no new data appear (Merriam & Tisdell, 2016).
Eight participants—three females and five males—volunteered to participate in this qualitative interview study. The participants were young adults in the 18 to 33 age group studying English at a university based intensive English program in the US. The participants were from Brazil, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Togo, and Venezuela. The participants completed a sign-up sheet with their contact information and were provided with a hardcopy of the interview protocol that included the interview questions. Shortly after collecting the sign-up sheet, we contacted the participants and scheduled individual interviews with them. [Author 1] also sent a reminder one day prior to the interview, as some of them requested. Before each interview, participants were asked to sign the consent letter and were provided a copy of the consent. Each participant was interviewed once at the institute. The interviews lasted between 25 and 30 minutes and were audio recorded and transcribed.
During the interviews, we also probed for additional information as needed. One of the interview questions, for example, was about the participants’ definition of motivation in their own words. Our question was, “the term ‘motivation’ has been defined in many ways. How would you define motivation to learn English in your own words in English?
Data analysis is an iterative, rigorous, and systematic process. According to Huberman and Miles (1994), data analysis is “choreographed” (as cited in Creswell & Poth, 2018). That is, the researcher in a qualitative study needs to systematically organize the obtained data and read through the data over and over in order to ensure the rigor of qualitative research.
Upon interviewing the first participant, data from the interview were transcribed and some minor changes were made to the interview questions, thus preparing for the following interviews. For example, we realized that more probing questions could be helpful, such as “tell me more about that,” “what do you mean by that?” and “please explain.” Upon finishing the remaining interviews, all were transcribed. From the beginning of the interview process, during the interview question revisions, and while transcribing data, we analyzed the data by thinking of how they made sense in small chunks and larger data segments. We considered both individual codes for the data and domains of themes, or ways that the data came together using inductive data analytic processes.
After transcribing the interviews and before the coding process, the transcripts were read multiple times. Subsequently, we analyzed the data line by line by recording in vivo codes in the margins. Moving from first cycle coding to second cycle pattern coding (Miles, Huberman, & Saldaña, 2014), we condensed the codes and grouped those that were conceptually related. Determining the relationships between the codes and the themes was rigorous and iterative. Through the pattern of the codes, four themes emerged from the data.
Rather than “validity” and “reliability,” which are associated with quantitative research methods, researchers in qualitative studies use the term “trustworthiness.” According to Lincoln and Guba (1985), trustworthiness ensures that the findings are “worth paying attention to” (as cited in Hambacher, 2013, p. 83). Member checking “minimizes the threats to trustworthiness” (Hambacher, 2013, p. 83), and therefore we conducted member checking and asked the participants if our interpretations matched their views about their motivation to learn English.
“Generalizability” is also a quantitative term, which is “concerned with the extent to which the findings of one study can be applied to other situations” (Merriam & Tisdell, 2016, p. 253). However, in qualitative research “transferability” is an appropriate substitute, which refers to the extent to which the findings of a particular study can be transferred and applied to similar contexts. We were hopeful that the findings from this study are transferable and can be applied beyond the scope of this study. Although there are several strategies to ensure trustworthiness, we limited the strategies in this study to member checking, peer review, and adequate engagement in data collection, which for us meant “spending enough time collecting data and such that the data become saturated” (Merriam &Tisdell, 2016, p. 259).
Based on the analysis of the data, it is evident that motivation plays a key role in learning English, and EAL students utilize a variety of techniques and strategies to motivate him or herself and to regulate their learning. We first describe how participants defined “motivation” and then describe the identified themes.
According to the participants, motivation was defined as “passion” and the main variable that leads to accomplishment. Some participants described motivation as a kind of “energy” that can push students toward their goals and can encourage them not to give up but to move forward. Still another participant described motivation as a “weapon” to use to achieve accomplishments. One of the participants who was highly motivated to learn English used an analogy to describe his motivation, “We are like a car, motivation is gas and English is like destination where we want to go. So we are the car very important because we have the ability to go there but without gas we can’t go there.” Another participant defined motivation as pushing oneself and fighting for one’s goals in order to achieve success, stating, “Well, motivation for me is like encourage yourself to achieve the things that you really want and it doesn’t matter how hard it will be, you just have to fight for it.”
Four themes emerged from the data, which are as follows: (1) positive relationship between motivation and learning English; (2) self-motivation; (3) external motivation; and (4) interest in the subject area.
Positive Relationship between Motivation and Learning English
As noted earlier, by analyzing the available data and looking at the synthesized list of themes, we found evidence of the positive relationship between motivation and learning English. Essentially, feeling motivated helps EAL students in the learning process and seems to enhance their learning. Three participants described how they learned English best when they felt motivated. One participant noted, “If I’m not motivated to learn the language I won’t learn it. I don’t care about it if I’m not motivated.”
Enjoyment was a key factor in learning English successfully. Students learned best when they were enjoying the learning process. One participant described how he learned best when he enjoyed what he was doing,
I think you get motivated when you are enjoying the thing that you are doing. For example, if I’m doing an activity in English that I really like that feel comfortable and I can see that I’m doing that activity well, I could feel like motivated but if I think that activity I don’t like or it’s too much or it’s very boring then I don’t feel motivated.
We also found that there was a positive relationship between motivation and learning English, as being motivated gave our participants a reason to be active learners. Some of our participants indicated that they needed motivation in order to be or remain active learners. They described being ‘active’ as being actively involved in the learning process. That is, being proactive and taking initiatives instead of being passive learners.
According to the analysis of the data within and across participants, we saw a recurrent evidence of motivating oneself to learn English. All eight participants referred to motivation as the ability to regulate their learning. They used varied strategies to do so and to different degrees. For example, one participant aptly described this as, “Every time I say to myself study hard, go outside with native speakers, watch TV a lot of the time just English TV. Also, I decided not to use Korean here.” Another participant used a similar logic of personal self-motivation, stating, “I mean every day you have to take a shower, the same as motivation. Every day you have to motivate yourself. It’s not like I’m motivated today and that motivation helps me for the rest of my day… it’s like a habit, you have to motivate yourself every day.”
A variety of strategies were utilized by our participants in order to stay motivated. For instance, they described talking to people with the same goals as a strategy to keep him or herself motivated. By talking to people shared the same goals, they were able to determine their progress in English, in addition to garnering support knowing that they were not alone in the process. Another participant noted,
You decide how to take that external situation, I mean you decide if you want to take an advantage of that and specifically maybe if you can find people who have the same goal like you that can help you to keep going. When you try, when you share the same goal, you say, “oh my God I’m not alone.” I mean you can ask others what they usually do to develop some skills and that can help you to be motivated. Also, if you talk to people who already completed that goal that give you a message that… somebody has done it.
Although there were difficulties associated with learning English, reminding him or herself of the advantages that learning English included appeared to be helpful. For example, one participant noted that “sometimes you think everything is so hard that you can’t work anymore, and it’s so stressful, but then it’s like this will be beneficial for me. I have to think there are more good things than bad things [in learning English].” There were multiple ways that EAL students motivated him or herself to learn English, but we found that highly motivated EAL students tended to find their own ways to regulate learning.
We also learned about the external reasons that adults wanted to learn English. All eight participants had at least one external reason that motivated them to learn English, and most of those reasons involved professional advancement. For example, they were learning English in order to be able to find a better job or to take an international test of English proficiency to pursue education. One participant described this as,
It’s like a complement especially for engineering I don’t know if it is a complement for other majors or not but for engineers is important because the most important information comes from countries in which English is the first language.
Another noted that he needed to take the TOEFL test, finish a master’s degree, and then work in another country. The participants stated things like “In the Middle East or Arab countries we use Arabic and English. The same thing around the world. It’s global. I forgot what they call it. It’s like number one as a language” and “Right now English is an international language, and this language can open a lot of doors in the future like international jobs… I wanna be an international lawyer. That’s why I’m studying a lot.” External reasons to learn English comprised one of the reasons for which the participants in our study were learning English. Although they all liked the language, they also had external reasons to learn English. In other words, external factors also played a role in motivating them to learn English.
Interest in the Subject Area
Being interested in learning English was also a theme that emerged from data analysis. Seven of the participants were learning English partly because they simply liked the language. They were interested in learning English and felt content with that process. One participant used ‘love’ to describe his feelings toward learning English, stating, “I started to work on that every day. So from that moment, I started to fall in love with the English language.”
Being interested in learning English was another motive for our participants to learn English, and most of the participants were interested in learning English for the sake of English. In other words, not only were they motivated to learn English in order to find a better job or to pursue their education they also liked the language.
Discussion and Conclusion
This study investigated the role of motivation on learning English as an additional language. We interviewed eight adult EAL students to learn more about their perceptions of English language learning motivation and how they defined and described it. This study found that learners still, indeed, had internal and external motivations for English but that those motivations were often intertwined. For example, we found that both integrative and instrumental motivation were evident in the data; however, in the current context of globalization, with its accelerated uses of technology for communication and the increasing pressure for English as a medium for communication, this study found that professional advancement intersected with the ability to interact with (integrate with) speakers of English, both native speakers and non-native speakers who engage in professional activities.
Some of our findings overlap with the previous research on motivation and second language learning. Hence, we do not reject prior contributions on L2 motivation. However, we believe that the context of language learning has changed significantly, specifically because of globalization and uses of technology that influence second language pedagogies (Crystal, 2012). We learned that learners of English in our study were aware of motivation as an important factor to learn English, and in order to maintain their motivation level, they wanted to be proactive learners. That is, for example, instead of waiting for their teacher to motivate them, they identified creative, personal ways to stay motivated. They used motivational words or phrases or would think of the benefits of learning English as incentives to push him or herself forward. Using internal and external reasons, English learners in our study kept him or herself motivated and added to their motivation using various techniques and strategies.
We are left with a sense that learner motivation in the context of globalization means that there are multiple, simultaneous purposes for adult learners to learn English. Yet importantly, in spite of the widespread access to technology through which to learn English, learners still needed to find novel ways to remain motivated, which was a personal commitment to learning the language. The short-term goal of EAL appeared, then, as a way to communicate with speakers of the language, but longer-term goals involved personal and financial advancement.
A key limitation in this study was the fact that the study was limited to an EAL context. Furthering the study to an English as a Foreign Language (EFL, in countries where English is not the dominant language of society) context may reveal different perspectives, as English learners may describe their motivation differently in different contexts.
Implications for EAL Teachers
Despite the limitations, our findings suggest some importation implications for EAL teachers. Teachers of EAL may need to have a deeper understanding of students’ perceptions of motivation in order to be able to cultivate motivation in their classrooms. Teachers may identify resources for learners to communicate among themselves, to share their language learning experiences, and to gauge their own progress. EAL students’ voices provide us with a clearer understanding of EAL motivation, which can be utilized in the classroom in order to cultivate and support ongoing motivation among students. Teachers of EAL may identify highly motivated learners and utilize their motivation as a resource to motivate other students. This may create an active learning environment for EAL students to participate in the learning process and be active learners.
The most important source of motivation comes from within the learner. The participants in this study used strategies to regulate their learning or to remain motivated to learn. This was an indication of their internal motivation. Field, Martin, Miller, Ward, and Wehmeyer (1998) describe self-regulation as the ability to observe, record, assess, and regulate one’s own behavior. Our participants, too, attempted to monitor, assess, and regulate their English learning progress and examined their own motivation levels. Being aware of the fact that highly motivated EAL students use strategies, such as reminding him or herself of the benefits of learning English to regulate learning, can help EAL teachers to motivate their students. Not all learners have the same level of motivation and therefore this can help those who are comparatively less motivated. In some cases, EAL students feel overwhelmed and therefore lose their motivation. Thus, teachers can provide some strategies in order to support and build motivation.
Teachers of EAL may remind their students of the benefits and advantages of learning English without marginalizing students’ home languages. External factors such as job opportunities and the ability to communicate internationally can be good reasons for students to become motivated to learn English. EAL students, when overwhelmed by excessive information, may forget the initial reasons for learning English. Reminding them of the benefits of language learning and advantages that are associated with learning English could be extremely helpful.
Furthermore, EAL teachers can share their experiences of learning English or another language and the associated feeling of pleasure and content that may accompany the learning process. Making EAL students aware of such feelings or reminding them that the process can be enjoyable on its own regardless of the external benefits that are associated with it, can be motivating. This process can be done without marginalizing or devaluing students’ home and/or first languages.
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English Learners’ Perceptions of Motivation
Hamed Shafiei Rezvani Nejad and Maria Coady
University of Florida
Over the past four decades, numerous studies have been conducted on language learner motivation in order to support and advance language learning. However, the context of English teaching and learning has changed significantly over the past 30 years (Crystal, 2012). To date, studies on motivation have used quantitative methods; however, in this study, we investigated second language motivation using qualitative methods. We interviewed eight adult English as an additional language (EAL) students at an intensive English language institute in the southeast US. Findings show that learners still had internal and external motivations for English but those motivations were often intertwined and responded to globalization. Ultimately, learner motivation in the context of globalization indicates multiple, simultaneous purposes for adult learners of English, who find novel ways to remain motivated and committed to English language. EAL teachers may use the findings from this study to cultivate and support ongoing motivation among their students.
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There is a critical need for teachers to support the ever-increasing number of English Language Learners (ELLs) in our K-12 schools. Between 2009 and 2015 more than half of the states in the U. S. saw an increase in the percentage of English language learners, while five states saw an increase of over 40 percent of ELLs (U. S. Dept. of Ed., 2017). Over 4,800,000 English language learners were enrolled in U. S. schools during the 2014-15 academic year. This figure represents over 10 percent of the K-12 student population (U. S. Dept. of Ed., 2017). It is estimated that by the year 2030, about 40 percent of the U. S. school population will speak English as a second language (U.S.D.O.E. & N.I.C.H.D., 2003).
Although ELLs may speak a variety of languages, almost three-fourths of the English language students in Florida, are Castilian Spanish speakers, while other languages are represented in significantly smaller percentages (U. S. Dept. of Ed., 2017). About 8 percent of the ELLs speak Haitian Creole, but only 1 to 2 percent speak Portuguese, Arabic, and other Creoloes (Sugarman & Geary, 2018).
To provide the needed language and academic support, teachers scaffold learning by providing opportunities for production experiences, building background knowledge, focusing on simplifying text features, and increasing learners’ comprehension and fluency. Digital resources can help to address ELLs’ needs while increasing students’ engagement (Robertson, 2009). Infusing technology into instruction not only helps English language learners acquire a second language, but it also enhances motivation and confidence in all students (Lin, 2009). By using multimedia technology to incorporate pictures and/or videos into instruction, teachers can provide students with the contextual cues to understand new concepts and ideas. Visual information can provide a bridge or scaffold between everyday language and the more difficult academic language (Cruz, 2004). In addition, technology allows students to show what they have learned in multiple ways thus providing a more accurate demonstration of their growth and understanding (Brozek & Duckworth, n.d.).
There are many digital resources available today that can be used to increase language acquisition for our English language learners. “There are two key items ELLs need in order to improve their English – time and practice” (Robertson, 2009, para. 4), and there are engaging digital resources available to address these. Determining ELLs’ needs and levels of proficiency helps instructors choose technology to appropriately support students’ academic growth by providing additional opportunities for producing language, building background knowledge, simplifying complex texts, and increasing fluency and comprehension (Haneda & Wells, 2012).
Increasing Opportunities for Language Production
Providing opportunities to practice using English while increasing opportunities for language production is an important first consideration for all second language learners, whether these opportunities occur individually or with peers. Often, instructors focus on teacher-directed classroom strategies that encourage vocabulary growth, collaboration, and graphic organizers (Uccelli, Galloway, Barr, Meneses, & Dobbs, 2015) while overlooking digital resources that can also be used to address these skills. Because of the prevalence of mobile devices, programs that can be accessed through these devices are particularly attractive for students learning a second language.
Duolingo is a free program that can be used to provide ELLs the opportunities they need to hear, see, and construct written responses while translating from their native language to English. The program begins by having learners select a goal based on the amount of time they plan to spend daily practicing their new language skills. With Duolingo, students can learn words by categories such as family, shopping, greetings or emotions. The app includes both visuals and audio components. In addition, a particularly beneficial feature of the program is that it will check pronunciation! It is a simple, yet engaging program which provides immediate feedback. Ads occasionally pop up which help to keep the program free. As of January 2019, Duolingo offered 85 different language courses in 24 languages and boasted 300 million registered users around the world (Duolingo, 2019).
For more advanced English Language Learners who do not necessarily need the additional support of visuals when learning new vocabulary, browser dictionary add-ons allow students to obtain the definition and even the pronunciation of a word on a website simply by clicking on the unknown word. This option is available through Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and Safari.
Games and content creation are another way to provide opportunities for language production. Students from all backgrounds are motivated to learn new information and skills when learning is gamified; BarryFunEnglish does just that. This online resource has a combination of visual and auditory flashcards. Teachers can create their own flashcard sets or choose from premade ones. These word sets can then be learned via 16 different game venues including: The Memory Wheel, Battleship, and Speed. In addition to these language learning features, Dart Board Selector, Scoreboard, Stopwatch, and Random Name Picker, are additional tools available in the free version. Limited access is available through the free version; however, monthly or yearly subscriptions can be purchased for a minimal fee (BarryFunEnglish, 2017).
Collaborative tools such as VoiceThread provide unique opportunities for speaking and listening practice. VoiceThread can be used for enhancing student engagement and online presence. With VoiceThread, instructors and students can create, share, and comment on images, presentations, videos, audio files, documents, and PDFs. Students can comment using a microphone, webcam, text, phone, and/or audio-file upload (VoiceThread, 2018).
Speaking, listening, and viewing are skills that support English Learners’ language development, and these skills can be practiced and refined through the Flipgrid social learning platform. The “grid” in Flipgrid is the classroom where educators ask a question and students respond via video. Students also respond to one another either publicly or privately by creating a discussion around the given topic (Merrill, 2018). Flipgrid is free to all educators and supports multiple operating systems (Catalano, 2018).
Forms of social networking such as digital discussion boards can be beneficial for English language learners since they “encourage students to collaborate with others and participate in experiential learning experiences” (Lacina, 2004, p. 114). These boards create a platform for students to be actively engaged in academic and social English outside of the classroom setting. There are several social networking programs available on the Internet, such as Dave’s ESL Café, Classroom 2.0, and Moodle. Another free social networking program, Edmodo, provides an intuitive way for teachers and students to stay connected in a safe and secure learning environment (Edmodo, 2010). However, just providing additional language opportunities is not enough.
Building Background Knowledge
Building an ELL’s background knowledge is another important consideration because of the role it plays in supporting increased understanding of both vocabulary terms and comprehension. While lower vocabulary understanding seems to be one factor that increases ELLs’ comprehensions difficulties; lack of background knowledge also contributes to this challenge (Burgoyne, Whiteley, & Hutchinson, 2013). Academically complex texts place heavy demands on readers requiring them to integrate their real-world knowledge with information presented in the text (Bowyer-Crane & Snowling, 2005). ELLs may not have the cultural and personal experiences that would make appropriate background knowledge available, or accessible, to them to help facilitate passage comprehension. Thus, differences in relevant background knowledge may negatively impact ELLs’ comprehension of a complex text. NearPod Field Trip is an engaging resource for building knowledge. To create the virtual field trip, the teacher chooses a content slide, selects the Field Trip option, and indicates a destination. This can be, for example, a physical location on the earth like the country of Egypt, an underwater locale, or a position in space. Students get to see a 360-degree visual of the site enabling ELLs, and all students, to make connections and build background knowledge.
Background knowledge can also be enhanced through reading about a topic in the encyclopedia; however, many ELLs will find this academic format to be challenging. Simple English Wikipedia is an effective resource to use with English language learners. Although not a scholarly source, it is a version of the standard Wikipedia site that has been adapted for ELLs, younger students, or anyone else who might struggle with reading printed English (Knutson, 2018).
Simplifying Complex Texts
Reading complex academic texts can be challenging for any student, but it can be especially daunting for second language learners. Providing ELLs with alternative ways of accessing key content texts and concepts allows them to learn the same material as other students while they are developing their English language skills (Ford, 2012). When printed materials or immediate translations are not available in the student’s native language, Google Translate provides a free service which instantly translates words, phrases, and web pages between English and over 100 other languages. Even though the program does not always provide an as accurate translation as may be desired, it does provide immediate language support (Zeiger, 2014).
Rewordify.com is a program that can be used to simplify difficult English texts. Anything from a sentence, to a chapter, or a website can be copied and pasted into the text box. Then the learner clicks the Rewordify text button and a simplified version appears instantly. The reworded portions of the text are highlighted. This allows the learner after reading the simplified version to go back to hear, learn, and understand the original more difficult wording.
It is important for ELLs to be exposed to the same content information as other learners. Newsela, an online news platform, scaffolds challenging texts by offering the same current event text written at five Lexile levels. Many texts are available in both English and Spanish and cover a variety of topics: War & Peace, Science, Health, Kids, Money, Law, and Arts. The website content is updated daily from a wide range of sources, and all articles are Common Core-aligned ranging from third to 12th grade readability. Each leveled text features a quiz and writing prompt tailored to that specific article (Brereton, 2014).
Visual information can provide the necessary bridge or scaffold between everyday language and more difficult academic language (Cruz, 2004). Yang (2014) and Schmidt-Weigand and Scheiter (2011) determined that visual and auditory display models had a positive impact on ELLs’ learning and confirm that overall, students learn more effectively when presented with contents represented as dual codes rather than just a single code. Both studies determined that the integration of verbal input and visual imagery appeared to enhance memory, thus enabling the English language learners in the experimental group to outperform their counterparts in the control group. Electronic flashcards via Quizlet, is another program that can provide visual and audio assistance for the English language learner who needs to practice their English vocabulary. The program provides over 500 sets of beginning English flashcards. Flashcard sets can be created to specifically match the ELL’s language needs. The Quizlet app includes activities for practicing, writing, spelling, matching, gaming and quizzing of new vocabulary words or phrases (Quizlet, 2019).
There are many ways to simplify a document or webpage. Numerous Chrome web extensions are available that will enable second language learners to read text-heavy documents more easily. Extensions are small software programs that can modify and enhance the functionality of the browser. Mercury Reader is an extension that reduces the clutter on a webpage by deleting ads, sidebars, and other distractions. The program reformats the document so it includes only the headlines and the content and is organized from left to right and top to bottom. The typography and size settings can be adjusted by clicking on the gear icon in the upper-right corner of the webpage once the page is in reading mode (Wong, 2016).
Another way to give ELLs access to the same information as other learners while decreasing language demands is by providing a summary of the text. One Click Summarizer and TLDR (Too Long Didn’t Read) are two Chrome extensions that can be used to accomplish this function. To use One Click Summarizer select any amount of text from a passage, click the Summary icon, and paste it in. The summary percentage can be set at any amount from 10 to 90 percent and within seconds a summarized version of the text is read aloud. One Click Summarizer makes quick work of getting the gist of large amounts of information. The TLDR Plugin extension provides a condensed synopsis/summary view of news, blog posts, and other articles online. It analyzes the content and creates summarized versions in four different lengths on any web page or web applications such as web mail, Grammarly, EverNote, and Google Translate.
Enhancing Fluency and Comprehension
Unlike children learning to read in their first language, ELLs have, by definition, less well-developed oral language skills consequently making reading with fluency and comprehension more challenging. Because of oral language challenges, ELLs tend to rely more heavily on basic cognitive skills such as phonological awareness and naming speed to support the decoding of written text resulting in decreased comprehension and fluency (Zadeh, Farnia, & Geva, 2012). Listening comprehension skills, on the other hand, tend to be more fully developed than reading comprehension skills so listening comprehension skills can be used to help enhance reading comprehension and increase fluency. In the classroom a teacher read aloud can support listening and comprehension skills; however, a teacher is not always immediately available to provide this support. Read & Write is a Chrome extension that provides a read-aloud of the text for students who are not proficient English language readers. This program will read aloud documents (tests or quizzes, for example) as well as websites. It can be used for whole text or parts of a text and has translation and annotation features (ESL Nexus, 2019).
The Chrome extension, Read Aloud, supports 40+ languages and reads a web page or article out loud with the option of highlighting the lines of text as they are being read. The voice is somewhat synthetic, but the pitch, speed and gender can be controlled (Isdsoftware.com, 2019).
Conclusion Supporting ELLs can be a challenge. These learners speak various languages and have varied social and cultural backgrounds and experiences. Their first language may not be alphabetic, or they may not be literate in their first language. They may have acquired adequate social language but may struggle with academic language. Advances in technology provide methods for addressing English language learners’ needs while supporting teachers in meeting the demands of helping these learners be successful in their academic setting. By providing additional support and opportunities for language production, simplifying texts and formats, enhancing vocabulary acquisition, and increasing background knowledge our ELLs can become more successful in the K-12 educational setting. Finding time to support the unique needs of ELLs can be difficult; technology can be used to support both the English language learner and the teacher. The challenge facing teachers lies in making classrooms places in which all students, even those with limited English proficiency, have opportunities to learn and use spoken and written language for a wide variety of social and academic purposes. Providing a variety of academic and technological scaffolding will help to ensure all students’ success.
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SSTESOL Journal ISSUE 12 Number 2, SUMMER, 2019 p.75
Making a Difference for ELLs with Technology
Lin Carver and Lauren Pantoja
Saint Leo University and Paul R. Smith Middle School
There is a critical need for teachers to support the ever-increasing number of English Language Learners (ELLs) in our K-12 schools. The high demands of every classroom do not always allow the teacher to be immediately on-hand for individualized instruction for ELLs. Research indicates that teachers can scaffold English language learners’ learning by providing opportunities for language production experiences, building background knowledge, simplifying text features, and increasing ELLs’ comprehension and fluency. In addition to the scaffolds a teacher provides before, during and after instruction, there are many digital resources that can be used to support our English Language Learners. This text explores a few of the vast possibilities of programs, apps, and Chrome extensions that can be used to meet students’ needs.
SSTESOL Journal ISSUE 12 Number 2, SUMMER, 2019 p.76
SSTESOL Journal ISSUE 12 Number 2, SUMMER, 2019 p.77
Stay in touch with Sunshine State TESOL. Visit our website at: https://sunshinestatetesol.wildapricot.org/
SSTESOL Journal ISSUE 12 Number 2, SUMMER, 2019 p.78
SSTESOL Journal ISSUE 12 Number 2, SUMMER, 2019 p.79
Connectives have been widely recognized as a prevalent feature of academic or literate language (Crosson & Lesaux, 2013; Nippold, Ward-Lonergan, & Fanning, 2005) and abundant in students’ texts and formal written contexts (Nair, 2007). Connective refers to words and phrases that help to link ideas across sentences (Nippold, Schwarz, & Undlin, 1992). Seminal research in this area, such as that of Crowhurst (1987), suggests students use specific types of early developing connectives during elementary grades (e.g. and, so, also, then) and more sophisticated or later developing connectives are used in middle and high school (e.g. consequently, finally, in conclusion). Further, burgeoning research suggests that knowledge of academic connectives may have important contributions to students’ outcomes warranting closer study of connectives.
It is thought that knowledge of connectives predicts reading comprehension (Cain, Patson, & Andrews, 2005; Uccelli et al., 2015; van Silhout, Evers-Vermeul, Mak, & Sanders, 2014). Research by Cain, Patson, & Andrews (2005) demonstrated that age and reading comprehension skills are a good predictor of connectives understanding and use. Older children were more likely to correctly use temporal (e.g. when, before), casual (e.g. so, because), and adversative (e.g. but) connectives; furthermore, poor comprehenders were less likely to choose the target word when given a cloze task. Uccelli et al. (2005) conducted a study to evaluate the academic language skills of 4th-to-6th grade students that are thought to predict reading comprehension skills in preadolescents. The results demonstrated that core academic language skills (including knowledge of logical connectives, such as nevertheless and consequently) are a significant predictor of students reading comprehension skills (Uccelli et al., 2005).
A few studies have found that greater use of connective devices is associated with more advanced writers (Jin, 2001; Connor, 1990) and academic writing (Crosson & Lesaux, 2013). In one such study, Nippold et al. (2005), examined clausal development in a persuasive writing task across three age groups: children 11 years old, adolescents who were 17 years old, and college aged adults who were 24 years old. Results indicated that the use of relative clauses was statistically different between groups with a mean of 11.70 in the children’s written samples, 16.64 in the adolescents’ samples, and 20.79 in the adults’ writing. The authors concluded that relative clauses in a persuasive writing task evidenced an age-related increase into adulthood. This demonstrated progression in students’ use with advancement in age or grades, supports the notion that connectives are an indicator in developmental advancement in language skills.
English Learners’ Knowledge of Connectives
Despite the advantage of leveraging knowledge of connectives, it is suspected that English Learners are less likely to utilize connectives to deduce the meaning of complex text when reading (Crosson & Lesaux, 2013). Notably few studies have examined knowledge and use of connectives by students from linguistically diverse backgrounds and even fewer explore effective instructional practices. However, available studies suggest that students who are English learners (ELs) may have more difficulty acquiring connectives in their second language in oral and written language (e.g. Crosson et al., 2008; Droop & Verhoeven, 2003; McClure & Steffenson, 1985; Verhoeven, 2000). Of the available studies, a number of the studies focused on students in non-English speaking schools (e.g. Crossley & McNamar; 2010; Droop & Verhoeven, 2003; Tapper, 2005; Verhoeven, 2000). Crossley and McNamar, for example, examined written essays of high school students in Hong Kong and reported that students categorized as highly proficient writers showed superior linguistic sophistication in English but still did not use more cohesive devices than less proficient writers. Several investigations studied non-native learners of Dutch in the Netherlands (Droop & Verhoeven, 2003; Verhoeven, 2000) and reported that students from non-native Dutch backgrounds had limited knowledge of connectives than native Dutch speakers.
Of the available studies that specifically examined students who were English Learners in schools in the United States (e.g. Crosson & Lesaux, 2013; McClure & Steffenson, 1985), findings suggest students who are ELs may require additional support to leverage connectives. In the results of McClure & Steffenson (1985) for example, Spanish-English speaking students had less knowledge of connectives in terms of their meanings and functions, compared to their monolingual English-only speaking peers. Similarly, Crosson and Lesaux (2013) reported that EL students were not as successful as their monolingual English-only speaking peers in using knowledge of connectives to understand longer written passages.
There is burgeoning interest in the role of connectives and recognition of their importance in reading comprehension and advanced writing, but only a handful of studies have focused explicitly on connectives (Crosson & Lesaux, 2013; Kim, Park & Park, 2013; Nippold, Ward-Longerman, & Fanning, 2005; Sánchez & García, 2009). Even fewer studies have included or considered English Learners’ syntactic written language development, particularly with a focus on the use of connectives specifically. In response, the current study aimed to review the available literature on instructional practices for enhancing students’ connective knowledge and use and offer suggestions for instructional practices.
1. What are recommended practices in the literature for teaching English Learning connectives?
2. What (if any) instructional methods have been shown to be effective in the literature?
To examine and synthesize the literature related to instructional practices for teaching connectives to English Learners, we conducted a literature search using related terms including: connectives, sentence-combining, conjunctions, instructional practices connectives, instruction on connectives, teaching connectives and strategies for teaching connectives. Sentence-combining was included as a search term because of its association with teaching grammatical skills including conjunctions. This approach, developed decades ago (Strong, 1986), focused on combining simple sentences using connectors and, but, and because. Although and, but, and because are considered early developing connectives, the instructional approach has been utilized in assisting students to combine sentences in oral and written language (Strong, 1986).
Twelve scholarly articles, resources, and instructional materials related to connectives surfaced in the literature review. Several different formats surfaced, including articles, books, and websites that shared recommended instructional practices for teaching connectives. Of the articles that included recommended instructional practices, two provided data on effectiveness of an approach or practice. One intervention study that included random assigned (Sadler & Graham, 2005) examined the effect of peer-assisted sentence-combining instruction on writing skills. The results offered further evidence specific to sentence-combining for facilitating students’ constructions of complex sentences that include early developing conjunctions.
To address the first research aim which was to describe recommended instructional practices for connectives present in the existing literature, we aggregated recommendations across the articles that surfaced in the review. Of recommended practices, instructional techniques that were nominated in one or more scholarly article are provided in Appendix 1.
Of the proposed strategies for teaching connectives, explicit instruction and illustrative teaching techniques were most commonly referenced within the literature. Explicit instruction, supported by Crosson & Lesaux (2013), Tseng & Liou (2006), Saddler & Graham (2005), and the FCRR, is aimed at developing the students’ knowledge and skilled use of connectives. Illustrative teaching techniques includes the use of visuals (Graham, MacArther, & Fitgerald, 2013), videos (BBC), and games (BBC; 4 Connective Games; Mesmer and Rose-McCully, 2017; Sentence Building Cards; Tsend and Liou, 2006) that encourage learning via an engaging format.
In terms of teaching progression, resources suggest teaching connectives following the sequence of typical acquisition and an order of increasing difficulty (FCRR; Mesmer & Rose-McCully, 2017; Reading Rockets; Tseng & Liou, 2006). Although cued examples are initially encouraged, including verbal and written modeling (Crosson & Lesaux, 2013; Graham, MacArther, & Fitgerald, 2013; Reading Rockets), as well as the use of cloze activities (Mesmer & Rose-McCully, 2017; Tseng & Liou, 2006), assistance should be gradually decreased (scaffolding; Crosson & Lesaux, 2013). Throughout the teaching and learning process, the instructor is advised to create and provide opportunities for connective use across modalities (speaking, writing, reading) with frequent references to the connectives as they appear in context. The implementation of performance feedback, provided either by the instructor or a peer, has resulted in students’ improved skills for combining sentences using a connective (Graham, MacArther, and Fitgerald, 2013; Saddler and Graham, 2005) and indicates its potential as an effective instructional practice.
To address the second research aim which sought to identify instructional methods for connectives that have been empirically tested and shown to be effective, we isolated studies that specifically tested the effects of an intervention or a teaching approach to connectives. Experimental studies are marked with an asterisk in Appendix 1. Few empirical studies surfaced that tested an instructional approach for teaching connectives using an experimental or quasi-experimental design. Given that there were no empirical studies that addressed connectives specifically or in isolation, we targeted grammar broadly but may not have examined effects on connective acquisition specifically. A summary of empirically tested oral language learning strategies is provided in Table 1.
There are numerous research studies that support the effectiveness of incorporating repeated models in meaningful linguistic contexts, using different labels for that strategy (e.g. Ardasheva, Wang, Adesope, & Valentine, 2017; Axelsson, Churchley, & Horst, 2012; Goodman, Dale, & Li, 2008; Schwab & Lew-Williams, 2016). The strategy of auditory bombardment has been found to be effective in increasing students’ awareness of specific oral language forms (e.g. Encinas & Plante, 2016). Auditory bombardment is intended to increase exposure to targets which could include connective forms. The strategy is often referred to by several other names in the literature. Similar strategies, referred to as consciousness raising (Ardasheva, Wang, Adesope, & Valentine, 2017) ostensive naming (Axelsson, Churchley, & Horst, 2010; Lund, 2018) and simply described as repetition across successive sentences (Schwab & Lew-Williams, 2016), share overlapping features of increasing students’ awareness and facilitating acquisition of a targeted language form through intensifying the frequency of exposure to the form. Regardless of name variation, the technique has been shown to be effective in a number of studies and meta-analyses as shown in Table 1.
Another oral language learning technique that was identified in the literature as an effective strategies is linking a targeted language form or lexical item to students’ existing knowledge to provide scaffolding for learning In the literature, linking to existing knowledge is achieved in a multitude of ways such as pairing the new word with simplified explanations of the word meaning (e.g. Biemiller & Boote, 2006; Silverman et al., 2013), linking to students’ previous experiences, providing synonyms of known words, and contrasting the new word with a known antonyms (e.g. Apthrop et al., 2012; Baumann et al., 2007; Daltron et al., 2011).
Not surprisingly, active practice was consistency found to be associated with better language learning outcomes (e.g. Ardasheva et al., 2017; Biemiller & Boote, 2006; Ukrainetz, 2015). There was consensus in the literature regarding potential benefits of active, engaged practice on language learning for ELs; although the strategy appears in the literature using different naming conventions. For example, Ukrainetz (2015) found engaged opportunities for learning to be effective and a meta-analysis (Ardasheva et al., 2017), supported guided cooperative practice as an effective language learning strategy for English learners.
Additionally, the use of visuals was a reoccurring theme in the literature on instructional approaches for language learning. For ELs in particular, showing or demonstrating the meaning of words through visuals and manipulatives is considered recommended practice (Gersten et al., 2007). Consistent with recommended practices by the Alliance for Education, and IES Practice Guide, showing or demonstrating the meaning of words through visuals and manipulatives is beneficial for conveying the meanings of new words (Gersten et al., 2007). This language learning strategy is often executed through role playing, graphic organizers, visuals, and illustrations.
There is a paucity of evidence-based practice for teaching connectives and facilitating students’ ability to leverage knowledge of connectives to comprehend written passages and improve writing performance.
Suggestions for Instructional Practice
Although there is a paucity of research that provides an evidence base for effective instruction on connectives specifically, insights the evidence-base on oral language learning strategies may be applied to instructional practices for connectives. As such, we offer suggestions for instructional practices for teaching connectives influenced by evidence-based oral language learning strategies.
• Systematically target a small number (1-2) each week. Consider teaching connectives in clusters grouped by their function. For example, connectives that relate to consequences or results (e.g. therefore, consequently, accordingly, thus, because of this/that, for that reason); connectives that demonstrate summation (e.g. altogether, overall, to conclude, finally, to sum up) and connectives that relate to time, order. or sequence (e.g. before, after, previously, lastly).
• Provide repeated frequent exposure to connectives by intentionally using the target connective excessively in oral and written language. Challenge students to do the same.
• Increase students’ awareness of connectives by pointing them out in conversational interactions and oral and written language models.
•Increase the frequency of opportunities for students to practice connective use. Consider providing conversation starters that challenge them to construct sentences using the target connective (e.g. after all…).
• Incorporate visuals such as concept maps whenever possible to demonstrate the meaning or nature of the cohesion provided by the connective. For example, number the sequence with a “1” and “2” to indicate what happened first and second in a sentence that uses before and after.
• Employ sentence combining instructional approaches to teach less frequent connectives (although, however, instead of, consequently) in addition to basic conjunctions (and, but, because).
• Leverage feedback and peer-to-peer support to bolster student learning (Saddler & Graham, 2005).
Suggestions for Future Research
Given the paucity of research on ELs’ knowledge and use of connectives, it will be important to conduct further examination of connectives in a variety of spoken and written language tasks. Perhaps even more importantly, additional research is warranted on effective instructional practices for facilitating EL’s acquisition of connectives. To inform practice, rigorous experimental studies are needed with random assignment to examine the effectiveness of instructional approaches.
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Ardasheva, Y., Wang, Z., Adesope, O., & Valentine, J. (2017). Exploring effectiveness and moderators of language learning strategy instruction on second language and self-regulated learning outcomes. Review of Educational Research, 87(3) 554-582. doi: 10.3102/0034654316689135.
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Making Connections: A Review of Instructional Practices on Connectives for English Learners
Carla Wood, Cynthia Delarosa and Josefina Almanza-Ojeda
Florida State University
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Table 1: Highlighted Oral Language Learning Strategies
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New Ways in Teaching Speaking, Second Edition (2018)
Reviewed by: Alexandria S. Hadden
College of Social Sciences and Humanities, Koc University, Turkey
TESOL Press has recently published New Ways in Teaching Speaking, Second Edition, edited by Julie Vorholt as an update to the original 1994 publication. The book remains an outstanding resource for second language (L2) educators seeking practical activities that foster meaningful language production in the L2 classroom. While offering structure, the activities in this book allow for learner autonomy and creativity. Speakers are encouraged to make decisions regarding what they want to say and how they want to say it. This encourages the recipient of the information to develop receptive skills as well as oral production skills because, during conversations, speakers must constantly make decisions regarding another speaker’s intended meaning (van Lier, 1996). The activities are divided into five categories: developing fluency, developing accuracy, developing pronunciation, speaking in specific contexts, and speaking and technology. The book, marketed to preservice teachers, teacher trainers, and practicing teachers, contains over 100 new speaking activities submitted by L2 teachers worldwide. The introduction states that most activities can be adapted to benefit learners at a variety of levels.
The introduction includes a user’s guide to the activities. Each activity is foregrounded with the following information: the suggested student proficiency level, the activity’s aims, the approximate time needed for both the activity and for teacher preparation, and the necessary materials followed by an introduction and step-by-step instructions. Lastly, a section called Caveats and Options is provided giving information about how the activity can be altered or extended. Many activities conclude with Related References and Further Reading. Since all of this information is generally contained on one or two pages, teachers can easily browse, prioritize and chose activities based on student level, aims, resources, and the time available during the lesson.
The first category in the book is titled Developing Fluency and is divided into five subsections: conversation, interaction, group work, dialogues and role-plays, and game-based learning. Research supports the idea that learners can learn from each other during communicative interaction (Swain et al., 2003). The activities in each subsection provide ample opportunities for students to engage with each other, and the range of activities ensures that teachers can vary the ways in which their students practice using the target language. The result is that students remain interested and motivated as they are guided in the production of original oral output. Both partner and group work encourage creativity.
The second category, Developing Accuracy, contains two subsections: Grammatical Task-Based Speaking and Vocabulary. Since students may struggle to recall recently learned grammatical structures and vocabulary words, the activities in this section typically include assistance via handouts or information written on the board. In this way, scaffolding that provides “contextual supports for meaning through the use of simplified language, teacher modeling, visuals and graphics, cooperative learning and hands-on learning" (Ovando, Collier, & Combs, 2003, p. 345) is implemented. With this support, students can comfortably practice using the grammatical forms and vocabulary of the target language in speech.
Developing Pronunciation is the third category in the text. Instruction in pronunciation should “enable learners to surpass the threshold level so that their pronunciation will not detract from their ability to communicate” (Celce-Murcia, p. 8). The activities in this section are geared to do just that. The subsections are: Segmental Phonemes, Suprasegmental Phonemes, Game-Based Learning, and Miscellaneous. In all, there are 14 pronunciation-focused activities allow students to practice specific problematic sounds (consonant and vowel), syllables, minimal pairs, and more.
The fourth category, Speaking in Specific Contexts, contains five subsections including one titled Spoken English for Academic and Professional Purposes focusing on university-level tasks such as presentation skills, and debating, that can help prepare students for professional careers. Two activities specifically address discussion and facilitation; honing these skills will add value far beyond the L2 classroom as these real world skills are valuable in many fields. This category concludes with a subsection called Young Speakers designed specifically for the kindergarten through Grade 12 population.
The final category, Speaking and Technology, is a new and valuable addition as the use of technology in the language classroom can be transformative if utilized meaningfully. Too often, though, teachers have shied away from developing lessons that involve technology; van Lier stated that “when used [educational technology’s] full potential is often not exploited” (2002, p. 49). While the activities in this category make use of a wide variety of technology including video games, cell phones, apps, and podcasts, even teachers who are uncomfortable with technology will find these activities easy to implement and use as they require just basic familiarity with everyday technologies such as cameras and the internet.
New Ways in Teaching Speaking, Second Edition enables teachers to provide successful lessons and/or supplemental instruction without needing to do extensive research and preparation. A symbol (R), appearing with some activities directs teachers to online resources such as handouts and PowerPoint presentations. While the activities are adaptable to many levels, absolute beginners and very low level learners may be underserved. The text would be strengthened by the inclusion of game-based activities in each category as these are very popular with both students and teachers. Overall, this book will be a valuable addition to any ESL or L2 teacher’s materials collection. It is available in print and PDF format at: www.tesol.org/bookstore
Bailey, K., & Savage, L. (Eds.). (1994). New ways in teaching speaking. Alexandria, VA: Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages.
Celce-Murcia, M., Brinton, D., & Goodwin, J. (1996). Teaching pronunciation: A reference for teachers of English to speakers of other languages. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Ovando, C., Collier, V., & Combs, M. (2003). Bilingual and ESL classrooms: Teaching multicultural contexts (3rd ed.). Boston: McGraw-Hill.
Robinson, P. (1980). ESP (English for Specific Purposes). Pergamon Press Ltd. New York.
Swain, M., Brooks, L. & Tocalli-Beller, A. (2003) Peer-peer dialogue as a means of second language learning. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics,23: 171-185.
van Lier, L. (2002). A Tale of Two Computer Classrooms. Educational Linguistics Ecology of Language Acquisition, 49-63. doi: 10.1007/978-94-017-0341-3_3
van Lier, L. (1996). Interaction in the language curriculum: Awareness, autonomy and authenticity. Harlow: Longman.
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