Equity and Justice in Language Education

We recently published Transforming World Language Teaching and Teacher Education for Equity and Justice edited by Beth Wassell and Cassandra Glynn. In this post the editors explain the inspiration behind the book.

Although the work on this book began in 2019, the story behind it begins in the late 1990s. It starts with two White, middle-class, teachers – one in the Midwest and one in the Northeast – who loved languages, loved learning about different cultures, and had a passion, and enough money, to travel. The two young women, Beth and Cassandra, started teaching world languages in middle and high school. They cared about their students and wanted to be just like the teachers who inspired them. But they made a lot of missteps, mostly due to their lack of awareness of their own privilege, their own identities, and their students’ identities.

Fast forward to the early 2010s, when the two met in Denver while at a conference. At this point, each had continued their academic journey and pursued doctoral degrees in education. Each had begun working in university-based teacher education, hoping to inspire a new generation of language teachers. But graduate school, mixed with some powerful experiences in urban P-12 settings, transformed them.

They couldn’t look at those “foreign language” classrooms without noticing issues of access and equity: the students who were told they shouldn’t take a language, or schools where students had to wait until adolescence to be exposed to new languages and cultures. They became increasingly aware of the racial and socioeconomic divides in US schools – the privileged had greater access to robust programming, qualified teachers, and programs that spanned multiple years. Meanwhile, in communities ripe with multilingualism, opportunities and resources for high quality language learning were limited.

They also noticed that the curriculum hadn’t changed much since their days as students – those old lessons on Oktoberfest and mariachi, on how to shop in a department store or order in a restaurant, were still ubiquitous. Lessons that encouraged students to analyze and critique issues of resilience, equity, or justice, that real people experienced daily, were rare.

There were some scholars writing about or enacting critical and culturally sustaining pedagogies in world language spaces – those who saw potential for transformation. This group was growing, and the two women started connecting with colleagues at conferences who were advocating for rethinking the system. They met other scholars and teachers who were theorizing and beginning to disseminate their work on critical approaches. They learned from and started to collaborate with colleagues who propelled their thinking. Like their colleagues, they recognized that this growing body of literature needed to be nurtured before it would take a more significant hold in language teaching and teacher education.

This led those two women – Beth and Cassandra – to a collaborative effort of a text, one that boldly highlights the ways that scholars in the US, and beyond, are not just thinking about, but doing equity and justice work in language education contexts. The result was an edited book that demonstrates how scholars and educators are pushing boundaries to reconstruct a field that has been mired in colonialism and elitism since its inception. The chapters in this book demonstrate what dismantling curriculum, instruction, and teacher preparation looks like. It provides transformative insights on critical language teacher education, intercultural citizenship, disrupting master narratives, teacher identity, decolonizing heritage language pedagogy, and community-centered approaches to teaching and teacher education, written by foremost scholars in language education.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Peacebuilding in Language Education edited by Rebecca L. Oxford, María Matilde Olivero, Melinda Harrison and Tammy Gregersen.

Professional Development through Teacher Research

We recently published Professional Development through Teacher Research edited by Darío Luis Banegas, Emily Edwards and Luis S. Villacañas de Castro. In this post each of the editors share what motivated them to put the volume together.

Darío: Except for a few cases, the role that teacher educators play is often ignored at the levels of research and pedagogy. Recognising ourselves as teachers of teachers can be both a great weight and a great privilege in the land of formal education. My interest in working on this was directed by these questions: How do language teacher educators use teacher research to self-direct their own professional development and enhance their practices? What different experiences and trajectories do colleagues navigate in different contexts? This second question encouraged us to contact teacher educators based in countries usually underrepresented in the international literature such as Ecuador or Kenya. Through this volume, I want to contribute to conversations on knowledge democracy and flow, on social justice and representation, on engagement and agency, and on inspiring and inviting fellow educators to examine and share their take on the connections between research and pedagogy in their own educational spaces.

Emily: Practitioner-research can be transformative, not only for the practitioner themselves but also for others involved either integrally or peripherally in the research. Teacher educators have a lot of potential power as agents of change to initiate a cascade effect of professional development and benefits for themselves and others (their student-teachers, their colleagues and peers, and their students’ future students and school communities). At the same time, they can struggle with the dual, often misaligned, teaching and research pressures of their work contexts. I am continually interested in how the processes and products of doing research can change educators – whether they are student-teachers, in-service teachers or teacher educators. So in preparing this volume, I was keen to learn from the chapter contributors about their own motivations, processes, designs, perceptions, learning and responses to the challenges they encountered in the practice of engaging in research. Another question on my mind was what kinds of support and supportive environment teacher educators might need to conduct and publish classroom-based research studies.

Luis: In their job, teacher educators have to fulfill a two-fold goal, and this often involves a remarkable challenge. On the one hand, they want their student-teachers to fully enjoy and engage in the activities that they design for them, with their present-day motivations, experiences and growth in mind. On the other, teacher educators also hope that these activities will have the middle or long-term effect of helping their student-teachers become competent and creative teachers in turn, hence capable of designing activities that will motivate their school or high school students in the future. But how can teacher educators make sure that what their student-teachers learn and experience in their training courses will transfer to real school contexts? One of the reasons I decided to help assemble this volume was to explore the role that research might play in reconciling these present and future, direct and indirect, goals. Researching their own practice and inducting student-teachers into research initiatives and strategies may be the best way for teacher educators to train autonomous and self-directed professionals.

Our personal motivations coincide in stressing the importance of creating meaningful and sustainable teaching and learning experiences that may start in teacher education and have rippling effects across the educational system and beyond. We hope you feel the same after reading the volume.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Preparing Teachers to Work with Multilingual Learners edited by Meike Wernicke, Svenja Hammer, Antje Hansen and Tobias Schroedler.

How are EAL Teachers Educated Around the World?

We recently published The Preparation of Teachers of English as an Additional Language around the World edited by Nihat Polat, Laura Mahalingappa and Hayriye Kayi-Aydar. In this post the editors explain the importance of studying teacher education in different settings.

The Preparation of Teachers of English as an Additional Language around the World fills a critical gap in this highly neglected area of educational research: international teacher education. No doubt, this is an area with great potential for the cross-pollination of ideas and actions. Why shouldn’t an innovative approach in teacher education in another country (e.g. in Finland) be adopted, appropriately reconditioned (as per contextual and sociocultural particularities), and utilized in other places (e.g. the US)?

Wouldn’t we all benefit from how the ideas of the great critical pedagogue Paulo Freire are incorporated in EAL teacher education in Brazil? Or, in Finnish and Korean EAL teacher education, how societal values such as trust, autonomy, and professional identity, are promoted? What about how, in nation-states like Greece, Russia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, EAL teacher education is considered critical for socioeconomic success and inte­gration (in science, technology, etc.) with the rest of the world. Or, how in Canada, New Zealand, and the US, multicultural and pluralistic values (e.g. cultural identity, sensitivity to contextual par­ticularities) are emphasized as part of ‘culturally responsive pedagogy’?  We can hear you say ‘Da?’ Indeed, there is no good reason for this not happening! Yet, unfortunately, this has not been the case.

With this goal in mind, this book focuses on the preparation of EAL teachers in 11 countries (Brazil, Canada, China, Finland, Greece, New Zealand, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Turkey and the USA). All chapters are built around four critical areas of comparison: policy, research, curriculum, and practice. We have taken this multicultural and multifaceted approach because we believe that a true understanding of high-quality teacher edu­cation is possible only when all major factors contributing to its overall strength are explored simultaneously.

All chapter authors, great researchers and teacher educators, took the same mul­tidimensional approach (and same chapter format) to the kind of data sources (e.g. policy documents, curriculum) that they utilized in writing their chapters. So, this volume will help teacher educators, policymakers, researchers and state education professionals, as well as teacher candi­dates and in-service EAL teachers, learn more about how EAL teachers are educated in different settings around the world. Our hope is that readers will use this volume to improve EAL teacher education in their setting. From national policy about EAL teacher recruitment, compensation, credentialing, quality benchmarks to curriculum mandates about knowledge, skills, dispositions, as well as clinical experience, and accreditation, this volume is truly a gold mine, with great potential.

For more information about this book please see our website

If you found this interesting, you might also like Preparing Teachers to Work with Multilingual Learners edited by Meike Wernicke, Svenja Hammer, Antje Hansen and Tobias Schroedler.

How are Pre-service Teachers Being Prepared to Work in Multilingual Contexts?

This month we published Preparing Teachers to Work with Multilingual Learners, edited by Meike Wernicke, Svenja Hammer, Antje Hansen and Tobias Schroedler. In this post the editors discuss the project that inspired the volume as well as the research initiatives currently emerging from the project. 

Among the many challenges, the current COVID-19 global pandemic has brought to light a heightened need to take into account the reality of language diversity in our societies, especially in a time of crisis. Conveying rapidly changing information related to public health cannot only happen in the dominant or official language. Local communities require reliable, consistent access to relevant information in the languages they use, including minoritized languages that have historically been devalued and continue to be marginalized across many regions of the world. This sense of urgency is also a reality in educational contexts, where teachers are confronting an ever wider range of culturally and linguistically diverse students in their classrooms. This past year, with repeated lockdowns making home-schooling and online learning and teaching the only options, the importance of home languages has become all the more salient as teachers are navigating daily communication with students and their parents. An ever-important question that both pre-pandemic and the current realities raise is, “how are pre-service teachers being prepared to work in multilingual contexts?”

This edited volume responds to exactly this question. The chapters presented here discuss in detail the kinds of multilingual approaches that are being developed in teacher education programs and professional learning in countries across Europe and North America, in response to the national and regional language-in-education policies implemented over the past several decades.

What makes this volume unique is that it is not merely a collection of research studies centered on a common theme. Rather, the volume is the culmination of an international research project initiated at the University of Hamburg in Germany in 2018, bringing together emerging researchers from Canada, Croatia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Russia, Sweden and the United States for the purpose of exploring key approaches to linguistic diversity in current pre-service teacher education. Two webinars and a face-to-face workshop in Hamburg resulted in an exceptionally rich exchange of ideas on multilingualism, producing not only a much-needed overview of different international perspectives on multilingual teacher preparation, but also providing an opportunity for project participants to take a step back from their own educational setting and to situate their practices and perspectives within a larger context.

Notably, the chapters highlight the complexity of each educational context and the role that history, language policies, and institutional and programmatic priorities play in the development and implementation of a multilingual focus in teacher education. Of particular interest are the country-specific issues that have evolved due to the history and ongoing presence of multiple languages in educational contexts. The authors who have contributed to the volume take a critical view of how multilingualism itself is conceptualized within and across these settings, while considering not only migrant-background learners but also students from Indigenous, autochthonous and heritage language backgrounds, or speaking minoritized regional varieties. Overall, the book highlights the positive and valuable impact that explicit instruction on theories of multilingualism, pedagogies in multilingual classrooms, and lived realities of multilingual children can have on beliefs and practices of pre-service teachers.

To date, the MultiTEd project has already led to further collaborations for a number of the researchers in their respective contexts. For example, the book has prompted countrywide discussions among teacher educators, practitioners and researchers in Canada with an emphasis on “Centering multilingual learners in teacher education.” A Germany-Sweden collaboration is exploring pre-service teachers’ beliefs about multilingualism in different national settings while research partnerships between Italy, Germany and Estonia are working to expand cooperation in teacher education and are focused on inclusive linguistic practices and the promotion of social equity in educational settings through translanguaging pedagogies. Research extending from the study described in the US context is currently investigating multilingual, inclusive approaches in remote contexts, including online instruction during the pandemic and in teacher education. In response to the ideological and structural challenges highlighted by students and teachers in this research, the group is now exploring advocacy efforts to address state-level education policies as they relate to languages in the classroom. The MultiTEd project also underpins work in Finland connected with the research alliance FORTHEM Multilingualism in School and Higher Education. Moreover, it has initiated further international cooperation to commonly analyze the role of multilingualism in teacher education in Austria as well as South Africa. And not only is the volume providing a useful comparison for ongoing empirical investigations about teachers attitudes toward multilingualism or the volume’s contributors, the chapters are also being built into future research projects, seminars, and teacher education courses. In that regard, the authors and editors are happy to share their experiences and collaborate with interested scholars to further explore the subject in other national or regional contexts.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Preparing Teachers to Teach English as an International Language edited by Aya Matsuda.

How Has Language Education Changed Over Time?

This month we published Language Education in a Changing World by Rod Bolitho and Richard Rossner. In this post the authors explain what inspired them to write the book and why they think it is needed.

We’re pleased: after a long period of gestation and writing we’ve just received copies of our new book Language Education in a Changing World.

So what inspired us to write the book, and why do we think it is needed? Combined, our experience in language education spans 100 years. We have become increasingly aware that the time-honoured segmentations of foreign language education, teaching and learning of the language of schooling, language sensitive subject teaching and so on are no longer meaningful, if they ever were.

We have tried to take stock of how language and communication permeate and impact on all education at all ages, and in the book we review some of the thought-provoking work done by the Council of Europe and specialists in the fields of educational applied linguistics, multilingualism and pluralistic approaches. How have these perspectives impacted on learning in the classroom over the last 40 years? What is being done around the world – or at least in the parts of the world where we have been able to glean information – to incorporate holistic views of language and students’ language repertoires in education, and in teacher education? What could be done to foster dynamic collaboration among teachers and teacher educators across the curriculum? These are some of the questions we have addressed. It was quite a learning experience for us!

In the book we take a fairly close look at four or five areas in particular. We start with an exploration of the role of language and languages in learning and teaching, before going on to look at the recent history and current state of foreign language education and the somewhat controversial impact of English in education. In the second part of the book, we examine teacher education, both pre-service education and continuing professional development for teachers of languages, as well as the extent to which language and communication issues are addressed in the education of teachers of other subjects. The third part of the book focuses on policy around language in education and the roles various stakeholders play in influencing and implementing – or resisting – change. Then we end with our own wish list of future developments in policy around language in education and teacher education.

As potential readers, we had in mind education professionals of all kinds who are interested in exploring the role of language in the teaching of all subjects across the curriculum, including teachers of language, other teachers as well as teacher educators. We hope policymakers, textbook writers, curriculum developers and researchers will also find the book useful. Whatever their role and specific interests, we would welcome readers’ reactions to the contents of our book, and the policy recommendations we have made.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like The Action-oriented Approach by Enrica Piccardo and Brian North.

Early Language Learning in School Contexts Series – Looking Back, Looking Forward

It’s two years since the first book in our Early Language Learning in School Contexts series was published. In this post the series editor, Janet Enever, reflects on how the series began and what the future holds.

The inspiration for this book series began a long time ago – working as a language teacher educator in eastern Europe in the mid-1990s I found it very difficult to identify any research collections which focused on the 3-12 years age group, despite the needs of my students. Bringing the series to fruition however, has spread over a long period of gestation – teaching MA students in London, leading the ELLiE research project in Europe, then taking up a professorial position in Sweden where it became possible to work with colleagues to launch a conference event focusing on Early Language Learning: Theory and Practice in 2014. The event proved seminal, precipitating my proposal to AILA for the launch of a global research network in early language learning (ELL-ReN) and my proposal to Multilingual Matters for the launch of the Early Language Learning in School Contexts series (launched in 2015).

I’m thrilled now to be able to say that the Multilingual Matters book series Early Language Learning in School Contexts has really taken off, with three titles already published, at least one more expected in 2019 and a further four being written as we speak!

The aim of the series from the start has been to take a very global look at how early foreign, second and additional language learning is developing in many parts of the world. We have really fulfilled this promise with publications on:

Mixed methods research: Early Language Learning: Complexity and Mixed Methods (Eds. Janet Enever & Eva Lindgren, 2017);

Pre-school language learning: Early Instructed Second Language Acquisition: Pathways to Competence (Eds. Joanna Rokita-Jaśkow & Melanie Ellis, 2019);

Teacher education: Early Language Learning and Teacher Education (Eds. Subhan Zein & Sue Garton, 2019);

Coming in August 2019: Integrating Assessment into Early Language Learning and Teaching (Eds. Danijela Prošić-Santovac & Shelagh Rixon, 2019).

Other themes in the pipeline include: assessment for learning, issues in researching young language learners in school contexts, and policy – no promises as to when these will be published yet though!

Looking back and looking forward:

Reflecting on the three years since the series was launched, I can remember initial questions about whether such a series was needed. Some suggested that a separate strand of publications focusing only on language learners from 3-12 years was unnecessary. However, for teachers, teacher educators and researchers working in this field it has been difficult to know where to look for research which really focuses entirely on young children’s foreign/ second and additional language learning experiences. With the ELLSC series we have at last established a ‘home’ for this specialist area.

The series has proved timely, as more and more young children begin their journey of learning additional languages in schools and kindergartens around the world, so teachers and teacher educators are seeking research-based evidence to guide them in implementing age- and context-appropriate approaches to teaching and learning. With every new volume published in the series we are aiming to provide this support.

However, we still need much more! There are still many gaps in the collection! So, if you have an idea that you would like to discuss – either formally or informally, do get in touch with the Multilingual Matters editor, Laura Longworth at: laura@multilingual-matters.com. Alternatively, contact me directly at: j.h.enever@reading.ac.uk.

For more information about this series please see our website.

What Makes a Good EFL Teacher and How Can Teacher Educators Best Support Them?

This month we are publishing Early Professional Development in EFL Teaching by Chitose Asaoka. In this post the author explains how she came to study student teachers’ professional development in a Japanese EFL context.

Over the last twenty years, I have worked as a teacher educator of English as a Foreign Language in Japan. In order to become a secondary school teacher in Japan, you need to attend a teacher certification programme offered at a university and acquire a teaching qualification upon graduation. As a teacher educator in one such programme, I have always tried to mentor and accommodate student teachers (most of whom are native speakers of Japanese) through many situations and contexts.

In a teacher certification programme, student teachers learn about up-to-date approaches and methods of teaching English, such as communicative practice and student-centred approaches. They also learn how to use English effectively as a medium of instruction, which is one of the most-recently introduced education policies in Japan. During a three-week period of teaching practice at schools, however, many of the student teachers face the reality of the classroom and are asked to adjust to school contexts. Thus, they often cannot freely put what they have acquired into practice. For example, I frequently hear post-practicum stories from them, where they are asked to teach with the grammar-translation method, since passing the entrance exam is still a big priority for students. Moreover, they are not often allowed to teach in English, for various reasons, which is different from their pre-practicum expectations.

In many such cases, student teachers are often isolated and struggle to resolve the challenges by themselves. I am also remote from their actual school-based experiences and can only monitor their development through their teaching logs or stories when they come back to the university. Thus, questions were raised in my mind, and I started to feel the necessity to re-examine the process of student teachers’ professional development in a Japanese EFL context, as well as the kinds of experiences and challenges that they typically go through. For them to become good English teachers, what qualities are necessary, and what kinds of support can we provide as teacher educators? These questions inspired me to embark upon an empirical study in which I monitored how student teachers developed their teacher expertise, how their views on what makes a good English teacher shifted and developed, and what factors had an impact on their learning-to-teach processes.

Through detailed case studies created from interviews and reflective journals, this inquiry delves into the particular context of initial teacher education in Japan and draws out unique perspectives on student teachers’ professional development in initial teacher education. This book also shows the possible need to intervene at various stages of language teacher education, which is highly relevant for other settings of initial teacher education programmes beyond Japan. I hope that the findings presented in this book will be of interest and value to future teachers, in-service teachers, teacher educators and researchers interested in teacher education and the professional development of foreign language teachers.

Chitose Asaoka
casaoka@dokkyo.ac.jp

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Reflective Practice as Professional Development by Atsuko Watanabe. 

What Will You Do With the Rest of Your Life? Consider Working With English Learners!

This month we published Sarah J. Shin’s book English Language Teaching as a Second Career which is the first book in our new series CAL Series on Language EducationIn this post, Sarah discusses the experiences of people who embark upon a new career as an English teacher later in life.

English Language Teaching as a Second CareerConsider the following statistics: A 45-year-old American woman who remains free of heart disease and cancer can expect to see her 92nd birthday; a 45-year-old man in similar condition, his 88th birthday. This means that today’s 45-year-olds who maintain reasonably good health can look forward to living another half of their lives. Throughout much of human history, 40 was regarded as a fairly ripe old age. But with extraordinary advances in biomedicine in the last century, longevity has become a global reality.

As a result of dramatically increased life expectancy, a new developmental stage has emerged in the life cycle. The period between the end of young adulthood and the onset of true old age can easily cover a span of four or five decades.

An important consequence of increased life expectancy is that people need to be able to support themselves financially for more years. A 62-year-old person today could easily require 30+ years of retirement income. This motivates people to work beyond the traditional retirement age of 65. Four out of five baby boomers expect to work well into what used to be known as the retirement years.

What distinguishes this new generation of adults in terms of work is that they are moving beyond midlife careers in search of a calling in the second half of life. They focus on what matters most and are no longer satisfied to work simply to bring home the paycheck. They look for deeper meaning in what they do and are more interested in having an impact on the world around them. Driven by a sense of ‘If not now, when?’, they are able to break away from their former limitations and break new ground on the kind of work they choose to do.

As an English as a second language (ESL) teacher educator at a university, I interact with a growing number of people in their forties, fifties and sixties, who find satisfaction in helping students learn English. Many are actively involved in tutoring and volunteer work with literacy organizations in their communities, where they interact with immigrants and refugees from around the world. These individuals are moving beyond midlife careers in search of a calling in the second half of life, and many consider teaching to be that calling.

In my book, English Language Teaching as a Second Career, I explore what is on the minds of these adults, what they are looking for in their work with English learners and what their experiences are like as they return to school to be trained for a career in education alongside folks in their twenties and thirties. I provide portraits of these individuals as they develop as teachers and describe the processes they go through to launch their teaching careers, and the evolving significance of their work in their overall life goals and achievements.

With longevity a new global reality, the trend we see today of adults returning to school to be trained for a different career will continue in the coming years. The question is how will we create a shared vision for lifelong learning that helps individuals to experiment with new ideas and different types of work, regardless of where they are in the life cycle?

Sarah J. Shin, University of Maryland Baltimore County

For more information about this book, please see our website. You might also be interested in the recent interview with the editors of the CAL Series on Language Education on our blog.

An Interview with the Series Editors of CAL Series on Language Education

Next month we are publishing the first book in our CAL Series on Language EducationEnglish Language Teaching as a Second Career by Sarah J. Shin. To introduce the new series and explain more about its aims, we asked the series editors, Terrence G. Wiley, M. Beatriz Arias and Joy Kreeft Peyton, a few questions.

English Language Teaching as a Second CareerFor those who don’t already know, what is CAL and what do you do?
The Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL) is a nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, DC. We were founded in 1959 by noted linguist Charles A. Ferguson. Our mission is to promote language learning and cultural understanding, and we serve as a trusted resource for research, services, and policy analysis. The CAL team includes a cadre of scholars, researchers, and practitioners that focus on solutions to issues involving language and culture as they relate to access and equity in education and society around the globe.

What are the aims of the CAL Series on Language Education?
CAL wants to make high-quality, research-based resources on language learning, instruction, and assessment widely available to inform teacher classroom practices, enhance teacher education, and build background knowledge for university students across a wide range of disciplines.

Who is the audience for the series?
Educators, in the classroom or in training, as well as students in applied linguistics and other language-related fields.

How does the series differ from other series on language education?
CAL believes it can offer a comprehensive look at language education based on our decades of experience in conducting research into how language is learned and applying this knowledge to make information and resources available for educators and practitioners.

How did the idea for the series come about?
In thinking about the wealth of research-based knowledge and practical information CAL has developed over the decades, we wanted to find a purposeful way to share this knowledge. Working with our colleagues at Multilingual Matters to develop this book series was the perfect solution for our desire to disseminate information more broadly.

What topics will be covered in the series?
CAL plans to cover a wide range of topics including approaches to language instruction and assessment, approaches to content instruction and assessment for language learners, professional development for educators working with language learners, principles of second language acquisition for educators, and connections between language policy and educational practice.

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What made you choose Multilingual Matters as a publisher to partner with and how will CAL and Multilingual Matters work together on this series?
This was an easy choice for CAL. We have a long-standing relationship with the team at Multilingual Matters and are pleased that many of our staff are published authors under the Multilingual Matters banner. Our two organizations also have similar core values, believing that languages and cultures are important individual and societal resources, that multilingualism is beneficial both for individuals and for societies, and that effective language education should be widely available.

What are your own personal research interests and how will these be incorporated into the series?
CAL’s research interests focus on a wide range of topics connected to language and culture and include policy, instruction, and assessment. We have a long-standing interest in research on language education and promoting equity and access for language learners, with a special interest in programs that promote additive bilingualism. This series provides a natural outlet for our interests and priorities.

For more information about the series please see our website. You can also visit CAL’s website for more information about their other work.

The Future of K-12 Teaching is Content-Based Instruction

This week we published Kate Mastruserio Reynolds’ book Approaches to Inclusive English Classrooms which attempts to bridge the gap between theory and practice to prepare teachers for the needs of English language learners (ELL). In this post, she gives us some background to the book.

“Greetings all, I am the ESL Department chair at NAME High School in CITY, TX, which is located in the largest refugee neighborhood in the city. Our current enrollment is 61% ELL, but we expect to be more than 70% ELL next year, so we are looking to expand our team. We have a diverse mix of students from all over South Asia, Africa, and Latin America, many with limited or interrupted schooling. We are looking specifically for TESOL or CELTA certified teachers with experience teaching teens or adults, and ideally with experience teaching English for Academic Purposes or for Specific Purposes, as most of our ESL classes are content support classes (English for Science, English for Math, etc.).”

This job announcement posted today on a jobs list might sound like gibberish for many pre-service educators or teachers just entering the job market. The knowledge of English as a second language (ESL) that inform this advert start with the acronyms, ESL, ELL, TESOL, CELTA and advance to ‘English for Academic Purposes and for Specific Purposes’ and ‘ESL classes are content support classes (English for Science, English for Math, etc.)’ Although this position is for an ESL specialist, increasingly content area educators (i.e. teachers of Math, Sciences, Social Studies/History, Literature and Language Arts) are called upon to work with learners whose first language is not English.

Approaches to Inclusive English ClassroomsBy 2050, US national statistics indicate that English language learners (ELLs) will be the majority of learners in the US K-12 public schools. Not only are many educators not adequately prepared for this change in the demographics of our school system, neither is our teacher preparation system. Pre-service teachers, those in the process of gaining teacher licensures at universities, rarely are provided any information or training on the ELLs they will encounter in their professional work. Many in-service teachers are confronted by this lack of preparation and need to gain more professional preparation in the field of ESL in order to sufficiently meet the unique linguistic needs of the second language learners.

It is not an easy fix. There is a lot to ‘sufficiently meet the unique linguistic needs’ of second language learners. Teachers cannot simply make one change to their instruction, like using cooperative learning, in order to scaffold instruction for ELLs. First, teachers need to be aware of how they communicate with students. They need to become culturally knowledgeable about the learners’ cultures and strive to make their own speech comprehensible to the language learners. Second, they need to be able to teach the skills of language—speaking, listening, reading and writing—as well as grammar and vocabulary. I’m not talking about the traditional grammar translation method here either. Teachers need to be savvy in their use of time to situate grammar into the content material they are teaching. For example, they need to teach how to write using regular past tense (–ed form) when describing the accomplishments of ancient China in Social Studies class.

Several models and methodologies to approaching the instruction of ELLs have emerged in the field of ESL/EFL, called content-based instruction (CBI). All these models (CALLA, SIOP, RtI, etc.) focus on various ways to engage ELLs and teach them content and language simultaneously. No one method is a cure all. All of them have their advantages and drawbacks. Some of them were developed for specific contexts and populations, such as the ExC-ELL model that emphasizes academic literacy for a non-native speaking population who have strong oral proficiency skills in English. Knowing which methods to employ and when with which population is one way that I would like to empower K-12 educators.

My book, Approaches to Inclusive English Classrooms: A Teacher’s Handbook for Content-Based Instruction, addresses these issues and more in a practical way that provides insight for pre-service and in-service teachers on teaching ELLs effectively.

If you would like more information about Kate’s book please see our website.