Author: Emma Mijailovic, EAL Teacher
Although Inclusion is a central theme of UK policy, there are limited directives on EAL provision in mainstream classes (Costley 2014) This can have implications for international environments too, which model their practice on the UK or have UK trained teachers. Policy has significant implications for teachers who may be underprepared to support EAL pupils. Mainstreaming (teaching second language learners in the mainstream class as opposed to withdrawing pupils for EAL lessons) has been a favoured approach since the late 70s, following the Swann report, which highlighted the inequality in EAL withdrawal programmes. However, it was not until 2002 that EAL became a compulsory part of teacher training programmes in order to reach QTS (qualified teacher status). Teachers are now required to demonstrate their understanding of EAL learner needs, yet, this has not been standardised (Costley 2014, 288), which means that the extent of EAL training can vary significantly. If policy is unclear and training is sporadic, how can any teacher feel confident in supporting EAL pupils in their classes?
One possible solution to this is collaboration between EAL teachers and subject teachers, as Russell (2014) advocates. EAL specialists can be an asset when seen as ‘collaborating partners’ (Russell 2014, 1190), especially at the planning stages. Collaborative planning between subject and language specialists seeks to establish content and language integrated aims. Balancing these aims can be a challenge due to the complexity of task design. It is imperative that materials provide relevant content and language focus, as well as being cognitively demanding, see Hammond (2014) and Costley and Safford (2008). Therefore, collaboration in both setting the aims and selecting appropriate materials is paramount in enabling EAL pupils to access the lesson.
Some attempts to structure teaching partnerships have been made, through CBI (content-based instruction) approaches, which seek to integrate language and subject aims. These approaches can be seen as successful as they emphasize ‘linguistic, cognitive and metacognitive skills as well as subject matter’ (Stroller 2008, 59 as cited in Creese 2010, 100). CBI is most effectively achieved through collaborative planning, as the EAL specialists and subject specialists work together to set content and language aims. In a recent study, I investigated the benefits of collaborative planning and the implementation of content and language integrated aims. I worked collaboratively with the history teacher to plan and deliver three lessons in which the content and language aims were parallel. The language focus and opportunities for reflection allowed the learners to be more aware and active in their learning, as they set their own expectations and goals. Another key element of their success was the increased level of challenge, as identified by the learners themselves. The planning sessions were not time consuming, contrary to what you may expect, this is because as an EAL specialist; I was able to review the content material and identify the language needs and set the aims accordingly. Language aims are not restricted to grammar, and metalanguage (specific terms to describe language) is not crucial as the accompanying material demonstrates.
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Costley, T (2014) English as an additional language, policy and the teaching and learning of English in England, Language and Education, 28:3, 276-292
Costley, T. and Safford, K. (2008) ‘I didn’t speak for the first year’: Silence, Self-Study and Student Stories of English Language Learning in Mainstream Education, Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching, 2:2, 136-151
Creese, A (2010) Content-Focused Classrooms and Learning English: How Teachers Collaborate, Theory Into practice, 49:2, 99-105
Hammond, J. (2014) An Australian Perspective on Standards-Based Education, Teacher Knowledge, and Students of English as an Additional Language TESOL QUARTERLY Vol. 48, No. 3
Russell, F.A (2014) Collaborative literacy work in a high school: enhancing teacher capacity for English learner instruction in the mainstream, International Journal of Inclusive Education, 18:11, 1189-1207