Categorizing Language as Curriculum and Instruction: Implications for Teaching English Language Learners

Article excerpt

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to analyze what a group teachers say to English Language Learners as part of the curriculum and instruction, and to categorize the comments along the lines of scientific curriculum inquiry. Observations and interviews were the primary methods of data collection for this proposed study. An analysis was made of what the teachers were saying to communicate curricular applications and instructional modifications made in ESL classrooms. The language that this group of teachers used was coded to describe the originality of the types of statements made by the teachers. The study did not attempt to evaluate the teachers' effectiveness. The study also did not attempt to predict success of the curricular adaptations and instructional modifications. In conclusion, teachers used language to manage time, lessons, and the classroom. As a result of further analysis, as related to curricular adaptations and instructional modifications, the language was found as being of substance (what), educational practice (how), and purpose (why).

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The need for curriculum and instruction that adequately serves English Language Learners (ELLS) in the United States is an area that has yet to be fully explored. Curriculum and instruction for these students has traditionally been limited to that offered through Bilingual Education programs. Bilingual Education uses two languages for instruction and has been part of education in the United States for more than 100 years with classrooms set up in early America for German-speaking children. (1)

Educators are now faced with implementing second language acquisition strategies as part of the curriculum and instruction in order to meet the linguistic needs of ELLs. The curriculum and instruction that teachers give the students provide the scaffolding to construct knowledge in a second or foreign language.

Statement of the Problem

The problem of this study is that the instructional language use of teachers to teach ELLS has limited research. Therefore, in order to educate ELLS so as to improve the delivery of curriculum and instruction, there is a lack of research to provide insight into the way(s) that teachers talk to students with linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study was to analyze a group of teachers in terms of what they were saying to their ELLS as part of the curriculum and instruction they provided, and to categorize the comments as part of an analysis along the lines of curriculum inquiry. In this study, the language itself that the teachers used provided a description of the experience, or giving information on the situation where we have to "pay attention to the context of such statements before we can decide upon their use." (2)

Theoretical/Conceptual Framework: Phenomenology

Given the unique nature of this study, a specialized focus was needed. In attempting to address the problem of this study, a phenomenological approach was taken. Phenomenology is the study of phenomena, including the meanings found through a specific experience. In a given situation, or phenomenon, there are unique essential structures. Phenomenological research is a form of inquiry that attends to the perceptions and meanings of individuals concerning a specific experience they have lived. Husserl, who is known as the founder of phenomenology, maintained that in order to attain certainty, a researcher needed to go to the site of the researched phenomena in order to understand it. He concluded, "all knowledge is in human consciousness." (3)

This conclusion was Husserl's attempt at refuting traditional scientific notions concerning positivism, namely that there are essential structures that underlie phenomena. (4) These essential structures, unique to the situation being studied, are the phenomena being studied. Phenomenological research seeks to discover the essences of phenomena. …