Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies

Supporting English Language Learners: New Zealand Secondary Mainstream Teachers' Knowledge and Use of Recommended Teaching Resources and Strategies

Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies

Supporting English Language Learners: New Zealand Secondary Mainstream Teachers' Knowledge and Use of Recommended Teaching Resources and Strategies

Article excerpt

Abstract

Mainstream teachers in New Zealand secondary schools are expected to be able to support learners from linguistically diverse backgrounds, providing both content instruction and language support that enables them to access curriculum content. The New Zealand Ministry of Education has produced resources designed to enable mainstream teachers to bring a language focus to their teaching in order to provide support for their English language learners (ELLs). This study investigated mainstream teachers' knowledge of second language acquisition and their knowledge and use of teaching resources and strategies for supporting ELLs in the mainstream. The eighteen teachers who participated in the study felt that they needed to know more about second language acquisition. They were also not fully aware of, and were not using, the range of resources and strategies available. These findings have implications for the professional development of New Zealand secondary mainstream teachers, and for the education of ELLs.

Keywords: English language learners; mainstream; resources; strategies.

Introduction

There are now significant numbers of English language learners (ELLs) in New Zealand schools from many different countries and language backgrounds. Although it is difficult to obtain an accurate total number of ELLs, recent figures show that almost 25% of learners in New Zealand secondary schools are probably learning English as an additional language - a figure derived from combining the total numbers of Pasifika; Asian; Middle East, Latin America and Africa (MELAA); "Other" and International students in years 9-15 (Education Counts, 2012).

As well as making up a significant proportion of enrolled students, the Ministry of Education (MOE, and referred to as the Ministry in the text) also acknowledges that ELLs are "over-represented in the group of students who are not achieving at expected levels" (MOE, 2011a: Rationale for the key outcome). Also of concern is the fact that New Zealand has the largest gap in achievement among OECD countries between ELLs and their peers (MOE, 2011b, p. 22), making it "crucial" that ELLs are provided with language learning support that they need if they are to access curriculum content at year-appropriate levels. (MOE, 2011a).

The current study

The research reported in this paper is part of a wider investigation into the knowledge, attitudes, and practices of mainstream teachers in New Zealand secondary schools regarding the teaching and support of English language learners, a topic which has not been widely investigated to date in the New Zealand context. In the current study, which is of an exploratory nature, eighteen secondary mainstream teachers were asked to report on their knowledge of the ELLs in their mainstream classes, their knowledge of second language acquisition, their knowledge and use of resources and strategies for working with ELLs, and their planning for teaching ELLs. Results relating to teacher knowledge of learners, their educational and cultural backgrounds and level of English, as well as their perceived importance of that knowledge, are reported elsewhere (Edwards, 2012). Findings so far point to varying degrees of teacher knowledge about their ELLs and their level of English proficiency, with the majority of participants reporting that time was the main factor preventing them from obtaining this knowledge. A positive finding was that teachers generally perceived that knowledge of these areas was important, and three-quarters of participants stated that they would like to know more about their ELLs. This paper reports on further aspects of the study.

Background to the research

The role of mainstream teachers in the education of ELLs

There has been a trend in recent years in English-speaking countries worldwide towards supporting ELLs in mainstream classes rather than in withdrawal classes, and New Zealand has followed this trend. …

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