Coaching, Not Correcting: An Alternative Model for Minority Students

By Dresser, Rocío; Asato, Jolynn | Multicultural Education, Fall 2014 | Go to article overview

Coaching, Not Correcting: An Alternative Model for Minority Students


Dresser, Rocío, Asato, Jolynn, Multicultural Education


Introduction

The debate on the role of oral corrective feedback or repair in English instruction settings has been going on for over 30 years. Some educators believe that oral grammar correction is effective because they have noticed that students who learned a set of grammar rules were more likely to use them in real life communication (Krashen, 1985; Ming-chu & Hungchun, 2009). Other researchers found quite the opposite. Their findings revealed that oral grammar correction did not always help students learn to speak grammatically (Truscott, 1996, 1999; Krashen, 1982); instead, grammar correction interfered with meaning making.

The problem with this debate is that it is often approached from a cognitive-only point of view. It rarely focuses on the affective and relational aspects of language instruction and learning (Krashen, 1992; Razfar, 2010). This can be problematic because it has been well documented that how students feel about school and about others impact how well they do in school (Dresser, 2013; Elias, Bruene-Butler & Blum, 1997; Elksnin & Elksnin, 2003; Krashen, 1992).

Some of the students who are often negatively affected by corrective feedback are minority students. African American vernacular English and Chicano English are often referred to as "broken" Englishes or "improper" talk. Asato (2006) noted that such ideologies of intelligence concerning non-standard English varieties have serious consequences for the speakers, particularly for children in schools.

Language ideologies are grounded "in the idea that how we conceptualize language and language use is indicative of how we think about language users themselves" (Razfar, 2010, p.14). Nonstandard" forms of English are often seen as "bastardized" forms to be corrected through participation in highly structured educational settings. The belief that nonstandard versions of English interfere with academic achievement masks the complex understandings and ideologies of language as they are to race, ethnicity, and class (Asato, 2006; Lippi-Green, 1998).

Many educators struggle to reversepopular percep tions of non-standa rd speakers as stupid or lazy by praising the beauty and power of these varieties of English. This is sometimes a narrow view of language instruction as it can neglect the social-emotional aspect of language learning. It also leaves teachers wondering whether or not error correction in English instruction is a good practice.

English learners (ELs) represent the fastest growing group of the U.S. schoolage population (Butler & Hakuta, 2009; Peregoy & Boyle, 2005). This group has, however, one of the highest high school dropout rates in the country. Hamilton Boone (2013) found that most students leaving school without a high school diploma came from 2,000 urban schools with a population that includes large numbers of minority and poor students.

Minority children experience many difficulties in school that can be re-framed as the results of cultural and linguistic "mismatchs" between the school and home (Banks, 2001). Due to the proximity with Mexico, many people in Texas, California, Arizona, and New Mexico speak what is known as "Spanglish." They will refer to truck as the "troka," the yard as the "yarda," the dry-cleaning store as the "washateria," and so on. They give English words phonetic sounds found in Spanish.

This raises the question of whether or not to classify the the forms of English that linguistic minority children speak as distinctly separate languages? Or are they dialects of English? Just what is a language? The problems of defining these non standard varieties impede the creation of strong policy agendas.

The Oakland Ebonics controversy in the mid-1990s exemplifies the policy effects of language definition. The Oakland School Board sought federal money to support speakers of Ebonics, which created a firestorm of opposition. The main controversy came from people who did not see Ebonics as anything more than slang at best (Perry & Delpit, 1998; Rickford, 1999). …

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