PGCE Post Graduate Course
An Evaluation of the Strategies in Place for EAL Pupils in KS3 Music Education.
National policy on EAL- an overview
The national policy as outlined in Aiming High on meeting the needs of EAL speakers in schools, valid at least to May 2010 stresses, among other things, the need to provide a welcoming environment for all EAL pupils in schools, and supply adequate support and resources. Collaboration between class and specialist EAL teachers is considered as vital to the process of helping EAL pupils to fully integrate into the community. Such methods of collaboration should include:
“team teaching - both (EAL and class) teachers work together during whole-class teaching to support modelling, demonstration and strategies for engaging all pupils in dialogue and discussion; observation - either teacher acts as an observer in the whole-class context with an agreed focus while the other teacher maintains an interactive role, encouraging, explaining or reinforcing. The observation focus might also be on assessing the impact of particular teaching strategies by observing the pupils' responses; working with target groups - the support teacher, teaching assistant and/or
class teacher focuses support on a specific group of pupils during the main part of the lesson or in order to provide preparatory teaching to support children in better accessing a lesson; one-to-one support - the EAL/class teacher or teaching assistant may, on occasions when specific difficulties and misconceptions arise, need to provide individual support either before or during the main lesson; resource provision and development - collecting, suggesting, modifying or designing specific resources to support the learning or curriculum access needs of bilingual pupils; monitoring progress of bilingual learners.”
It needs to be stressed that these are recommendations only. By law schools are required to “promote the well-being of pupils” (Section 21/4 0f the Education Act 2002) and definitions of “well-being” as outlined in the green paper “Every Child Matters” (2003) are:
- Be healthy
- Stay safe
- Enjoy and achieve
- Make a positive contribution
- Achieve economic well-being
In reality schools are limited by the amounts of funding available for their various needs including provision for both SEN and EAL pupils. Thus provision for these “disadvantaged” groups may not be as effective as it should be if all pupils are to have an equal chance of maximum achievement.
School concerns and policy for EAL
I chose the subject of this survey for a number of reasons. Firstly, I could be classed as an EAL student, because, coming from Malaysia, English is not my first language. Secondly, St Paul’s College, the school where I am taking my 2nd placement as a trainee music teacher has a high proportion of EAL pupils- 281 out of a total of 1069. There are 35 languages spoken by pupils at this school and it has problems in caring for the requirements of so many EAL speakers- mainly connected with the lack of trained staff able to deal effectively with EAL. There are two part time EAL teachers, one of whom shares this subject with teaching English, and one other voluntary assistant. The shortcomings of the way EAL is managed in the school are discussed and attempts made to improve on it at various staff meetings. One point which is of particular concern is that many EAL pupils have a lower level of achievement than English speaking pupils of the same age. The school does have a detailed policy on EAL teaching, including interviews with EAL pupils, assessment of their situations and a list of strategies for teaching and assimilating them into the school community.
Despite having a detailed policy on EAL, what the school needs to fully implement this policy are one or more full-time EAL specialist teachers. At the time of writing there are no support teachers for EAL at this school. In their first year at St Paul’s all year 7 EAL pupils are allocated one English lesson with EAL needs in the Learning Resource Centre. In the first term there was a full-time EAL teacher but she left, so that subsequently there was only one part-time EAL teacher, and she supervised the 4 pupils deemed to be most in need of support. Then this stopped in March 2010 and funding was given to Special Educational Needs pupils . In the coming academic year there will again be more funds for EAL so that a full-time teacher will be employed from September 2010.
As part of the school’s policy on EAL teaching, there are meetings and lectures which do attempt to motivate teachers in their handling of EAL pupils-(see Appendix 3) but still not much is actually done to overcome the fundamental problem- that of a significant minority in the school with little or no English .
Learning theories and EAL
Theorists whose work impinges on the requirements of EAL pupils include Bruner for his work on the links between the mastering of language skills and the ability to think and order, and Vygotsky for his work on language and conceptual development, socially constructed knowledge and the “zone of proximal development” i.e. what the learner can achieve on his own without aid from an instructor. The important distinction between the acquisition of “basic interpersonal communication skills” (BICS) and “Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP) in an additional language is pointed out by Cummins whose research has led to the conclusion that children may acquire BICS skills in 1-2 years but CALP skills in 5-7 years. Because of this teachers should not regard EAL pupils as having SENs but as simply needing more time to reach the same academic levels as non-EAL pupils. This subtle distinction should underline the approaches to the teaching of EAL pupils in a sensitive way and avoiding false assumptions about their academic abilities.
Evaluation of strategies for teaching EAL pupils
I have based my own approach to teaching EAL pupils largely on Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic learning styles as developed by a number of educational psychologists (see for example, Hawk, T. and Shah A. 2007). In these styles there is no reliance on one single approach, but rather an attempt to discover which of three ways of learning best suits each individual pupil. Thus in the visual learning method use can be made of facial expression, hand movements, gestures, pictures, diagrams and colours; in the auditory, sounds, music, speech including slower repetition of words and phrases can be used; and in the kinaesthetic, the EAL pupils get to associate words with movements which they do while hearing or speaking certain words. It needs to be pointed out that use of one aspect of VAK teaching does not mean that the other aspects are not used- but rather that they may be of less importance. All three aspects can be used to reinforce each other at all stages of learning.