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Which approach is the most effective?

2 Chapter Two: Bilingual programmes and their effectiveness

2.9 Characteristics of Māori-medium programmes

2.9.9 Which approach is the most effective?

There have been many approaches to language teaching through history, including earlier grammar-based approaches (Richards & Rodgers, 1986), approaches focusing on communicative competence in the 1970s and 1980s (Hymes, 1971), and more recently,

28 Using Baker’s (2006) discussion as a guide, over an eight year period (including 8000 hours of potential instructional time), a Canadian French immersion 90/10 programme might include 2600 hours of English instruction, a 50/50 dual language programme may use 4000 hours instructing English, and a Navajo heritage programme may use 5000 hours instructing through the medium of English.

Task-based learning approaches (Nunan, 2004; Skehan, 2003).29 Approaches used to teach second languages today, according to Ovando et al. (2003), tend to consist of a blend of these historical and contemporary approaches that have adapted as a consequence of changing language learning needs, and current research. Ovando et al.

(2003) discuss three types that have relevance to the New Zealand context. These are:

• Integrated content-based

• Content and withdrawal ESL

• Whole language

2.9.9.1 Integrated content-based

This approach uses the school curriculum as the vehicle for teaching language and curriculum objectives (Ovando et al., 2003). 30 In this way, language and curricula content are taught concurrently. This goal is achieved by the teachers carefully modifying the language content and associated activities (see below), while maintaining grade-level curriculum (García, 2009).

Integrated content-based teaching is particularly appropriate in bilingual schools because school-aged students are expected to study the same curriculum and acquire the same knowledge as their English-medium cohorts. Utilising an integrated content-based approach facilitates schools to do so (Christian, Spanos, Crandall, Simich-Dudgeon, &

Willetts, 1995) by providing a means to simultaneously learn both conversational and academic language skills (termed BICS and CALP by Cummins, and discussed in 1.9.3).

29 García (2009) divides bilingual approaches into three categories, including, grammatical (grammar-translation), communicative (immersion and integrated content-based) and cognitive approaches (which teach thinking and reasoning strategies).

30 García (2009) differentiates immersion from integrated content-based instruction, stating that integrated content-based is more focused on the development of language and literacy in a second language (and taught by language teachers), whereas immersion has a stronger focus on content alongside second language development (using bilingual teachers). I group them together as both approaches teach language and curriculum concurrently.

The key to successfully implementing this approach is to employ a range of methods to scaffold new language to the learners in a manner that continues to maintain the intellectual stimulation required for academic study. Activities might include the use of simplified texts, diagrams, tables, charts, hands-on activities and activities designed to encourage interaction amongst students (Coelho, 2000; Gibbons, 2002; Richard-Amato &

Snow, 1992; Snow & Brinton, 1997). This approach to teaching English is one that receives a great deal of support in the wider academic literature, particularly in classrooms where the students are a relatively heterogeneous group (Ovando et al. 2003).

2.9.9.2 ESL (content, and withdrawal)

ESL (English as a Second Language) is English language instruction undertaken by an ESL-trained teacher, who provides students with access to the standard academic curriculum, and age-appropriate English arts from a second language perspective. These programmes are divided into ESL withdrawal programmes and Content ESL programmes - or sheltered English, and are used in classrooms where there are a range of English competencies, from non-speakers of English to native speakers.

In ESL withdrawal classes, the students are ‘pulled out’ of their normal classes in order to receive specialist lessons at various times throughout the school week. Even though this specific support is given to ease the transition of L1 minority students, the research literature indicates that, over time, ESL pullout programmes remain relatively ineffective (cf. Thomas & Collier’s studies, discussed earlier).

The contexts where these programmes operate overseas tend often to be subtractive and assimilationist. Furthermore, they operate in isolated rather than communicatively rich language environments, with little emphasis on active and experiential language learning, and of language learning in authentic and meaningful contexts (Corson, 1999). Finally, most teachers who teach these programmes do not know the students’ L1, and are thus not able to access that language as a resource for learning.

In Content ESL or Sheltered English programmes, ESL approaches and content area classes are combined, and taught either by an ESL-trained subject area teacher or by a team. These classes are designed to deliver content area instruction in a form more accessible than the mainstream English-only classes, but in a separate room from the students’ home room. They may use additional material, bilingual aides and adapted texts

to help students of diverse language backgrounds acquire the content as well as the language (Roberts, 1995).

As Genesee (1999, p. 5) observes, from his own research into these programmes, their principal advantage over withdrawal programmes is that language acquisition can be enhanced by meaningful use of, and interaction in the L2. Here he refers to such programmes as structured immersion (SI).

The English level used in sheltered classes is continually modulated or negotiated by the teacher and students, and content is made comprehensible through the use of modelling, demonstrations, graphic organizers, adapted texts and visual aides, among other techniques. SI [structured immersion] recognises that language processes (i.e., listening, speaking, reading and writing) develop interdependently; thus SI lessons are organized around activities that integrate those skills. (1999, p. 5)

While these programmes are educationally more effective than ESL pullout programmes, Content ESL programmes, still have assimilation as their principal aim, however. The withdrawal of students from English-medium classes also remains a significant problem.

Consequently, students can quickly fall behind in other curriculum subjects. There is also the added problem of these sheltered language classes being viewed potentially as remedial, by both teachers and by peers (Baker, 2006).

Despite this, Content ESL approaches can provide an effective programme when taught by a qualified ESL teacher who can teach both language and content together. It can provide a natural and motivating means of acquiring language, through experimenting with science, social studies, or other curriculum subjects, and is particularly advantageous for heterogeneous groups of students who have intermediate or advanced levels of English language proficiency. It is more beneficial than ESL withdrawal programmes, because it continues to provide the students with direct access to the curriculum.

2.9.9.3 Whole language

Whole language is more a philosophy than an approach (see Goodman, 1986; Manzo &

Manzo, 1993). The emphasis is on deriving meaning from interacting with the language in natural contexts that relate to the learner (Perez & Guzman, 2002). This approach has

students reading and writing from the earliest possible point, and experimenting with the language (through interaction) as they progress (Ovando et al., 2003; Willis, 1995). Some of the literacy approaches that would be witnessed in a whole language oriented classroom include; shared, guided, and independent reading (García, 2009; Ministry of Education, 1996, 2003, 2006), and process writing (Graves, 1983).

This method of teaching, while achieving a considerable amount of success in bilingual and English-medium programmes (Cummins et al., 2007), has many detractors (Nicholson, 2000), who portray whole language as the reason for low reading ability in students, despite evidence to suggest the opposite. Detractors state that merely exposing students to literacy rich learning environments is not sufficient to promote their acquisition of the specific skills required for reading and writing. Therefore, the argument for a combination of this approach with other more direct approaches may provide a more satisfactory solution (Genesee & Riches, 2006).

2.9.9.4 Relevance of these approaches to the New Zealand context

All of these three methods (integrated content, withdrawal and whole language) discussed above have relevance to Māori-medium programmes. The predominant approach to teaching English in Aotearoa/New Zealand favours a modified version of ESL withdrawal, where an English teacher is employed to teach English literacy objectives in a separate classroom. Oral language skills are seldom taught in English transition classrooms because of the presumption that, as the students already speak English, the priority should be on gaining English literacy skills as preparation for secondary school.

Furthermore, with the extremely limited number of hours allocated to English instruction, schools do not have the time to teach it.

Whole language teaching (see Goodman, 1986) is also a key feature of Māori-medium English transition programmes because this is the predominant approach that most New Zealand trained teachers learned when they trained in New Zealand universities.

Therefore, approaches to language teaching that are found in English-medium schools such as, guided and shared reading (Ministry of Education, 2003), and the writing approach, “process writing” (Cambourne, 1988; Graves, 1983; Heenan, 1986) are often implemented in Māori-medium programmes. These are also the approaches that were implemented by all four English transition teachers involved in this study.