With globalization and modernization, education has become a universal right for all, atleast, at the basic level. This has seen many students traversing from country to country in pursuit of education. The introduction of distance learning, technologically mediated learning as well as online courses have made it possible for students from different parts of the world to share classroom.
The fact that the teachers largely remain stationed in same countries and are rarely involved in the exchange programs means that teachers are continually under the pressure to instruct students from diverse cultures all with varied English proficiency. Of significance to the teachers is the fact that despite the different proficiency levels of the students in a single classroom, the teachers are expected to effectively teach the students. This has seen the rise of integrated classes whereby learners whose English is not their first language are integrated in the same classrooms as their native English speaking students.
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Teachers are faced with stumbling blocks and numerous challenges in teaching integrated students. Of all challenges for teachers is the need to provide a free learning environment in which the students can learn without the fear of being incompetent in the English language. The presence of fear in the students who are not proficient in the English language can reduce the ability of the learners something which can make otherwise intelligent students to perform dismally academically. To overcome such barriers, teachers can use the following strategies. According to (Johnson, Johnson, & Holubec, 1994) there are several research-based strategies to overcome learning barriers for emergent language learners as well as limited English proficient learners.
Therefore for optimal learning to take place the following research based strategies are important for English language learning. Use of music and jazz chant activities, use of repeat and rephrase approach, use of cooperative groups and peer coaching, use of visual learning aids such as realia, maps, pictures and the multimedia. Finally pre-instruction activities such as semantic webbing, graphic organizers and KWL charts are all equally important for teachers who are keen on ensuring that English learning benefits all learners inspite of their English proficiency levels.
According to (Johnson, Johnson, & Holubec, 1994) pre-instruction activities are important to English language learning in that they level the playing ground for students who have different English proficiency levels. In a research carried out by (Johnson, Johnson, & Holubec, 1994) on 15 students with varied English proficiency 80% of the emergent language learners observed that they had significantly benefited from the use of pre-instruction activities such as semantic webbing, graphic organizers and KWL charts. 75% of the students with limited English proficiency recorded satisfaction from the use of pre-instruction activities while 40% of native English speaking students noted that pre-instruction activities played an important role in learning. The study overwhelming supports the use of the pre-instruction activities as a research based English language learning strategy for integrated classes.
Teaching Math can be challenging even in class whereby all students are native English speakers. It even becomes hard to teach Math in an integrated class in which English presents a communication barrier. In a class of 30 students whereby only half of students are English speakers with a quarter of the learners being emergent and a further quarter of the class having English proficiency of between Basic Interpersonal Communication (BIC) and Cognitive Academic Language (CALP) presents numerous challenges. The solution to the above is the application of the research-based strategies such as pre-instruction activities. This calls for the teacher to prepare in advance semantic webbing with Math concept for students to learn regardless of their English speaking abilities.
According to (Johnson, Johnson, & Holubec, 1994) the use of semantic webbing greatly increases the ability of the students to grasp Math concepts and formulae. Graphic organizers are also very effective in teaching some Math concepts especially on geometry and algebra topics. Visual aids such as realia, maps, pictures and multimedia are important in teaching integrated classes. As (Johnson, Johnson, & Holubec, 1994) notes, visual aids are important in that they increase the attention p of learners, they simplify complex and abstract concepts as well as the fact that visual aids lead to efficiency in the synthesis of complex concepts especially in Math class. Visual aids have been particularly important and effective for introduction of new topics in integrated classes whereby students face challenges due to increased anxiety, fear and tension (Bowman, & McCormick, 2000).
Use of visual aids calls for carefulness so that the visual aids are not as ambiguous and therefore become a source of obstruction. Visual aids also are advantageous in that they can depict a lot of information at once, which is not possible while using the traditional lecture methods, and are not expensive and are easy to use (Johnson, Johnson, & Holubec, 1994).
Cooperative groups as well as peer coaching are research-based strategies which involve students forming discussion groups in which they discuss hard topics and concepts during their free time or in the class with the supervision of teachers. Cooperative groups have been found to be very effective in overcoming fear amongst learners and therefore aiding learning (Bowman & McCormick, 2000). Cooperative groups are important when there is a shortage of staff in that teachers can oversee the learning over a big group of students.
Usually students are able to understand their peers with learning difficulties than teachers and therefore they are able to assist them and overcome the learning difficulties. According to (Bowman, & McCormick, 2000) cooperative groups presents the teachers with an opportunity to easily assess several outcomes in students such as critical thinking, level as well as communication skills and commitment to learning (Bowman, & McCormick, 2000).
Cooperative groups are particularly useful in teaching Math which many students have problems because peer assessment is more welcome by students than teacher assessment and is easily acceptable since it reduces chances of teacher bias (Bowman, & McCormick, 2000). According to (Bowman, & McCormick, 2000) peer coaching as a research based teaching strategy is effective because it allows for a degree of confidentiality whereby students are not afraid to make mistakes. The expected learning outcome of using cooperative strategy in the classroom is that, learners increase in their capability to grasp hard concepts (Bowman, & McCormick, 2000).
In addition, the approach is non-evaluative which is important to students given the fact that students fear evaluations and assessments. Repeat and rephrase has been found to highly increase the retention ability of students (McHugh, Catherine & Kevin, 1997). This is very important for students who are supposed to retain introductory concepts as these develop as the students’ progress to next levels.
Therefore, repeat and rephrase are important to an integrated class whereby students whose English proficiency prevents them from progressing at the same level with native English speakers. Music and Jazz chant activities have found to reduce stress levels in learners as well as creating a soothing effect (McHugh, Catherine & Kevin, 1997). Therefore, incorporating music and Jazz chants in a class especially in a Math class can improve learning in that it creates a good environment for learning. The expected learning outcome of using cooperative strategy in the classroom is that, learners increase in their attention p (McHugh, Catherine & Kevin, 1997).
Research based strategies are a must use for teachers of integrated classes. In order to ensure that, the environment for all students is ideal in spite of their English proficiency levels, teachers must constantly identify challenges and obstacles to learning so as to overcome all the challenges associated with English language learning environment. It is also important that, teachers choose wisely the suitable strategies to teaching integrated learners as not all approaches are suitable for every subject.
- Bowman, C., and McCormick, S. (2000). Comparison of Peer Coaching versus Traditional Supervision effects. The Journal of educational Research 93 (4).
- Johnson, D., Johnson, R. and Holubec, E., (1994). The nuts and bolts of corporative learning. Edina MN: Interaction Book Company.
- McHugh, Catherine, E., & Kevin, W. 1997. Using technology to promote student learning: Opportunities for Today and Tomorrow. Jossey- Publishers.
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