Learning a second language is not an easy task. I know I tried it for many years both in foreign language classes (French, Japanese and Spanish) and in a foreign country (France). I have much awe for the students in my classes who leave their native country (and home) to come and complete their senior schooling at our school in Australia. Not only are they trying to understand the content areas I am trying to teach them, but they are doing it in a language which is not their own. As a result, anything that I can do to support them in their learning environment, my classroom, the better. Like every teacher, I want my students to achieve the best they can. For an EAL/D student to be successful in my classroom, I must incorporate Pedagogy, Curriculum and Technology in such a way that it creates authentic learning experiences both in my subjects and in language learning.
ACARA offers an EAL/D framework (Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority, 2014, pp. 23-28) which has influenced my approach to teaching all my students as it is not just the EAL/D students who require language learning. To best understand my approach to language learning watch the short video below.
During 2019 I have had a Year 10 Economic class. The sixteen students in this class are between 15 and 18 years old. They are a close-knit class of which two-thirds are female and one third are male. Only three students in the class are native English speakers with three more students ascertained at a native speaker level. Those who are not established native speakers have a minimum proficiency level of five on the NLLIA bandscales (Education Queensland, 2018). The international students are all from Asian cultural backgrounds with first languages including Korean, Mandarin, Japanese, Indonesian, Cantonese, Vietnamese and Thai. The native English speakers are all Australian. Two students are gifted and often require extension. Other than a language barrier, there are no learning support needs students. The students are at a large Independent K-12 school in a metropolitan area of Brisbane, Australia. The school is in a middle socio-economic area.
So, What Does This Look Like in My Classroom?
My approach to language learning is to use authentic learning experiences which focus on literacy and utilise digital tools to enhance learning. As part of the Senior Economics Syllabus students are required to be able to create extended “responses that communicate economic meaning using data, information, graphs and diagrams to suit the intended purpose” (Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority, 2018, p. 18). Students are required to respond to an economic question asking them to evaluate and analyse stimulus material making connections to the theory and content they have learnt during the unit. Students participate in this learning goal at the end of each unit of study. When it is first introduced in unit one, it is a seven-lesson learning experience.
The Learning Experience
Students participate in a Skype Guest Speaker Session with an economist who provides data about the current state of the Australian Economy surrounding the current topic of study. As the guest speaker presents their information and data students partake in shared note-taking using OneNote. When graphs and diagrams are provided, students use screenshots and annotate them as the speaker explains them. At the end of the session, the economist asks students a question asking them to write a 400-word response which analyses and evaluates an economic event or policy which the economist discussed using the presentation as the stimulus material. From here, the students participate in a workshop which explicitly teaches the writing skills required to write a response which communicates economic meaning. Over the next few lessons, students are working in small groups on a collaborative Word document constructing a joint answer to the economist’s question. A follow-up Skype session is organised for students to present their responses to the economist and receive authentic feedback surrounding their understanding of economic concepts and language. After this, students can improve their responses and continue to practice their skills until they feel confident that they can answer a similar question in exam conditions. By utilising technology and connecting to an expert, the exercise of writing a response to an economic question becomes an authentic experience which also improves language learning. According to Kessler (2018), these experiences support students “in developing autonomy over their own learning and can increase their motivation and also contribute to their engagement” (p. 207).
My Role As A Digital Age Teacher
During this learning experience, my role as a teacher changes from being a guide on the side to learning with the students to being the sage on the stage. During the economist’s presentation, I’d be learning with the students, thus focusing on the learning relationships (andragogy). This lesson also focuses on building shared knowledge and active involvement (refer to the model above). The focus of the workshop is the explicit teaching of the genre-specific writing skills required in economics. It is not only good pedagogy for EAL/D students; it sets up all students for success when it comes to writing economic responses (Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority, 2018). While the joint responses allow students to work on demonstration of persistence, active involvement and time management, for language learners it can assist them, especially when struggling with writer’s block to look at their group member’s contributions and then build on those ideas (Kessler, 2018, p. 208). These collaborative writing practices and knowing that the economist is going to supply them with feedback encourages them to “participate and support peer and self-editing” (Kessler, 2018, p. 209). Collaborative writing also allows me to support those students who require further language instruction in a small group setting. With authentic feedback from the economist students take control of their learning (heutagogy) and continue to practice, prepare and revise the language skills they have gained in the process (see model).
These digital tools (Skype, OneNote, and a Collaborative Word Document) have been chosen due to their collaborative nature along with the prevalence of them in various professional settings. Collaborative tools are becoming more and more commonplace, and we as teachers, must incorporate them into our classroom settings (Kessler, 2018, p. 214).
At the end of the day, all students benefit from implementing authentic language learning supported by using digital tools along with having access to professionals in the disciplines they are learning. My next steps will be to share these collaborations with other schools and look at setting up collaborative projects on a variety of topics within the Senior Economic Course.
Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority, A. (2014). English as an Additional Language or Dialect Teacher Resource. Australian Government Retrieved from Http://docs.acara.edu.au/resources/EALD_Overview_and_Advice_revised_February_2014.pdf
Education Queensland. (2018). Bandscales State Schools (Queensland). (12/111572). Brisbane: Queensland Government Retrieved from https://education.qld.gov.au/student/Documents/bandscales-eald-learners.pdf
Kessler, G. (2018). Technology and the Future of Language Teaching. Foreign Language Annals, 51(1), 205-218. doi:10.1111/flan.12318
Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority, Q. (2018). Economics 2019 v1.1 General Senior Syllabus. Brisbane: Queensland Government