Orientation to Teaching LEP Children

TEACHING LIMITED ENGLISH SPEAKING CHILDREN*




INTRODUCTION

Recent developments are indications of a positive reaction to the need for extra training for children who may pass through a number of educational landmark stages without the benefit of having been able to use their own language as a mediator of learning, much less being able to use an ill-formed second language. It is within this context that what I have encouraged educators try to do is based and what, eventually, will be their responsibilities. In my presentation, I will develop a framework for examining the situation of these children. Specifically, the presentation includes:

a. LEP children and cultural context, cross-cultural aspects.
b. A general approach to the situation IN RE content focused strategies + ESOL.
c. A demonstration of ESOL techniques applicable to a variety of Basic Subject area concepts (examples elicited from teachers' plans.)
d. Group work on sample techniques.

What is the cultural and legal context of LEP students and instructional implications (as per your role as a teacher.) First, let's look at the legal basis for the recent attention to LEP children and needed teacher training. In August 1990, the State of Florida entered into a Consent Degree with the LULAC (League of Urban Latin American Citizens.) The suit had been filed on behalf of language minority students in Florida. It was based on the failure of public education to provide appropriate services for LEP students over a number of years since a landmark decision of the Supreme Court (Lau v Nichols, 1974) indicated that children from language backgrounds other than English were being denied equal access to education in schools due to the sole use of English as the means of instruction.

An immediate implication of this is that all Basic Subject teachers must complete in-service training in the four areas (of five) required for an ESOL endorsement:
1) Cross-cultural awareness, 2) ESOL Curriculum and Materials, 3) ESOL techniques (language instruction) and, 4) Testing and Evaluation. The Basic Subject areas are: Computer Literacy, Math, Science, and Social Studies. Language Arts teachers will have to have the full ESOL endorsement. The training components imply the use of ESOL concepts in terms of TEACHING SUBJECT MATTER, not English, first. Obviously, much stronger language skills are expected as a result.

Now, I'd like to develop a cross-cultural perspective. My own perspective can be described as follows: I look for the commonality of human experience and develop sensitivity to the perspectives of people from different cultures. My own exposure to many cultures (from foreign language education background, military service and working with an international visitor organization, plus research on foreign students in this country) supports a conclusion that a needed competence of teachers is empathy for another culture. I call it allowing for the cultural validity of other peoples.

Educators should be concerned with maximizing individual human potential. This implies building on what the individual brings to the contexts of learning and behavior change from his/her cultural, spiritual and educational background. This concern allows for the fact that, as the American Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development has stated, "There is no single criterion of human potential applicable to all."1 As part of this background, language creates for us an inner and outer world with regard to our perceptions of values, behavior and interactions with our surroundings. It, also, provides a means of passing on one's cultural heritage.

In this regard, the desire to speak a second language can be cultivated if the person has positive feelings toward both the language and the country. If one's mother tongue is perceived as unacceptable by such people, it will be more difficult to encourage that person to speak the second language. The home language is, in general, the one through which an individual exhibits personality and cognitive developments. Therefore, it is essential that teachers view language and culture as inseparable, which they are. A teacher's respect for the home language of the child is, essentially, respect for the child's culture. In a broader sense, a teacher's respect of the whole child should encompass the child's language and culture as importantly as his/her personality, intelligence, etc.

A basic strategy to include in this training related to ongoing programs is INFUSION. It will have a focus of individualizing instruction based on teachers' developing awareness of the broad aspects of culture, in-depth knowledge of American culture, intercultural interaction, cultural commonalities, in-depth knowledge of the content in the Basic Subjects (and its implication for human competence), knowledge of and sensitivity to the cultural milieux represented by the LEP students in their schools and classrooms, AND special techniques for establishing appropriate contexts of learning and facilitating that learning by English limited students, as well as techniques for assessing achievement under these conditions.

Some new perspectives are needed, and a new conceptualization about what we do in the name of cross-cultural education. Examine the cross-cultural dimensions of the following examples of cultural interaction (and its context of violence): the war in the Middle East, the on-going Arab-Israeli conflict as well as the one in Ireland, underscore the problems created out of cultural confrontation and animosity. However, they have little to do with the lack of cultural understanding. They are, in large part, results of or exacerbated by such cultural understanding. Understanding does not, in these cases, lead to acceptance.

By the same token, teachers who understand certain cultural differences may not, yet, be ready to accept people with different cultural attributes. Cultural acceptance is the longest term development of the many implications that this consent decree will have for Florida's teachers. How, then do we purport to TEACH toward cross-cultural communication if that can lead to such different results. I'll explain shortly.

In spite of social assumptions about the benefits of education with regard to social problems, the following statement reveals a potential internal weakness: "seldom are the deepest structures of schooling that are imbedded in the school's use of time, space, teaching practices, and classrooms fundamentally altered." (Cited from Dr. Cuban, a professor of education, School of Education, Stanford. AERA Bulletin.) He goes on to say that schools maintain accountability for such things as, certification, providing adequate instruction, using appropriate texts, maintaining order, providing appropriate models for students, etc. But, when it comes to teacher - student interaction in the classroom, strict accountability for socially accepted reforms breaks down, partly because we assess students and teachers primarily on the achievement of school goals.

If, as I believe, the teacher is the curriculum, then they must have freedom to conceptualize subject matter, learning tasks, achievement and individual outcomes in ways which are not dictated by the school organization or by management priorities, especially the need for accountability. For cross-cultural understanding and teaching Basic Subjects to limited English speaking students to succeed, teachers will have to undergo a change in attitude toward students, content, and learning itself. Culture is only one component, although an essential one in this situation.

NEW CONCEPTUALIZATION
A new perspective relates to both aspects: (1) teaching/learning context (based on concepts of essential knowledge) AND (2) the child as the center of the integration of all of the above within a context of acceptance of his/her own cultural orientations to the entire educational experience.

Training needs to be directed at skills regarding how people perceive the world around them and how they respond to it. (This can lead to increased sensitivity to cultural diversity.) Part of this adjustment to one's environment uses language. So, teachers must develop expanded skills in communication, potentially developing sensitivity as to how students articulate their perceptions within the learning context created by the teacher (under the goal of creating optimum conditions for learning.)

Another implication, then, is that teachers must learn to conceptualize subject matter in terms of how this competence enables a human being to have more control over the environment and interacting forces affecting each of us: social (cultural), political, economic, ecological and global.

In this cross-cultural context, the better teachers understand the cultural aspects of their own society, the better they can develop that understanding as part of the context for students' new learning. In contrast to the generally accepted notion of developing more understanding of other cultures (which is highly desirable), I offer a caveat. We can not know enough about the various cultures that we will come in contact with so as to be able to do the right thing at the right time. In addition, the LEP student must learn the culture and behavior of people in the United States.

TECHNIQUES
Consider the following implication: As teachers develop lessons, reduced levels of English should be used in classroom presentations. This can allow LEP students to concentrate on images received and interpreted in terms of their own cultural, personal and cognitive backgrounds (an expanded version of "learning set".) The focus is on using media for communication, not just English, and oral language. The interaction develops below:

1. The teacher asks the child for any response, and the child can use whatever level of English he/she is capable of to give a response. This provides data to the teacher leading to further development of the concept to be learned.

2. The teacher can, then, adapt his/her own communication to suit that used by the student (as is done in elementary education all of the time.)

3. Using ESOL techniques of expansion, extension & variation (to be shown later), the teacher helps the student develop further the initial response given so that the teacher can reach the richer image that the student developed originally from the instructional setting and presentation.

4. The data received from the child automatically represents cultural information which the teacher can explore further, depending on the language capability of the student.

The sensitivity to the development of such images and the extensions to other aspects should reinforce for the student an acceptance of self which is, often, lacking in U.S. schools. It should, also, make the teacher more aware of the need for such sensitivity and the benefits of it. A teacher's concept of the LEP student's competence may be negatively influenced by the student's language performance. Let me share some examples of how competent LEP students really are: First, there comes to mind a limited Spanish proficient student, a very competent person who was close to tears because she was not able to use her innate abilities to master some rather simple Spanish dialogues in an immersion situation; 2) a very competent Spanish speaker who has difficulty in English based college classes; and, 3) two Vietnamese high school students whose English was, obviously, faulty and hesitant, are seen discussing a math assignment a/or math problems in their own language. Their competence was, also, obvious.

Perhaps it is obvious that attitudes must change in the classroom. But this takes intrinsic modifications, over time, of the total approach to education of all children. An essential orientation for such changes to occur is that schools should allow for maximum interaction between educational goals, content, techniques and personalities, and the cultural milieux which students, especially, LEP students, represent. In essence, schools must build more on what children bring with them to school in order to create optimum learning conditions for successful achievement of all children.

My perspective builds, also, on what the teacher brings into the classroom, including a broad understanding of American culture, of cultural phenomena in general, and a willingness to develop empathy for other cultures. In addition, they need an expanded competence in various means of communication, in order to reduce the heavy reliance on English, especially spoken /English, for instruction in basic subjects.

SUMMATION

Let us assume that there is no one model American. Then, if we accept students as Welcome Outsiders to our world of education, we promote the highest goals of education in this society through a demonstration of tolerance toward the idea of students maintaining a healthy cultural pride, as well as by using interactions with all students to strengthen the validity of both our similarities as human beings and our differences as competence, equal, individuals.

*
Presentation for a session at the 1991 conference of the National Association on Multicultural Education, Orlando, FL


David W. Gurney, Ph. D.
Associate Professor
Instructional programs
College of Education



ESOL INFUSION
In Re LEP Mandate for Pre-service Education

KEY ELEMENTS OF DESIGN & RATIONALE MATERIALS


1. CHILD
a. Schooling can occur without critical developments.
b. Confusion from English dominated curriculum / teacher talk.
c. Child brings language and culture to school without much integration with school material or focus. Also, brain!
d. Can use own perspectives as connection to curriculum.

2. TEACHER
a. High reliance on language, especial content-bound language.
b. No real training in communication or cross-cultural analysis; not cross-cultural awareness.
c. No training for second language learning & little second language competence.
d. Potential to use sense of human competence in subject matter to develop different learning environments, leading to making connections between LEP student and curriculum.
e. Attitudes must change for teachers and curriculum to change.

3. CURRICULUM
a. Language bound
b. Curricular / evaluation assumptions not, necessarily, valid for many LEP students.
c. No focus on cultural interaction or essentially cultural basis of subject matter in present curriculum.
d. Lack of focus on the human competence underlying subject content vs concentration on specific knowledge a/o specific subject skills.

Implication: Teacher training needed.* See ESOL design.

PERSPECTIVE: The child is the center of integration of all of the elements that comprise the concept: Education

1. How people perceive the world around them. (cultural analysis)
2. How language articulates perceptions about subject content and perceptions about it, and how language influences learning contexts, expected outcome and evaluation.
3. How to conceptualize subject content in terms of human competence and fulfillment.
4. How to reduce the level of English in subject content presentations to enable LEP students to utilize more of their innate capabilities and cultural knowledge.
5. How ESOL techniques facilitate language develop and, potentially, content acquisition.
6. How to connect with rich images that children bring to school and which develop from instructional settings, presentations, materials, activities, etc.
7. How to evaluate learning based on modified contexts (1 - 6).

David W. Gurney
Associate Professor
May 19, 1997

TRAINING DESIGN
Suggested for ESOL preservice in 1991

A. Planning Training should depend upon adherence to the following ideas.
1. Attitudes must change before skills and understanding can be improved. Changing teacher attitudes toward culturally different children and the implicit teaching tasks cannot be mandated, but must come from an effort based on common needs and knowledge.
2. Adaptation to new methodologies is a developmental process implying a sequential series of experiences which are differentiated as much as possible to allow for individual potentialities to become energized and fulfilled.
3. The ability to develop instruction and adapt materials to be free of the inhibiting constraints of students' inadequate linguistic competencies can promote motivation to seek further enhancements of instruction as well as develop empathy for students' linguistic and cultural differences.

B. Goals
1. Competence in interpreting cultural aspects of children's orientation to learning conditions and use of cultural perspectives in adapting essential subject matter to the linguistic and cultural capabilities and conditions of LEP children.
1. Competence in, essentially, a reduced language mode of instruction, within a context of awareness of pupils' cultural and linguistic experience.
2. Competence in methods for teaching English to limited English speakers.
3. Awareness of the rationale and organization of instruction in language arts through ESOL for basic subjects.
4. Competence in the use of innovative materials for the reduced language mode and ESOL for instruction in basic subject areas.
5. Competence in the construction of tests and in evaluating student performance consistent with their cultural, linguistic and cognitive orientation, as well as a reduced language instructional mode.

Specialized training

A great number of LEP children pass rapidly beyond critical stages of cognitive development before reaching even an acceptable level of English for basic communication, certainly not sufficient for essential learning tasks. Underlying the Lau v Nichols decision is the realization that increased amounts of English instruction and materials for children who knew little English was, essentially, ineffective. These conditions create a need for special training in techniques that do not depend solely on the use of English for instruction so that teachers can create effective learning conditions under which LEP children can use their own native competencies for processing information and gaining skills. Such training relies, predominantly, on a reduced language instructional mode in which English is, essentially, a verbal extension of the teachers' total communication strategy. Techniques of ESOL, applied cross-cultural understanding, and new developments of curriculum and materials will be the chief aspects of this training. Testing and evaluation will develop contingent upon the kinds of learning situations that are created under this new conceptual approach to the learning tasks of LEP children. Applied linguistics will facilitate specific English language developments as they arise from the learning situation and for purely ESOL instruction.

Rationale
Pre-service (and regular) classroom teachers can adapt existing strategies and materials to offset the primary dependency on the use of English for instructional presentations and evaluation. Such training can help teachers develop expanded competencies in conceptualizing the learning task, perceiving learner potentialities based on individual, cultural and linguistic factors. Enhanced, meaningful, contexts for learning are expected benefits.


SUMMARY

A pertinent cultural orientation suggested by the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education with regard to the implications for teacher training in an increasingly multilingual multicultural society underlies the conceptualization for the training described above: whatever the level of instruction/learning, students' learning reflects, in large measure, what they bring into class with them from unique perspectives formed within a diversity of socio-economic and cultural backgrounds.

Education, then, has the potential for viewing, accepting and valuing LEP children's unique perspectives to their own education. A rationale for teacher attitudes and training follows: schools and educators should allow for maximum interaction between educational goals, content, techniques, materials, and personalities, and the cultural milieux which these children represent. In essence, education must build on what the learner brings into the classroom in order to create optimum learning conditions for successful achievement. Teacher education must avoid taking the form of specific training on "accepted" sets of cultural variables, in order to open future teachers' minds to the vast richness of cultural heritage represented by the LEP children they will have to teach.

The recommended approach, then, concentrates on teachers developing competencies in learning about the LEP child's cultural experiences and their linguistic development in order to help create meaningful associations between these experiences and the new experiences in which they are immersed.
To facilitate such associations, teachers must develop broader conceptualizations about the content and skills which shape these associations from the point of view of the human competence inherent in them.



David W. Gurney
Associate Professor