Categories
Linguistics

Teaching Second Language Writing

Introduction and Claim

Writing in a second language is a unique and challenging process that requires a significant understanding of the language and the meaning of its words. Whether creative or analytical, writing may be simplistic or complex; however, the language must be well understood in order to write effectively. Some might argue that writing in a second language is easier than speaking it, but this is not the case. Writing in a second language requires an exceptional mastery of at least basic words and phrases that might be used to create sentences. Peer review of writing in a second language, requires the reviewer to understand the writer’s limitations in using the English language in written form. Formative assessment is integrated into the instructional process to promote greater learning and achievement as a form of revision or adjustment as the need permits, while summative assessment is identified in the form of a quiz, examination, or other type of format that enables a teacher to determine the level of aptitude of students (AMLE, 2013). In particular, summative assessment is critical in providing the level of feedback and encouragement that is necessary to establish improved writing skills in the second language. This also facilitates an expanded approach to supporting peer review in routine practice for novice ESL writers.

Categories
Linguistics

U.S. and Finnish Education Systems

 

U.S. is the world’s largest economy and still a leader in innovation but it may soon lose its status as the largest center of innovation unless drastic measures are taken to overhaul its education system. U.S. education system was once the envy of the world but now other countries have not only caught up but even overtaken it, especially at high school level. One of the education systems that is often mentioned as the role model for U.S. is that of Finland. U.S. may benefit by adopting the Finnish model because it is not only efficient in terms of allocation of resources but also places greater emphasis on results than the means.

While high school in the public sector is free in the U.S. and schools may also provide free lunch, Finnish school system doesn’t only provide free education and free lunch but also takes other measures such as free healthcare and other welfare services to reduce inequality as a result of students’ economic and social backgrounds (Sahlberg, 2012). The Finnish education system also tries to reduce inequality by providing more funds to schools where average performance may be lacking behind as opposed to the U.S. education system which usually rewards top-performing schools (Tung, 2012).

Another difference between the U.S. and Finnish education system is that U.S. education system is more procedure-intensive and uniform in terms of policies as opposed to the Finnish education system which is more focused on achieving results and more flexible. Finnish education system doesn’t require standardized testing as opposed to the U.S. education system and it also doesn’t evaluate its teachers like the U.S. Instead, it leaves to the school principals to identify problems and take measures as necessary (Tung, 2012). There are numerous benefits to this approach. First of all, Finnish system realizes that different schools may have students with different characteristics, thus, a local approach is more fitted to address their needs as opposed to national approach which ignores the unique differences among student populations of different schools. Finnish approach also eschews standardized testing and teach evaluation which may only result in waste of financial and time resources and may do little to address the underlying problem.

One cannot overstate the importance of teachers in the quality of education students receive. One of the major differences between Finnish and U.S. education systems is also the quality of teachers as well as the prestige attached to the teaching profession. In the U.S. teaching profession doesn’t attract the most talented individuals who would rather choose other professions with more prestige and income prospects. Similarly, entering the teaching profession is relatively easier in the U.S. as compared to Finland where teachers are required to obtain three-year Master’s degree at state expense. The demand for these programs is so high that only ten percent primary school applicants are accepted. Moreover, the teaching profession enjoys the same prestige as doctors, lawyers, and architects etc. in Finland (Tung, 2012). This also gives an edge to Finnish education system over the U.S. education system.

Another major difference between the U.S. and Finnish education system is that education is a commodity and available to everyone whether at elementary level, high school level, or college level. In addition, the concept of private education is almost nonexistent in Finland. This means that Finnish from all backgrounds get similar quality education and they get to do for free for as long as they want to study (Partanen, 2011). Unlike Finland, the best schools in U.S. tend to be private which are outside the reach of the majority of the population. There are few good public schools but they are only a small minority. In addition, college education is funded by a significant proportion of students through student loans which may discourage many from going to college or force them to drop out before completing the degree.

The concept of competition is also absent in the Finnish education system where administrators have the responsibility to identify and address problems and the emphasis is on cooperation rather than competition among schools. No lists are published in Finland regarding best schools or teachers (Partanen, 2011) as opposed to the U.S. where such rankings are common place and are thought of as necessary to encourage schools and colleges to improve their academic standards. The absence of competition has certain benefits. First of all, it removes distraction which comes from competition. It also means that schools focus on real problems instead of on the criteria which determines ranking. This spirit of cooperation doesn’t only exist among schools but also within schools. Teachers in schools are not subjected to scrutiny by the boards or the parents but instead mentored by superiors and colleagues so that they could improve upon their weaknesses. In addition, the teachers also have autonomy in designing course materials and are not forced to follow predetermined curriculum (Shoubaki, 2013).

It is apparent that while competition is usually desirable, in education system it does more harm than good as the performance of the U.S. education system and the Finnish education system shows. While U.S. education system places great emphasis n procedures and competition, Finnish education system places greater emphasis on cooperation and achieving results. Finnish education system has also been more successful because it takes active measures to reduce inequality among students and provide high quality education to every one free of cost for as long as they study. It also gives more prestige to teachers and attract higher quality applicants than the U.S. education system, especially at pre-college levels.

References

Partanen, A. (2011, December 29). What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland’s School Success. Retrieved April 23, 2013, from http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/12/what-americans-keep-ignoring-about-finlands-school-success/250564/

Sahlberg, P. (2012, Spring). A Model Lesson. American Educator, pp. 20-28.

Shoubaki, S. (2013, February 14). The Finland Phenomenon: Inside the World’s Most Surprising School System. Retrieved April 23, 2013, from http://www.examiner.com/article/the-finland-phenomenon-inside-the-world-s-most-surprising-school-system

Tung, S. (2012, January 20). How the Finnish school system outshines U.S. education. Retrieved April 23, 2013, from http://news.stanford.edu/news/2012/january/finnish-schools-reform-012012.html

 

 

 

 

Categories
Linguistics

Same-sex Marriage

We are living in one of the most interesting times during America’s history since several long-held traditions are being challenged now including gun control. But what makes this era special is that we may finally be witnessing the next civil rights movement which is same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage has emerged as a controversial issue because not only it challenges the traditional norms of American society such as marriage being a union between a man and a woman but it also goes against the beliefs held by almost all religious groups including Christianity and Islam who view it as a moral sin. If America’s history is any indication, same-sex marriage is the next civil rights movement because equal rights cannot be guaranteed to all Americans without legalizing same-sex marriage.

The movement for same-sex marriage and the movement for equal rights for African Americans have several parallels one of which is the opposition at the state level. Before African Americans finally achieved their goals in the 1960s, they faced opposition in their struggle not only at federal level but also state level. At least seventeen states had laws before 1960s that required children of White and African Americans to attend separate schools. Similarly, the state of Alabama even made it illegal to serve both White Americans and African Americans in the same hall in a restaurant unless steps have been taken to segregate the two groups (American Social History Productions, Inc., 2011). Unfortunately, we are witnessing the same trends across some states against same-sex marriage. For example, Florida has passed the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment which defines marriage as only the union between a man and a woman and refuses to recognize any other union as marriage (Florida Department of State). African Americans rallied against segregation because they refused to agree that ‘equal but separate’ can ensure equal rights. Similarly, the supporters of same-sex marriage also argue that the alternatives offered by opponents such as civil unions also follow the spirit of ‘equal but separate’ argument and cannot guarantee equal rights to same-sex couples.

Only legal recognition of same-sex marriage will ensure equal rights for all Americans including equal access to social and economic benefits. When U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked Charles Cooper, the lawyer who was arguing against gay marriage, “Outside of the marriage context, can you think of any other rational basis, reason, for a state using sexual orientation as a factor in denying homosexuals benefits? Or imposing burdens on them? Is there any other decision-making that the government could make — denying them a job, not granting them benefits of some sort, any other decision?” (The Huffington Post, 2013), she was mindful of the fact that same-sex couples do not enjoy the same rights that heterosexual married couples do. Not surprisingly, Cooper could not provide any example. U.S. constitution guarantees equal rights to all citizens irrespective of their origins and background and it is apparent that denying the same-sex couples a right to marry violates their constitutional rights.

The opponents of same-sex marriage often argue that legalizing same-sex marriage will destroy the fabric of the society because marriage between a man and a woman serves several important purposes including that of procreation. But this argument fails the test of logic when scrutinized closely. As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer observed, many heterosexual couples who get married can’t have children. Another U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan wondered whether than government could prevent a couple over the age of 55 from marrying because they won’t be able to have children (Liptak, 2013). This again proves that most of the opposition to same-sex marriage has been based on the desire to protect an old tradition rather than the fact that it will help protect the real interests of the society. Unless the government or the constitution grants all heterosexual couples the right to marry only if they can procreate, denying homosexual couples the right to marry will be nothing short of constitutional discrimination against them.

In America, there is a constitutional separation between the church and the state. Thus, constitutional laws should not concern themselves with moral values which continue to evolve over time and often stem from religious beliefs. Instead, the constitution should focus upon what is right and what is wrong and how all citizens can be guaranteed equal access to rights and benefits. If we start letting religious morality influence constitutional laws, it will mean curbing several rights citizens of the free world including Americans have come to expect as granted including the right to engage in sexual relationship outside marriage. In fact, Bible even allows slavery yet it is a stigma in the modern world. We should also not forget that inter racial marriages were also outlawed only few decades ago and in the near future, some will wonder why U.S. constitution denied equal rights to same-sex couples for so long. These sentiments are shared by Mr. Howard L. Simon of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida as well, “One day, we will look back on the idea that government could have the power to dictate whom adults can marry with as much bewilderment and embarrassment as we now, shamefully, wonder how we allowed government the power to ban interracial marriage” (Simon , Pg. 6).

The opponents of same-sex couple also argue that a child needs both a father and a mother, thus, only heterosexual marriages should be allowed. Thus argument, like many other arguments, is both self-contradictory and proven wrong by scientific studies. First of all, many of these opponents suggest civil unions which will not prohibit homosexual couples from raising children in any manner. The critics of same-sex couple also ignore the reality that a significant proportion of heterosexual couples end up being divorced, thus, these marriages do little to ensure that children have a healthy upbringing and receive the love of both a father and a mother. Even research studies prove that these concerns regarding the well being of children are exaggerated. Mustanski found that a growing body of scientific literature demonstrates children who grow up with 1 or 2 gay and/ or lesbian parents fare as well in emotional, cognitive, social, and sexual functioning as those whose parents are heterosexual (Mustanski, 2008). It is reasonable to assume that children being raised by homosexual couples who are in committed relationship may receive more love and care than children from heterosexual couples who might have been separated.

The opponents of same-sex marriage also express other concerns that legalizing same-sex marriage will only increase homosexuality and contribute towards moral decline of the society. This is another example of basing opinions on stereotypes and ignorance and not taking the effort to educate self. Science has proven that homosexuality is not a lifestyle choice as opponents often allege but biological (Wagner, 2012) which means homosexual people are born the way they are, rather than choosing to adopt the homosexual lifestyle. Theodore B. Olson also reiterates the fact in an article in Newsweek, “Science has taught us, even if history has not, that gays and lesbians do not choose to be homosexual any more than the rest of us choose to be heterosexual. To a very large extent, these characteristics are immutable, like being left-handed. And, while our Constitution guarantees the freedom to exercise our individual religious convictions, it equally prohibits us from forcing our beliefs on others” (Olson , Pg. 48). Just as one should not discriminate against those with an inherited disability, the society has no right to discriminate against a particular group of people who have little choice in how they are born. Thus, same-sex marriage will not lead to a rise in homosexual activity.

Laws are often meant to maximize the overall interests of the society. This is why smoking is sometimes banned in legal places, drunk under driving is prohibited almost everywhere, many states have laws against talking on cellphone or texting while driving, and alcohol consumption is usually prohibited in public places. But one fails to understand how preventing same-sex marriages advance the overall interests of the society because same-sex couples enjoy their intimate relationship just as heterosexual couples do and often within the privacy of their homes. Giving them the right to enjoy same economic and social benefits as heterosexual married couples such as preferential tax treatment, discounts on financial services and insurance policies, and the ability to inherit the assets of deceased partner may, in fact, advance the overall interests of the society rather than the other way.

The opposition to same-sex marriage is also sometimes due to the stereotypes that are promoted by the media without carefully considering the potential consequences. TV shows such as Will and Grace misrepresent reality and most homosexual individuals are like any other citizen who follows laws and works hard to provide for his/her family. Homosexuality is natural and not a psychological illness as sometimes portrayed by conservative media. Education helps people get rid of stereotypes and prejudices and media should play its role in eliminating the stigma associated with homosexuality. Every person desires a loving family, irrespective of his/her sexual orientation and constitution should not prevent anyone from marrying the love of his/her life.

Same-sex marriage should be legalized because it will end the systematic discrimination against homosexual couples. It will also enable homosexual couples to enjoy all the rights and benefits available to heterosexual couples as U.S. citizens and/or members of the society. Opposition to same-sex marriage is often rooted in religious beliefs or loyalty to traditional and does little to advance the overall interests of the society. Only legally allowing same-sex couples to marry will help advance the overall interests of the society.

 

References

 

American Social History Productions, Inc. (2011). Examples of U.S. Laws Requiring Racial Segregation. Retrieved April 23, 2013, from http://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/1890

Florida Department of State. (n.d.). Florida Marriage Protection Amendment. Retrieved April 23, 2013, from http://election.dos.state.fl.us/initiatives/initdetail.asp?account=41550&seqnum=1

Liptak, A. (2013, March 26). Justices Say Time May Be Wrong for Gay Marriage Case. Retrieved April 24, 2013, from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/27/us/supreme-court-same-sex-marriage-case.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Mustanski, B. (2008, November 28). Why Not Allow Gay Marriage? Retrieved April 24, 2013, from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-sexual-continuum/200811/why-not-allow-gay-marriage

Olson, T. B. (2010, January 18). The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage. Newsweek, pp. 48-54.

Simon, H. L. (2008, Nov – Dec). Amendment 2: A Futile Effort to Delay the Inevitable. Outlook Weekly.

The Huffington Post. (2013, March 28). Sonia Sotomayor Question On Gay Marriage Leaves Lawyer Stumped. Retrieved April 23, 2013, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/27/sonia-sotomayor-gay-marriage_n_2965105.html

Wagner, D. (2012, December 11). Science: Homosexuality Isn’t Genetic, but It Is Biological. Retrieved April 24, 2013, from http://www.theatlanticwire.com/technology/2012/12/science-homosexuality-isnt-genetic-it-biological/59882/

 

 

 

Categories
Linguistics

English diffusion and the right of Mother Tongue

Introduction:

With the introduction of the principles of globalization to the situational upbringing of people living in these modern times, it could be realized that the creation of an international language has become a vital part in the distinction of a new world from the past civilizations that passed the history of the world. Given that the American nation is one of the economically stable nations around the globe, it has become a norm for many of those who are living from distant nation to desire to visit and at times even reside in the said country. It is because of this that people from around the globe hope to have the chance to try their ‘luck’ or their ‘fate’ in supposedly succeeding in America. However, when it comes to being specifically endowed with such chances of experiencing a slice of the American dream, there are certain requirements that must be fulfilled and one of which is the need to learn and master the use of the English language.

True to its sense, the English language has become an international language that is notably accepted by the international society. Individuals from different countries begin to recognize the need to embrace the said language and be more capable of utilizing it in practical conversations. The course of teaching the English language that non-English speaking countries use to introduce the said form of speech to their students specifically makes a great impact on how the learners advance in the process of utilizing the language properly. It has been observed through time though that the capacity of non-English speaking countries to provide excellent teaching to their learners has been relatively compromised because of the use of the mother tongue in teaching the said language. This is the reason why many among these learners do not fully grasp what the language is about nor do they get an inkling on how it is supposed to be properly used in conversation. This presents a real problem especially if the students are presented with the challenge of actually dealing with English-speaking individuals. Dealing with the situation should be handled accordingly especially in relation to how the students are able to specifically understand the language, use it in conversation amidst the  fact that it is taught to them under the direction of their mother tongue. How does the mother tongue actually affect the student’s learning of English? How well does the motivation of the students to learn actually affect their grasp of the lessons that are presented to them in class. These questions are expected to give a more defined indication on how the English language is actually being accepted by different nations around the globe, hence learning them fully.

In the study that follows, I hope to understand how the process of teaching English actually affects the excellence that the students are supposed to acquire in relation to the learning procedures they embrace. Relatively, I shall investigate the actual situations of learning in Qatari to provide a good source of reliable distinction in relation to the case I am hoping to explore.

Methodology:

In my case study, I will focus on the Qatari educational context. The study will employ a quantitative case study method. Information is limited to what is available in the official website of Qatari Supreme Education Council. This governmental website provides significant statistics of students performance in the annual educational assessment test on both English language and Arabic language proficiency. It also offers statistics of students’ attitude towards both subjects based on annual questionnaires. This study is concentrating on Grade 11 and from 2007-2008 until 2009-2010.

  • In Arabic proficiency test: (In 2007-08, students ‘general percentage’ score is 534/900), (in 2008-09: they score 529), (in 2009-10: they score 526).
  • In English proficiency test: (in 2007-08 students ‘general percentage’ score is 551), (in 2008-09 students score is 551), (in 2009-10 students score is 553).
  • The percentage of the use of Arabic Language in Math is 0 %, in Science is 0%, in Computer science is 6%, in Sociology is 98%.
  • Students attitudes towards both languages are vary in that the 74% agreed that they enjoyed learning Arabic while 82% agreed on enjoying learning English.

Through the utilization of these statistical data, I am hoping to see through the correlation between the interest of students towards the English language and how the Qatari government tried their ways to make sure that such interest would not be set aside, instead recognized fully as a good source of motivation for learning. Relatively, through this approach, I am hoping to create a connection as to how the readjustment of the situations of learning in Qatari especially in relation to the use of mother tongue actually affected the acceptance of the students with regards the English language especially in connection with how they use it in actual conversations.

Results:

According to Qatari educational assessment test, the general percentage of G-11 students scores are higher in English than Arabic in these three years. In addition, the development of Arabic language, based on this educational assessment test, is ridiculously decreasing. In 2008, students ‘general percentage’ scored 534, in 2009 they scored 529, and finally in 2010 they score 526. However students’ performance in English has slightly developed since 2008 as they scored 551 in both 2008 and 2009, 553 in 2010. As noticed, English is developed in the expanse of Arabic language.

  • The degree of interest in English “as a subject” is duly noted. The statistics shows that students’ attitude is a bit higher towards English than Arabic.
  • The use of the mother tongue is only limited to sociology and Arabic language whereas English is the language for almost all sciences such as math, Science, and Computer science.

From these particular results on the exploration and investigation handled through this research, it could be realized how the interest of the students affect the transformation of the learning process that the administrators made efficiently working for the whole society. In the same manner, such motivation has given birth to the seclusion of the English subjects to be taught in the English Language and not through the mother tongue like other subjects in concern.

Discussion:

It could be realized that even though the interest of the students in the English Language developed through the years in Qatari, there are still particular issues of concern in connection to the establishment of excellence in using the English language among the students. Relatively, what makes it easier for the students to gain excellence and at least master the language is that of the manner by which they are immersed on the its grammatical rules through utilizing it regularly. Being that the other subjects are still taught in the mother tongue, it could be analyzed that the need to be immersed in this form of speech cannot be fully acquired as desired. Perhaps the increase of activities that are completed through the constant use of the English language could help support this particular essence of becoming more effective in commanding conversations through the said form of speech.

The data that was collected specifically provide a great impact on the indication of whether or not the English language is fully accepted by the foreign students in Qatari. Utilizing the mother tongue has a great effect on the learning process of the students. It could be understood that through this particular aspect of development in the adjustment of learning process that the students of Qatari are subjected with, learning the English language may not be as strong as expected, however it is suffice to provide the students the proper experience they need.

 

 

 

Categories
Linguistics

Mentoring as a Tool for Teacher Development

Obtaining excellent grades on school assignments require the student’s ability to study effectively by grasping concepts and understanding the course materials. However, many students in today’s society lack in their studies, partly because they have no one to encourage them along the way of their educational journeys. Oftentimes, the encouragement of someone who cares or someone who takes a special interest in the welfare of a student makes a significant difference in the way that student learns and understands the educational materials. Encouragement also influences the student’s interest in learning and motivates them to strive for excellence. Mentoring is a way of giving students the encouragement they need. Merriam-Webster defines a mentor as “a trusted counselor or guide” (mentor), such as someone who leads the initiatives of someone else, through advising, training, encouraging and example setting, for the purpose of helping the person achieve a specific goal. Examples of mentors are parents, coaches, tutors and teachers. However, anyone is a potential mentor for someone else. Author, Eric Parsloe, sums it up by saying that “Mentoring is to support and encourage people to progress in their careers in order that they may maximise their potential, develop their skills, improve their performance and become the person they want to be” (MentorSET, 2008).

Mentors serve as role models that instill confidence and drive in the people they mentor by being someone they can confide in and emulate. This is especially true for teachers as mentors, and particularly those who are English language teachers. Consequently, effective mentoring for the teachers, themselves, is as equally important, as it is a way to improve their teaching ability and performance by enhancing their learning and developmental skills. This research report examines teacher effectiveness, and also mentoring as a tool for teacher development, specifically as it relates to English language teaching methodology and proficiency.

Enhancing Teacher Effectiveness

The objective of helping teachers develop their own methods of teaching according to their own ideals, beliefs and views, as opposed to imposing rigid traditional teaching methods on them is an effective strategy for enhancing teacher development. According to (Moir, 2009) it is important to induct new teachers into their positions as a commitment to helping them develop their teaching skills and abilities. This accelerates teacher effectiveness and reduces teacher turnover in areas where students need them the most, such as in urban districts where poverty levels are high. Teacher mentoring effectiveness in these areas allows for positive impacts on the students.

Impacts of Teacher Effectiveness

Enhancement tools include assessment methods that measure the impacts of mentor programs on teachers, particularly when the assessments are performance-based. These assessments allow for tailoring of the mentoring process to individual teachers and their needs, while making the best of their indvidual strong points and focusing improvement efforts in challenging areas. In addition, effective teacher mentoring helps identify specific needs of students  for the purpose of matching them with specific teachers, according to their capabilities. Teacher mentoring programs also build a bridge for leadership ability and a culture of learning, whereby teachers are encouraged and trained in high-quality educational practice norms (Moir, 2009). This is good; if teachers feel empowered, it gives them the ability for empowering students to reach for excellence. Also, teachers are better at their jobs when they are well-trained and  knowledgeable and also able to reach out for guidance, when needed, and approval when merited. In addition, well-trained, knowledgable teachers are likely happier in their positions, and being happy with one’s job creates a sense of self-worth and a feeling of being an integral part of the big picture, and this is in line with company objectives and core values. This includes giving the best service and care possible to the students, as well as the highest quality academic instruction available. Mentoring programs are valuable because they help teachers learn the art of mentoring.

Teaching Mentoring to Teachers

Teachers are better mentors when they are taught to mentor by being allowd to participate in professional development programs. Teachers learn to mentor based on the opportunities available to them in the area of learning how to mentor. According to Stanulis & Ames (2009), teacher development focused on impacting student learning is important for teaching mentoring strategies to teachers. In addition, it is equally important for new teachers to have a good relationship with their mentors, as mentors are those the new teachers can lean on and go to with questions and concerns and to ask for advice.

Characteristics of Effective Teacher Mentors

Mentoring is an important part of teaching and good mentoring is a product of certain desirable teacher charactistics such as preparing and offering worthwhile content to students, effectively managing the classroom, and motivating students to learn (Stanulis & Ames, 2009).

Worthwhile content includes offering student content that is both challenging and innovative. Students should learn how to grasp concepts, learn idea-supporting techniques, and articulate understanding of the course content. In addition, worthwhile content helps students learn by assigning challenging and instruction-based tasks to them and providing students with time to collaborate and explore relative content and also engaging them in group discussions.

Along with offering worthwhile content, it is important for good mentors to have a handle on the classroom. Good classroom management is essential to effective mentoring. Teachers should create well-planned learning plans, as well as ensuring their meeting schedules do not clash with their independent work, such as creating a class environment condusive to stimulating students’ curiosity so that they want to learn. Additionally, a good teacher mentor is focused on how the students communicate in the classroom and the characteristics of the overall class culture.

Motivating students to learn in the classroom is another good quality of an effective teacher mentor. This includes creating a class environment that challenges students and stretches them by setting goals with high expectations. Student learning is also enhanced by the teacher mentor’s ability to anticipate obstacles that may arise in the learning process such as with student frustrations.

Effective teacher mentoring is a top motivator for students, particularly students learning the English language, and focused teacher development is important for teachers of English language learning.

 

Development for English Language Teachers

According to Leah (2012), teachers who teach English language learning are positive motivators for their students. Students learning the English language are curious and eager to understand, and they are also willing participants in their learning. Developing English language learning teachers’ methods of teaching is essential to gaining persepctive into how students interact with specific teaching methods. For example, teachers can use game playing as a method of teaching the English language to students. Leah (2012) states game playing is a popular activity with students of different ages, so this is an effective method for teaching them English and grammar that motivates and sparks their curiosity and interests. This is but one innovative way of teaching English to students. Traditional methods of teaching are not always beneficial to teaching English language learners because their learning needs are unique and diverse and may not conform to traditional teaching methods. This is why professional development for English language teachers is important.

English Learning Teachers and Professional Development

English language learners (ELLs) are a large part of the United States population and they continually grow in numbers each year. Therefore, qualified English language learner teachers are in high demand and are currently in short numbers in many school districts across the country. Currently, there are more than 344,000 qualified ELL teachers, who are certified or licensed, in the country, and more than 51,000 are needed for the growth in ELL student numbers over the next five years (Casteel & Ballantyne, 2010). Therefore, professional development and evaluation of ELL teachers is a must to improving the knowledge and skills of ELL teachers, as well as their attitudes toward teaching, so that they become excellent ELL student mentors. This is a positive step toward improving ELL student outcomes, as well as improving school outcomes. This is done by developing better educational programs in school systems. The interrelationships involving students, teachers, and schools, as it relates to improving student outcomes is illustrated in the figure (Casteel & Ballantyne, 2010) below.

Improving Student Outcomes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As shown, the diagram indicates the significance of professional development on improved outcomes for both teachers and schools, which translates into improved outcomes for the students. Casteel & Ballantyne (2010) state there are five core principles related to professional development for teachers. They are: (1) using basic skills, knowledge and expertise as building blocks to create effective educational programs; (2) encouraging the students to learn by engaging them in learning activities and learning new skills; (3) providing opportunities for students to practice by giving them a means of offering feedback, and also making room for follow-up; (4) evaluating teacher performance to measure their level of improvement in their knowledge and skills; and (5) measuring student progress and improvments in their performance via measurable evaluation criteria. These are effective principles in developing teachers into successful mentors (Casteel & Ballantyne, 2010).

Teacher Mentoring

Mentoring new teachers helps them understand why they make certain decisions that often impact student outcomes. Teachers can learn new strategies for mentoring through coaching and development on how to connect their curriculum content with course objectives and ELL student needs. It is important that teachers have on-going support and coaching in the area of creating working strategies for teaching. Teachers transform into mentors. According to Casteel & Ballantyne (2010) during the formal transformation process from teacher to mentor, it is noted that “prospective mentors participate in structured experiences, become aware of needs, teach with targeted strategies, monitor activities, reflect on outcomes, adapt strategies, and harness personal strengths” (p. 29). Mentoring is both a personal and professional act of transformation that empowers teachers with the confidence and skills to impact the learning experiences of the students.

As it relates to impacting students’ learning experiences, Carrejo & Reinhartz (2012) highlights the importance of ELL teachers to the success of ELL student education. This is strongly based on the students’ exposure to relevant content-specific material so that they learn English grammar patterns and the different distinctions within the language itself. In addition, it is noted that students learn the English language through literacy development of knowledge and skills related to four language objectives. These objectives include (1) comprehensive reading and studying of words in the language, using experiences to connect the meaning of the words; (2) analyzing the relationships in the context of cause and effect; (3) representing various forms of information, evaluating implications; and (4) exploring the characteristics of different objects (Carrejo & Reinhartz, 2012).

Because ELL teachers impact their students so much, it is essential that they are properly mentored through professional development and well-trained in successfully implementing approaches to ELL teaching that offers students academic content that is easy for them to grasp and to understand concepts. According to Casteel & Ballantyne (2010), ELL students have two key areas of need: “accessing the core content in English in ways that make the content more accessible and understandable, and learning English as a language in its own right that has its own vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar, structure, and conventions, along with a distinctive set of literary and cultural texts and traditions” (p. 37). To meet these needs, ELL teachers need to be equipped on all levels of their profession and skills.

Conclusion

It is evident that society is becoming more and more diverse and the needs of English language learners are growing with society; therefore, the demand for qualified English language learner teachers and mentors is also growing. Students in this group need encouragement and quality educational opportunities to thrive in this country, and this is heavily influenced by their exposure to those who assist them in their studies of the English language. This is important in today’s society. In addition, it is equally important for English language teachers to become effective mentors, and this is done through complete and targeted professional development and training for these teachers to maxize their potential by developing their skills and improving their performance. This improves their teaching ability which improves educational outcomes for schools and the students who attend them.

Effective mentoring also involves conversations with teachers, either one-on-one or in study groups, and helps facilitate their learning opportunities, because teacher mentors need time for learning that is reflected in how these conversations help them put what they learn into practice. Teachers can also engage one another in continued learning that is reflective of their combined learning experiences. This is beneficial as a mentoring tool for teacher development.

Teacher development is a mentoring tool of great significance because it turns teachers into mentors who can serve as appropriate role models for empowering ELL students and giving them the confidence they need to thrive in this country. This is why effective mentoring and training for the ELL teachers is a valuable asset and is good for improving teacher quality and also for enhancing their teaching ability and performance through improved developmental skills.

 

References

Carrejo, D. J., & Reinhartz, J. (2012, Summer). Exploring the Synergy Between Science Literacy and Language Literacy with English Langage Learners: Lessons Learned within a Sustained Professional Development Program. SRATE Journal, 21(2), 33-38.

Casteel, C. J., & Ballantyne, K. G. (2010). Professional Development in Action: Improving Teaching for English Learners. National Clearninghouse for English Language Acquisition. Retrieved from http://www.ncela.gwu.edu/files/uploads/3/PD_in_Action.pdf

Leah, C. (2012, March). Good or bad methods of teaching English? Scientific Journal of Humanistic Studies, 4(6), 182-187, 6.

mentor. (n.d.). Retrieved from Merriam-Webster: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mentor

MentorSET. (2008). What is Mentoring? Retrieved from MentorSET: http://www.mentorset.org.uk/pages/mentoring.htm

Moir, E. (2009, October). Accelerating Teacher Effectiveness: Lessons Learned from Two Decades of New Teacher Induction. Phi Delta Kappan, 91(2), 14-21, 8.

Stanulis, R. N., & Ames, K. T. (2009, Spring). Learning to Mentor: Evidence and Observation as Tools in Learning to Teach. Professional Educator, 33(1), 11.

 

 

Categories
Linguistics

Articles on Language testing:a summary and critique

Language Testing

Article:  Expanding Horizons and Unresolved Conundrums: Language Testing an Assessment by Constant Leung and Jo Lewkowicz.

Summary: This article examines issues in English language testing which relate to instruction and curriculum. Specific issues are highlighted, such as formal testing and assessment, issues with testing authenticity related to the target language, and concerns about the validity, ethics and alternative assessment of standardized psychometric testing. The literature explores a review of progress made from a previous research study of psychometric language testing and how far it has come in fifteen years. Additionally, the study reviews future developments in the research. 

Critique: It is interesting to note that the article points out that performance tests for the purpose of testing language are sometimes too complicated and may skew the authenticity of the results. This might be because of social issues involved with interactions between people who speak different languages. For example, the interaction between the test taker and the test administrator may negatively impact oral proficiency testing. The article does a thorough job in explaining that student placement decisions often depend on the results from language testing and may be inaccurate because of errors in the testing process. The article also does a thorough job of highlighting further discussions about language testing initiatives and giving more attention to types of testing tasks and texts within the tests. This is necessary to promote adequate communication between students and interlocutors. Additionally, there are adequate suggestions about engaging students in tasks that are more complex and holistic, to provide a more intellectually challenging assessment for students, which is a way to promote better outcomes.

Article: Who Is Given Tests in What Language by Whom, When, and Where? The Need for Probabilistic Views of Language in the Testing of English Language Learners by Guillermo Solano-Flores.

Summary: This article examines issues concerning the process of testing English language learners (ELLs). This process shows communication issues are present due to inadequate implementation of the testing procedures, how tests are administered, who administers them and when, and who completes the tests and where. The article focuses on different language behaviors, and the way bilingual people interact and communicate in social settings and how they choose when to use each language in which they are fluent.

Critique: This article highlights that people interact differently, depending on whether they are in formal or informal settings, such as at work or with people they know. This is the focus of this article; determining the reasons behind unfair and unsound language testing for ELLs. The article gives a sound argument against current practices of language testing for ELLs that do not take into account the social aspect of ELL groups. They are often simply lumped into only a few language proficiency categories and all ELLs are treated as if they are linguistically the same. The article successfully argues for the fact that ELLs are not the same. They are diverse in language, family histories, and their formal language instruction experiences. A good idea is suggested to remedy this and that is addressing randomness in the testing process. The article gives a thorough account of implementing a better language testing system for students, by analyzing variances in ELL communication through the assessment system and its current limited ability for producing valid academic measures.

References

Leung, C., & Lewkowicz, J. (2006, March). Expanding Horizons and Unresolved Conundrums: Language Testing and Assessment. TESOL Quarterly, 40(1), 211-234.

Solano-Flores, G. (2008, May). Who Is Given Tests in What Language by Whom, When, and Where? The Need for Probabilistic Views of Language in the Testing of English Language Learners. Educational Researcher, 37(4), 189-199.

 

Categories
Linguistics

Variations in Measurement and Thresholds: Testing Young Learners

Introduction

An inherent dilemma lies within how learning at young ages is measured, in that learning at these ages is very much an exponential process;  as the child first demonstrates learning, they are also developing the cognitive abilities necessary to comprehend and retain information.  Consequently, any such determining of learning must be tempered by an awareness of the shifting nature of the process itself.  This reality, then, also goes to the issues when standards designed for more mature learning are applied to young learners, and increasing efforts have been made to render the measurements distinct.  Widespread thinking among educators today, for instance, holds that no standardized testing should be administered to children prior to the fourth grade (Harrison, Salinger, 2002,  p. 182).  Nonetheless, attempts to gauge young learning proficiency are not likely to diminish; as families seek to gain insight as to their children’s capabilities and potentials, so too does the dominant culture pursue investigation and assessment, if only in order to anticipate issues in learning as likely arising later.  In the following, a variety of testing models will be presented, geared for young learners and for adults, which will then enable discussions of efficacy.  In regard to young learners, and as will be seen, the term may apply to ages ranging from preschool to high school, with testing applications varying accordingly.  This assessment of such testing  will be followed by a conclusion incorporating recommendations as to how young learning may best be measured, based on current thinking, known issues with testing, and concerns for individual well-being and progress.

Categories
Linguistics

Krashen’s SLA Theory

Introduction

One of the great gifts that humans are equipped with is the ability to learn language. Krashen describes language learning as a cognitive behavior that takes place within a traditional classroom. In this classroom, the teacher is the central focus and the learners take a passive role. Accordingly, it is the teachers’ role to transmit information and rules about the language; the students’ roles are to manipulate that information and produce correct utterances. This classroom follows a mandated syllabus and classroom activities that focus mainly on written forms of a language. It is the students’ role to deduce the syntax and grammatical rules of the language from what the teacher is presenting them with. It is then believed that students who focus on syntax and phonics will be able to transfer this information into their mental departments for later usage.  With some practice, many are able to learn a second or third language. Often the method of learning the second language is a little more complicated than the first language. According to Krashen, the main purpose of language is communication. This concept goes hand and hand with teaching because a good teacher must be able to communicate with his/her students. Krashen’s theory was introduces over 20 years ago and has been widely influential in the training of aspiring Language Arts teachers around the world. Krashen’s theory of second language acquisition consists of five hypotheses: the acquisition-Learning Distinction, the monitory hypothesis, the natural order hypothesis, the input hypothesis, and the affective filter hypothesis.

Categories
Linguistics

Language planning and policy

Language Planning and Policy – Self-study

 

From what I have seen, felt, and experienced during my first visit to one of the Gulf States I have learned a lot about culture, policy and language. The distinction between my home country: Saudi Arabia and the neighboring state ‘Qatar’ is noticeable in culture, customs, the use of language and policies, and this diversity made very curious. Qatar is an Arabic country where Arabic Islamic civilization is barely seen. Moreover, it is a modern, well developed and industrialized country, which resembles a Western civilization.  In addition to the influence of Western culture and values, I have also noticed the increasing use of English in most of the governmental intersections. In this self-study, I will explain what I have explored and benefitted from this course’s readings. My aim is to explain what justifies the global spread of not only English language but also its associated culture and modernization.

Categories
Linguistics

Reverse Logistics and Hazardous Materials

Reverse logistics has been a long trend starting from the early 90’s as companies begin to stray away from the traditional supply chain activities and evolving into other methods of recycling and reusing materials. By definition, “Reverse logistics is the management of all the activities involved in the flow of goods, demand information and money in the opposite direction of the primary logistics flow, a reduction in the generation of waste, and management of the collection, transport, disposal, and recycling of hazardous as well as non-hazardous waste in a way that maximizes the long term profitability of the business.” (Logistics Operational Guide, n.d)

One of the aspects of reverse logistics is package handling, however there in lines the most problems. Reverse logistics handles various materials with most being hazardous such as, computes, batteries, paints, and a lot of other materials usually needing to be disposed of safely. When these products are shipped, they have instructions from the manufacturer to ship as HazMat materials. However, when products get returned for various reasons, often time because of damage, the people or organizations that handle packaging the returns are usually store clerks or employees not properly trained under federal regulations or aware of handling hazardous materials. Other problems of reverse logistics are that hazardous materials are shipped without the original packaging or placed in packaging not suitable for the products. The packages are not properly labeled due to the ignorance of the employees. They are over packed, not properly separated, or have the proper documents to correctly identify what the materials for proper modes of shipment transportation. These problems need to be solved in order to ensure proper laws, regulations, and protocols are followed, In order to safely protect employees and stores handling the material, the drivers, and overall the setting materials are placed.

References

COSTHA – Reverse Logistic Background Statement. (n.d). COSTHA. Retrieved from http://www.costha.com/initiatives/reverse-logistics-initiative/index.cfm

Reverse Logistics. (n.d). Logistics Cluster. Retrieved from    http://log.logcluster.org/exit/reverse-logistics/index.html

Categories
Linguistics

French Language

My career desires have always been driven by my desire to unite diverse cultural, linguistic, socio-political, and religious groups and to help the underprivileged. The knowledge I hope to gain by completing a Bachelor of Arts in French is to understand the linguistics and culture behind the French language better and understand global interactions that shape contemporary society. Additionally, I hope to gain an understanding of how to apply the knowledge in the real world by doing internships to master my craft and accumulate work experience. I know I will become successful in this major based on my passion for French and my French heritage. I was born and raised for a few years in Belgium, Brussels, before moving to Florida USA. Additionally, I am fluent in French. In an attempt to understand French culture better, I have traveled to Paris multiple times. In these trips, I got to learn a lot about French culture and loved French cuisine. The core skills I hope to gain is critical thinking, creativity, and problem-solving skills. After completing my degree, my dream is to attend La Sorbonne in Paris and teach French in underprivileged schools in the US.