Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Teaching Students with Diverse Abilities

Teaching students whose first language is not English is often a challenging task. This essay will focus on a few effective teaching and learning strategies for teaching business studies to second-language learners (ESL learners) in the context of the mainstream classroom. Studies reveal that the negative effects of wrong beliefs about learning are significant (Sawir 2005). However, it has also been suggested that it is possible to intervene in relation to beliefs about learning (Sawir 2005). Hence a clear understanding of belief issues is of paramount importance for teachers. Care should be taken to give speaking and listening skills the appropriate status and these should be backed by comprehensive practical programs (Sawir 2005). Having oral presentations and listening tasks as part of the business studies assessment program can help develop these skills. Krashen and Terrel (1983) suggest using language to transmit messages rather than teaching it explicitly for conscious learning. They use the expression the ‘natural approach’ and claim it is based on the theory that language acquisition occurs when students receive clear instructions in acquiring language proficiency (Webster and Hasari 2009). Therefore, the business studies teacher can introduce new words and concepts within the subject content thereby improving student vocabulary. Four key strategies were considered by the majority of teachers in a study by Facella et al. (2005) as being effective in teaching second-language learners. These included gestures and visual cues; repetition and opportunities for practicing skills; use of objects, real props and hands on materials; and multi-sensory approaches. Thus, giving students real life business case studies to discuss and evaluate is an effective strategy. Taking students out to real businesses and letting them see first-hand how a business operates can also be useful. Rice et al. (2004) argue that the use of visuals and demonstrations are often the primary source of information for ESL learners and suggests the use of outcome-based objectives against which students can assess their own progress. They also advocate the modulation of lesson objectives to each student’s level of language acquisition. The belief is that repeating demonstrations and instructions facilitate student learning. Hence, teachers should endeavour to demonstrate procedures, provide illustrations and diagrams before students commence research projects, as opposed to providing students with only written instructions. In addition, when forming groups, members should ideally be bilingual, strong in commerce and business studies and be willing to work with limited-English proficient students (Sutman et al. 1993). Sheltered instruction is another effective strategy for teaching second-language students. It refers to a research-based instructional framework that provides clear and accessible content and academic language to ESL learners (Hansen-Thomas 2008). Features of sheltered instruction include use of cooperative learning activities with appropriately designed heterogeneous grouping of students, a focus on academic language as well as key content vocabulary, careful use of the student's first language as a tool to provide comprehensibility, use of hands-on activities using authentic materials, demonstrations, and modeling and explicit teaching and implementation of learning strategies (Hansen-Thomas 2008). Sheltered classes can be team-taught by an ESL teacher and a content-area teacher or taught by a content-area specialist trained in sheltered instruction. ESL mentoring is another effective strategy to help teachers of second-language students. It is â€Å"a means of fostering stronger connections among the teaching staff, leading to a more positive and cohesive learning environment for students† (Brewster and Railsback 2001). One of the goals of the ESL mentor is to assist the teacher in learning how the school identifies ESL students. Furthermore, a teacher needs to know some basic background information such as where the student is from, how long the student has been in the country and the student's stage of language development. The guidance of an ESL mentor can help a teacher understand his/her ESL students quickly and prevent possible problems later in the year (Mittica 2003). The ESL mentor can also provide training on accommodations and alternate forms of assessment. The ESL mentor can assist the teacher to set achievable goals for ESL students at the beginning of the semester. In teaching ESL students, success is not always measured on a report card. Therefore, teachers have to be guided to observe his/her ESL students closely by focusing on issues such as the progress demonstrated by the student over time and by observing to see if the student is more comfortable participating in class and asking questions (Mittica 2003). Above all, ESL mentors can provide a â€Å"vision of students as capable individuals for whom limited English proficiency does not signify a lack of academic skills and does not represent an incurable situation† (Walqui, 1999 in Mittica, 2003). ESL mentors can guide mainstream teachers in discovering his/her students' strengths and to celebrate multicultural education (Mittica 2003). By fully involving mainstream classroom teachers in the education of ESL students, these students will be more likely to achieve success a nd adjust to their lives in a new country (Mittica 2003). (ii)  Teachers need to work in partnership with parents and the wider community to help educate students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. This essay will discuss some strategies for developing such partnerships. Several researchers have documented the challenges associated with school, family, and community partnerships. Rubin and Abrego (2004) suggests that parents are not involved with their children's learning because of cultural and communication barriers, confusion with education jargon, feelings of inferiority, inhibition, inadequacy, or failure, lack of understanding of the school system, staff's lack of appreciation of the student's culture or language and parents' previous negative experiences or feelings toward schools. Other researchers who examined the success factors in school-parents-community relationship found an open and trusting communication between teachers and parents as critical (Obeidat and Al-Hassan 2009). Parents and schools should communicate regularly and clearly about information important to student success (NCPIE). This can be accomplished through newsletters, handbooks, parent-teacher conferences, open houses, as well as home visits, and email. Translations should be made available, if needed, to ensure non-English speaking parents are fully informed. Researchers believe that personal contact whether by telephone or in person is usually the best way to promote two-way communication (NCPIE). Schools can also form partnerships with community and faith-based organizations to engage families from diverse cultural backgrounds who often do not feel comfortable in school (NCPIE). Conferences, meetings and informal get-togethers can take place outside the school building, such as at a faith-based or community center. Once again Interpreters should be provided as needed. Attitude is another potential success factor for developing partnerships with parents. A survey of more than 400 parents of high school students in the USA revealed that their attitudes toward their children's schools were positively influenced by the efforts the school made to promote partnerships with them (Obeidat & Al-Hassan 2009). Parents are more likely to come to the school if school personnel encourage them to be volunteers and participate in decision making (Sanders et al. 1999). School factors, specifically those that are relational in nature, have a significant impact on parents' involvement. When school staff engage in a caring and trusting relationship with parents and view parents as partners in the education of their children it enhance parents' desire to be involved and influence how they participate in their children's educational development. Schools should create an environment that welcomes participation (NCPIE). Signs that greet families warmly at the school door, the central office, and the classroom should be in the languages spoken by the community. A school-based family resource center providing information, links to social services, and opportunities for informal meetings with staff and other families also contributes to a family-friendly atmosphere (NCPIE). Schools should also provide professional development opportunities for teachers and other staff in the cultural and community values and practices that are common to their students and their families (NCPIE). Strengthening the school-family partnership with professional development for all school staff as well as parents and other family members is an essential investment that can help foster lasting partnerships with parents and the community at large (NCPIE). In their 1997 study, Hoover-Dempsey and Sandler identified two key factors influencing parental involvement. They were an inviting climate at school, which refers to the frequency that schools actually invite parents to be involved in their children's schools and parents' perceptions of being welcome at school. Epstein (1995) identified six general types of activities that can help parents, schools, and communities come together to support children's education: parenting, communicating, volunteering, learning at home, decision making, and collaborating with the community. Epstein (1995) says that partnership programs should draw on each of these elements and that programs should take into account the unique character of the local community and the needs of its students and families. Martin et al. (1999) in their studies identified key characteristics of effective partnerships between schools, parents and the community these included; inclusiveness, recognizing social as well as academic goals, raising expectations through education achievement, involving local people in decision-making and democratic participation and active citizenship. Hence, schools need to focus on developing these areas to grow positive relationships. The use of service learning can be a useful strategy for this purpose. Serve learning is more than just community service. It involves a blending of service activities with the academic curriculum in order to address real community needs while students learn through active engagement (Lynass 2005). The service needs to be closely linked to the curriculum as possible with an emphasis on students applying the skills they are learning (Lynass 2005). Service learning will benefit students, teachers and the community concurrently. It allows teachers and students to connect with and benefit their surrounding communities while integrating this learning back into their curriculum (Lynass 2005). In conclusion, it is essential for schools to develop strong relationships with parents and the community to successfully educate students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. This essay has identified a few strategies to develop such partnerships.

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