Research is needed on the literacy development of linguistic minority pupils, particularly in the context of the current focus on school literacy.
Particular questions can be asked about school literacy, and how current approaches relate, or not, to EAL development:
- What are the explicit and underlying assumptions of literacy teaching activities and materials in respect of EAL development?
- What happens in practice in classes with large proportions of bilingual pupils, or indeed in classes with the isolated EAL pupil?
- What is the relation between what pupils bring to becoming literate and the process - how do EAL pupils use their English and first language in learning to read and write?
- Does a focus on phonics have anything to contribute to EAL development? If so, how and what?
- What does international literacy research have to say ?
Theory and research around "literacy" include a range of definitions and approaches. Some proceed from the basis of spoken language, e.g. the vernacular literacy approach; others bracket out speech (or just assume its prior development) and focus on reading and writing the standard variety, e.g. the more traditional 'learn to read and write properly' approach. We need to ask how each of the different positions relates to first and additional language development. Since we are concerned with language and literacy development in particular social groups, we need to develop an integrated socio-cultural and cognitive / psycholinguistic perspective from which to ask and answer research questions. Such a perspective needs to include not just first language and EAL but to be also capable of framing research around language varieties, particularly language and literacy issues involving English L1 groups which are vernacular / dialectal e.g. African Caribbean groups.
UK Research Summaries
EAL Reading: Research and Policy (Purewal & Simpson, 2010)
In this NALDIC Occasional Paper, Purewal and Simpson review a sample of research into the effectiveness of synthetic phonics for EAL and bilingual learners. The studies relating to second language young learners indicated that although word recognition and word identification was enhanced in all of the included studies, the effects on comprehension were not statistically significant. What this suggests is that teachers and policy-makers need to take into account that further research is still required in terms of synthetic phonics and second language learners
Raising the Achievement of Bilingual Learners in Primary Schools: Statistical Analysis (Benton and White, NFER, 2007)
Statistical analysis by NFER of the attainment of bilingual pupils in participating primary schools involved in the EAL pilot programme 2004-2006. The main finding was that schools involved in the programme made more progress in their Key Stage 2 English results between 2004 and 2006 than similar schools not involved in the programme. The research also found there were also no significant differences between EAL and non-EAL learners in programme schools with regard to KS2 English results, nor any difference in KS2 mathematics and science.
A Multimodal Approach to the Ideas Factory Project’s Impact on Children’s Literacy (Diamantopoulou, 2007)
This project aimed to explore the impact that art has on children’s literacy development, placing a particular focus on EAL learners in Newham and Greenwich primary schools. The research problematised the notion of ‘EAL children’s literacy development’. It looked at the process of children’s meaning making, rather than assessing a piece of writing and identified that:
- The integrated teaching of art and literacy impacts on children’s work by enabling them to experience literacy beyond the narrowly circumscribed realms of a school subject
- EAL children’s experiences and aspects of their cultural identity emerged as an additional resource and represented a significant interest that drove meaning making.
Could they do even better? (OFSTED, 2005)
OFSTED research survey on the development of the writing skills of advanced bilingual learners at KS2. This survey was instigated to complement research which identified some of the key features of language which pupils learning EAL appear to handle less confidently than their peers. Some of the interventions the research identified were seen in the schools visited, for example: exposure to good writing; explicit instruction; the development of specific strategies for EAL writers; and feedback based on assessment which took specific account of EAL.
Writing in EAL at Key Stage 2 (DfES, RR 586/2004)
This research report builds on an earlier, OFSTED funded project by the same author (Cameron 2003) and looks at the writing of pupils at Key Stage 2 (KS2) EAL pupils who are defined as 'advanced bilingual learners'. As well as noting the strengths and the richly figurative writing of EAL learners attaining levels 4 and 5, the study identifies the difficulties experienced by many EAL learners in their writing. These include writing in a range of genres, and specific difficulties with, for example, prepositions and subject-verb agreement.
A systematic review of the impact of ICT on literacy learning in English of EAL learners (Low G, Beverton S, 2004)
A EPPI Centre systematic review of the impact of ICT on literacy learning of EAL learners. Involved a search of research studies in the area and a more detailed analysis of the findings of studies meeting specified criteria. The major conclusion is that not enough can be concluded from the studies examined to support policy decisions about increasing the role of computers in language education.
Writing in EAL at Key Stage 4 and post-16 (Ofsted, 2003, HMI 1094)
The Advanced Bilingual Learners’ Writing Project was commissioned as part of an Ofsted study of support for students at Key Stage 4 and post-16 who were learning EAL. Common weaknesses identified included the quality of content, sentence structure, and word level grammar as well as difficulties in organising and writing extended texts and writing in a range of genres
The development of comprehension-related skills in children learning EAL (Hutchinson, 2003) “Invisible” teachers of literacy: collusion between siblings and teachers in creating classroom cultures
A 3 year longitudinal study of EAL pupils from Year 2 to 4. Includes a well informed discussion of the difficulties that learners of EAL experience in reading and how limited vocabulary restricts their comprehension of written English. The authors conclude “Analysis revealed similarities between the two groups of children on reading accuracy, but children learning EAL had lower levels of vocabulary and comprehension at each point in time” (p.19). Implications are suggested for classroom practice, in particular the need to extend expressive vocabulary learning to support comprehension at the primary stage of education
. (Gregory,E. 2004, UKLA)
This report, on a longitudinal study of family literacy practices in East London, investigates the role of siblings in the development of literacy in young children from the British Bangladeshi community. The study reveals the very interesting way in which older children, though “playing school” with younger siblings, act as “mediators of school practices” and “bridges between languages and cultures”. As well as being useful in all ITE settings to introduce family learning practices in different communities, this study will enable students and trainee teachers to consider ways in which they can take account of and build on these practices in the classroom.