Wednesday, August 31, 2005 9:30-11:30 am
UW Language Learning Center in Denny Hall
(near 17th Ave entrance to campus)
Sponsored by: UW Language Board, UW Language Learning Center, WAFLT (Washington Association For Language Teaching), and Washington State Coalition for International Education, with funding from a State Innovations grant from Longview Foundation and the UW Scandinavian Department.
This was intended to be an informal conversation with Mimi to assist the Early Language Learning Committee at the UW in exploring how higher education can prepare teachers to support language learning K-12 (and even pre-K). In addition, it supports the goal of the International Education Coalition to expand world language education, with an emphasis on early childhood education and improving second language proficiency outcomes. (See About the Coalition.)
Some Questions to Consider:
- What are the advantages of starting language learning early?
- How do early language language experiences contribute to developing cultural (and intercultural) competency in students?
- What are the goals (desired outcomes) of language learning K-12? Of Preschool experiences (age 6 months - 5 years)?
- If language learners in K-12 achieved much higher language proficiency (than they currently do), how would/could higher ed respond?
- What can higher ed do to prepare teachers to meet the growing demand among parents for early language learning and cultural experiences for their children?
Some background references:
See Mimi's research summary in:
When Should Language Learning Begin? (PDF)
The conflicting research evidence on the optimal age for language learning has centered around the ultimate level of proficiency attained. In addition to the degree of proficiency learners attain, however, there are other compelling reasons to begin language learning early.
- Since there is evidence that suggests there are cognitive benefits to early childhood bilingualism, an early start and continued progress toward bilingualism is desirable (Lee, 1996).
- Students who take a foreign language in the elementary grades may demonstrate academic gains in other areas of the curriculum (Wilburn Robinson, 1998).
- It takes a long time to gain proficiency in a foreign language, particularly when it is learned in a school setting. Therefore, the earlier students start the higher the level they are likely to achieve (Haas, 1998).
- A quality, world-class education includes foreign language study. For example, in 14 of 15 industrialized countries surveyed in 1993, foreign language learning began at age 10 or before (Bergentoft, 1994). Omitting certain academic experiences simply because older learners are more efficient may be insufficient justification for curriculum design. That is, just because older learners may be faster learners does not mean that foreign language learning should be delayed. For example, if it were shown that older learners can grasp mathematics concepts more easily than young children do, would educators consider delaying the introduction of mathematics in the school curriculum until grade 9?
Notes from the Meeting
Felicia Hecker – UW Middle East Center, Arabic taught after school in OneWorld Now! Program in high school, plus summer intensive language camp (elementary) through Powerful Schools
Barbara Ford – parent at Coe Elementary, started WL program – 5 languages after school, adding 2 more, plus Spanish in school day, connection to Art, PE, Music to create time (board of SSIA in north Seattle – expanding WL to cluster)
Jennifer Geist – works for International Education and Resource Network (iEARN), facilitates classroom collaborations; want to learn projects to teach other languages, consults with schools, teach language in a more content-based arrangement; started Spanish language program in elementary 8 years ago; started Spanish teachers network (FLES or FLEX)
Valentina Zaitseva – joined UW Slavic Dept., interested in language pedagogy, how to expand Russian to high and elementary schools Project Mir – Russian immersion program in Alaska (school district grant) – Mimi working with them
Christine Castle – bilingual/bicultural support group for families raising their children bilingually; want to bring together by language family; organize play groups (German, French, Spanish, Italian); needs of families with young children, but looking into the future; how to keep enthusiasm up
Suzanne Hibbert – teaching Spanish at Shorewood High School, wants to bring languages to elementary
Brent Hester – teaches 5th grade in Spanish immersion at John Stanford International School; works on team on curriculum development and assessment; adjusting program; first 5th graders just left for middle school
Allison Dvaladze – UW outreach coordinator for Ellison Center (Russian/East European), outreach to K-12 and Community College; working with OneWorld Now!, wants to start Russian
PhuongChi Nguyen – with migrant education at OSPI (Olympia), community member interested in supporting SE Asian community heritage language schools, how to work with public schools
Jackie Mighdoll – founder of Sponge (0-4) teaching of languages, inspired by Pat Kuhl’s research; little exposure babies can still recognize and build pathways for sounds of new languages; program starting in Nov (French, Spanish, Japanese, Mandarin), bring in language and culture; in Seattle (Leschi)
Noyuri Soderland – has taught languages in Japan and US to children and adults; teaching in Waldorf school (Madrona on Bainbridge Island); 2x a week for one year; wrote Japanese through Songs; satisfied with results
Hussein Elkhafaifi – teaches Arabic at UW, taught in Morocco, on steering committee of Concordia (Minnesota) since they added Arabic; on Early Language Acquisition Committee; work with OneWorld Now!
Klaus Brandl – chair of Language Board at UW, teaches methodology courses at UW (high school teachers and TAs), also coordinator in Scandinavian languages, working on taking courses online (Moodle) – digging deeper, how effective is the learning?
Hedwige Meyer – teaches French at UW (17 years), 3 years ago felt that own children didn’t have venue for learning language, now teaches French for local community; like to take it further
Paul Aoki – Director of the Language Learning Center, UW; co-chair of UW-International Schools Committee; host of the meeting;
Mimi Met – personal involvement – spoke 2 languages before coming to America, began Spanish in 5th grade; 1975 professional involvement in Cinncinnati started intensive FLES – partial immersion, then content-based immersion; moved to Montgomery Schools with Spanish, French, Chinese, and others; works with many schools around the country and overseas
Michele Anciaux Aoki – Project Director for 2005 State Innovations grant to Washington State Coalition for International Education; consultant on planning, implementing, and assessing the John Stanford International School language immersion program.
What are some reasonable expectations from these programs? What do we expect kids to learn – based on your goals & objectives?
- Solid recent research of positive effect on math and reading
Passion at grassroots level, not necessarily matched by passion in educational system
- Good strategy to bring WL into Art, Music, PE
What about team teaching with content teacher?
- Maybe stay away from literacy component… (tend to have same problems with reading and writing – if they’re going to have difficulties)
How to work with parents who don’t understand the language (their anxieties) (Sponge)
- Need to consider developmental appropriateness (cognitive maturity of the learner)
- Younger learners not concerned about literacy; older learners rely on it (for continued learning)
- Activities of interest to younger children boring for older learners (e.g., counting to 10)
- What is content-based at K is not at age 16
- Pitch the program (Sponge) – you’re learning the Mandarin your child is learning so you can support your child at home (e.g., learn this little song)
- School in NY implementing Mandarin, teaching arts, non-stressful situation (PhuongChi)
- Challenge – materials from China at higher language level than children have (at dual language school)
- Include after school programs too
- Parent expectations have changed over the years (at John Stanford). At first a lot of pressure put on the kids, and that affected their attitudes.
- Still expect that by 5th grade students will be “fluent speakers”
- Need to be very clear with parents about the stages of development of language, what students bring (in terms of words already in their vocabulary)
What is the goal?
- Balanced bilingual?
- How would bilingual child fit in?
- Maybe exposure to language, fun…
- Cultural exposure is important too (world is not all English)
- Expectation of proficiency
- How do programs reconcile this?
- Single greatest failure of programs that get started is consistent omission of stated purposes from the outset
- Usually, high school programs might follow FL state frameworks
- Great variations in what it means to “speak” or “know” a language – People don’t know what “fluent” means
- At some point, if in-school program (funded by District), say the kids didn’t “learn enough” and put them back to very beginning with students who have never learned.
- We need to be thoughtful about what we measure
- Should emphasize comprehension skills
- Most important to learn language to help learn cross-cultural competence
- Learn how to learn languages so you can learn the language you “need” when the time comes
- Can tell parents with some assurance that if your child gets good at Japanese (whatever language), they will be able to get good at the language they learn later
- Learn to suspend judgment about other cultures – important whether with other languages in other cultures (or in my own office)
- Think about the message!!
Higher Ed: Implications of students coming from K-12 with higher language proficiency
- Use performance-based assessments as basis for placement in college
- Biggest obstacle to good articulation is lack of clear explicit agreement on what it means to know a language and what it looks like at various points (toward native-like proficiency)
- Receiving teachers frequently have different expectation of what students should know and be able to do (esp. grammar – as if how much grammar you know = how much language you know)
- Maybe oral proficiency is not the only measure either (what about literacy skills?)
- And is anybody using intercultural competency?
- Most groups have been unsuccessful at addressing this
- Only place they had success was when they had agreed-upon
assessments, e.g., county-wide finals – 50% of test was
performance-based (still had teacher judgment)
- High school teachers and middle school teachers insisted they were teaching the curriculum
- Have them write a test together for Level 1 and 2
- The test itself meant nothing, it was the “bells” that went off as they answered what will we measure, how will we measure, how will we know when we see it, what’s worth counting?
- Esp. difficult at college because no single source of students, so even if there was agreement, not all students come from same place
- Call for proposals to develop K-16 model for Chinese – how to
ensure there would be articulation, seamless, continuous progress –
awarded to U of Oregon in partnership with Portland Public Schools
Clear benchmark statements
- Assessment measures built in for both formative and summative purposes
- Now, when you change textbooks, it’s as if you have to start all over again.
- One thing UW could do: go back to the initiative of ASAC (proficiency-based assessment for college admissions)
- Need unified vision of what proficiency means
What’s important is accountability
- What’s in it for the high school teacher to take students to a certain level?
- No time for teachers to figure out how to differentiate instruction (just start from the beginning with a mixed class)
Imagine different scenario: For every kid you produce who reaches Level 1 benchmark, you get a $25 bonus
- Pay people to produce
- As a profession, not a lot of built-in things to tell us how well we’re doing at producing results
- Currently lots of disincentives to producing well-articulated programs for students
- Demand for teachers, but not well prepared so programs aren’t successful
- Could university take the lead in training qualified language teachers?
- Take the training to the teachers (not bring them to university)
- There are online methods courses, materials for distance learning, there are states delivering training by satellite (SC),
- Nanduti listserv focused on elementary teachers
- Network of K-12 Arabic teachers (NFLRC), meeting happening this year re K-12 post-secondary connections
- NNELL National Network of Early Language Learners
- ACIE American Council on Immersion Education
- Iowa State University – summer institute
- ACTFL Conference – swap shop for FLES