Monday, August 10, 2015

Research Proposal for Admission to EdD Programme at Strathclyde University, October 2015

Can the New Standards in Education be used for English Language Learners in a non-immersive environment? The Common Core State Standards and young English Language Learners in China, a case study.

Throughout the non-Anglophone world, Kachru’s (1992) “Expanding Circle”, uncountable millions of people want or need to learn English, usually for economic reasons. Only a small minority can afford to attend International Schools at home or abroad where they will benefit from immersion programmes. The rest must learn from online resources, their own state school and university programmes, and private schools giving tuition in the evenings or at weekends using commercial texts and locally prepared materials. Standards are of variable quality, ranging from curricula based on 20th Century grammar-translation methodology, to others based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. 

With the advent of the New Standards Movement in the USA,  and the adoption of the Common Core State Standards in the US and elsewhere, there is a carefully researched set of standards on which to base curricula for English Language Learners. However, it was likely the expectation of those who designed the CCSS that it would be used by ELLs in immersive programmes and environments., specific to the USA. The question I want to examine is whether the CCSS can be adapted to serve the needs of ELLs in non-immersive environments, in particular Chinese young learners who will be receiving instruction in evening and weekend classes in addition to state education during the day in China. And would the adoption of such standards be preferable to the current piecemeal situation? Or is the teaching of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) more appropriate for ELLs in “Expanding Circle” countries? This is important because of the vast numbers of ELLs throughout the world, and the economic value to them of learning to communicate in English.

Van Lier & Walqui (2012) suggest that the New Standards Movement insofar as it applies to ELLS represents a shift to a “more socially engaged process”, and from “teaching language per se to supporting activity” to develop understanding and language use.”  Bunch et al (2012) note however that the ability to debate and deploy critical thinking are fundamental to the CCSS and that these are “culturally specific values and practices that may or may not align with those of students from different backgrounds.”  Pompa and Hakuta’s (2012) discussion of the policy history and implications of the CCSS is a reminder that these Standards are designed specifically for ELLs in the USA’s state school system, and therefore an immersive language environment.

Johnson and Swain (1997) give a useful outline of the history and theory of immersive language learning. Essentially, it is the use of the target language (English, or L2) as a medium of instruction in teaching the language and other subjects. Immersive learning is not without its critics: see Cook (2001), and Tarone and Swain (1995).

Seidhofer questions the suitability of Standards from the “Inner Circle” countries (such as the UK or USA) to “Expanding Circle” countries (such as China). We should also consider whether teaching English as a Lingua Franca, per Jenkins (2006) would be a more suitable approach than a New Standards immersive model.

[...] I propose to use quantitative assessment data to ascertain the efficacy of the Standards in English language learning, and qualitative Audio/Video data to observe teaching practice and to what extent it is in practice immersive or not, that is usage of L1 and L2 in the classroom.


Bunch, G. C., Kibler, A., & Pimentel, S. (2012). Realizing opportunities for English learners in the common core English language arts and disciplinary literacy standards. Stanford, CA: Understanding Language Initiative. Retrieved March, 25, 2013.

Chiu, C., Ip, C., & Silverman, A. (2012). Understanding social media in China. McKinsey Quarterly, 2(2012), 78-81.

Cook, V. (2001). Using the first language in the classroom. Canadian Modern Language Review, 57(3), 402-423

Jenkins, J. (2006). Current perspectives on teaching world Englishes and English as a lingua franca. Tesol Quarterly, 40(1), 157-181.

Johnson, R. K., & Swain, M. (1997). Immersion education: International perspectives. Cambridge University Press.

Kachru, B. B. (1992). teaching world Englishes. The other tongue: English across cultures, 2, 355-366.

Pompa, D., & Hakuta, K. (2012). Opportunities for policy advancement for ELLs created by the new standards movement. Commissioned Papers on Language and Literacy Issues in the Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards, 94, 123.

Seidlhofer, B. (1999). Double standards: Teacher education in the expanding circle. World Englishes, 18(2), 233-245.

Tarone, E., & Swain, M. (1995). A sociolinguistic perspective on second language use in immersion classrooms. The Modern Language Journal, 79(2), 166-178.

van Lier, L., & Walqui, A. (2012). Language and the common core state standards. Commissioned Papers on Language and Literacy Issues in the Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards, 94, 44.