New Zealand Early Childhood Teachers Beliefs and Practices in Supporting English Acquisition for Asian Immigrant English Language Learners (ELLs): A Pilot Project
New Zealand Early Childhood Teachers Beliefs and Practices in Supporting English Acquisition for Asian Immigrant English Language Learners (ELLs): A Pilot ProjectMazlina Che Mustafa1 and Assoc. Prof Judith Duncan21School of Educational Studies and Leadership, University of Canterbury, New Zealand
Context and Aim
Increasing numbers of young children, who speak home languages other than English, are attending ECE centres in New Zealand However, studies on how they are supported by teachers with regard to English acquisition are not extensive. to explore the beliefs and practices of New Zealand early childhood teachers in supporting English acquisition for Asian immigrant English language learners (ELLs).
Research design and method
Qualitative studyThe framework for this study has been a sociocultural and phenomenological case study. Methods of data gathering :Interviewobservation
The research applied a qualitative approach with in-depth interviews , followed by observations on two Asian immigrant ELLs using phenomenological position of inquiry. The interviews were adapted from three series interviews model by Seid Irvingman.The interviews were grouped around the topics of:
Analysis3 steps:review the transcripts and field notes scrutinise the data to develop preliminary codes for clustering around topicsdiscover meaning units
Thematic Analysis:Teachers beliefs and practicesRelationshipsIdentity
For individual case study analysis, three steps were involved which were in line with phenomenological analysis. The first step was to review the transcripts and field notes to get a sense of early childhood teachers beliefs and practices in supporting English acquisition among Asian immigrant ELLS. I read and reread the field notes, listened to the audio recordings of interviews with teachers and watched the videotapes a few times to gain sensitivity to the entire data. My reflective notes were not analysed and part of case description but they assisted me to analyse the data and reminded me how and why Iunderstood something when it happened during my fieldwork.The second step of the data analysis was to scrutinise the data to develop preliminary codes for clustering around topics. It involved extracting the notes and transcripts that directly pertained to understanding early childhood teachers beliefs and practices in supporting English acquisition among Asian immigrant ELLS and putting aside data which were not relevant to the research phenomena. Although certain codes were developed during preliminary stage, coding topics was not a static process in my data analysis as later thoughts of including other items were also part of the data development analysis.The final stage of the data analysis was to discover meaning units. This was achieved through close examination of the data and studying the preliminary codes many times to see whether some of them illustrated a similar point. From the initial codes, I identified keywords, phrases and sentences that indicated the early childhood teachers beliefs and practices in supporting English acquisition among Asian immigrant ELLS in similar ways and group them together. As I read and listened, I searched for patterns and meanings among all the initial codes. I looked across the transcripts and notes to reorganise the segmented codes to establish links with my research questions. This resulted in clustering themes which allowed for close interaction with the transcript (Smith & Osborn, 2008) that best described the responses.
Teachers beliefs and practices
promoting English acquisition or supporting home languageI think their first language is vital. There have been evidence that good language foundation is good base and this is what I explain they [Asian families] come here [the kindergarten]. Usually, they [Asian families] say, English,English, English thats what they want but we always say to them you need to have your first language, keep using your first language, whatever you are speaking it at home, they learn English later.
All New Zealanders learn English because it happens and I explain about the quiet time, about you expect a few weeks of silence because people often expect Why isnt my child speaking English here?.
English acquisition is almost natural.
I observe over many years [there is]quiet time. Theyre just listening [and] suddenly they just speak whole sentences, often; fluent English. Its almost, its like a magic to me. Each time, Im just amazed and happy and satisfied with the achievement, I just got Wow! youre an amazing person. Because it just seems to happen.
I have a total faith that this child will develop into a happy healthy bilingual child...and it just happens, like a caterpillar and a butterfly; its half nature.
The teachers in this study believed that the Asian immigrant ELLs should be supported to use their home language in the ECE centre and these children would naturally acquire English as they grow older because the English-speaking environment will help them to acquire English. Despite articulating this view, the teachers were observed to provide opportunities for English acquisition through interactions with the Asian immigrant ELLs. These interactions were described by the teachers as important in order to engage Asian immigrant ELLs in teacher-led activities and build good relationships. There were times during my observation; I noticed the teachers were having difficulty in interacting with the Asian immigrant case study ELLs as they were speaking in their own languages. 6
I do a lot of body language, a lot of tones, you know you just do it [facial expression] and my face will show and I make sure theres a big smile and things like this..I think we need to give feedback quite quickly and easily for people.
It is observed that the teachers associate the language with the action.
From my observation, there was a sense of disappointment by the teachers for not being able to engage in the activities involving some Asian immigrant ELLs particularly when they interacted in their own language and when they were playing nearby the teachers. Nevertheless, Anna and Carol (not real names) used various strategies to interact with the children such as body language and repetitions. 7
I like to make sure that my action match it with my voice tone and my gestures
We can get them in social games, things that you dont need the first language. A lot of them are table top games, you can actually do that without needing to speak, and Ive noticed over a number of years that there are choices that they [Asian ELLs] often make, they can actually watch and observe.
I think a lot of Asian families are very polite and careful in their communications. So, at first, it takes a little bit longer. I think it takes more longer, but usually by the time they have left, when they have been here for two years, usually its much closer.
We have a warm relationship and a welcoming relationship, but I dont think I have a really strong relationship with most of the Asian families that come in. I probably talk most with a couple who have more English, but the parents who dont have as much English, I tend to ask another teacher to help me to communicate with them. Id like to have more communication with our Asian families in particular.
The teachers talked about their relationships with Asian families and Asian children. There are three different types of relationships: Teachers and Asian parents , Teachers and Asian immigrant ELLs, and other children at the centre with Asian immigrant ELLs. These relationships are Viewed as important.9
We often say things like, come and sit next to...or you can do this together or we could all sit together to do this or those kinds of comments - so that you can actually get these children [Asian immigrant ELLs] coming to do come in, come on, sit alongside. They often observe and slowly come in. Thats quite common.A lot of it just giving them time, we all work out our own space, and partly personality , partly culture, partly language, so many influences on that. So we just let them, and sometimes you just want to be alone, sometimes you want to be all together.
The teachers talked about their relationships with Asian families and Asian children. There are three different types of relationships: Teachers and Asian parents , Teachers and Asian immigrant ELLs, and other children at the centre with Asian immigrant ELLs. These relationships are Viewed as important.10
IdentityThats important, thats their, its who they are and I would never think about stopping them using their first language and sometimes I wish I did understand more.
However, the children were observed having to take longer time and making extra effort to build friendship with their friends of other ethnicities in the centre due to their linguistic constraint.
The complexities of identity for some Asian immigrant ELLs were highlighted by one of the teachers. Anna pointed that cultural and language identities were important for most Asian immigrants ELLs and they should feel comfortable using their home language and proud of their cultural heritage but the children were observed having to take longer time and making extra effort to build friendship with their friends of other ethnicities in the centre due to their linguistic constraint. For example, Yang was fond of one of his martial arts heritage, kung fu. Most of the times, he played