Teaching ESL the Cultural Shortcomings Research Paper

  • Length: 12 pages
  • Sources: 6
  • Subject: Teaching
  • Type: Research Paper
  • Paper: #45842389

Excerpt from Research Paper :

Wardhaugh indicates that there is a problematic need in the field to reverse expectations about the capacity of this approach to instruct in practicable and usable linguistic ability. The author takes exception with traditionalist ideas the argue "the single paramount fact about language learning is that it concerns, not problem solving, but the formation and performance of habits." (Wardhaugh, p. 21) The linguistic theorist rejects this principle as failing to acknowledge many of the more abstract contextual factors relating to the applicable usage of language. Particularly, the impact levied by culture, by regional dialect, by accent, by generational difference, by distinctions between formal, informal or slang usage and by a host of other even less tangible effectors cannot be introduced simply through the use of habit-forming drills or other techniques which rely singularly on rote practice.

Kanno & Varghese (2010) contribute research that does endorse this more integrative approach, which may be characterized also as modernist in its interest in egalitarianism. Contrary to the softer standards implicated in the modernist ideology described by Howatt & Widdowson, Kanno & Varghese assert that a conceptual broadening of what is implied by an ESL program is required. Here, the research indicates that a critical problem in the grammar school and primary education approaches to instructing English is in their failure to address the extremely broad spectrum of difficulties faced by students attempting not only to navigate the educational system and learn a new language but also to navigate a broader cultural with a wide variance of challenging and unfamiliar customs.

To this point, Kanno & Varghese assert reference Bourdieu's cultural reproduction theory, which their article reports is responsible for the alternate socioeconomic trajectories of those with the capacity to acclimate and those lacking the necessary education, support or resources. Accordingly, the article by Kanno & Varghese contributes not just this theoretical perspective to the broader research endeavor, but also contributes that argument "that what inhibits ESL students' access to and participation in four-year college education is not simply their limited English proficiency but also the structural constraints unique to this population, their limited financial resources, and the students' own tendency to self-eliminate. Based on our results, we call for a shift in higher education policy from one focusing narrowly on remediating ESL students' limited English proficiency to a more comprehensive set of policies that address the structural and economic, as well as linguistic, factors that together inhibit ESL students' college access and participation." (Kanno & Varghese, p. 310)

This difficulty is only compounded by the challenges which are incumbent upon educational institutions attempting to retain ESL populations. As the study by Booth (2009) contributes to the research, there are particular difficulties in socioeconomic adjustment that will generally compound the challenges not simply of learning but even of remaining reenrolled in schools. Thus, those students who are not provided with the proper preparation where ESL education is concerned are far more likely than members of the native English speaking population to be too greatly imposed upon by the combination of academic difficulties and personal life responsibilities. On this point, Booth reports that institutions such as Community Colleges in particular have struggled to balance the priorities of rigorous and meaningful education and the demand to retain immigrant students. Accordingly, the artibce by Booth tells that "retention is a problem in all higher education settings, but is especially important for community colleges because of their 'open door' policy. Community colleges enroll the highest proportion of new immigrants. Most come from low-income families, and more than half, are employed full-time (Boswell, 2004), creating very challenging odds for retention." (Booth, p. 1)

This places a considerable imperative upon the teachers of ESL students at preparatory levels because it would appear, within the scope of the literature reviewed here, that there is a direct relationship between the lack of adequate preparation for ESL students and their confrontation of greater proportions of difficulty in college and beyond. The text by Flood (2003) offers a handbook which connects the many different strands of English education that stretch across pedagogical approaches and levels of educational attainment. According to Flood, there is has persisted something of a failure on the part of English curricula to adjust to broader influxes of ESL students and that the result is an unfair casting of immigrant students within the educational system as being either inferior or less academically capable. According to Flood, "English departments in many institutions are just beginning to reflect new advancements; others continue to resist. Therefore, the incompetencies that the tests are revealing in minority applicants may more accurately show the failure of the traditional English curriculum to meet the needs of a diverse student population than they indicate that minorities are inherently inferior prospects." (Flood, p. 487)


The primary research question driving the literature review above asks what the foundational problem in English as a Second Language education is today. The literature review helps us to identify the chief problem as the failure of either purely traditionalist or purely modernist views on ESL instruction and pedagogy to prepare immigrant students for the rigors of college education or the professional world. This review also contributes the resolution that the modernist system of cultural egalitarianism has failed to reconcile the realistic implications of political, cultural and socioeconomic forces to dictate the impact of linguistic educational approaches. Moreover, the review contributes the notion that there is a need to produce a more integrated approach to linguistic education that realistically accounts for the complex scope of needs unique to ESL students within the scope of the educational system.

These findings help to underscore the central hypothesis of the subsequent research proposal. This states that there is a direct connection between the ability and likelihood of ESL students to succeed in secondary education, college education or in the professional sphere with an integrated approach which combines traditionalist ideas regarding practical instruction in proper language usage with modernist ideas about the impact the culture and circumstance also inherently impact the way that language can and must be used. In order to prove this hypothesis, the research proposal here calls for an experimental research endeavor which casts ESL students in traditionalist contexts as the control group and which casts against this group an experimental group of students engaged in a more expansive educational program. This would reflect the approach which is called for by Kanno & Varghese and which describes more culturally nuanced ways of helping ESL students face the challenges before them. Such a program would be driven by a base education in traditionalist usage techniques and supplemental education in the realities of cultural adjustment beyond simple language proficiency, including participation in America's various economic systems, recognition of cultural patterns and consideration for the basic economic and social challenges of adjusting to life in a new country. Additionally, recognition would be made for the challenges specific to achieving competitively in an educational system where English is the primary language in use. This more expansive approach to instruction for ESL students would recognize that language proficiency is not the only aptitude of critical importance for learning how both to effectively use said language in applicable circumstances and how to combine it with knowledge for more general cultural, social, educational and economic advancement.

The control and experimental group would both be monitored across a 10-year period. The duration of the study would engage students in an annual survey regarding advancement within the educational system, level of educational attainment, rate of graduation, performance within the educational system, job attainment, length of stay in the U.S. And salary bracket. These will be used to measure the level of achievement in effectively participating in and navigating America's educational and professional systems.

The samples will be drawn from two different high schools in a single community. Both should begin from a traditionalist perspective, with one ultimately being enrolled in a specialize program employing pullout strategies for the experimental group. This would prevent the group from gaining any more class time than the control group and would instead supplant selected class time electives with this more focused use of class time.


It is anticipated that the students in the experimental group will ultimately receive a far better cultural education and will therefore find more constructive and relevant ways of developing linguistic usage skills. This denotes the expectation of higher rates of advancement to college, higher levels of performance within college, higher rates of graduation for students from the experimental group and high rates of professional attainment and financial compensation for these groups. It is also predicted that members of the experimental group will demonstrate a greater propensity toward long-term residency in the U.S. As opposed to return to a country of origin.


Execution of the research proposed here would require considerable resources and the participation of schools, teachers and…

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