Evaluating the Effectiveness of an Active Learning Strategy Curriculum that Promotes K2 Young Learners' English Communication Ability

Master's Thesis, 2014

156 Pages, Grade: Pass






Table of contents

List of tables

List of figures

List of abbreviations and symbols

Chapter 1 Introduction
1.1 Rationale and statement of the problem
1.1.1 The National Educational Reform act of
1.2 Research Question
1.3 Objectives of the study
1.4 Significance of the study
1.5 Scope of the study
1.5.1 Sample
1.5.2 Content
1.5.3 English skills and abilities
1.5.4 Research variables
1.6 Definition of terms

Chapter 2 Literature Review
2.1 Theoretical framework
2.1.1 Literacy: The aim of the research
2.1.2 Young learners and language acquisition
2.1.3 Why teach L2 to young learners
2.1.4 What is active learning?
2.2 Research in child development and learning
2.2.1 Vygotsky's social cognitive theory
2.2.2 Gardner's multiple intelligence theory
2.2.3 Piaget’s stages of development
2.3 Assessing young learners
2.3.1 Assessing young learner ability
2.3.2 Reflective practice
2.4 CLT in relation to active learning
2.4.1 Total physical response
2.4.2 Authentic bridge to acquisition
2.5 Teacher - Student responsibility in the CLT classroom
2.5.1 Teacher qualities and young learners
2.6 Learner strategies
2.7 Learning styles
2.8 Curriculum development

Chapter 3 Methodology
3.1 Research type
3.2 Setting
3.3 Participants
3.4 Treatment instruments
3.4.1 Curriculum development process
3.4.2 Creation and development of an ALS syllabus
3.4.3 Preschool ALS proto-syllabus
3.5 Data collecting instruments
3.5.1 Pre-test and post-test
3.5.2 Formative evaluation
3.5.3 Student portfolio Portfolio assessment and analysis
3.5.4 Parent questionnaire
3.5.5 Self-reflective journal
3.5.6 Peer observation
3.5.7 Interview with director

Chapter 4 Results of the study
4.1 Introduction
4.2 Results of the study
4.2.1 Syllabus modification
4.2.2 Revised proto-syllabus after implementation
4.2.3 Pre-test and post-test results
4.2.4 Results of pre-test/ post-test in table for combined classes
4.2.5 Analysis of parent questionnaire
4.2.6 Analysis of self-reflective journal writing
4.2.7 Analysis on peer observation method
4.2.8 Analysis of Directors interview
4.3 Data analysis
4.4 Conclusion

Chapter 5 Conclusion, discussion and recommendations
5.1 Summary of the study
5.2 Discussion of the results
5.2.1 Curriculum and syllabus design are important
5.2.2 Assessment
5.3 Taking steps towards ALS teaching practice
5.4 Classroom management
5.5 Professional development
5.5.1 Models of professional competence
5.5.2 Enlisting stakeholder assistance
5.6 ESL technology and computer assisted learning
5.7 Enthusiasm
5.8 Conclusion



This research project would not have been possible without these

individuals help and guidance through this entire process. Firstly, I express

my deepest gratitude to Dr. Pearl Wattanakul, my thesis advisor, who provided me with invaluable and straightforward advice, guidance and support throughout this course of research. Her patience and wisdom allowed this paper to become a longitudinal study rather than a short-term list of facts and opinions.

In addition, I thank the committee, for their specific guidance and support. Special thanks to my professors Dr. Jonathan Leather, Phillip Keay and David Richards for their support of my coursework while studying at Payap University and for providing support and empathy for my mistakes along the way. They allowed for revisions of my work and spoke honestly in the effort to assist me in finding my own voice and writing style. I thank my friends and my colleagues at Dara Academy, Chiang Mai, Thailand for their gracious participation in this research.

Foremost, I thank the God of all humanity for giving me the “serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Michael Hastings Underhill

Title: Effectiveness of an Active Learning Strategy Curriculum that

Promotes K2 Young Learners’ English Communication Ability

Researcher: Michael Hastings Underhill

Degree: Master of Arts in Teaching English to Speakers of Other


Approval Date: June 25, 2014

Institution: Payap University, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Keywords: Active Learning Strategies Curriculum, K2 Young Learners,

Curriculum Design, Assessment, Learning Outcomes


The basis of the research study aims to evaluate a new ‘ESL Curriculum for Young Learners’ resulting in the creation of an accompanying syllabus for the curriculum and the development of ‘Active Learning Strategies’ lesson plans that root their success in the research of Vygotsky, Gardner and Piaget. The research will follow three phases of investigation. Phase I is the creation of materials such as questionnaires for parents, administrator interview, peer observation of the teacher by a professional in the field and reflective inquiry in the form of a teacher’s journal. Phase II of the research monitors the implementation of pre-tests and post- tests to gauge the accuracy of the statistical data followed by Phase III which will present and evaluate various treatments in an attempt to arrive at positive outcomes. Treatments incorporated detailed quantitative and qualitative data to explore the implementation of a new ESL curriculum for young learners. Data collecting included a pre-test and post- test analysis and formative assessment criteria and data reporting, while a parent questionnaire, peer review, interviews with the director of the program and a student portfolio yielded additional information. Data analysis consisted of recording percentage, mean and standard deviation. A teachers log and a self reflective journal also made an impact in evaluating the qualitative data.

The participants in the study were two pre-school classes of children from ages 4 and 5 years (total 24). These children attend a private institution and they are part of the Native Speaker Program at the school. The school is located in Northern Thailand in the city of Chiang Mai. Participant’s progress was tracked over a two term period (2011-2012) to compare the old curriculum results and evaluations using an updated, newly revised curriculum based on the current European Framework and contemporary research in reputable published academic journals. Themes addressed in the research are teaching young learners, teacher critical self-reflection, review of statistical data and evaluations written in a teachers log for the past two years. Maintaining the motivation level of young children learning English as they prepare for a future where English language competence is monitored and mandated by the Thai government will be examined as well as sub- topics like classroom management and teacher enthusiasm.

A tentative exploratory framework for the implementation and effectiveness of an authentic Active Learning Strategies Curriculum in a pre-school classroom is proposed. This research may shed light on the prospects of implementing an ‘Active Learning Strategies Curriculum’ throughout pre-school classrooms all over Thailand in a variety of contexts while considering Thai identity, culture and the goals of the National Ministry of Education and the Teachers’ Council of Thailand. These guidelines include national and international pedagogical goals, guidelines and interests.

The results focused on reading, writing, speaking, listening, effort and participation. The results revealed that all stakeholders have reported positively in regards to implementing the new curriculum. Quantitative results reflect a respectable increase in the quality of student work. Qualitative data suggests that even though the target research program has been in existence for a decade, new and current ‘Active Learning Strategies’ content syllabus has yielded positive results. Assessment data reveals outcomes that are higher than the set criterion (x = 3.4). Results from data reflect group achievement exceeding criterion of (50%). Results from a parent questionnaire and results gathered more regularly using clear objectives integrated into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet grading program show an increase in cognitive and meta-cognitive function. Teacher self- reflection, professional development in regards to assessment and classroom management remain issues that need further attention. In addition, adhering to cultural and religious aspects of Thailand and its citizenry are mentioned as key components in this research.


Table 1 Thailand ranking in global English proficiency Table 2 Piaget’s stages of development

Table 3 Two paradigms of assessment Table 4 Term 2 Portfolio results

Table 5 The Average score of K2 students’ portfolio at the end of the new, modern ALS syllabus

Table 6 Parent questionnaire

Table 7 Parent questionnaire Mean rubric

Table 8 New ALS curriculum objectives for NP K2

Table 9 Revised proto-syllabus after implementation

Table 10 Pre-test and evaluation 2/1 / Term 1

Table 11 Post-test and evaluation 2/1 Term 2

Table 12 Pre-test and evaluation 2/2 Term 2

Table 13 Post-test and evaluation - Class 2/2 Term 2

Table 14 Pre-test scores of K2 students 2/1 and 2/2

Table 15 Post-test scores of K2 Class 2/1 and 2/2

Table 16 Comparison of pre-test scores and post-test scores

Table 17 Mean score for parent questionnaire

Table 18 Parent questionnaire overall data results

Table 19 Mean ( ) range and interpretation

Table 20 Student portfolio rubric


Figure 1 Age appropriate model of Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences theory

Figure 2 Piaget’s four stages of learning

Figure 3 Non-communicative and communicative activities

Figure 4 Kindergarten portfolio evaluation sheet

Figure 5 Kindergarten NP 2 Evaluation - Class 2/1 (Term 1)

Figure 6 Kindergarten NP 2 Evaluation - Class 2/1 (Term 2)

Figure 7 Kindergarten NP 2 Evaluation - Class 2/2 (Term 1)

Figure 8 Kindergarten NP 2 Evaluation - Class 2/2 (Term 2)

Figure 9 Total participant gross overall achievement in Speaking

Figure 10 Total participant gross overall achievement in Listening


Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten



As an ever-changing worldwide economy emerges and demand increases for more effective communication with others, personal ability to cross cultural and linguistic boundaries is tested. The success or failure of international events, whether related to business, diplomacy, or casual discourse, will depend on culturally- sensitive, persuasive and clear communication. People learn English because it is used internationally. It is a language of technology, education, commerce and science (Pope 2002, p. 19; Brown, 2001, p. 118). Four hundred million people use English as their L1, while seven hundred million use it as a second or foreign language (http://www.britishcouncil.com). Non-native speakers, who belong to regions where English is spoken as an L2, learn because it is part of an educational curriculum and in many cases they must use the language in formal settings. Countries around the world have responded to the increased demand for English by adopting various policies intended to promote the development of English communication. One of these responses has been a general trend in teaching English to younger and younger groups of learners.

1.1 Rationale and Statement of Problem

There are a variety of arguments which make the case that children should be exposed to English at younger ages. Some arguments, such as the Critical Period Hypothesis made popular by Eric Lenneberg (1967, p. 180) in his work The Biological Foundations of Language, which states that children are biologically more adept at picking up languages and that therefore we should take advantage of this potential. Others would simply argue that in order to remain competitive to international standards, teaching English to younger children is a necessity. This study does not seek outright to dispute the veracity of the matter; the simple fact is that, whether for better or worse, “the ages at which children start learning English has been lowering across the world” (Graddol, 2006). There is unfortunately too often the trend, as the ages of learners’ drop, of bringing along tried and tested curricula for older groups of learners while making only superficial adaptations. To make the best of the situation, and hopefully to present our children with as many opportunities and resources as we can put at their disposal, teaching methods must therefore adapt also, to specifically target and accommodate the many learning styles of our young learners.

There is a popular belief that children as L2 learners are superior to adults (Scovell, 2000). Simply put, the younger the learner, the quicker the learning process begins and better outcomes occur. Adding other variables reveals a more complex picture revealing both favorable and unfavorable age related differences being associated with early and late starting L2 learners (Johnson, 2002).

Furthermore, although the factor of age is an uncontroversial research variable extending from birth to death, (Cook 1995), and the critical period hypothesis is a narrowly focused proposal subject to repeated debate, it is the latter that tend to rule SLA discussions (Garcia Lecumberri & Geraldo, 2003), resulting in numerous conceptualizations. In further research by (Bailystok, 1997; Richards and Schmidt 2002; Abello-Contesse et al 2006) references have been made:

x There exists multiple critical periods based on specific language components- age six for L2 phonology.

x The non-existence of one or more critical periods for L2 versus L1 acquisition

x There may be a ‘sensitive’ yet not ‘critical period.’

x A continual, gradual cognitive decline from childhood to adulthood

In the Kingdom of Thailand, English became compulsory for all primary children from Grade 1 in 1996 (Methitham & Chamcharatsri, 2011) and yet Thailand continues to struggle at achieving English competency. Thailand ranked “54th out of 56 countries globally for English proficiency” in a recent IMD World

Competitiveness Report and continues to score beneath the international average on TESOL exams (Reuters & the Korea Herald, as reported by Thai Woman Talks, 2012). Thai children frequently claim English is their least favorite subject. As a result, Thai students lack proficiency in English for communication. Spoken English language ability is an extremely important factor according to ASEAN standards and will affect current Thai students in the immediate future. However, proficiency in the target language offers increased opportunities for educational advancement as well as monetary gain. Even immigrants in Thailand learn quickly that a command of the English language increases job opportunities and becomes a status symbol (Citravelu et al. 2002, p. 24). Thailand has always been a country with one official language and the people of this nation pride themselves in the fact that they are the only country in the region of Indo-China that never to have been colonized. Speaking one recognized national language leaves Thais with a general sense of national unity and stability (Wiriyachitra, 2002).

One way Thai English language proficiency is measured is by using the English Proficiency Index (EPI). It is a product of (EF) Education First, a global language training company that draws conclusive data collected by the administration of online tests.

Table 1 Thailand ranking in global English proficiency

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Thailand ranks in the lowest proficiency scores of the countries involved in the study. Note that the data regarding some of the ASEAN members such as Laos, Myanmar, Philippines and Cambodia are unavailable. It becomes obvious that the average Thai has a very low English speaking proficiency

To minimize the problems mentioned above, it became necessary to develop new curricula for young learners with the intention of combining current psychological theory and an up-to-date understanding of how children learn with an Active Learning Strategy (ALS) approach and the proper amount of stimulus and motivation, we would create an experience for our young learners that would not only get them talking but also positively shape their attitudes toward language learning for the future. Three key researchers are mentioned throughout this paper. They have been chosen for their input on teaching very young learners the psychological roots of constructivism which began with the developmental work of Jean Piaget (1896- 1980), who developed a theory (the theory of genetic epistemology) that analogized the development of the mind to evolutionary biological development and highlighted the adaptive function of cognition. Piaget proposed four stages in human development

(1) the sensorimotor stage, (2) the preoperational stage, (3) the concrete operational stage, and (4) the formal operational stage. For Piaget, the development of human intellect proceeds through adaptation and organization. Adaptation is a process of assimilation and accommodation, where external events are assimilated into existing understanding, but unfamiliar events, which don't fit with existing knowledge, are accommodated into the mind, thereby changing its organization.

Countless studies have demonstrated-or tried to discredit-Piaget's developmental stages. For example, it has become clear that most adults use formal operations in only a few domains where they have expertise. Nonetheless, Piaget's hypothesis that learning is a transformative rather than a cumulative process is still central. Children do not learn a bit at a time about some issue until it finally comes together as understanding. Instead, they make sense of whatever they know from the very beginning. This understanding is progressively reformed as new knowledge is acquired, especially new knowledge that is incompatible with their previous understanding.

The Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky's (1896-1934) relevance to constructivism derives from his theories about language, thought, and their mediation by society. Vygotsky held the position that the child gradually internalizes external and social activities, including communication, with more competent others. Although social speech is internalized in adulthood (it becomes thinking), Vygotsky contended that it still preserves its intrinsic collaborative character.

In his experiments, Vygotsky studied the difference between the child's reasoning when working independently versus reasoning when working with a more competent person. He devised the notion of the zone of proximal development to reflect on the potential of this difference. Vygotsky's findings suggested that learning environments should involve guided interactions that permit children to reflect on inconsistency and to change their conceptions through communication.

Vygotsky and Piaget's theories are often contrasted to each other in terms of individual cognitive constructivism (Piaget) and social constructivism (Vygotsky). Some researchers have tried to develop a synthesis of these approaches, though some, such as Michael Cole and James Wertsch, argue that the individual versus social orientation debate is over-emphasized. To them, the real difference rests on the contrast between the roles of cultural artifacts. For Vygotsky, such artifacts play a central role, but they do not appear in Piaget's theories.

In Howard Gardner's classrooms where the focus is on learning for deep understanding, students might study endangered species, island biogeography, or the principles of gravity over several months. As students pursue questions, they derive new and more complex questions to be investigated. Building useful knowledge structures requires effortful and purposeful activity over an extended period.

The success of any educational change, specifically as massive as a curriculum change, depends on how teachers perceive it and what they do to implement it, simply because “it is the teachers who reflect on change, absorbing and manipulating new ideas and developments” (Ekiz, 2004, p. 341). Therefore, any attempts to assess the new syllabus changes should certainly include teachers who experience these changes in their current conditions and contexts as end-users. For this reason, the study described here investigates the opinions of practicing English language teachers regarding the general characteristics, aims/outcomes and the content of the new Native Speaker Preschool Curriculum K1-K3 Program, which was introduced in 2012. Given the deficiency of research on the new Active Learning Strategies Teaching Programs, the study aims to contribute information about how teachers, administrators, parents and students perceive the changes in the new program.

1.1.1 The National Educational Reform Act of 1999

The National Educational Reform Act was enacted in 1996 and continues to the present. The principal objectives of the Reform Act are to ensure that education aims at the full development of the people in all aspects - physical and mental health, intellect; knowledge; morality; integrity; and the quest of a desirable lifestyle in accordance with society and in harmony with other people. According to the Act, the provision of education shall be based upon the principles of a lifelong education for all; the participation of all segments of society in educational provision; and continuous development of the bodies of knowledge and learning processes (Published on Monday, 8th November 1999 : The Nation). The act comprises four main areas of concern; (1) the school, (2) curriculum, (3) teacher reform and (4) administrative reform. Its main concern is that learners have the ability to study and develop. The document maintains that learners are the key component and the theory of lifelong leaning should be an essential component of life. Hence, a twelve-year basic education will be provided free to all Thai students. In 2005, an Office of Quality Assurance was instated. Members are tasked to oversee quality control of education in every level and in every aspect. In theory, schools are to be given more autonomy. There will be greater involvement by stakeholders such as family, and local communities in school policy and administration. An independent and learner- centered approach is necessary and analytical learning instead of rote learning will be incorporated. Teacher education is also a center of attention. Teachers will participate in research and development, and their teaching abilities will be assessed, National Educational Reform Act (1996).

However, certain obstacles have caused difficulties in English language teaching and learning in both primary and secondary schools. Biyaem (1997) states that Thai teachers face the following difficulties due to heavy teaching loads, too many students in the classroom (40-60 in many cases), and insufficient language skills. Methitham & Chamcharatsri claim that Thai teachers “may have played a passive role, never having been empowered to take charge of their teaching” and while change and policy came from those with power” (Methitham & Chamcharatsri, 2011).

It is not only the level of English competency that inhibits Thais from being able to keep pace with rapid development and global political changes taking place. Research conducted to teachers’ performance in Thailand is influenced significantly by administrative and management systems. Teachers are required to follow rigid curriculums and are evaluated on aspects that are secondary to good teaching practice. This current system involves an archaic, top-down authority model, which can foster distrust and suspicion between teachers and management, (Brigham Young University and EMSTAR, Inc., 1999).

Many school inspectors are out of touch with recent developments in teaching methodology. In many regions, they employ very outdated criteria for evaluating school practices and teacher ability. This type of management model prevents teachers from experimenting with new strategies. In Thailand, both Rajabahts and Faculties of Education are seen as key providers of teacher development needs. However, in recent years due to a lack of cross-institutional dialogue and a concrete investment education, those responsible for teacher training and development have not made enough effort to provide the necessary leadership in understanding in implementing educational reform and teacher professional development. (Source: ETS http://www.ets.org/Media/Research/pdf/TOEFL-SUM-2010.pdf.)

There is reluctance for Thai teachers to routinely participate in international learning communities in order to be exposed and involved with new, innovative research in curriculum design and implementation ( Kanoknirundorn, 1997). The ultimate aim of a modern, global education system is to assist learners to operate effectively in a future world of change, complexity and competition. There should be nothing left to chance. Goals are set and plans are made and implemented systematically. In this research, the implementation and development of an effective curriculum, teaching programs and suggestions for professional development play an indispensible role since they are porthole which expectations from stakeholders in terms of knowledge, ideas, values and skills are made real (Ultinar, 2003).

This current scenario, although not without hope, cannot be accomplished with money alone. It requires the dedication and collaboration of educators as well as private sector and organizations to encourage the integration of Native English speakers such as the British Council, and schools who actively integrate Native English programs into their schools starting with young and very young learners. It is the continued hope of the Thai Ministry of Education that Thais can effectively use English in business, science and technology. Most important, is that the citizens of Thailand can promote the country, its customs and its rich cultures to the rest of the world. Learning and speaking English from an early age will further this endeavor.

The new curriculum is designed with regard to creating real and authentic objectives and differing pedagogical approaches. Some areas remain a challenge. Some of these challenges can be are discussed in research from (Carr & Penn,2000). The first concern is that resources are available for early childhood education. The successful delivery of any curriculum depends on its structural features. These include funding, regulations, accountability and adequate training. If the staff is poorly trained, the curriculum will not be delivered properly, especially when this curriculum style requires both physical and mental stamina. This research shows that the preschool sector for education in Thailand is poorly funded which prevents the training of staff and the recruitment of motivated and highly trained professionals. The training issue is an ongoing difficulty for teachers teaching in Thailand.

The second challenge is assessment. Because of the emphasis on holistic goals rather than strict knowledge based on content, it is difficult to assess very young learners. New frameworks for evaluation appropriate to defined objectives must be worked out. In the future, matters concerning the amount of time used to assess children must be explored. Carr & May (2000) report that:

“ Given a curriculum model that sees learning as the development of more complex and useful understanding, knowledge and skill attached to purposeful and cultural contexts, rather than a staircase of individually acquired skills , the assessment and evaluation of children and programs becomes a complex matter. ”

1.2 Research question

Will a new, modern Active Learning Strategies Curriculum be effective in enhancing and promoting K2 young learners English communication ability?

1.3 Objectives of the study

x To develop and evaluate a new modern Active Learning Strategies curriculum designed for a group of K2 Students.

x To investigate pertinent ESL communication ability before, during and after the implementation of a new Active Learning Strategies curriculum.

1.4 Significance of the study

The results of this study will offer insightful and beneficial information for teachers who are interested in teaching English to Very Young Learners. Themes and activities mentioned in the study might increase the amount of learning taking place in the L2 classroom. Introducing Thai culturally sensitive and authentic materials into the classrooms of young learners offers a glimpse into how English is spoken both in Thailand and internationally, which is quite different from how it is written. It will also change how English is taught globally, making the learning of language both challenging and fun at the same time. Our goal is to make the language classroom a happy, fun and safe environment which sets the foundation for further language studies. The researcher would like to influence future research developments including:

1. Setting research guidelines for future academic study.
2. Set new goals and expectations for K2 students while allowing them to discover what expectations need to be developed.
3. Apply these theories into planning and development of future projects developed by the Thai Ministry of Education.

1.5 Scope of the Study

1.5.1 Sample

The sample group is confined specifically to the above mentioned 24 students who were between the ages of four and five years during the time of the study. These 24 students were enrolled in the Native Speaker Program for K2. Teachers involved with each class consisted of a Native Speaker English instructor, a Thai co-teacher with some knowledge of English and both classes had student teachers from a local university who accompanied the class to the designated Native Speaker classroom each day for two thirty minute classes. One class teaches core material while the other focuses on supplemental materials of the teacher’s choosing.

1.5.2 Content

The current Active Learning Strategies curriculum is based on the research of three key childhood learning academics. This research intends to suggest that Vygotsky’s dream of maximizing the Zone of Proximal Development can be attained by utilizing Gardner’s approach of nurturing the students’ combination of intelligences. This idea of teaching and learning will allow educators to teach ahead of development, to teach for understanding, to motivate and promote the students’ creativity and imagination, and to encourage their personal, social and academic growth.

An essential feature of learning is that it creates the Zone of Proximal Development. In other words, learning awakens a variety of internal developmental processes, which can take place only when the child is interacting with people in his environment. Once these processes are internalized, they become part of the child’s independent development achievement. Therefore, learning is a necessary and universal aspect of the process of developing culturally organized, specifically human, psychological functions (Vygotky,1978).

From this perspective, “instruction is good only when it proceeds ahead of development, when it awakens and rouses to life those functions which are in the process of maturing or in the zone of proximal development. It is in this way that instruction plays an extremely important role in development.”(Vygotsky, 1978).


MI theory claims that there are multiple ways to understand the world around us. No one single ability, but much different potential exist inside the brain. Gardner suggests that there are at least seven or eight intelligences. We all have them. This makes us human. However, no two people, not even twins, have the same combinations of these intelligences. This is important for teachers to know because they can count on every one of their students to have all eight intelligences, albeit in diverse configurations. Because there are multiple intelligences, there are many ways to understand the world. Ideas should be taught in more than one way. This will enable teachers to reach more students and teach students what it is like to think in more than one way. In other words, students should be taught flexibility and provided with multiple views for understanding the physical world, the social world, the human world, and the artistic world. If we teach only one way, we will reach only one kind of student (Coreil, 2003).

Figure 1 Age appropriate model of Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences theory

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Source: Dare to Differentiate, daretodifferentiate.wikispaces.com


According to psychologist Jean Piaget, children progress through a series of

four key stages of cognitive development marked by shifts in how they understand the world. Piaget believed that children are like "little scientists" and that they actively try to explore and make sense of the world around them. Through his observations of his own children, Piaget developed a stage theory of intellectual development that included four distinct stages: the sensorimotor stage, from birth to age 2; the preoperational stage, from age 2 to about age 7; the concrete operational stage, from age 7 to 11; and the formal operational stage, which begins in adolescence and spans into adulthood. This research involves the pre-operational stage (age 2-7).

Figure 2 Piaget’s four stages of learning

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Source: My Stance on Educational Technology, Jean Piaget, wikispaces.com./ My+Stance+on+Educational+technology, Tangient LLC 2014.

Lessons taught to the students incorporated material from Oxford Reading Tree, Cambridge, The Letterland Series workbook and Let’s Go material also from Oxford Press. The literature used to combine these elements were part of research done by the curriculum committee which included this researcher and The Creative Curriculum for Preschool, Fifth Edition published by Quality Books Inc.

1.5.3 English communication skills and abilities

After months of researching scholarly works, the curriculum design committee recognized two major publications that provided a framework for the new curriculum. The titles of these works are 1 ) The Creative Curriculum for Preschool, (Dodge et al, 2005) and ESL Standards for Pre- K- 12 Students,(1997) by Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages Inc., Sixth Printing.

The current focus of English communication skills for Kindergarten NP2:


x Follow words from left to right, top to bottom, and page by page.

x Recognize that spoken words are represented in written language by specific sequences of letters.

x Understand that words are separated by spaces in print.

x Recognize and name all upper- and lowercase letters of the alphabet.


x Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to compose opinion pieces in which they tell a reader the topic or the name of the book they are writing about and state an opinion or preference about the topic or book (e.g.,

My favorite book is . .

x Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to compose

informative/explanatory texts in which they name what they are writing about and supply some information about the topic.

x Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to narrate a single event or several loosely linked events, tell about the events in the order in which they occurred, and provide a reaction to what happened.


x Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about

kindergarten topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups. x Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions (e.g., listening to others and taking turns speaking about the topics and texts under discussion).

x Continue a conversation through multiple exchanges.

x Confirm understanding of a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media by asking and answering questions about key details and requesting clarification if something is not understood.

x Ask and answer questions in order to seek help, get information, or clarify something that is not understood.


x Instructor will describe, model and drill familiar people, places, things, and events and, with prompting and support, provide additional detail. x Add drawings or other visual displays to descriptions as desired to provide additional detail.

x Listen to instructor’s commands and respond correctly through speech and gesture.

Integrated skill sets (combining 4 skills abilities)

x Exhibit comprehensive understanding and familiarity of spoken words, syllables, and sounds (phonemes) through various means. x Recognize and produce rhyming words.

x Count, pronounce, blend, and segment syllables in spoken words.

x Blend and segment onsets and rimes of single-syllable spoken words.

x Isolate and pronounce the initial, medial vowel, and final sounds (phonemes) in three-phoneme (consonant-vowel consonant, or CVC) words. x Add or substitute individual sounds (phonemes) in simple, one-syllable words to make new words.

x Demonstrate basic knowledge of one-to-one letter-sound correspondences by producing the primary or many of the most frequent sound for each consonant. x Associate the long and short sounds with common spellings (graphemes) for

the five major vowels.

x Recognize first letter of and sound of common high-frequency words by sight (e.g., the, of, to, you, she, my, is, are, do, does).

x Distinguish between similarly spelled words by identifying the sounds of the letters that differ.

1.5.4 Research variables

The purpose of this paper is to identify certain variations among experimental programs and to discuss the manner in which such variations seem to affect a program's success. To accomplish this purpose, an in-depth analysis of assorted, significant preschool curriculum studies was completed and outcomes reflected pertinent variables that occur when constructing a curriculum model reflecting Active Learning Strategies that develop English Communication Ability of K2 students.

1.6 Definition of terms

Young learner

Active learning strategies

Preschool Students (Ages 2 to

5) Preschool children are in a sensitive period for language development. They absorb languages effortlessly and are adept imitators of speech sounds. Because they are very self- centered, they do not work well in groups, and they respond best to activities and learning situations relating to their own interests and experiences. Although they have a short attention span, they have great patience for repetition of the game activity or game. The research focuses on 24 K2 students at a private school in the Northern Region of Thailand. The children were monitored and evaluated using tools for research during academic year 2012-2013. Since the initial foreign language learning experiences has a strong impact on children's future learning, it is crucial that these experiences should be enjoyable, confidence building and successful for the learner.

Active learning is an umbrella term that refers to three models of instruction that focus the responsibility of a learning Strategies curriculum is a curriculum constructed based on the concept of Vygotsky that focuses on the natural learning styles of children. Scaffolding, social interaction, zone of proximal development combined with Multiple Intelligence theory presented by Gardner. Finally, Piaget contributes to the research through his philosophy of a child’s four stages of development. This research focuses on his second stage.

English communication ability

K2 Learners

Communication ability is the art and technique of communicating by using oral and body language to persuade him or bring into him the change that you want him to exhibit. Secondly, we have Interpersonal communication skills. This is direct, face-to-face communication that occurs between two persons. It is essentially a dialogue or a conversation between two or more people. This type of communication involves maximum interaction through words and gestures. Thirdly, we have non verbal communication skills. This includes aspects such as body language, gestures, facial expressions, eye contact, etc., which also become a part of the communicating process. Research includes: x Speaking x Listening x Reading x Writing x Integrated skills

Twenty-four students ranging in age of four and five years participating in the Native Speaker Program for Kindergarten level two (K2) in a Private school located in the Northern region of Thailand


Literature Review

The ultimate aim of a contemporary primary education system is to assist

individuals such as teachers and administrators to operate effectively in a world filled with change, complexity and diversity. Goals are set. Plans are made. Curriculums set the foundation of teaching programs and they are the necessary tools through which knowledge, ideas, values and skills are transformed into reality.

The following review of published literature is gleaned from linguists, psychologists, psycholinguists and other professionals whose expertise creates a deeper foundation towards the understanding of young learner’s second language acquisition. This chapter details a comprehensive collection of theories, experiments and methodologies that relate to second language acquisition from a young learner’s perspective as well as stakeholders. The research presented throughout the chapter is grounded in support of the research question. The chapter outlines the indispensable components for the support of this research.

2.1 Theoretical framework

2.1.1 Literacy: The aim of the research

According to the 1998 joint position statement of the International Reading Association (IRA) and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), pre-kindergarten children need developmentally appropriate experiences and teaching to support literacy learning. These include, but are not limited to:

x Positive, nurturing relationships with adults who engage in responsive conversations with individual children, model reading and writing behavior, and foster children’s interest in the enjoyment of reading and writing x Print-rich environments that provide opportunities and tools for children to see and use written language for a variety of purposes, with teachers drawing children’s attention to specific letters and word. Adult’s daily reading of high- quality books to individual children or small groups, including books that positively reflect children's identity, home language, and culture

x Opportunities for children to talk about what is read and to focus on the sounds and parts of language as well as the meaning

x Teaching strategies and experiences that form phonemic awareness, such as songs, finger plays, games, poems, and stories in which phonemic patterns such as rhyme and alliteration are salient

x Opportunities to engage in play that incorporates literacy tools, such as writing grocery lists in dramatic play, making signs in block building, and using icons and words in exploring computer games

x First hand experiences that expand children’s vocabulary, such as trips in the community and exposure to various tools, objects, and materials

Language and literacy are composed of listening, speaking, writing, thinking, and reading. The foundations of language and literacy are critical to all other curriculum areas as well as to the individual’s social and emotional development. Children develop the basis for communication in infancy, beginning with nonverbal and social exchanges, by developing spoken language, moving to an understanding of how oral language is translated into written symbols, and then finally learning to decode and create written symbols to develop literacy. A solid foundation in language development in the years before a child enters school will promote success in reading and writing in the future. Young children who have rich language and literacy experiences are less likely to have difficulties learning to read.

The ways children learn to read and write are similar to how they develop language. Just as children seem compelled to learn language, children become excited about pictures and letters to communicate. The printed word, whether it is in a storybook or in the environment, is the bridge that allows children to connect their own lives to distant places, quality children's literature, and to new ideas. Through natural exposure to books, children discover that written words are another way to share ideas. A child who enters school having recognized the joy of a storybook, a developing awareness of letters of the alphabet, and/or the ability to write a few letters, is a child well prepared to learn to read and write.

2.1.2 Young learners and language acquisition

The review of literature concerning young learners is divided into two age groups. The first is the ‘very’ young learner (Slatterly and Willis, 2001) who is under the age of seven. The ‘young’ learner is between 7-12 years. Scott and Ytreberg (2001) define very young as between 5-7 and the young learners between 8-

11 years. Both agree that the ability to recognize the abstract from the concrete is the crucial issue. There is one underlying question to observe and debate. “When is it too late for a child to acquire a foreign/ second language?” In Lenneburg’s research, this critical period ends around puberty. This does not mean that the ability to acquire second language diminishes completely, but studies show (Krashen, 1981) those children who deal best with language acquisition and proficiency in the long term are those who start as children rather than adults. With the evolution of brain mapping techniques which allow for three dimensional scans of brain material (Gordon, 2007), results show that children are naturally better equipped for language acquisition. The research reveals that the part of the brain responsible for language learning encounters rapid growth from about age six until the onset of puberty.

Other research concerning young learners argues (Salinger & Walsh) that young learners are naturally better at certain lower order skills like pronunciation, while young adults who have reached puberty are better equipped for higher level skills such as grammar. Studies from Brewster (2004) showed that young learners are better at storytelling and comprehension skills than their older counterparts as well as pronunciation. Shinn (2006) sees the importance of learning a second language early, because the learners can consciously enjoy the developmental aspects of this critical period.

Scott & Ytreberg (1991) differentiate what young learners can achieve when they are five and what they might accomplish when they are ten, are worlds apart. Children between five and seven can talk about what they are doing and can repeat what they have heard. They can initiate planning activities and can quarrel when they disagree. They use logical reasoning, have colorful imaginations and are able to intone a variety of speech patterns. They relate to direct human interaction. However, it is difficult for them to express aspects of language or meta-language that adults are able to grasp. (Cameron, 2001, p. 5). Chomsky (1969) demonstrated that children between the age of five and ten are still discovering basic structures of their L1 and much less in the L2. Older learners are afforded the awareness of language foundations and structures before exposure to an L2.

Although researchers have different ideas about young learner language acquisition, most agree the capacity to acquire the ability to incorporate pronunciation of words or chunks depends on many factors. Initially, the young learner needs to hear what they are requested to pronounce. This is the aspect of speech repetition (Miller, 1977).

A range of studies have shown that the size of a child's vocabulary by the age of 24 months correlates with the child's future development and language skills (Richards, J. C., 1974). A lack of language strength by this age has detrimental and long-term effects on the child's cognitive development, which is why it is so important for parents to engage their infants in language.

2.1.3 Why teach L2 to young learners

The primary reason for teaching L2 to young learners is that children of this age are at the peak of their language acquisition. The widely held principle that “younger is better” and that children learn more rapidly and efficiently, is appreciated by scores of researchers, (Journal of Language and Linguistic Studies Vol.6, No.2, October 2010).

English has become the language of international policy currently in use in the European framework. It is also recognized as the official lingua franca of the ASEAN Nations of Asia. For this reason, parents want their children learning English at younger ages so that they may benefit from a strong language background as part of their future academic and business careers. EU member countries encourage all of their citizens to carry a European Language Portfolio (ELP). Employees of all age sectors keep a personal record of their interaction with various languages as well as their encounters with people from other cultures and backgrounds. Some of the benefits of this record keeping portfolio is said to cultivate a person’s tolerance towards various cultures and to allow for freedom of travel between member nations across the European continent. It fosters the opportunity to evaluate their individual learning practices and it motivates participants to pursue lifelong learning (Brewster, 2004).

Because this research revolves around an Asian context of L2 learning and acquisition, the author finds empirical data that supports the conclusive effects of early childhood English education. Katsuyama, Nishigaki & Wang (2008) discovered through their research on 1466 elementary level schoolchildren in Japan, that children who received English instruction in their early years went on to have a greater interest and aptitude towards learning English over children who did not. Thus, positive encounters with English language learning and instruction can fuel a child’s desire to learn. This appetite for English must be developed as well as sustained according to positive pedagogic principles and methods. If the child’s first encounter with an L2 is negative or unpleasant, the resulting feelings towards future acquisition become tainted (Donryei, 2001: Schindler, 2006).

When teaching a second language, it is essential to remember that children are unique and naturally gifted because of the simple fact of evolution. They require experiences and stimulation for acquisition to occur. A successful child ESL program must be interactive and focused on the child learner only. Adult methods are rarely applied in today’s revelations on L2 learning psychology. Children must be given the opportunity to develop and must be strongly motivated. "Active learning using constructivist and whole language approaches uses meaningful activities and children ’ s prior knowledge, experiences, and perceptions to build real knowledge"

(Clark,1995; Cuevas, 1996).

Children are more open to learning a new language since they have no

preconceived ideas. Especially in pre-school, there are many opportunities for

children to interact with their peers. They meet foreign language speaking adults and encounter a vast new ocean of gestures, learning styles and teaching methods. Children are guided by their feelings and emotions. These emotions are important components of their psychological make-up and should be considered by the L2 instructor.

Pantaleoni (1988, p.70) refers to multiple benefits for introducing L2 into pre- school education. She mentions that pre-school students’ capacity to imitate, simulate and reproduce sounds is quite elevated, “almost flawless”, as their vocal chords are still quite flexible. Secondly, young learners may feel more at ease in their relationship with a qualified ESL instructor and within their peer group since they feel less reserved, thus increasing participation levels. Additionally, an inquiry in relation to the benefits of including ESL into a primary curriculum, (Krause, 1997) provides evidence that young learners come to the classroom because they like to talk with foreigners and their parents want them to acquire the L2 for its potential life benefits. So, a positive learning atmosphere is important when teaching ESL. Creating a psychologically secure setting in the classroom enhances learning, no matter how difficult the subject or the progression level of the student. Consequently, the teacher’s role plays an important factor when dealing with young learners. The instructor who considers the feelings of the students, as well as their motivation and attitudes to foreign language learning will be more likely to be successful in teaching. If students feel at home, they will participate in lessons more (Cakir, 2004).

Young learners are also naturally motivated and this motivation comes in various forms. Blikk (2004) refers to the use of puppets as an excellent way to teach L2. In the research classroom, a certain group of puppets can understand only the L2 and this proves useful. The child is at times permitted to take the puppet home for ‘talking practice’. The additional use of color cards, flash cards and minor role plays enhances active communicative learning. Songs, storybooks, rhymes and chants add to the list of successes. Songs are great ways to learn language because rhythm and chant facilitate the absorption of new words, chunks and phrases. As the children age, the amount of play will decrease and the practice mode will increase. Specific gestures can accompany words to enhance word and movement association.

Young learners are led by imaginative experiences and retaining positive

memories is extremely important. Children enrolled in the Native Speaker Program get ready for their futures in scholastics through play in a safe and nurturing environment. If a child enjoys the process, she will participate whole-heartedly. Initially, the teacher must win the student over and must encourage the child and promote feelings of success. The institution does not promote failure. The child must be able to think clearly and freely. The school encourages a sense of security both at home and at school. Most importantly, students are not permitted to laugh when other students try out the new vocabulary.

Additional activities further the experience by incorporating weekly themes from daily life in Thailand. Greetings, family, home, food, drink, holidays (Western and Thai), plants, fruit, animals, colors and numbers are all part of the Native Speaker curriculum. Combining different cultural situations within the context of the lesson allows for a sense of familiarity and natural understanding. The ESL teacher who knows their craft will be accepted relatively fast, and language develops naturally (some say miraculously) in their presence. The young learner quickly realizes that to communicate with this new being, they need to acquire “language”. At first we start with gestures and a few words. By combining words with gesture we then move on to simple phrases. Rarely, if ever, is only one word the focus. The instructor will introduce objects with the accompanying, “It’s a dog/ cat/ boy/girl. The chunk, ‘it is’ is not used because this phrase is not common in normal speech. Young children explain both through gesture and speech what is happening around them.

Michael Long (1983) and others suggest that acquisition takes place best in a setting in which meaning is negotiated through interaction, so that the student has influence on the message being communicated. Of course, the greater the language skills of the listener, the more effectively the interaction can influence the message. This suggests to the teacher that early attention must focus on providing students with the ability to communicate messages such as, “I don’t understand,” “Could you please repeat that?,” “Did you mean . . . ?,”“Could you please speak more slowly?,” and so forth.

In this section, the importance of language has been discussed, that play and other activities can enhance language learning and language acquisition and that teaching L2 to children requires a different set of academic rules. Language is complex and it is learned when participants hear speech and see gestures amidst varying circumstances and emotions. A strong and supportive environment is critical to success.

2.1.4 What is active learning?

To understand more about what this means in practice, it is useful to refer back to the description of active learning that appeared in the Tickell Review of the EYFS (2011). In annex 8 of this document, there is a review of the research evidence highlighting the value of paying close attention to how children demonstrate the characteristics of effective learning. This is reinforced by the requirement in the revised EYFS Framework to provide written comments on each child’s approaches to learning in both the progress check at age two and the EYFS profile.

When children are actively learning, they are:

x being involved and concentrating x keep trying

x Enjoyment of achieving what they set out to do.

The Tickell review provides some useful information on what the three

aspects of active learning are all about, helping us to see what to look for when

observing this characteristic of young children’s learning? Active learning describes the intrinsic motivation a child feels as they attempt to achieve ‘mastery’ - perhaps by learning a new skill, completing a task or doing something for themselves for the first time. By building up their experience of competence, understanding and autonomy, a child will be developing the vital skills and dispositions of a successful lifelong learner.

The three aspects of active learning are as follows:

x Being involved and concentrating- describes the intensity of attention that arises from children concentrating on following a line of interest in their activities.

x Keeping on trying- refers to the importance of persistence even in the face of challenge or difficulties: an element of purposeful control which supports resilience.

x Enjoying achieving what they set out to do- refers to the reward of meeting one’s own goals, building on the intrinsic motivation that supports long-term success, rather than relying on the approval of others.

Practitioners familiar with the work of Ferre Laevers on the influence of wellbeing and involvement on young children’s learning, and the Effective Early Learning (EEL) project ( Pascal & Bertram et al. 1996) will recognize these key attributes of active learning. Pascal and Bertram point out:

x An involved child is fascinated and is totally absorbed in the activity; the time passes quickly for the child.

x An involved child is extremely alert and sensitive to relevant stimuli, releases an immense amount of energy and experiences a wonderful feeling of satisfaction. The source of this satisfaction is an inbuilt desire for the child to gain a better understanding of reality.

x Involvement does not occur when the activities are too easy or when the task is too demanding. It is situated at the edge of a child’s capabilities, or in the Zone of Proximal Development.

While practitioners are observing children as part of the cycle of observation, formative assessment and planning for new possibilities, they could focus on the characteristics of active learning by asking themselves the following questions about an individual child (State of Victoria, 2009)

x How often have I noticed her becoming really involved in an experience that interests her?

x Are there particular things/places /experiences that fascinate her?

x Do we provide enough time and opportunity for her to concentrate and not be distracted?

x Do I give her time to do things for herself, or am I always rushing in to help?

x How well do we plan opportunities and experiences for individual children that are challenging yet achievable?

x Do I use praise effectively, encouraging a child to enjoy her success for its own sake and not for any external reward?

x Do we need to do more to help parents see the benefits of encouraging intrinsic motivation?

By building up this breadth of knowledge about a child, teachers will be improving the quality of that child’s experience in the early years setting. This in itself will contribute to raising the overall quality of your provision. Observing the

characteristics of learning should be part of everyday practice and should not require any detailed pre-planning. It is much more about being aware of each child as an individual and looking carefully at how they approach their learning.

The more teachers focus on noticing different children’s approaches to

learning, the more skilled you will become at ‘seeing what is happening’. Reflecting on your observations and sharing them with colleagues will help to build up a more complete picture of the interests, attitudes and fascinations of each child in your setting.

2.2 Research in child development and learning

2.2.1 Vygotsky’s social cognitive theory

Vygotsky’s (1962, 1978) social learning theory suggests that students develop mature thinking ability by observing how teachers and other experts approach learning tasks and by practicing expert processes with coaching from the teacher (Collins, Brown & Newman, 1989, Wood, Bruner & Ross, 1976). Learners can optimize their Zone of Proximal Development when teachers and others more proficient provide the support needed for completing the learning task. Eventually, teachers offer less support and students begin to internalize the thought processes and strategies they have observed and practiced. Vygotsky’s theory supports the critical roles of modeling how to use strategies and of scaffolding guidance as students become independent learners.

Socio-cultural Theory

x Zone of proximal development x Asking the right questions x Planning for experiences x Scaffolding

x Social collaboration interaction x Fantasy play

x Piaget and Vygotsky x Constructivist

Researcher and theorist Lev Vygotsky specializes in the arena of child development. Vygotsky identifies with the theory that humans’ use of language is an instrument for mental activity (Mitchell & Myles 2004; Johnson 2004). He presents the idea of Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). This concept illustrates that a zone exists between existing knowledge and potential knowledge. He affirms that this is the specific region where learning occurs for a child. Vygotsky (1978, p. 85) as cited in Mitchell and Myles (2004), the ZPD is: “the difference between a child’s developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the higher level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers” (Mitchell & Myles 2004: 86; Van Patten & Williams 2007: 210). A child who engages in learning a specific thought in a L2 may profit from interacting with a more experienced peer in the target L2 who can support in the navigation through the ZPD. For the purpose of teaching L2 through TPR and CLT, it is imperative that the L2 student is guided through the ZPD by the teacher. This can also be facilitated by a more capable peer like those students with an English speaking mother or father.

Vygotsky imparts three different positions:

1. Social learning precedes development. Vygotsky believes that children first obtain knowledge from their peers. From infancy, children interact with others (parents, siblings, friends, etc.) and absorb new information from this interaction. This is the first type of learning we are capable of as humans. The second level of this theory states that after we learn socially, we are then able to develop our own knowledge without the help of others.

2. The MKO. Vygotsky developed this term which stands for the More Knowledgeable Other. The MKO has more knowledge about a certain topic than the learner. The learner interacts with the MKO and gains new information from this person. Examples of an MKO are teachers, coaches, parents, or even peers, books, and computers.

3. The "ZPD." This acronym refers to the Zone of Proximal Development. The zone is the difference between the student's ability to perform a task with guidance and the student's ability to perform it independently. Vygotsky believes we should teach within this zone; our lessons should not be too easy or too difficult. For example, a young child learning to read will need guidance when trying to read and will not be able to read on their own. Therefore, to give this child an assignment of reading a story and answering questions on it would not be practical. Instead, this child would not a teacher/adult to sit with him/her while reading and would perform best answering questions in a discussion format.

Critical Period Hypothesis

The term referred to as ‘the critical period’ entered the domain of L1 acquisition from the field of biology (Genesee, 1988, p.97). The hypothesis puts emphasis on neural plasticity, or a child’s brain having a certain amount of flexibility that transfers brain function from one area to another within the cerebral sphere (Scovel, 1998, p.128). The references in this paper shall refer to this critical period hypothesis, the brain’s capacity for language development and the maturing effects on SLA in very young learners. As mentioned in this paper’s hypothesis section, when young learners are exposed to the native-like quality of a second language, the brain allows for bilingual development to occur. The grammatical and lexical disparities between Thai and English are wide and speakers of these languages often find each other’s languages difficult to master. Despite compulsory English classes throughout the secondary phase of education, students continually grapple with English sentence

structure. There seems to be little opportunity to practice authentic English and even less opportunity to carry the English language outside of the classroom. So the question arises, “if adult students had received a high amount of English language exposure from the time they entered Anuban (Kindergarten level), would this have reduced or even removed the barriers they currently face?” Another issue is how much exposure does the kindergarten brain need in order to develop native-like competency?

The concept of a critical period in language development was proposed in 1959 by Penfield and Roberts (Hakuta et. al. 2003). Following in 1967, Lenneburg suggested that the facility to learn a native language transpires within a fixed period, specifically from birth through puberty, with a drop in learning ability from puberty (Fromkin & Rodman, 1998). Touching lightly on the biological research of the time, research into birdsong and human speech and the importance of the young being

exposed to communicative sounds of adults, Doupe & Kuhl (1999, pp. 609-610)

define a critical or in their terms a ‘sensitive and impressionable period’ as “a specific phase of the life cycle of an organism in which there is enhanced sensitivity to experience, or the absence of a particular experience”. Newport (2002, p. 737) defines the critical period as “a maturational time period during which some crucial experience will have its peak effect on development and learning”.

There is, however, research that is utilized in this paper of authors who are divided as to whether there exists a real critical period with arguments in favor of the hypothesis,(Oyama, 1976, 1978; Johnson & Newport, 1989; DeKeyser, 2000) and arguments less supportive, mainly (Bailystok, 2002; Hakuta, Bailystok & Wiley, 2003). Even though these authors are critical, they infer that the analysis of data is often based on how research is interpreted. Hakuta et. al. (2003, p. 31) states, “an alternative to the critical period hypothesis is that second language learning becomes compromised with age”.

The fact that infants and children alike from around the globe are able to differentiate between foreign and native speech sounds, accomplish their native tongue rapidly (Woods, 1998) and to… “go through the same stages of phonological, morphological and syntactic rule acquisition” (Fromkin & Rodman, 1998) forms the basis for Chomsky’s theory of Universal Grammar . A fundamental aspect of brain development is that the brain wiring transpires within certain time periods for various functions and that these periods are critical in that once the wiring is finalized; there is no “going back.” The adeptness, on which the wiring depends, is heavily influenced by experience suggested in the ‘nurture debate’. The brain’s language system can only successfully and permanently wire up when it is exposed to a logical combination of sound, meaning and grammar from any particular language or combinations of such as in the case of bilingual or multilingual children.

Professional ethics stipulates that controlled studies of the ‘sensitive periods’ of L1 acquisition are morally wrong and inhumane. However, there is the documented incident of “Genie” who from 20 months until the age of 13, spent her days alone and isolated, secured in a pottery chair or to her bed and was attacked by her mentally ill father whenever she made a sound (Hoff, 2001). Luckily, her practically blind mother, who was also detained by her mentally ill husband, escaped with Genie and the shocking tale unfolded. Amongst multiple inconceivable psychological and bodily disabilities facing Genie was that of having no verbal communication. She could not speak at all when discovered, however, after four years she had the vocabulary of a four or five year old and was capable of combining words into complex utterances and to express meanings (Hoff, 2001). In contrast, her syntactic skills were extremely lacking. Her language ability was telegraphic and somewhat like utterances of Broca’s aphasia patients (Fromkin & Rodman, 1998). These findings coincide with the development period of Wernicke’s spectrum, which ends around two years and Broca’s area, with overall development occurring between 4 and 6 years.

An additional source of data looks at the effects of age on second language learning. In Johnson and Newport’ 1989 study, 46 Chinese and Korean natives newly arriving in America and who had learned English for at least five years as a second language post- arrival, were presented with a selection of grammatical tasks. The outcome showed that those who were between three and seven years of age on arrival did equally as well as the control group of English speakers. Those between 8 and 15 performed not so well, although the younger they were when they came ashore, the nearer they came to approximating native speakers. Those seventeen or older did least well and there was no difference between a seventeen and a thirty year old.

The greater part of research finds that language is at the least innately discoverable. Any person of adequate acumen, continuously exposed from birth to a language, will acquire the verbal skill inherently. Therefore, if the sensitive period of language acquisition is within the first four to six years, sufficient exposure to a L2 during this period becomes more beneficial purely due to the brain’s own growth phase and its extraordinary plasticity. It seems prudent to observe age-related differences in language learning, because practically every learner undergoes extensive cognitive, physical and emotional transformation during puberty.

2.2.2 Gardner’s multiple intelligences theory

Howard Gardner’s (1943- ) work desires not just to describe the world, but to help to create the conditions to change it. The scale of Howard Gardner’s contribution can be gauged from following comments in his introduction to the tenth anniversary edition of his classic work Frames of Mind. The theory of multiple intelligences: In the glory days of the psychometric and behaviorist eras, it was generally believed that intelligence was a single entity that was inherited; and that human beings - initially a blank slate - could be trained to learn anything, provided that it was presented in an appropriate way. Nowadays an increasing number of researchers believe precisely the opposite; that there exists a multitude of intelligences, quite independent of each other; that each intelligence has its own strengths and constraints; that the mind is far from unencumbered at birth; and that it is unexpectedly difficult to teach things that go against early ‘naive’ theories of that challenge the natural lines of force within an intelligence and its matching domains. (Gardner 1993: xxiii) With these researcher’s theories in mind, the focus of the study is to develop an Active Learning Strategy curriculum that would translate into learner centered lesson plans and a syllabus that builds upon previous knowledge for the final product. Teaching strategies for the new curriculum will require both native speakers and Thai English teacher’s participation. The new curriculum will review micro and macro skill sets. Assessments and portfolio work will be collected to establish a grading system based on the Likert scale and then a rubric is utilized to place students into various achievement categories. Although these students are taught all four skill sets, the research focuses on speaking and listening to the English Language in an effort to attain a deductive view of language which includes Native like accents and pronunciation. An attempt to move multiple word groups from short-term memory into working memory is a goal .Grammar is not the issue here, but the formation of chunks and phrasal agreement early on is a major factor in the research.

The independent variable for this research asks:

Is the new ALS curriculum effective? Additionally, how we will measure and document the program’s progress? Active learning strategies work with the natural learning styles of children rather than working against them. Some considerations to engage young learners in Active Learning Strategies:

x Actively engage children by naturally involving their own learning styles. x Help students learn by doing, a learning style that comes naturally to many children.

x Allow teachers to differentiate instruction and curriculum. Make learning so fun students don't realize they're being taught. Lead children to learn to share space, develop social skills, brainstorm ideas, solve problems, resolve conflicts, and use higher thinking skills.

The dependent variables include the student’s ability to grasp communicative processes like ALS and multiple intelligences training and theory. Those who administer the new curriculum must also be monitored and problematic issues should be resolved quickly. Controlling these issues will avoid ‘rushed child syndrome’ and will relieve pressure on teachers to assess children on narrow terms.

The new curriculum is designed with regard to creating real and authentic objectives and differing pedagogical approaches. Some areas remain a challenge. Some of these challenges can be are discussed in research from (Carr and Penn, 2000). The first concern is that resources are available for early childhood education. The successful delivery of any curriculum depends on its structural features. These include funding, regulations, accountability and adequate training. If the staff is poorly trained, the curriculum will not be delivered properly, especially when this curriculum style requires both physical and mental stamina. My research shows that the preschool sector for education in Thailand is poorly funded which prevents the training of staff and the recruitment of motivated and highly trained professionals. The training issue is an ongoing difficulty for teachers teaching in Thailand.

The second challenge is assessment. Because of the emphasis on holistic
goals rather than strict knowledge based on content, it is difficult to assess very young learners. New frameworks for evaluation appropriate to defined objectives must be worked out. In the future, matters concerning the amount of time used to assess children must be explored. Carr and May (2000) report that:

“ Given a curriculum model that sees learning as the development of more complex and useful understanding, knowledge and skill attached to purposeful and cultural contexts, rather than a staircase of individually acquired skills , the assessment and evaluation of children and programs becomes a complex matter. ”

On the other hand, this study takes interest in the demonstrated communicative abilities of children and so any generalizations drawn based upon the data may prioritize interaction and participation over knowledge of structural rules or even language prowess. It is also important to remember that the academy is a private institution that may not be indicative of the average Thai curriculum or student.

2.2.3 Piaget’s stages of development

There Are Three Basic Components To Piaget's Cognitive Theory:

1. Schemas (the building blocks of knowledge

2. Adaptation processes that enable the transition from one stage to another (equilibrium, assimilation and accommodation)

3. Stages of Development:

x sensorimotor

x preoperational

x concrete operational x formal operational

Stages of development:

x A child's cognitive development is about a child developing or constructing a mental model of the world.

x Jean Piaget was interested both in how children learnt and in how they thought.

x Piaget studied children from infancy to adolescence, and carried out many of his own investigations using his three children. He used the following research methods:

x Piaget made careful, detailed observations of children. These were mainly his own children and the children of friends. From these he wrote diary descriptions charting their development.

x Piaget believed that children think differently than adults and stated they go through 4 universal stages of cognitive development. Development is therefore biologically based and changes as the child matures. Cognition therefore develops in all children in the same sequence of stages.

x Each child goes through the stages in the same order, and no stage can be missed out - although some individuals may never attain the later stages.

There are individual differences in the rate at which children progress through stages.

x Piaget (1952) believed that these stages are universal - i.e. that the same sequence of development occurs in children all over the world, whatever their culture.

Table 2 Piaget’s stages of development

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Educational Implications

x Piaget (1952) did not explicitly relate his theory to education, although later researchers have explained how features of Piaget's theory can be applied to teaching and learning.

x Piaget has been extremely influential in developing educational policy and teaching. For example, a review of primary education by the UK government in 1966 was based strongly on Piaget’s theory. x Discovery learning - the idea that children learn best through doing and actively exploring - was seen as central to the transformation of primary school curriculum.

x 'The report's recurring themes are individual learning, flexibility in the curriculum, the centrality of play in children's learning, the use of the environment, learning by discovery and the importance of the evaluation of children's progress - teachers should 'not assume that only what is measurable is valuable.'

x Because Piaget's theory is based upon biological maturation and stages the notion of 'readiness' important. Readiness concerns when certain information or concepts should be taught. According to Piaget's theory children should not be taught certain concepts until they have reached the appropriate stage cognitive development.

x According to Piaget (1958), assimilation and accommodation require an active learner, not a passive one, because problem-solving skills cannot be taught, they must be discovered.

x Within the classroom learning should be student centered and

accomplished through active discovery learning. The role of the teacher is to facilitate learning, rather than direct tuition. Therefore teachers should encourage the following within the classroom:


x Focus on the process of learning, rather than the end product of it.

x Using active methods that require rediscovering or reconstructing "truths".

x Using collaborative, as well as individual activities (so children can learn from each other).

x Devising situations that present useful problems, and create disequilibrium in the child.

x Evaluate the level of the child's development, so suitable tasks can be set.

2.3 Assessing young learners

The researchers Gutierrez and Slavin (1992, p. 337) list the fundamentals of model assessment, adapted by (Pavan, 1972).

x Children are evaluated in terms of their own achievements and potential, not by comparison to group norms. Expectations differ for different children.

x Evaluation is done for diagnostic purposes and results in the formulation of new educational objectives.

x Evaluation must be continuous and comprehensive.

x A child strives mainly to improve his or her performance and develop potential rather than to compete with others.

x Teachers accept that children’s growth patterns are irregular and occur in different areas at different times.

x Individual pupil progress forms are used to record completed learning tasks, deficiencies that need to be addressed, and other data to suggest future learning experiences.

x Evaluation and reporting will consider all areas of a child’s development: aesthetic, physical, intellectual, emotional, and social.

Deficiencies of the traditional tests led to an assessment reform in early 1990's. The focus of assessment moved from product-based assessments that evaluate what children know to performance-based assessments that appraise what they can do.

2.3.1 Assessing young learner ability

A variety of assessment techniques will be utilized in the research. The assessments will allow the students to develop Active learning skills that support learners' development. The goal of proper assessment helps to develop:

x successful learners through using their imagination and creativity,

tackling new experiences and learning from them, and developing

important skills including literacy and numeracy through exploring and investigating while following their own interests.

x confident individuals through succeeding in their activities, having the satisfaction of a task accomplished, learning about bouncing back from setbacks, and dealing safely with risk.

x responsible citizens through encountering different ways of seeing the

world, learning to share and give and take, learning to respect themselves and others, and taking part in making decisions.

x effective contributors through interacting together in leading or supporting roles, tackling problems, extending communication skills, taking part in sustained talking and thinking, and respecting the opinions of others.

2.3.2 Reflective practice

Reflective practice is a tool that assists instructors to develop self-awareness and creates an atmosphere that supports teacher’s growth and change. It is imperative to bring awareness to the teacher’s internal world because of the way young children learn. Young children learn implicitly and the messages they receive are imbedded in the internal worlds of their teachers and caregivers (Siegel & Shahmmon-Shanok, 2010). The problem with existing interventions directed at improving relationships is that they do not focus enough on the internal world of the teacher. Communication between young children and infants exists mostly in the non-verbal realm of experience (Siegel & Shahmoon-Shanok, 2010). Reflexes, eye contact, body movement and sounds are just a few ways teachers communicate their inner world with the children they are tasked to educate. Teachers who are not aware of this are also not aware of how they are influencing the children that are part of their relationships (Heller et al., 2004).

Early childhood education needs to employ interventions that deal with the instructor as a whole being. In order to accomplish this, early childhood research needs to look towards the field of mental health. Reflective practice and reflective supervision are skills. Clinicians use reflective methodology to address a patients powerful emotions which they encounter on a daily basis (Heffron & March, 2010). The research is lacking in early childhood education on how reflective practice can improve relationships and the quality of care and the imparting of knowledge. Most research conducted on reflective practice and education involves teachers and students in the older phase, but focus needs to turn to young learners as the brain is shaped by the relationships and experiences young children have in this critical period of development (Seigel, 2010). Additionally, how the brain develops through varied relationships will influence how a child’s regulatory system responds to situations and their emotional resiliency throughout life.

What do Teachers Gain From Reflective Practice?

In order to demonstrate the advantages of reflective practice, it is necessary to consider the skills teachers can develop through this type of practice. Reflection can assist in improving their relationships inside the classroom. This researcher found it difficult to consult teachers while they were teaching and all interviews were conducted outside of their classrooms. If higher level administration wants to invest the time and the resources needed to implement reflective methodology and practice, they need to start with early childhood development and then work their way towards the older children.

First, it is necessary to consider the purpose of reflective practice.

Weatherston, Weigland and Weigand (2010) described the primary purpose of reflective practice as the “shared exploration of the emotional content of toddlers and family work as expressed in relationships, (p.23). They go on to point out that individuals who work with young children face situations that evoke powerful emotions everyday that can arouse strong feelings and trigger memories from their own childhoods. (Weatherson et al., 2010). These feelings and memories can be explicit, repressed or even unconscious and they have a powerful effect on how the individual relates to the child. Thompson and Pascal (2011) wrote that, “reflective practice is not simply a matter of pausing for thought from time to time. Rather, it is a much more sophisticated process of integrating personal and professional knowledge with the demands of a situation as part of an intelligent and creative approach to practice,” (p. 20). Reflection helps integrate personal and professional knowledge with demands of the situation by developing an individual’s ability to become aware of the internal processes, to observe interactions openly and objectively, and to question the behaviors that link them to internal states. Skills acquired through refection help teachers have more sensitive interactions in the classroom.

2.4 CLT in relation to active learning

Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) is the foremost theoretical style of current English instruction. Many applied linguists’ deem this technique as the most valuable method to ELT. Since its inception in Europe in the early 1970’s, CLT has functioned as a major basis of influence on language teaching systems around the globe. Li (1998) mentions that CLT has grown in scope and has been employed by assorted educators in distinctive means. Literature offered by schools and teachers espouse that CLT is by far the most widespread method, at least in the West. They assert that CLT is the proven methodology of choice. This is very well and good until the institution is asked explicitly to present a detailed account of Communicative Methodology. “What is CLT precisely?” or “Does CLT portend teaching conversation in the absence of grammar in a curriculum, or an emphasis on open- ended discussion activities as the major characteristic of the course?” The reply to these questions are best understood by examining CLT in requisites of its historical development, of a set of principles about the aspiration of language teaching, the variety of classroom activities that best facilitate learning, and the tasks of teachers and learners in the ESL classroom.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 2 Non-communicative and communicative activities

The theory of communication is Halliday’s functional account of language use. He described the seven basic functions that language performs for children learning their L1. Additionally, learning L2 was similarly viewed as performing different kinds of functions.

These are:

1. Instrumental function (“I want”): used for satisfying material needs.
2. Regulatory function (“do as I tell you”): used for controlling others behaviors.
3. Interactional function (“me and you”): used for getting along with other people.
4. Personal function (“here I come”): used for identifying and expressing the self.
5. Heuristic function (“tell me why”): used for exploring the world around one’s self.
6. Imaginative function (“let’s pretend”): used for creating a world of one’s own.
7. Informative function (“I’ve got something to tell you”) used for communication of new information (Richards et al 1992, 104).

Different perceptions about communication including grammatical competence, sociolinguistic confidence, discourse confidence and strategic competence are suggested as dimensions of communicative competence (Richards & Rogers 1986, 71). “CLT is therefore a unified, yet broadly based theoretical position about the nature of language and of language learning and teaching” (Brown 1994b, pp. 244- 245).

Richards and Rogers argue that at the level of language theory, CLT has a rich, if somewhat eclectic theoretical base. Some of the characteristics of this communicative view of language follow:

1. Language is the usage of the expression of meaning.
2. The principal function of language is for interaction and communication.
3. The structure of language mirrors its functional communicative use.
4. The primary units of language are not purely its grammatical and structural features. But, alignment of functional and communicative meaning as exemplified in discourse (Richards and Rogers 1986,71)

2.4.1 Total physical response

James Asher developed TPR theory in the 1960’s. It is grounded on the theory that memory is enhanced when associated by physical movement. The theory is especially relevant with language acquisition in young learners. Students are asked to perform to such commands as “Pick it up” and “Put it down”. The theory is primarily based on listening skills and is linked to physical actions designed to reinforce comprehension of basic items. Carrying out simple instructions in a supportive an innovative classroom can be motivating and fun, but simple instructions are quickly assimilated and with constant repetition become boring to the young learners with a limited attention span.

There are some inherent weaknesses in the approach:

x It is difficult for even highly skilled and inventive teachers to sustain a lesson involving commands and repetitions for more than a few minutes before such activities become the activity becomes repetitions and mundane to participants, although situational role play provides a wide range of contexts for practicing lexis.

x It is difficult to offer instructions without using imperatives; therefore language is restricted in form.

x It is difficult that this type of learning style could extend beyond the beginner level.

x The relevance of some language used in TPR holds little relevance to real world scenarios.

x Moving from listening and responding stage to oral production is workable in small groups, but can prove problematic when applied to classes with over 25 participants.

In defense of the approach, however, it was never intended by its earliest supporters to extend beyond beginner levels. Commands could be made more lexically complex (for example, " Pick up the pencil and place it into the pencil sharpener"), but this exceeds beginner level instruction. Also, courses are not designed to follow a TPR syllabus exclusively. Asher, himself, suggests that TPR enhances already existing techniques and should be used with multiple learning methods. In regards to the theoretical basis of such an approach, the idea of listening


Excerpt out of 156 pages


Evaluating the Effectiveness of an Active Learning Strategy Curriculum that Promotes K2 Young Learners' English Communication Ability
TESOL Young Learners
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
2680 KB
evaluating, effectiveness, active, learning, strategy, curriculum, promotes, young, learners, english, communication, ability
Quote paper
Michael Underhill (Author), 2014, Evaluating the Effectiveness of an Active Learning Strategy Curriculum that Promotes K2 Young Learners' English Communication Ability, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/275915


  • No comments yet.
Look inside the ebook
Title: Evaluating the Effectiveness of an Active Learning Strategy Curriculum that Promotes K2 Young Learners' English Communication Ability

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free