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5.3 EDUCATIONAL SCIENCES, Specific languages
This study set out to explore teachers’ attitudes towards home language maintenance among children acquiring English and Irish as additional languages in the early years of primary school and to explore the experiences of mainstream teachers who are working with these children. The study includes a consideration of the pedagogical issues involved in teaching young English and Irish language learners and an examination of the support that the whole school community provides for the teachers and the children. Data were gathered using a mixed methods approach, bearing in mind the rights of children to use their home languages and learn additional languages in an age-appropriate manner and the complex linguistic ecologies that form part of the environment of these children. Phase I of the research involved four focus group interviews carried out with teachers of Junior and Senior Infant classes. This served to inform parts of Phase II of the research, a nationwide postal questionnaire administered to teachers of Junior Infants. It was found that teachers do have positive attitudes towards the maintenance of home languages among these newcomer children, and that while attitudes inform practice, practical application of home language inclusion was rare. It was also found that while documents exist to support teachers in this endeavour, they are most often not consulted due to lack of training and lack of awareness. Classroom observation which focussed on teacher interaction with three newcomer children in one Junior Infant classroom was carried out during Phase III. This observation highlighted not only a variety of strategies for interactional scaffolding appropriate to facilitating newcomer children in the mainstream classroom but also the importance of environmental scaffolding. Positive results regarding children’s English and Irish language skills were found during all phases of the research. Overall the study has shown many positive aspects of an education system that advocates for children speaking home languages other than English in the early years of primary school. However, this system requires a more consistent approach to support and training for the mainstream class teacher who is ultimately responsible for implementing policies and practices at the micro level.
Dillon, A.: Teachers and Language Learning in Primary Schools: the Acquisition of Additional Languages in the Early Years. Doctoral Thesis. Dublin Institute of Technology, 2011.