Supporting Asian immigrant English language learners : teachers’ beliefs and practices.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This phenomenological study explores the beliefs and practices of New Zealand early childhood teachers in supporting English acquisition for Asian immigrant English language learners (ELLs). The focus of the study is on the analysis of early childhood teachers’ beliefs about how they can support English acquisition among Asian immigrant ELLs and how these beliefs influence the teachers’ practices in early childhood education (ECE) settings.
The theoretical framework of this research draws on a range of sociocultural perspectives, including (i) the sociocultural positions initially defined by Lev Vygostky (1978), (ii) the notion of guided participation articulated by Barbara Rogoff (2003), (iii) theories of second language acquisition discussed by Lantolf and Thorne (2000), and by Krashen (1982, 1985), and (iv) acculturation as addressed by Berry (2001).
The main participants of this study were seven early childhood teachers and six Asian immigrant ELLs from two ECE centres. Four Asian parents participated in interviews to ascertain the parents’ perspectives about their children’s learning of English and their maintenance of home language. Research methods for the teachers included observations and semi-structured pre- and post-observation interviews. For each centre, observations were carried out over a six week period which enabled a series of snapshots of how the teachers supported the ELLs as they acquired English. The findings were analysed using thematic analysis, and presented three themes: English dominance, social cultural adaptation, and guided participation. These themes impacted the learning experiences of the Asian immigrant ELLs and other children attending the ECE as well as the teaching approaches of the early childhood teachers. The findings revealed that there were dissonances between the teachers’ beliefs and their practices, as well as variation between individual teachers’ beliefs and practices. Because of a significant increase in the number of ELLs in New Zealand ECE centres, it is important for early childhood teachers to understand the emphasis upon sociocultural theories in the ECE curriculum, so that they can effectively apply these theories to their practices. This study will provide a basis from which to consider how early childhood teachers in New Zealand can draw upon sociocultural perspectives to better support ELLs as they acquire English, while valuing and supporting their linguistic and cultural backgrounds.