Are English Language Learners’ needs being met in Core French programs in elementary schools in Ontario? Those who do not have an adequate English proficiency are known as English Language Learners (ELL) by the Ontario Ministry of Education. The focus of former PhD student Dr. Jordana Garbati’s research was on how teachers meet the needs of ELL students in the classrooms. Dr. Garbati recently completed her PhD thesis defence titled, Core French Teachers’ Perceptions of ELL Inclusion: A Mixed-Methods Investigation.
Past experiences drove Dr. Garbati to her interest in students who do not have English as their first language. When she was a child, she would listen to her parents’ stories about their experiences while learning English – her parents were ELLs. Before pursuing her doctorate, she was a Core French and French Immersion teacher at the elementary level. Looking back on her time as a teacher, Dr. Garbati pondered the following questions: Is there enough and appropriate support provided for ELL students to meet their needs; Are the ELL students being challenged by teachers in their abilities to keep them engaged; Are the French as a Second Language (FSL) or Core French classes encouraging successful learning of French while ELLs simultaneously learn English?
Dr. Garbati gathered the information for her research in three phases, using a survey, individual interviews and classroom observations. The survey was administered to online Core French teachers within the province of Ontario. One of the benefits of having teachers complete the survey online was that the survey could be easily shared with other teachers in Ontario creating a snowball effect. To reach and even greater audience, Dr. Garbati also invited teachers to participate in her research through networking at the Ontario Modern Language Teachers’ Association (OMLT) conference in southwestern Ontario.
When Dr. Garbati conducted the personal interviews with teachers, she asked them to describe their ELLs, how they worked with these students in the Core French classroom, and what type of professional development they pursued. Dr. Garbati examined the received responses to discover teachers’ perceptions of ELL inclusion within the classroom. For the final aspect of data collection, Dr. Garbati observed teachers’ behaviours with students during class time to see how they interacted with ELLs.
Overall, Dr. Garbati’s research found that Core French teachers immensely enjoyed having ELLs in the classroom. However, they were concerned that the ELLs experienced confusion while learning English and French at the same time. One option suggested by her participants is to consider having ELLs attend foundational French classes to catch up in some of the areas where their peers are more advanced. Finally, a little over half of the respondents stated that they would welcome ELLs in the Core French class, but suggested that they should understand English better to avoid confusion.
Dr. Jordana Garbati is currently working at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo as a writing consultant in their Writing Centre. To read her thesis please visit this link: http://ir.lib.uwo.ca/etd/1496/