Diversity in the English Language Classroom
Vuurst, R.A. van de
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This study examines the relationship between different approaches to the English education Dutch students receive at primary school and their English language proficiency as tested in the first year of secondary education. The study was carried out amongst 224 first year students at Guido de Brès, a secondary school in Amersfoort. The study aspires to contribute to the discussion whether differences in intensity of the English classes as received during primary education relate to significant differences in language proficiency and attitude towards the language. Firstly, research was done to the English education students received during primary education. Both EELT (early English language teaching) primary schools and regular primary schools were asked to explain their vision on English language teaching and the way this was done at their school. A second goal of this study was to find out if students who received a higher intensity program of English education scored better than their fellow classmates who received a lower intensity program on English language tests administered during the first year of secondary education. Also other (individual) differences, such as perceived quality of the lessons, teacher, attitude and estimated comprehension of the language were examined. Reading and listening proficiency, knowledge of English vocabulary, average school results as obtained on English language tests, estimated comprehension and attitude towards the language were related to the factors mentioned above. Also a selected group of students was tested on their speaking proficiency by means of an Anglia speaking test. The amount of time spent on English per week during primary education correlated with almost all measured factors: knowledge of English vocabulary, listening and reading proficiency, as well as attitude towards the English language and estimated comprehension of the language. It did not correlate with the average school result on English. Year of onset did not show a correlation with the results obtained from language proficiency tests, yet correlated with questions related to attitude and estimated language comprehension. When examining the results it also became clear that, rather than different approaches to English language teaching as received during primary education, the educational level first-year secondary students are involved in appears to relate to students’ ability to reach a higher proficiency level with regards to all English language skills. Finally, an attempt was made to find out how different proficiency levels can best be accommodated in a first year’s program, so students who encountered different approaches to English language teaching during primary education are challenged alike. English teachers at Guido de Brès mentioned they found it difficult to differentiate between students due to limited time and financial means. They believed a placement test at the start of the school year might help them to become more easily acquainted with their students’ needs in order to be able to help them efficiently.