Supporting EAL learners
As an Assessor, it is more than likely that you will come across EAL learners. What does EAL stand for? This stands for English as an Additional Language. This is a learner whose primary language isn’t English. However, they are learning English on the side, to adhere to the qualification criteria. Some learners may struggle with written communication more than verbal, or vice versa. This will be the first thing you will have to establish.
Once you have identified which area your learners need more support in, it is important to adapt your teaching strategy to suit them, to give them as much help and guidance as you would give your other learners. There is very little guidance and training available for non-specialist teachers on how to support EAL learners, so we thought it would be useful to put together a short guide for you!
Barriers To Learning
As an Assessor, it is your responsibility to break down any potential barriers to learning. Some of your learners may face difficulties that you hadn’t thought about. These could include:
Learning the language
This is an obvious barrier to learning, but still worth mentioning. For EAL learners, it isn’t just about the language itself, but also picking up on pronunciation, as well as understanding the grammar. They need to not only understand the language but also grasp the concepts around it too. It may be worth giving them the opportunity to ask questions and be aware that you may have to go over things more than once.
Stigma or misinformation
Oftentimes, EAL learners who struggle to communicate are perceived to be less intelligent as a result. This is not the case, so as an Assessor, you need to bear this in mind. EAL learners are just as capable as native English speakers, this may just give them cognitive advantages.
Misunderstandings around cultural norms
Cultural differences can often leave EAL learners feeling uncomfortable in an English classroom. What are cultural norms? These are the standards we live by. They are the shared expectations and rules that guide behaviour of people within social groups. So in different cultures it will be varied.
Similarly to young learners who get frustrated when they do not understand something, EAL learners may also feel this way. Sometimes learners may have challenging behaviour if they don’t understand the task at hand or they don’t understand it straight away. This is understandable as they are learning a whole other language and it may be confusing to them, try and control the situation, speak to them one on one about the issue and what they don’t understand. Try and eliminate the behaviour when you see it.
Lack of experience from an Assessor
As an assessor you may not have received much training regarding EAL learners. You are best to carry out your own research regularly on the topic. Practices change all the time so make sure your learning is up to date as well. Just by simply being aware of some of these barriers will help you in the classroom.
How can I adapt assessments?
First you would find out what the learner struggles with. They may struggle speaking English but they can read/write it well, or, they can speak English well enough but struggle with the reading/writing part. Or they may struggle with both completely. It is possible to adapt some assessment methods to meet the needs of the learner, such as observation, professional discussions (PD), and projects and assignments.
What adaptations can you make for an EAL learner? With an observation if the learner struggles to read/write English, they could be given criteria that is translated in their language. They could speak English well so you may think about utilitsing speech rather than written word. If they struggle with speaking English they could have a scribe or a translator with them to help them.
In a PD, this would be recorded, but learners could have extra time if they have a translator or scribe. You can translate any criteria you give to the learner into their native language. It is necessary to record PDs, but this will be beneficial to the learner as they will be able to listen to it back.
It is possible to give extra time for projects and assignments. They could use a computer with a spell checker or translator if needed. They could also think about using a translation dictionary.
It’s important that you take the time to explain the function of the assessment and how learning effects them to you EAL learner. Before and during their assessment you will need to explain how you will be able to help and support them. Here are a few ideas you may wish to think about:
- Before the assessment : conduct an initial assessment, enroll them on a separate EAL course, send them study materials, provide extra support in the form of a translator, provide extra tutoring.
- During the assessment : adapt the assessment method, it could be more visual, have criteria translated, carry out a test on a computer, maybe pair them up with another EAL learner who is better in one aspect than the other so they can help each other.
We hope this has provided help and clarity on supporting EAL learners, if you need more information on supporting EAL learners or if you have any questions and queries then please don’t hesitate to contact us on 01205 805 155.
Steve is a Chartered Manager and a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute.
He provides Educational Consultancy to the 19+ sector as well as being an Assessor, IQA, EPA and Digital Marketing Professional. When not doing any of these he finds time, every now and then, to write blogs and articles.