ENGLISH AS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE IN JAPAN’S ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS: A MULTIPLE CASE STUDY ON LANGUAGE POLICY INTERPRETATION AND IMPLEMENTATION
AdvisorChurchill, Eton, 1964-
Committee memberBeglar, David
Allen, Mitsue Tamai, 1956-
Derrah, Richard H.
Foreign language education
Ethnography of language policy
Foreign language education
Permanent link to this recordhttp://hdl.handle.net/20.500.12613/8306
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AbstractBeginning in April 2020, the Japanese government continued its English education language policy reform by introducing foreign language instruction as an academic subject for Grade 5 and Grade 6 students. The purpose of this study was to investigate how stakeholders across the education system have contended with policy creation, policy interpretation, and policy appropriation in public elementary school classrooms. Using a conceptual framework of ethnography of language policy and open systems theory, this multiple case study was designed to investigate policy as text, policy as discourse, and policy as classroom practice. In order to achieve these aims I used qualitative methods of data collection that included content analysis of policy documents, and interviews with national policymakers, educational authorities from local Boards of Education, school principals, and classroom teachers. In addition, observations of English lessons at three public elementary schools within the same prefecture were analyzed to understand how the schools approached policy implementation and how close did the teachers’ appropriation of EFL lessons correspond with the goals of the 2020 Course of Study. The 2020 Elementary School Course of Study established English as an academic subject for students in Grades 5 and 6. An analysis of the policy documents revealed positive changes in the realignment of the purpose and aims of education from elementary school through high school. In addition, the 2020 Course of Study introduces an updated assessment framework for teaching and learning across all subjects for elementary school, junior high school and high school. However, how English is conceptualized and integrated into the national curriculum appears in places not to match some of the new aims of the 2020 Course of Study and uses ambivalent terms, such as language activities with little guidance for teachers on how to teach English. The interviews with participants provided insights from various stakeholders on their beliefs and experiences towards educational language policy creation, transmission, and implementation. A total of 72 interviews were conducted for this study. National-level policymakers and advisors spoke of the politics during policy formulation. In addition, discursive struggles between conservative and progress views of education and foreign language education also influenced policymakers’ objectives. A discourse of expertise, which restricted agency and voice for certain participants, also emerged from the interview data. All of these points and others created a situation where policy implementation took on a form of bricolage. During the 17 months of field work at the three participating schools, 58 lessons were observed, recorded, and analyzed. The findings from the classroom observations revealed that each school’s approach to implementing English as a subject in Grades 5 and 6 changed each year. Teachers had difficulties navigating shifting discourses towards English lessons, along with understanding new and ambiguous terminology towards teaching practices and assessment. The findings showed that teachers were generally meeting the goals of the 2020 English Course of Study; however, the teaching of reading and listening were problematic for many teachers. The discussion section comprises implications for future policy creation and implementation, classroom pedagogy, and the theoretical implications. The intended audience for this investigation includes stakeholders interested in applied linguistics, language policy and planning, comparative education, and Japanese studies. This study contributes to the research on educational language policy and our understanding that policy is more than declaring and seeking particular outcomes, but a consistently evolving process with conflicting discourses and ideologies. This study adds to our understanding how the structure of Japan’s education system and the social organization of the schools can enable and inhibit certain stakeholders positioned across the education system. Lastly, this study contributes to our understanding of what it means to be an English teacher in Japan’s public elementary school schools.
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Diagnosing L2 English Learners’ Listening comprehension abilities with Scripted and Unscripted Listening TextsBeglar, David; Wagner, Elvis; Swenson, Tamara; Leeming, Ian Paul (Temple University. Libraries, 2018)L2 listening research has moved toward a focus on understanding the process of listening. However, there are still few detailed studies of L2 listening that reveal learners’ comprehension processes when listening to scripted and unscripted listening texts. Studies in which such processing has been discussed have lacked detailed diagnoses of how bottom-up and top-down processing interactively affect listeners’ comprehension. This study was designed to show how listeners’ process and comprehend texts, with a focus on how their bottom-up and top-down processing either assist or impede their comprehension. In this study, a group of 30 L1 Japanese university English language learners’ listening abilities were diagnosed. The 30 participants were at three listening proficiency levels—high, mid, and low—based on TOEIC listening proficiency scores. The diagnostic procedure involved participants listening to two scripted and two unscripted listening texts and then reporting what they comprehended through three tasks—L1 oral recalls, L2 repetitions, and verbal reports. Other data was also collected in the study to relate the comprehension of listening texts to other important listening-related variables including listening proficiency, lexical knowledge, listening anxiety, study abroad experience, short-term phonological memory, and working memory. The main finding of the study was that miscomprehension of listening texts was invariably multi-causal, with a combination of both bottom-up and top-down factors leading to comprehension difficulty. Although not a new finding, the study offered more detail than current research about how bottom-up and top-down processing occur interactively. Regarding the overall difficulty of the listening texts, unscripted texts were more difficult to comprehend than scripted texts, and high-proficiency participants had fewer listening difficulties overall than mid- and low-proficiency participants. Quantitative and qualitative results revealed common processing difficulties among all participants due to L1-related phonological decoding issues (e.g., /l/ vs. /r/), connected speech, unknown lexis, and a lack of familiarity with unscripted speech hesitation phenomena (e.g., um, like). Qualitative transcript examples showed how top-down knowledge influenced misinterpretations of words and phrases interactively with bottom-up information, making inaccurate understandings of listening difficult to overcome. In addition to revealing participants’ difficulties and the severity of their comprehension difficulties, the diagnostic procedure showed common strengths—key words and phrases understood well by participants. High-frequency vocabulary and shorter utterances were both shown to be comprehended well. Finally, quantitative results in the study revealed relationships of participants’ listening comprehension with other important listening related variables. Listening proficiency and listening anxiety had strong relationships with listening comprehension of the listening texts. Working memory and short-term phonological memory had no relationship with listening text comprehension. Finally, study abroad experience showed a relationship with comprehension, but with many caveats, and listening vocabulary knowledge was not related with comprehension, but again, with numerous caveats to consider. Based on the results, theoretical and pedagogical implications were posed. Theoretical implications from the study relate to the understanding of four concerns in L2 listening research. Mainly, data in the study will aid researchers’ understanding of how L2 English listeners process speech interactively (i.e., with bottom-up and top-down information) for comprehension, how L2 English listeners experience connected speech, how L2 listeners deal with unknown lexis, and how L2 listeners experience difficulties with features of unscripted speech. Pedagogical implications of the study include the need for increased teacher and learner awareness of the complexity of L2 listening, the need to have learners to track their own listening development, and the need for teachers to expose learners to unscripted listening texts and make them familiar with features of unscripted speech. Finally, suggestions for further research are posed, including conducting diagnostics assessments of L2 listening with listeners of different L1s and with more varied proficiency levels, using different diagnostic procedures to examine L2 listening comprehension, and using more instruments to understand listening-related variables’ relationships with L2 listening comprehension.
PAIR INTERACTION IN SPANISH LANGUAGE CLASSROOMS THAT ENROLL HERITAGE AND L2 LEARNERSToth, Paul D.; Holmquist, Jonathan Carl; Lorenzino, Gerardo; Bowles, Melissa A. (Temple University. Libraries, 2019)A growing number of studies has shown that collaborative writing tasks facilitate second language (L2) development by providing learners with opportunities to focus their attention on language and to collaborate in the solution of their language-related problems (e.g., Choi & Iwashita, 2016; Storch, 2013; Swain & Lapkin, 1998; Williams, 2012). However, most of these studies have focused almost exclusively on L2 learners, and particularly on English as a second language learners. In an effort to address this gap and drawing from a sociocultural framework, this study investigated the interactions of Spanish heritage language (HL) learners and Spanish L2 learners enrolled in the same class. Twenty-four intermediate-level learners of Spanish, organized in four HL-HL, four HL-L2, and four L2-L2 dyads, participated in the study. As part of their regular class work, they completed four collaborative writing tasks in pairs. Participants were also asked to individually complete a pretest and two posttests. The tasks and tests were intended to elicit the present subjunctive in nominal and adjectival clauses. The interactions between each pair were recorded and coded for the nature of the relationships the learners formed (Storch, 2002) and the quantity and quality of learners’ deliberations about language choice, using Language Related Episodes (LREs) (Swain & Lapkin, 1998) as units of analysis. Results showed that the most common type of patterns of interaction the learners developed was collaboration. Moreover, three pairs displayed a dominant/passive pattern of interaction and two pairs an expert/novice pattern. Results also indicated that overall, participants produced slightly more LREs focused on form than LREs focused on lexis. Furthermore, results showed that whereas all pairs produced morphosyntactic LREs, they were more frequent in HL-L2 dyads. Lexical LREs occurred more often in L2-L2 dyads, and orthographic LREs occurred only in HL-HL dyads. With regards to learning gains, results revealed that six participants obtained high scores in all tests and did not show a score change from pretest to delayed posttest. Five of these participants were identified as HL learners. However, data also showed that 16 participants scored higher on their delayed posttest than they did on their pretest. Overall, considering that most dyads developed a collaborative pattern of interaction and achieved learning gains after task-based interaction, the data suggest that despite the differences in linguistic and cultural backgrounds, learners in mixed and matched pairs provided assistance to one another and produced LREs associated with the target structure. These findings have important pedagogical implications and thus, future studies need to investigate the best practices for teaching HL and L2 learners simultaneously and the types of tasks that encourage collaboration.
Coherence in Quantitative Longitudinal Language Program EvaluationRoss, Steven, 1951-; Beglar, David J.; Kozaki, Yoko; Sick, James (Temple University. Libraries, 2018)In recent years, foreign language program evaluation has gained greater attention among language educators, program administrators, and evaluators. Increased demands for demonstrated program performance, often motivated by external forces, such as accreditation pressures and decisions regarding the allocation of funding, have led to heightened focus on foreign language program evaluation practices, methodologies, and results. Despite this increased attention, there are few published evaluation studies within the field of foreign language learning that have examined foreign language program effectiveness over time. This longitudinal study was designed to quantitatively investigate the performance of one Japanese university English for Academic Purposes (EAP) program over the 20-year span of the program’s existence. Quantitative evaluation methodologies and advanced statistical procedures were utilized to examine changes in student English proficiency, as measured by the Institutional Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL ITP) and English achievement, as measured by four semesters of EAP course grades, as students progressed through the two-year program. Twenty cohorts of students (cohort n-sizes ranging from approximately 250 to 550 students) were included in this study. The comprehensive data set included three repeated-measures of the TOEFL ITP and four English achievement grade point averages (GPAs) for each of the 20 cohorts. The research questions for this expansive longitudinal study addressed two levels of inquiry. First, at the program-global level, this study sought to investigate patterns of English proficiency change within and between cohorts across the life of the program, and the extent that programmatic events and external influences might have impacted those patterns. For this investigation, TOEFL ITP results for three proficiency domains—listening, grammar, and reading—were chronologically charted for the 20 cohorts and time-series analyses were conducted. The results indicated that all cohorts demonstrated significant gains in the three proficiency domains by the end of the two-year program. However, the overall trends across the program’s 20-year history revealed gradual negative trajectories for grammar and reading proficiency. Events that were hypothesized to have influenced proficiency patterns were tested, including (a) the addition of a new department specialization, (b) changes to department admissions, (c) the entrance of students who experienced new national reforms at the secondary education level, and (d) department expansion. While listening proficiency patterns were unaffected, grammar and reading proficiency trends were negatively impacted by the start of the new specialization and changes to admissions procedures. The entrance of students who had experienced secondary educational changes had an initial negative impact on the grammar trend, but positive grammar and reading proficiency trends emerged from that point onward. It was speculated that these events, as well as larger population trends impacting Japanese universities, led to gradual shifts in program student demographics, which contributed to the observed changes in proficiency patterns. Also of interest was an examination of the concept of English achievement coherence—or the extent that student English achievement, as measured by English course grade point averages (GPAs)—can be used to assess course interrelatedness. English course GPA data was used to statistically derive three rival achievement coherence metrics. These metrics were then tested separately, using hierarchical linear modeling techniques, to examine the extent that achievement coherence might serve to mediate any proficiency variation observed across the 20 cohorts. There were no significant findings for two of the metrics tested, while the third metric was found to have a significant negative effect for reading proficiency. This finding directly contradicted the hypothesized outcome that a greater amount of coherence would serve to facilitate proficiency development. Given the significant negative reading trend that emerged across the life of the program, this result might suggest that larger influences affecting student demographic changes could outweigh any potential facilitative effects of coherence on proficiency outcomes. Following the program-global analyses, the second level of inquiry was at the cohort-specific level. Individual cohorts that had demonstrated comparatively high and low listening and reading proficiency gains were selected for follow-up analyses. The aim was to examine if differences in coherence at the cohort level might account for the contrastive proficiency gains attained. For each target cohort, a recursive path model, including the program’s 16 English courses and final proficiency outcome, was tested to examine English achievement interrelatedness and contributions to the final proficiency outcome. A greater number of significant paths and larger final model R2 coefficient would suggest more coherence. Additionally, for each target cohort, grade residuals analyses using linear regression methods were conducted to investigate grading consistency at the course level. A greater number of outlying grade cases could indicate that the course assessment schemes were not followed, which would suggest less cohort coherence. The results of these analyses for the pairs of contrastive listening gain and reading gain cohorts were compared, but no significant differences were found. While these analytical methods were determined to be useful for ongoing formative evaluation processes, the resulting measures were likely too broad to capture any meaningful differences in coherence between cohorts at the program-global level.