Date of Award

7-3-2007

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Educational Policy Studies

First Advisor

Philo Hutcheson, Ph.D. - Chair

Second Advisor

Gertrude Tinker-Sachs, Ph.D. - Co-Chair

Third Advisor

Joyce E Many, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Douglas Davis, Ph.D.

Abstract

Improving the teaching of English as a foreign language in public schools is a high priority for the Dominican administration elected in 2004. Consequently, the government’s plan of action includes a pilot project that integrates language teaching strategies and methods already found in the country’s private, K-12, foreign language programs. The purpose of this naturalistic inquiry was to investigate English teaching through case studies at two private schools in hopes of guiding the country’s educational policy. The schools were selected based on their contrasting methods of foreign language instruction. One school, Imersão, follows a structured immersion program where most academic subjects are taught in English. The second school, Cervantina, teaches all subjects in Spanish, the students’ first language, and provides one hour a day of English instruction. The research process included repeated observations of classroom activities, interviews with administrators, staff and students, and reviewing teachers’ lesson plans and student products in English. The study found that effective English language teaching can be accomplished through varying methods, as elements that promote language learning were seen in each of the schools. The programs were observed to be similar in the importance placed on meeting the academic needs of students with differing abilities, as well as cultural and linguistic backgrounds, by having language classes emphasize the importance of grammar and vocabulary alongside culturally relevant authentic communication opportunities. Even though students at both schools are able to communicate orally and in writing in English, Imersão students appear better equipped to contend with complex academic situations in the second language. However, in order to concentrate almost entirely on the teaching of English, Imersão falls short of the immersion objective of concomitantly developing the primary language at age-appropriate levels. The results also suggest that encouraging students to analyze, deduce, and think in the foreign language while learning subject content in English is advantageous. Future research into this topic should explore where the threshold of optimum exposure to the foreign language inside and outside of the classroom might be in order to achieve language proficiency, therefore allowing the administration to maximize the use of limited education resources.

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