Improving our Teachers: Improving our Learners

In an idealised world, all children, regardless of ethnicity, religion or attainment levels, would be able to achieve the highest they can within the education system, and work should be put into place to continue to provide and foster an inclusive atmosphere for schools. To achieve this however, the way forward is clear. More psychology-influenced training for teachers.

I originally chose to study at Edge Hill for the course. Educational psychology seemed, to me, to be such an interesting and vital area to study in, before training to be a teacher. Within my course I have learnt so much, and gained knowledge in areas which I know will improve my efficacy as a teacher. Coming from a rural village in Oxfordshire, Liverpool seemed to be culturally light-years away from my hometown. With 148 schools (Liverpool City Council) in Liverpool covering education for children aged 5-16, and with Liverpool being ranked 8th in the UK on the Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index (IDACI; Liverpool City Council, 2015), the psychology behind why and how we learn is of vital importance in such an ethnically diverse and multicultural area. For example, in data from January 2013, 11.4% of all pupils in Liverpool had a first language that was known or believed to be other than English (NALDIC, 2013).

Research has indicated that this statistic will continue to rise (Strand, Malmberg & Hall, 2015) and so schools must be equipped to adapt to this. Pupils who have English as an additional language (EAL) must learn to adapt both socially and academically, and the role of the teacher in this equation cannot be ignored. Class teachers often have little to no training before teaching a child with EAL (Haworth, 2009), and there is a general call from both educators for further support and training, to enable these students the best education they can get (Murakami, 2008).

Teachers understand the need for education and aspire to be able to meet the diverse needs of their pupils, but this is only going to be entirely successful with the support of the local and national government (Franson, 2010). EAL students are also at a risk of being isolated socially (Baines, Blatchford & Kutnick, 2008), and so teachers should also be aware of this and introduce interventions to tackle this. Information can be found online about how to further the attainment of pupils, in the form of practical changes to make in the classroom such as making the verbal curriculum more visual and providing examples to further abstract concepts (EAL Nexus, 2016), however, it is apparent that further training is required, with a greater influence from psychology to inform teachers of how to address the concerns faced by EAL pupils.

Students deserve teachers who are aware of the psychology behind why we learn to improve learning in the classroom. To achieve this, teachers must be able to access easy-to-understand and applicable information from their superiors, which is backed by individuals from the psychology sector. This training needs to go beyond the simplistic pedagogy taught on teacher training courses, and be implemented at both the level of the original degree as well as ‘catch-up’ sessions for teachers who are already in the field. I believe that psychology can and should have an impact on how educators teach their students, with particular attention being paid to students facing additional difficulties, such as EAL pupils.

Contribution by Rosie Potter, Educational Psychology student a Edge Hill University.

References

Baines, E., Blatchford, P., & Kutnick, P. (2008). Pupil grouping for learning: Developing a social pedagogy of the classroom. In The teacher’s role in implementing cooperative learning in the classroom (pp. 56-72). Springer US.

EAL Nexus (2016). Effective teaching of EAL learners. Retrieved from: https://eal.britishcouncil.org/teachers/effective-teaching-eal-learners. Accessed on: 08/03/17.

Franson, C. (1999). Mainstreaming learners of English as an additional language: The class teacher’s perspective. Language Culture and Curriculum, 12(1), 59-71.

Haworth, P. (2009). The Quest for a Mainstream EAL Pedagogy. Teachers College Record, 111(9), 2179-2208.

Liverpool City Council. (2015). Retrieved from: http://liverpool.gov.uk/media/10001/1-imd-2015-executive-summary.pdf. Accessed: 07/03/17.

Liverpool City Council. Retrieved from: https://liverpool.gov.uk/schools-and-learning/school-admissions/school-search/. Accessed: 07/03/17.

Murakami, C. (2008). ‘Everybody is just fumbling along’: An investigation of views regarding EAL training and support provisions in a rural area. Language and Education, 22(4), 265-282.

National Association of Language Development in the curriculum. (2013). Retrieved from: https://www.naldic.org.uk/research-and-information/eal-statistics/eal-pupils/. Accessed: 07/03/17.

Strand, S., Malmberg, L., & Hall, J. (2015). English as an Additional Language (EAL) and educational achievement in England: An analysis of the National Pupil Database. Retrieved from: https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/bitstream/handle/10871/23323/EAL_and_educational_achievement2.pdf?sequence=1. Accessed: 07/03/17.

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