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ESOL Leadership practices

ESOL Leadership Practices

A focus on the four good leadership practices as identified by Dr Alyson McGee in this article; McGee, A., Haworth, P. and MacIntyre, L. (2014), Leadership Practices to Support Teaching and Learning for English Language Learners. TESOL Quarterly. doi:

Four Good ESOL Leadership practices

  1. Establishing goals and direction for ESOL, to make it an integral part of the overall school focus.
  2. Enabling leaders to be role models with credibility through knowledge of ESOL, including knowledge of content, culture, language, and pedagogy.
  3. Providing ESOL professional learning for teachers and for those in leadership, to ensure all educators are aware of English language learners’ needs and have the resources to meet them.
  4. Empowering ESOL teaching and learning, to create the conditions, opportunities, and structures needed to support the needs of English language learners.

Establishing goals and direction for ESOL, to make it an integral part of the overall school focus.

 

Establishing goals and a direction for ESOL that are known, understood and implemented across the whole school is crucial if you want good learning outcomes for ELLs.

Goals and direction may apply to teachers’ planning requirements, expectations, informal communication, and professional development. These could include for example; the establishment of school-wide ESOL goals that everyone is aware of and is actively implementing. Teachers can articulate the ESOL plan and they are all responsible for implementing the plan within their own classrooms. For example, in every learning area both content and language objectives are identified, lessons are differentiated for ELLs and they are each scaffolded to success. Every teacher has long- and short-term language teaching objectives. 

Another expectation may be that teachers will support their learners’ first language use within the classroom.  Or that, those teachers will use approaches that build upon students’ cultural identities and background knowledge.

Examples of communication goals could include: opportunities for parents who cannot read English to receive translated copies of school notices, or they will be contacted by a same-language speaking parent to convey the messages. Another example could be that translators will be available during parent-teacher interviews.

Enabling leaders to be role models with credibility through knowledge of ESOL, including knowledge of content, culture, language, and pedagogy. It is important that the ESOL leaders and senior staff members have the opportunity to develop their personal knowledge of ESOL content, culture, second language acquisition, and second language teaching pedagogy. In order to lead successfully leaders need to be credible and they need to be good role models. “Marzano et al. (2005) stress the importance of leaders being recognised as competent practitioners and having an understanding of the concepts underpinning specific disciplines. Heng and Marsh (2009), in their research on effective leadership practices in primary schools in Singapore, also highlight the significance of successful leadership developing personal capacity and knowledge of subject areas. They feel this enables those in leadership to play a key role in developing content areas, because this involves a “deeper understanding of conceptual underpinnings and processes of specific disciplines involved in teaching a diverse range of students” (p. 529).”  In McGee’s research study in New Zealand, it also became clear “that those who were seen as knowledgeable in ESOL areas were considered role models for others.”

It is now generally viewed that it is best to develop a dispersed leadership model which leads to improved sustainability across time. “ESOL knowledge should not only be in the hands of the ESOL lead teacher and ESOL TAs, but also, to a lesser extent, others in the leadership team and some other teachers.” McGee gives the example in one school where “the principal was building professional knowledge and a role as the initial contact for families of English language learners and also as the ESOL link with the Ministry of Education for information. Widening teachers’ cultural knowledge was also supported by the principal and ESOL lead teacher through encouraging teacher involvement in the students’ Pasifika Pride performance group, visits to Pacific islands in holiday times, and visits to local community events. The ESOL lead teacher was clearly a role model in the school with ESOL expertise, cultural knowledge, and commitment to English language learners and the local community.”

Providing ESOL professional learning for teachers and for those in leadership, to ensure all educators are aware of English language learners’ needs and have the resources to meet them. English language learners are now present in most New Zealand classrooms so it is important that all teachers have some knowledge of how to best support their acquisition of English within mainstream classrooms.  The involvement of the principal and other leaders in relevant professional learning is a practice which is strongly supported from the synthesis of effective leadership studies by Robinson et al. (2009). If those in leadership are also involved in professional learning, this provides credibility and enables those in leadership to act as role models as well as gain essential knowledge of the field.

There are a number of ways that this knowledge could be developed. For example:

  • A teacher inquiry project focusing on English language learners could be a focus for professional learning in the school. There could be contributions from the ESOL TAs, other teachers, and an in-service teacher educator from the local university.
  • A school-wide focus on Literacy and English language learning professional development.
  • Providing staff professional development on understanding and using the various MOE ESOL resources e.g. SELLIPS, ELIP, ELLP and the MOE ESOL funding process.
  • Mentoring of teachers or developing time for classroom observations and feedback focused on scaffolding language learning for ELLs.
  • Encouraging teachers to apply for MOE TESSOL - Tuition fees scholarships. These scholarships to study towards a Teaching English in Schools for Speakers of Other Languages (TESSOL) qualification are offered by the Ministry of Education to teachers of new migrant, Pasifika and international students in state-funded primary, intermediate and secondary schools.
  • Time for the ESOL leader /teacher to attend ESOL cluster meetings and encouragement to take one other classroom teacher with them.
  • Paying for membership of professional groups and organisations such as TESOLANZ, or a subscription to a professional journal.
  • Providing a budget for purchasing text books for teachers e.g. on second language acquisition.
  • ESOL TAs professional development e.g working with ELLs and Bilingual Tutor certificate.
  • Principals up-skilling e.g. on immigration processes affecting newly arrived ESOL families.

Research found “promoting a culture of learning” (p. 56) in an organisation needed the involvement of everyone, and Suttmiller and Gonzalez (2006) also stress that the key to supporting English language learners in schools is the principal’s and other leaders’ understanding of their needs.

Empowering ESOL teaching and learning, to create the conditions, opportunities, and structuresneeded to support the needs of English language learners.

Creating conditions and opportunities to support ESOL teaching and learning is important if we want ELLs to thrive. Managing the teaching and learning environment includes staffing, instructional support, monitoring school activities, and creating the conditions and structures to empower teaching and learning. This may require leadership to restructure the organisation and redesign roles and responsibilities. School leaders create systems and structures for school wide ESOL assessment and planning; provide specialised ESOL teaching resources and PLD so that mainstream teachers know how to use them; develop collaborative structures that are understood and work for everyone; and provide sufficient time for professional learning.

Reflective Questions

  1. Is there a set of clear ESOL goals and an ESOL plan for the school? Can all staff articulate the plan? Does it need reviewing? Are the goals appropriate?
  2. Are the ESOL school leader, ESOL teacher and ESOL teacher Aides continuing to grow their professional knowledge? What opportunities are available that they could participate in?
  3. Are the school Principal and senior leadership team developing their knowledge and support of ESOL? Do they have a specific role to play in supporting ELLs?
  4. Do mainstream classroom teachers know how to identify appropriate language learning goals and write appropriate language objectives? Can they differentiate lessons and scaffold ELLs to success? Do they use the MOE ESOL resources regularly?
  5. Are their sufficient opportunities for ESOL professional development and is there a budget for supporting it? How long since staff had an in-depth focus on ESOL professional development, if ever?
  6. Do you have a team of people all contributing to the leadership of ESOL and the support of ELLs within your school? Where are the gaps? What are the opportunities?
  7. Do you have the structure and systems in place to manage and support the implementation of your ESOL plan and to support the teaching and assessment of ELLs? Have all staff had an opportunity to contribute to these structures and systems? 
  8. What do I need to endeavor to put in place or to change?