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Pauline Rea-Dickins, Guoxing Yu, Oksana Afitska (Bristol) Zuleikha Khamis (State University of Zanzibar) Examination underachievement: is there a language.

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Presentation on theme: "Pauline Rea-Dickins, Guoxing Yu, Oksana Afitska (Bristol) Zuleikha Khamis (State University of Zanzibar) Examination underachievement: is there a language."— Presentation transcript:

1 Pauline Rea-Dickins, Guoxing Yu, Oksana Afitska (Bristol) Zuleikha Khamis (State University of Zanzibar) Examination underachievement: is there a language factor?

2 2 Outline of this presentation Overview of research context and issues Overview of study and research aims Some data Discussion & some conclusions

3 3 Context of Learning Khadija is 15 years old and in Form 2 of secondary school. Her learning in primary school was entirely through the medium of Kiswahili, with English taught as a subject. She experienced an abrupt shift from Kiswahili as medium of instruction on transition to secondary school as in Form 1 she was expected to learn all her subjects through English. However, in reality both her L1 (Kiswhahili) and L2 (English) were used when she was being taught Maths, Science, Geography and her other subjects. But, at the end of Form 2 she is required to demonstrate her subject learning in formal school examinations through the medium of English.

4 4 The Research Rationale: –Significant numbers of learners in SSA have to demonstrate their learning through an L2/L3 –BUT: little is known about how learners might be disadvantaged in demonstrating subject learning through an L2/L3 Located in Zanzibar: islands of Unguja, Pemba, Tumbatu

5 5 Research Aims What evidence is there that language constitutes a determining factor in the demonstration of achievement in formal examination of school subject knowledge? What is the impact of different examination formats and accommodations to extend the ways in which childrens understanding may be examined in the 3 core areas: English, Maths, Science: Biology & Chemistry

6 6 What are the stakes? –55% leave primary education as unsuccessful learners; Alidou et al. 2006) –Participation rates are very low in Basic Education: 38% (UNESCO, 2007:58) –Exams are high stakes: e.g. only 27% of pupils who begin school in SA exist with a school leaving certificate after the twelfth grade (Heugh 2000:30)

7 7

8 8 Data & Findings Linguistic findings affecting performance: –Lexical knowledge: not understanding individual words or phrases, assigning wrong meaning to words –Pronunciation effects –Processing examination rubrics –Examination formats and question types –Choice of language for exams

9 9 Data & Findings Non-linguistics factors affecting performance: –Topics not covered in class or insufficient practice –Lack of resources, e.g. books or equipment for science lessons –Work in the home environment

10 10 Data & Findings Typical Form 2 examination questions & data (see handout)

11 11 Discussion: Class Participation & Marginalised Groups (Data from Study 4) Restricted opportunities for reading & writing Lack of follow up tasks that might develop explanatory skills, use language spontaneously, develop a sense of genre specific writing Teachers tend to focus on same, few learners in class & these tend to be the better students: the weaker learners are a seriously marginalised group Severely limited resources: focus on BB work Switch to L1 for discussion: pair or group work

12 12 Discussion: Classroom Discourse (Data from Study 4) Much teacher L2 talk is very restricted (see also Probyn, 2005; Hornberger & Chick, 2001): -limited L2 proficiency: TT are L2 speakers & their linguistic repertoires is shallow (Prophet & Badede, 2007); leads to watering down of content, simplification of ideas; dominant Qn types encourage recall/review of prior knowledge -repetition of words & phrases; sentence completion & rote learning: factual recall; reading aloud or from BB; Q&A routines with single word/short answers -almost no evidence of a strong scaffold in L2 for either content or language learning; little or no exploratory talk as basis for discourse-specific writing in L2; some evidence in L1.

13 13 Some Conclusions YES there IS a language factor: (i) SS inadequately prepared for examinations –Lack of exposure to rich language models –Little opportunity to: exchange meanings, to develop skills of reasoning, explanation, justification = lack of practice in learning talk and exposure to genre for learning –Yet: exams require learners to explain (sequential or causal explanations), argue, organise information through describing, discussing, evaluation … –Some (but little overall) evidence of a language focus in the subject classes & of a cross-curricula focus in the English classes: lack of opportunities for language development

14 14 Some Conclusions (ii) The examinations themselves in English pose difficulties to the learners (iii) There are other crucial mediating factors, e.g.: –Teachers struggle in their use of the L2 and cannot provide the rich and varied linguistic environments for the development of subject learning and L2 abilities as preparation for the formal high stakes examinations at end of Form 2

15 15 Some Conclusions Lack of resources (e.g. graph paper is drawn on the BB; no periodic tables for Chemistry, no textbooks for learners) Teacher Certification: many Form 2 teachers are Form 4 school leavers …..

16 16 Some Conclusions Is language THE factor in examination underachievement??

17 Pauline Rea-Dickins, Guoxing Yu, Oksana Afitska, Bristol Zuleikha Khamis, State University of Zanzibar Examination underachievement: is there a language factor?

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