M13U2A1 – Identifying a Research question

Originally, when I started teaching at my Thai Private Government School in 2013, the subjects were initially taught in Thai first, then the same subject matter would be reviewed in English with the Native foreign teacher.  In other words, the class subject matter is learnt first in their native language first (Thai) and then it would be reviewed and applied again in their second language in English.
I felt this encouraged the Thai and foreign staff to work collaborate together in planning and preparation for the classes ahead.  The foreign Native teachers and the Thai staff would agree on the vocabulary which would be used to benefit the children’s learning.  In my case, I teach ELL Science.  Therefore, I was collaborating with the Thai Science teacher to plan for future classes, projects and experiments. From 2013 – 2015 this was practised at our school and based on the student’s feedback, they felt this worked as they believed they had a better understanding of the topics and were better equipped to contribute in my English classes because they understood the material in Thai before hand.

However, since 2015 to current, the school’s pedagogy had been changed.  Currently,  all subjects will cover different topics and in some cases, they may cross-over but mostly independent.  As a result of this, I felt the change made comprehension of the topics in English harder to obtain in comparison to the methods used before.  Students have also given feedback over claiming it’s harder for them to comprehend.  Nevertheless, the school do not want to change the teaching practice.
Bearing in mind, my school is a private government school.  The students’ proficiency in English varies from the age groups.  Also, some students will have change from standard government schools to this school with little to no experience in learning English.  However, the school will not offer a beginner’s class/extra support classes for these new students as they feel it will single the student out and cause attention in labelling them low achieving etc.
For me specifically in Middle School Science, I believe it can be difficult to attain a valid assessment of content knowledge if they are unable to apply their understanding to real world problems because some terms were lost in their understanding and translation.

Thus based on my experiences, I wondered what is the best instructional method this school can use to try and improve the teaching of Science academic language for these students, in terms of time and efficiency? Or more specifically, what is the most effective instructional approach to assist ELL students to acquire the academic language and content knowledge necessary to succeed in Science for Grades 7, 8 and 9 classrooms in my Private Government Bilingual school, in particular assessing investigation and application of content?

I think it would be interesting and helpful to see what are the best practices which can be put in place to help maximise the learning experience of all the ELL students in their subjects for proficiency in English and Science.  I’m not sure what grade to target as of yet as I teach middle school. My research question may concern 7th, 8th or 9th grade ELL students and how best to learn and teach academic language and content knowledge.
I suppose specifically my research question could be;

What is the most effective instructional approach to assist ELL students to acquire the proficiency in the academic language and content knowledge necessary to succeed in my Private Bilingual Government School in Thailand?



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