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EAL strategies to go Dutch?

A Dutch and British research project aims to help primary teachers with EAL students

The results of an innovative research project to be published this November aims to help answer a critical question: how can we best help young, nonnative speakers acquire language in an English medium class?

The British Council-funded project led by Dr Dieuwerke (‘Dee’) Rutgers of the University of Cambridge’s Faculty of

Education, involves both Dutch CLIL teachers and British primary teachers whose classes include children for whom English is additional language (EAL).

The research compares multilingual primary school classes in the UK with primary school CLIL teaching in the Netherlands, and focuses on teaching theory and classroom strategies used by teachers working with nine-to-twelve year-olds in both countries. The two groups of teachers were made up of mainstream teachers, not language specialists, who had received some training in either in CLIL, in the case of the Dutch, or EAL methodology used in British schools.

Dr Rutgers told the Gazette that the project aims to produce self-assessment tools for multilingual EAL and CLIL teachers to help them identify gaps in their classroom practice.

According Dr Rutgers, the development of theory and practice of L2 medium education, both in EAL and CLIL contexts, is still “in its early stages”.

The project is also looking at “theorisation” – the theoretical underpinning of teaching strategies, and whether there are any gaps in the theory which might explain differences.

In the Netherlands, primary CLIL is generally limited to pilot “bilingual models” in select primary schools. In these bilingual model classes, around 30 per cent of any given lesson will be in English. This contrasts with UK classes, which typically contain native-speaker children, as well those children from many different language backgrounds. In these classes, there are wide variations in the literacy and English language levels and how closely their first language is to English. Differentiated material, used to meet the varied needs of students, is key in EAL teaching in both settings.

According to Dr Rutgers, teaching in the Netherlands has not really considered the benefits of multilingualism in foreign language acquisition. She hopes the research will help primary school CLIL teachers learn from EAL practice, and go beyond “the odd lesson” in English, to develop implementation of CLIL in their everyday teaching. For more information, see:

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Matt Salusbury
Matt Salusbury
MATT SALUSBURY, news editor and journalist, has worked for EL Gazette since 2007. He is also joint Chair of the London Freelance Branch of the National Union of Journalists and co-edits its newsletter, the Freelance. He taught English language for 15 years in the Netherlands, in Turkey, in a North London further education college and now as an English for Academic Purposes tutor, most recently at the London School of Economics. He is a native English speaker and is also fluent in Dutch.
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