Lindsay Mann: Comparing teaching models for non-English speakers

As the number of students in the United States who speak little or no English continues to grow, school systems have turned largely to one of two approaches for teaching such children. As part of an undergraduate research project, 2011 graduate Lindsay Mann compared the models – English as a Second Language and Spanish Dual Language – to see which one was more efficient.

Working under the guidance of associate professor Carolyn Stuart in the School of Education, Mann analyzed traditional ESL programs, iwhich remove students from the classroom for specialized English instruction, and dual language programs, in which students are taught in both languages in the same classroom. Her interest in the subject was sparked by her mother, an elementary school teacher who worked with a large number of English language learners. After visiting her mother’s school during her high school years, Mann knew immediately she wanted to learn the teaching techniques her mother used with the students.

Her observations and research leave no gray area when it comes to which program she believes works better.

“Students don’t learn to appreciate other cultures in the ESL model,” Mann said. “The goal of the program is to solely teach them English quickly and get them back in the classroom to learn other subjects.”

Because students in Spanish Dual Language programs spend half of the day learning in Spanish and the other learning in English, this model uses the cultural differences of both English-speaking students and English language learners to better teach all students about language and language differences, she said. Studies show students participating in these types of programs learn to accept differences among people at a very early age, Mann adds, and they score higher on standardized tests than students in ESL programs. Part of that may be because teachers in Spanish Dual Language programs use a higher number of visual and audible techniques for conveying information.

An elementary education major and Spanish minor from Atlanta, Ga., Mann found she could relate to her research because of study abroad experiences in Honduras and Spain that required her to learn a second language. She hopes to begin teaching at an elementary school that uses the Spanish Dual Language model and to one day develop her own dual language school.

“I think that, as an educator, I have an ethical responsibility to educate children in the best way possible,” Mann said. “Through my research, I have found that my passion is in learning how to best educate English language learners.”