Learner centred approach and the bilingual child in the EFL classroom

Lauren Elizabeth McEvoy

My thesis ‘Learner centred approach and the bilingual child in the EFL classroom’ consists of two parts. The theoretical part deals with the definition of bilingualism and its various interpretations. It further discusses the issue of the growing number of bilingual children and finally lists three approaches that could be implemented to cater for the needs of bilingual children in a mixed level class. The three approaches include the principles of differentiated instruction, the benefits of a needs analysis and the subject of learner autonomy and how it can lead to more effective language learning as opposed to the teacher-directed approach.

The practical part of my thesis is based on a series of interviews conducted with bilingual children reflecting on their own learning. These interviews are considered to be the most valuable part of my research as they uncovered other problems that weren’t anticipated, like the insufficiency of language testing. I also had the opportunity to talk to the parents and the teachers of these children, which helped me to approach the matter from a different perspective. The repeating concerns included teachers with inadequate levels of English, unfair assessment, boring homework and the lack of speaking activities in the classroom. Several practical implications were derived from the information I discovered and these were narrowed down into target areas that require our attention. An initial needs analysis is crucial and should be conducted so materials can be varied and adapted to cater for various levels, assessment should be continuous and reflected upon, homework should be meaningful, learners should be given choice and most importantly teachers should be supported and provided with the opportunity to develop professionally.

The inspiration to write this thesis considering the topic of bilingualism and how bilingual children can improve their language stems from the fact that I am bilingual. I have been living in the Czech Republic from the age of twelve and so gained first-hand experience of the Czech education system, where I had to sit through tedious English lessons with no particular aim or purpose. I am very enthusiastic about this subject matter and I am already working on my next step in connection with this thesis, as I now teach at a primary school with a bilingual child in a classroom amongst complete beginners. My aim is to implement the changes I suggest and monitor their efficacy in practice and then hopefully use these findings in my diploma thesis.