ESL Versus Mainstream Classes
The College of New Jersey
In the article, ESL versus Mainstream Classes: Contrasting L2 Learning Environments (TESOL Quarterly, Vol. 28, No. 2, summer 1994). Linda Harklau explores the differences between ESL and mainstream classes. The article is a result of an ethnographic study of new comer students in a San Francisco Bay area high school. Harklau felt that in order for ESOL students to successfully transition into mainstream classes the differences in instruction in the two types of classes must be identified as well as the advantages and disadvantages of both learning environments. Harklau conducted her study over a 3 ½ year period. The subjects were newcomers to the San Francisco Bat area and were all Chinese ethnic students. She chose these students for the sample group because they represented the predominant group in the ESL program. Her study consisted of 315 hours of classroom observations, samples of homework, samples of schoolwork, school records, and 38 formal interviews. What Harklau found was that there were two significant ways in which the instructions differed. First was the organization and goals of instruction and second was the contrast in the types of social interactions that occurred in each environment. Organization and goals of instruction refers to how and written and spoken language was used, how teacher’s goals affected content, and how and to what degree feedback was given. Harklau found that while the mainstream classrooms offered lots of opportunity to get meaningful input and offered many opportunities for interactions in writing, there was very little opportunity for students to interact orally in the classroom. The classroom were structured very traditionally (in rows) and consisted of the traditional teacher lecture format. In the ESL, classroom Harklau found quite the opposite...
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