Making Dreams Come True for Multicultural Language Learners
Teachers design and create these themselves, using words and pictures based on their own schools and students to create a truly effective learning tool that multicultural students can immediately relate to.
Getting ahead in life is more difficult for students who do not have a good grasp of the local language. They find it harder to make friends or fully participate in school life. For some, life opportunities are limited in their country of origin, but their language abilities are insufficient for them to realise their dreams of a future in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong’s teachers have been grappling with how to teach Chinese to growing numbers of multicultural students. The city’s ethnic minority population grew by more than 70 percent from 2006 to 2016. Many teachers have little or no training in teaching Chinese as a second language. With a background in curriculum development in the Education Bureau (EDB), Dr Wai Ming Cheung of the Faculty of Education developed a multi-pronged approach to help teachers meet the needs of multicultural language learners of Chinese.
Dr Cheung and her team developed the Chinese Character Acquisition Assessment (CCAA) to pinpoint the difficulties that pre-school and primary school students were having in learning the language. After intense evaluation of teachers’ needs, the team also developed a two-tiered professional development model to teach teachers how to teach Chinese as a second language. The first tier comprises professional development talks on how to teach Chinese to culturally diverse student groups, followed by reflection and workshops where teachers practise the new teaching strategies. In observation and coaching, teachers implement what they have learnt in the classroom, while curriculum developers coach them and observe the lessons. Finally, teachers from different schools meet up to share their challenges and best practices. In the second tier, teachers put the theories into practice in their school setting.
A unique outcome has been the production of individual school-based picture books as a teaching aid. Teachers design and create these themselves, using words and pictures based on their own schools and students to create a truly effective learning tool that multicultural students can immediately relate to. The books encourage student learning by including pictures of school sites and facilities, making the learning practical, fun and multi-faceted.
The impact on students’ learning has been remarkable. Across 17 partner schools that benefitted from intensive on-site support and 22 schools with flexible support, participating students’ total CCAA scores for Chinese character learning rose to 144.05, an increase of 62.24 points. Scores for teachers’ Culturally Responsive Teaching Self-efficacy also rose. The project directly benefitted more than 1,500 students, 183 teachers and 39 schools. Schools’ response to the two-tiered model has been overwhelmingly positive with an appreciation score of 87.2 percent.
The team published three books encompassing the knowledge gained and successful strategies learnt from the project, which are now available on EDB’s website for all Hong Kong teachers to benefit from them.
Dr Wai Ming Cheung and Dr Sau Yan Hui received the Faculty Knowledge Exchange Award 2019 of the Faculty of Education for the project ‘Supporting Multicultural Dreamers and their Dreamkeepers in Culturally Relevant Chinese Language Learning for Social Inclusion’.