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Hands on Assignment #2

Data on Diversity
As a teacher in a program of choice, such as the French Immersion program, my
assumption was that my students were academically and culturally homogenous.
Because the program presents unique challenges as students acquire a second (or
additional) language, it typically attracts students who are fortunate to be academically
successful as well as students who have involved and supportive home environments .
In his report School Program Choice and Streaming: Evidence from French Immersion
Programs, Christopher Worswick (2003) explains that “[a]n important feature of French
Immersion programs is that they are academically demanding. The children are
expected to achieve the same minimum level of performance over the same curriculum
as children in other programs while also having to master a second language,
French.” (Worswick, 2003 p.3). However, while my students might all have similar
academic gusto, I am less confident in the homogeneity of their personal and cultural
backgrounds. Perhaps my assumption was incorrect; I could not only be teaching
French language learners, but English language learners as well. As such, I wanted to
identify the languages spoken at home by my French Immersion students. As this report
explains, my class was more diverse than I originally assumed. This cultural and
linguistic diversity is important to note because, as students learn French, they draw
upon and make connections to their maternal language.
I teach primarily in the Late French Immersion program where Grade 7 students
are just beginning their formal French education. As much of my practice stems from
pedagogy which encourages making connections to the students" maternal language
(L1), it is important for me to know what their diverse L1s are as to not make
assumptions that they are all anglophones. As an anglophone myself with extensive
French education and training as a French teacher, I often revert back to English when
explaining grammatical concepts and structures. In order to ensure that this is
meaningful for my students, it is important to understand the diverse linguistic
background of my students.
Data Source
My main sources for information on students" L1s are the school board based
Student Information Records System (SIRS) and an introductory survey I ask students
to complete at the beginning of the school year. Both sources rely on voluntary self-
reporting by the participants. Data in SIRS is acquired through forms that are completed
by parents at the beginning of every school year which is then inputed by the school"s
administrative assistant. The introductory survey is completed by students in the first
week of school during class time while students are on individual computers. Through
both sources, I am able to identify the students home language(s), and also identify
which students are English Language Learners (ELL) as well as French language
Hopkins (2000) defines the reliability of data as #the reproducibility of a
measurement. You quantify reliability simply by taking several measurements on the
same subjects.” I believe that this data is reliable as it is reported on twice, and by both
parents and students. Having parents report on home language use removes as social
pressures that the students my face in their self-reporting of their language use. What
the data does not represent, however, is the students" accuracy of English language
use. This is important to note as the data collected is used to measure the effectiveness
of relating French language structures to their parallel English structure. However, this
data does not ask students or parents to report on the students" competencies in
English. While my intention is to gather information on the students" level of English
language knowledge, I am really just making assumptions based upon their primary
home language.
This year"s data reflects that only a small percentage of my 38 Grade 7 Late
French Immersion students do not primarily speak English at home. The other primary
languages represented in my students are Spanish, Turkish and Cantonese. Eight of
the 38 students identified a secondary language spoken at home. These languages
include Russian, Italian, Serbian, and Hindi. Two of these eight students identified
English as their secondary home language.
While I was aware that many of my students had diverse linguistic backgrounds, I was
surprised at even the small percentage of students who identify a primary home
language other than English. I have conducted this survey and collected this data over
the past two years, but upon further reflection, I am not sure that this data is useful to
my practice. I do believe that it is important to understand the linguistic backgrounds of
my students, but moving forward, I would supplement this information with a more
thorough look at their competencies in English as to not make assumptions based on
their linguistic diversities.
Governement of Alberta (2010). Handbook for French Immersion Administrators. Alberta
Hopkins, W.G. (2000). Measures of reliability in sports medicine and science. Sports
Medicine 30, 1-15
Worswick, C. (2003). School Program Choice and Streaming: Evidence from French
Immersion Programs. CREF, May 2003, Carleton University. Ottawa, Canada.