The Office of Faculty Development

Language Development Through Coursework

All students who enter our class come with specific language learning needs.  For example, some students may speak a native language other than English.  These students will enroll in our classes with varying levels of prior experience reading, writing, listening, and speaking in English.  

Likely all of our students will enroll in our classes needing varying levels of support in accessing and developing the academic language specific to our fields and necessary for our courses.  Consider that students with little prior experience in computer programming and algorithms will lack much of the relevant academic language when first enrolling in a first semester programming course.

It is also important to recognize that learning is a continual process and that all of our students, regardless of native language and prior academic experiences, are in the process of developing their language and literacy skills.

There are research based strategies and best practices that are known to support the language development needs of our students.  The effectiveness of these strategies will vary from student to student and depending on context and language development goals.

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    Examine selected research on language development: 

    Cumming, A.  (2013).  Multiple dimensions of academic language literacy developmentLanguage learning.  63(1) 130-152. in new window)

    Borgioli, G. M. (2008). Equity for English Language Learners in the Mathematics Classroom. Teaching Children Mathematics15(3), 185–191. in new window)

    Lee, O. (2005). Science education with English language learners: Synthesis and research agenda. Review of Educational Research75(4), 491–530. in new window)

    Lin, H., & Chen, T. (2006). Decreasing cognitive load for novice EFL learners: Effects of question and descriptive advance organizers in facilitating EFL learners’ comprehension of an animation-based content lesson. System (Linköping)34(3), 416–431. in new window)

    Shyyan, V., Thurlow, M. L., & Liu, K. K. (2008). Instructional Strategies for Improving Achievement in Reading, Mathematics, and Science for English Language Learners With Disabilities. Assessment for Effective Intervention33(3), 145–155. in new window)


    Ready to apply language development strategies to your teaching? Here are some ideas and strategies to get you started:

    1. Create an advance organizer(opens in new window) for students to use to take lecture notes or guide their work during an activity.
    2. Plan opportunities for students to engage in discourse related to the topic you are teaching.  This provides opportunities for students to engage in what Michael Long(opens in new window) calls negotiation of meaning(opens in new window).
    3. Review lecture materials to ensure that they contain visuals that support students in understanding the language being used (both academic language and formal or informal English).
    4. Plan a learning activity where students will work with real objects or manipulatives to complete a content-specific task.  Be sure to provide discourse opportunities during this activity.
    5. Explicitly connect the academic or formal language used in class to informal, accessible language used by your students.