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Multi-tiered System of Learning for EAL: A strategic approach


Over the years that I've been working with schools (many!) I've struggled to define clearly what excellent EAL provision should look like in a generic sense. Taking a context-embedded approach, design for EAL provision has always been innately linked to the school context in terms of location, staffing, students, and other factors that impact language programming. While this bespoke approach works for each indivudual school, it's not helpful in developing a generalisable model that any school could apply and use.

I've worked with several schools recently that are developing approaches to supporting students across academic, behavourial, and social spheres using a Multi-tiered System of Supports (see, for example: I-MTSS).


I've discussed in past posts like this one the pressing need to be more systematic and transparent in our programming for EAL in schools, and this model inspired me to create a similarly consistent structure to visualise what EAL programming should look like in schools. In creating this model I wanted to highlight three things:

  1. The 'EAL Team' at a school includes every person who interacts with language learner students in a teaching capacity. Our EAL specialists form the core of the team, but if 'every teacher is a language teacher' then we also need to recognise that every teacher (and support staff too) carry responsibility for the development of EAL across the school.

  2. As much as EAL provision needs to be student-centred and agile, it can also be consistent and transparent.

  3. EAL staff wear many hats, not all of them are comfortable for each person!

 

In this first post I am going to present the Multi-tiered System of Learning for EAL© and what each tier should encompass. In the subsequent posts I will discuss EAL staff profiles, resourcing, and protocols.




In this model I have used the proficiency bands from the Bell Assessment Framework to demonstrate the levels targeted by each tier, with Band A being Beginner and Band E Fluent. The model can be adapted around any other proficiency tracker as well. I've nested the three tiers to visually indicate that students receiving Tier 3 provisions are also receiving Tier 1 and Tier 2 as well, and students can also be receiving Tier 2 and Tier 3. What is most important in this model is that all students can benefit from Tier 1 learning opportunities; language-rich teaching is not only for students with developing English!


The second aspect of the model is the structured approach to curriculum development, with each Tier having a clear internal structure that is well-articulated in terms of entry, progress, exit, and curriculum content.



As you can see, the approach in each Tier is different, as the language development needs of students are different. Tier 1 falls within the regular teaching, and provides enhanced explicit focus on language across the curriculum, which allows for a well-articulated language progression to sit within our curriculum progression. Tier 2 targets mainly (but not only) students who have a sufficient level to be accessing the mainstream classroom, but provides specific support for skill development. And Tier 3 is a carefully designed intensive EAL programme, to accelerate English language development across the first two proficiency levels.


In the next post I will talk about staffing and resourcing the MTSL EAL, but in the meantime I'd love to hear what you think!

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