Discuss the different approaches to language programme evaluation.

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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According to the US Office of Civil Rights (OCR), federal law neither defines nor prescribes a specific model of evaluation for ELL programs. For this reason, each district will have its own approach in place. Among these approaches, the following factors must be taken into consideration to determine whether the program is meeting the original goals that it aimed to accomplish. Also, these factor may aid to provide a qualitative or quantitative measure as to the actual rate of success of the program implementation:

a) Data: The first thing to ask is how the ELL program is collecting the data showing student progress, strengths, and/or weaknesses. Without data there is no point of having any educational program in place because there has to be a starting and ending point to every basic lesson. How would the ELL teacher know where to start or when to cease instruction if nobody knows what the student knows or what the student has learned?

b) Scope: Does the program correctly identifies the ELL? How does the program define what is an ELL? What resources are in place? Where are resources coming from? Who evaluates them? How does the program ensure the proper placement of students

c) Transition Criteria: How does the program "graduate" the student onto the mainstream classroom? This takes us back to how important data is.

d) Alignment of the goals: Which standards is the ELL program covering? What organization/learning institution will these standards follow?

e) Improvement Plan: How does the ELL program determine its highest level of accomplishment through an ongoing self-assessment. Does the ELL program see itself static, or dynamic? All programs should be considered dynamic, as they are supposed to transform along with an ever-changing society.

f) Continuous self-assessment: The program leadership, the teachers, and the students must work together and maintain an on-going system of assessment where they can more clearly see where they are heading as far as the goals of the organization goes. In all educational programs there is NO such thing as an "endpoint". All educational programs, specifically ELL programs, change in tandem with its clientele.

These factors can be analyzed under a qualitative approach . For example, scope, transition criteria, and improvement plan are all part of the qualitative approach of research. This approach can be broken down into empirical or ethnographic to determine the success of the factors discussed.

Empirical approaches are helpful but seldom recommended as the ONLY approach to determine the success of a program, because this type of research can be biased and flawed. They often accompany an ethnographic research model.

Ethnographic research can be used to qualitatively analyze the effects of the learning experience in the ELL. Through observations, a measure of progress could be obtain by understanding how the approaches affect the student.

Now, the best bet would be a quantitative approach. Data and goal alignment can be studied under a quantitative approach that can determine pre and post-test results and hence predict and analyze student progress. Quantitative research is done in aims to establish a correlation between the goals of the program and the data of student success. Therefore, using a general linear model, or a non linear as it may be the case, the program's effectiveness is best measured quantitatively.

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