June, 2012: Breeze Issue #56

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Effectiveness of Japanese-English Dual Language Immersion Programs in the U.S.
Phase 1: Case Study – Japanese Language Curriculum and Its Outcomes –

Hitomi Oketani, Ph.D.
Professor
Eastern Michigan University

This Case Study is a part of a larger scope of project (EMU-JASSEM Project) which we (1) Investigate what ways of curriculum are the most effective in regards to teach Japanese language to children who study at Japanese-English Dual-Language Immersion Programs in the U.S., and (2) Investigate whether there are any causal factors influencing Japanese language achievement and academic development. Although the classroom observations and interviews to teachers and/or administrations of different types of Japanese-English immersion schools only included a limited number of schools in this case study, all programs achieved highly academically. We could observe that there is not much difference in Japanese language outcomes among different types of dual language immersion programs (one-way partial immersion, one-way total immersion or two-way immersion programs). This is mainly because each school has different perspectives towards student outcomes of Japanese language.  Most of their concern is students’ academic achievement rather than Japanese language achievement. In addition, lack of student enrolment, limited budget, and student individual aspects such as behavior and discipline problems, create different causal factors for schools to have difficulty in maintaining or developing students’ Japanese language skills. However, at least the following aspects were confirmed across programs.

  1. Parental involvement is crucial to the program (e.g. homework, reading support, school activities and events);
  2. Teachers’ high expectation to students are critical;
  3. Strong leadership with good knowledge on bilingual/multilingual education, is present;
  4. Teacher’s instruction is developmentally appropriate (e.g. learner’s current stage of language development, age, conceptual development, ability, attention span, special aids);
  5. Teacher’s Instruction is student-centered, content-based, thematic approach and stimulating students’ motivation to the real world;
  6. Collaboration among teachers themselves (articulation, across curriculum) as well as collaboration among teachers, parents, school administrators, are crucial for students’ Japanese and English language development and academic success.

Each individual student’s success is the main agenda for schools. School programs that are committed to caring, developing, and engaging all students at all levels are crucial for our facing Era of Inclusion. A key part of that commitment is to secure, maintain and develop diverse students and community that can help us meet the continually evolving needs of our society. To reinforce the commitment, in this case study, we investigated the most effective process, strengthened pedagogy, and its implementation. Going forward, we hope that our findings may provide helpful insight for well-designed teaching and schooling towards educating better globally competent citizens.

*Picture of Student from HINOKI International School

2011-2012 Fiscal year’s Japanese Language Education Research Grant