Home Improvement

Erica McDonald argues that self-efficacy is a key factor in improving the bilingual education of elementary students

It is evident that the number of bilingual students is growing in elementary classrooms all over the nation. In the past decade, concern about meeting the needs of the growing population of English learner’s in the U.S. has increased among educators and policy makers (O’Day, 2009, p.97). An important factor of this growth is how well our elementary classrooms in the United States (U.S.) provide the proper environment for English language learners to thrive. This article investigates the connection between the self-efficacy and achievement of bilingual students in U.S. elementary classrooms.

Previous studies over the years have provided educators with a much stronger understanding of effective classroom strategies that help English learners succeed in school (Teale, 2009, p. 699). Studies have addressed ways to improve bilingual education through the adoption of various techniques, methods, and discourses. English language education and the success of children immigrating into U.S. classrooms has become a critical issue. This reality makes it necessary to explore the experiences of English language learners in order to assess the effectiveness of current teaching approaches.

It is necessary to consider self-efficacy in the overall evaluation of effective bilingual education. According to Moen and Allgood (2009), self-efficacy refers to what the individual can do with the skills he or she possesses and how confident individuals are that they can successfully perform a task (p.72). As second language learners, this concept for many children can be key to their ability to master a new language. Self-efficacy can bring insight into how student confidence in their own abilities can actually impact their classroom performance. As a result, self-efficacy is a critical component when proposing beneficial and innovative directions for successfully educating second language learners at the elementary level.

When discussing the self-efficacy of students, it is important to understand some of the components that are also related in order to gain a holistic view of this concept as it relates to English language learners in the elementary classroom environment. Leger (2009) explains that to first understand self-efficacy one must look at anxiety as an interrelated factor. Leger (2009) describes anxiety as a major impediment on learning, particularly on self-efficacy, and for learning to take place anxiety levels should be lowered while self-efficacy should be encouraged (p. 160). In discussing the self-efficacy of bilingual students, Leger’s (2009) notion that the component of anxiety is interrelated with one’s beliefs about his or her abilities, is a relevant and engaging approach that must be considered.

Educators must consider the contributing factors that impact all students in order to develop a multi-dimensional view of how to improve education. It is important for teachers to consider how their teaching strategies and classroom environment may influence students’ feelings about their work and their learning processes (McMahon et al., 2009, p.278). Although there are many key aspects of elementary education that have been researched in order to make necessary improvements, there must unquestionably be other components involved as we strive to truly educate the ‘whole child.’ The idea that educators can work on the underlying foundations of learning, such as self-efficacy, to improve student achievement is a relevant component in the education of the culturally and linguistically diverse. It is important for elementary educators to consider concepts such as self-efficacy in order to take a multi-dimensional approach to issues in education.

Léger, D.. (2009). “Self-Assessment of Speaking Skills and Participation in a Foreign Language Class” Foreign Language Annals, 42(1), 158-178. Retrieved April 28, 2010, from ProQuest Education Journals. (Document ID: 1908544121).
McMahon, S., Wernsman, J., & Rose, D. (2009). “The Relation of Classroom Environment and School Belonging to Academic Self-Efficacy Among Urban Fourth-and Fifth-Grade Students” Elementary School Journal, 109(3), 267-281. Retrieved from Education Research Complete database.
Moen, F., & Allgood, E. (2009). “Coaching and the Effect on Self-Efficacy” Organization Development Journal, 27 (4), 69-82.
O’Day, J. (2009). “Good instruction is Good for Everyone — Or is it? English language learners in a balances literacy approach” Journal of Education for Students Places at Risk, 14, 97-119.
Teale, W. (2009). “Students Learning English and their Literacy Instruction in Urban Schools” Reading Teacher, 62(8), 699-703. Retrieved from Education Research Complete database.

Erica MacDonald ([email protected]) is a Master of Arts in Teaching candidate at Trinity University in Washington, D.C. She earned my Bachelor of Arts in Communication from George Mason University in 2008, and is currently living abroad in Seoul, South Korea and working for the Department of Defense Education Activity.