Dec. 8, 2015

Language learning in the classroom

SSHRC funding allows Yan Guo to research the challenges faced by English as an Additional Language students

There’s no question about it, the face of Alberta is changing.  In 1988, for example, there were just under 15 thousand students enrolled in schools across the province for whom English was not their first language; by 2014 that number had grown to almost 80 thousand.

For large urban school districts like Calgary or Edmonton, that amounts to one in every four students in the average classroom.  And that’s a typical pattern found in other parts of Canada, especially in places like Ontario and British Columbia where immigration is high.

Considering this shift in demography, it is crucial to develop effective English as an Additional Language (EAL) policies, so that supports are in place for services and programs for students requiring the extra help.

“I care about the success of EAL children,” says Yan Guo, an associate professor in the Werklund School of Education.  “The educational success of immigrant children is pivotal for their social and economic contributions.”

“This success will, in turn, impact upon Canada’s future. For EAL students, families and communities – educational policies matter, shaping the resources and programs that they encounter in their everyday educational experiences.”

Guo has been awarded a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight Grant, with which she plans to investigate the development, implementation and community uptake of language policy for EAL students in Alberta, with a specific focus on current challenges as well as the possibilities for community involvement and advocacy.

“I’ll be looking for policy-makers at the provincial level, district administrators and EAL specialists, school administrators, EAL teachers, parents of EAL students, and community members who have suggestions for improved policies for EAL students.”

Guo hopes the results of the research will inform policies for EAL students, and that the research will bring new voices of the EAL parents into the educational policy process. “Results of this study will provide directions for EAL policies, programs and services, as well as new insights into the effectiveness of advocacy and capacity building of EAL parents, thus of knowledge mobilization processes.”

Anyone interested in participating in Guo’s project, or simply learning more about her research, can contact her at for more information.