English Language Teaching

One of the aims of the Singapore Ministry of Education is to ensure that all school-going children receive a minimum ten years of general education. Streaming is one way to ensure that all students are taught according to their academic ability, and “learn at a pace which they can cope. ” (Coping with Singaporeans’ Concerns, 2001, p. 4).

At the primary school level, remediation programmes such as the “Learning Support Programme (LSP) and the Encouragement Achievement and Better Learning (ENABLE) Programmes” are made available to assist students who have been assessed as weak in English and Mathematics (Coping with Singaporeans’ concerns, 2001, p. 4). At secondary level, the Normal Technical (NT) stream was implemented in 1994 to cater to students who are less academically inclined. The majority of the learning-disabled students will be found in the NT stream.

In NT stream, students follow a less rigorous curriculum which focuses on English and Mathematics, and more hands-on learning experiences. The NT curriculum basically prepares students for vocational/technical academic and career paths. Unlike primary schools where there are remediation programmes to support students who are identified as weak in academic performance or “learning-disabled”, little attention is given to NT stream students, especially students with learning disabilities.

This can be attributed to a number of reasons such as exclusion of NT stream students’ performance at National Examinations from the school league table, and inadequately-trained general education teachers to teach students with special educational needs. For any remediation programmes that are available, they are provided at an ad hoc basis by out-of-school “ethnic self-help groups and voluntary welfare organizations” (Coping with Singaporeans’ concerns, 2001, p. 4).

Research has revealed that NT students suffer from “low self-esteem”, “achievement motivation”, and “poor study habits” as they progress up the levels in secondary schools (Chan, 1996). One of the main reasons for the poor academic performance of NT students is that most NT students face problems following lessons in class. All subjects, with the exception of Mother Tongue subject, are taught in English, and most NT students suffer from poor competency in English. The reason being most of these students use non-English languages or dialects at home and in other social context. .

English is one of the four official languages in Singapore. English is also the language of public administration, commerce, education and the lingua franca among the different racial groups in Singapore. Therefore, according to the Singapore Ministry of Education, “the ability to speak and write English effectively, therefore, has become an essential skill in the workplace, and a mastery of English is vital to Singapore’s pupils. ” (MOE, English Language Syllabus 2001, p. 2). Teachers play a critical role in modeling the appropriate English language use, both spoken and written, for students in school.

See Appendix I for Ministry of Education’s 2001 English Language Syllabus for Primary and Secondary Schools) The following literature review will examine look at the research and literature on language teaching for learning-disable students, particularly at secondary school level. First, it will describe the definitions of “learning disabilities” and the academic characteristics of adolescents. Next, it will review studies on teaching approaches and strategies for reading and written expression. This will be followed by a brief analysis of the applicability of the reviewed teaching approaches and strategies in the Singapore schools.

Definitions IDEA has defined those with specific learning disabilities as “a heterogeneous group of students who, despite adequate cognitive functioning and the ability to learn some skills and strategies quickly, and easily, have great difficulty learning other skills and strategies” (Vaughn, Bos & Schum, 2000, p. 133). Students are identified as having a specific learning disability if they (Vaughn, Bos & Schum, 2000, p. 133): 1. do not achieve commensurate with his or her age and ability level in one or more of several specific areas when provided with appropriate learning experiences. 2. ave a severe discrepancy between achievement and intellectual ability in one or more of these seven areas: oral expression, listening comprehension, written expression, basic reading skills, reading comprehension, mathematics calculation and mathematics reasoning.

3. need special education services. Other factors that may have contributed to the “discrepancy between ability and achievement” such as “visual, hearing, or motor disability, mental retardation, emotional disturbance and environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage” do not constitute as a specific learning disabilities (Vaughn, Bos & Schum, 2000, p. 33). Students with a “language-learning disability” or “language disorder” faced difficulties in various aspects of language such as comprehension, expression, speech and vocabulary. A specific language disorder is similar to learning disability in that difficulties in learning language is not caused by “sensory impairment, motor problems, mental retardation, emotional problems, or environmental deprivation. ” (Ashmen & Elkins, 1990, p. 416). Academic Characteristics of Learning-Disabled Adolescents. Research has indicated that adolescents with learning disabilities display the following academic characteristics.

First, they tend to under-achieve in one or more academic subjects (Vaughn & Schum, 2000, p. 135; Larkin & Ellis, 1998, p. 565; Ashmen & Elkins, 1990, p. 357). They also lack the basic academic skills to cope with the academic expectations (Ellis & Larkin, 1998, p. 564). Next, they utilize ineffective or inefficient information processing or learning strategies in areas which they are weak in (Vaughn & Schum, 2000, p. 135). They lack problem-solving skills or the ability to reflect on their thinking processes, and use their cognitive strategies on decision-making to ensure successful completion of tasks (Ashmen & Elkins, 1990, p. 58). Finally, they fail to generalize skills. Although these learning-disabled adolescents may be equipped with various basic skills, they are unable to use these skills “systematically in problem-solving situations” either because they have not been taught how to or they do not know how to apply their knowledge across settings (Ashmen & Elkins, 1990, p. 358).

Teaching Strategies for Reading Skills and Reading Comprehension 1. Reading Problems Studies have pointed to three models of learning to read which are the “top-down” model, “bottom-up” model and “interactive model” (Bartel, 1986, p. 4, 25; Robinson, 1996b, p. 194). The “top-down” model means that readers focus on their understanding of the text or content, while the “bottom-up” model suggests that readers focus on the meaning of individual words. The interactive model combines both the “top-down” and “bottom-up” models, which means that the readers constantly shift between their cognitive understanding of the text, and the meaning of individual words (Bartel, 1986, p. 25). It is suggested that good readers utilise the higher levels of “top-down” and “interactive” reading models, whereas poor readers tend to rely on the “bottom-up” model.

This is because when poor readers try to “de-code” or “identify individual words”, less attention is given to understanding the meaning of the text or content (Robinson, 1996b, p. 197). Research has also shown that common reading problems among learning-disabled adolescents include poor decoding and word recognition skills, word substitutions, poor comprehension, punctuation errors, lack of expression, word-by-word reading, loss of place in reading and poor memory retrieval (Masters & Mori, 1986, p. 22).

Poor comprehension skills of learning-disabled adolescents is often the outcome of their poor vocabulary and “literal interpretations of figurative language such as idiomatic expression, metaphors and proverbs”, as well as poor mastery of linguistic concepts such as before/after (Ashmen & Elkins, 1990, pp. 419, 420). Therefore, semantic knowledge such as limited vocabulary and reliance on word recognition mechanisms affect fluent reading and comprehension more than syntactic knowledge such as grammatical rules.

This is because a poor reader “devotes more resources to the local level of word recognition”, therefore further straining “an already inefficient comprehension system. ” (Robinson, 1996b, p. 206; Stanovich, 1994, p. 262). 2. Teaching Strategies Many studies have been conducted on teaching strategies for learning-disabled students with reading problems. The behavioural approach, which focuses on modifying the deficient academic behaviour, was been popular in the 1970s (Neeper & Lahey, 1988, p. 5; Warren & Yoder, 1994, p. 49). However, in recent years, the cognitive approach, which emphasise on invoking learning-disabled students’ thinking processes, has gain increasing popularity (Warren & Yoder, 1994, 249. The following will review a number of common teaching strategies, utilised to improve the reading skills and comprehension of learning-disabled secondary school students. The teaching strategies are classified according to teacher-centred and student-centred approaches. A. Teacher-Centred Approaches Direct Teaching/Explicit Teaching

Research has revealed that direct or explicit teaching of reading is effective for improving learning-disabled students’ reading performance and comprehension skills (Bartel, 1986, p. 55; Gardill & Jitendra, 1999, p. 2; Stanovich, 1994, p. 2). In direct teaching, the teacher explains, models, demonstrates, and leads (Bartel, 1986, p. 55). The structure commonly used in direct teaching is as follows (Nattie R Bartel, 1986, p. 55): 1. Introduction. The teacher states the purpose of the lesson. 2. Direct instruction. The teacher does the actual teaching – states, manipulatives, explains, requests, demonstrates. . Teacher-directed application. The students do several examples under the direct guidance of the teacher.

4. Independence practice. The students work individually or in groups to reinforce, consolidate, and generalise their skills. Reducing Text Difficulty For difficult reading materials, teachers can reduce the reading difficulty level to suit the reading age of the learning-disabled students. Studies have indicated that complex text can be adapted through simplifying grammar, vocabulary, familiarising students with new words through definitions, shortening sentence length (Currie, 1990, p. 37; Robinson, 1996a, p. 245; Venable, 2003). Venable (2003) however argues that although short sentences may make complex text easier to read and comprehend, the reverse may also be true if these short sentences lead to fragmentation of ideas which may affect the fluency of reading.

Therefore, he proposes that teachers be aware of words and sentence structures that should be retained, and use connectives such as “when” and “because” in long sentences may actually ensure smooth reading and aids better comprehension of complex text content. Venable, 2003) Neurological Impress Method Assisted reading techniques such as “neurological impress method” may be used to supplement reduction of text difficulty level. This method aims to improve students’ fluency in reading and requires teachers to read along with the students. This method also helps build reading confidence in students as they have little chance to make mistakes. Nonetheless, studies on the effectiveness of this method show mixed results for learning-disabled students (Robinson, 1996a, p. 245).

Repeated Reading In repeated reading, students read aloud or silently on a passage of about 200 words while listening to a taped recording or teacher. Students will read the same passage repeatedly until they have met the speed and accuracy criteria. Teachers will then informally assess students’ reading to determine if they are ready for more difficult new materials (Bartel, 1986, p. 63). Students may also be encouraged to read the same stories repeatedly by having them write their own stories (Vaughn, Bos & Schum, 2000, p. 383).

However, studies have shown that this technique produces positive results for reading fluency and comprehension only if there are sufficient number of shared words among the different stories. Otherwise, this technique is found to have limited effect on improving students’ reading performance (Rashotte & Torgesen, 1985, cited in Bartel, 1986, p. 64). B. Student-Centred Approaches Self-Instruction/Self-Monitoring Studies have shown that learning-disabled students are unaware of, or do not deploy reading strategies to assist their understanding of a text in reading (Bartel, 1986, p. 49).

Students thus should be taught awareness of their own cognitive thinking and strategies when engaging in reading comprehension activities. The cognitive behaviour modifications or strategy training involves five stages (Bartel, 1986, p. 50): First, the teacher demonstrates the technique, verbalising the self-instructional strategy and reading the passage out loud. Second, the teacher and the student together utilise the strategy, overtly verbalising each stage and orally reading the passage in question. Third, the student verbalises the strategy but reads silently for the next reading passage.

Fourth, the student whispers the strategy and reads silently the next reading passage. Finally, the student covertly uses the strategy and reads the passage silently. Students will be placed at a lower reading level if they fail to achieve 90 percent comprehension on the reading passage after three attempts (Bartel, 1986, p. 50). Story-Mapping Procedures Story-mapping procedures effectively improve reading comprehension and the cognitive thinking of learning-disabled students through use of visual organisers.

Story-maps therefore provide students with “a framework” or “schema”, for example, to help them organise and remember important story components such as the main settings, main characters and outcomes in a narrative story, which in turn enhance their reading comprehension (Gardill & Jitendra, 1999, p. 3; Idol & Croll, 1987, cited in Ashmen & Elkins, 1990, p. 531). Class-Wide Peer Tutoring Classwide Peer Tutoring (CWPT) is another technique proven by research to be helpful for learning-disabled students who have reading problems (Vaughn, Bos & Schum, 2000, pp. 84). Students work in pairs carrying out various reading activities such as oral reading, story-telling and summarisation based on a variety of reading materials. Each CWPT session is about 30 minutes’ duration. Students are paired according to their reading abilities, usually one with higher and the other with lower reading level, and the difficulty level of the reading materials is pitched against students with lower reading level (Vaughn, Bos & Schum, 2000, p. 384). Language Experience Approach

The language experience approach allows learning-disabled students to experience language learning in a more personal and meaningful manner (Robinson, 1996a, p. 243). This approach appeals particularly to students who have no interest in reading or face problems in oral language (Masters & Mori, 1986, p. 161). It helps to build interest and boost confidence in learning-disabled students by involving them in the language-learning process (Robinson, 1996a, p. 243). Students’ responses such as comments and story-telling, are solicited through prompting by teachers.

These responses will then be recorded in both oral and written forms, which become the basis of language learning such as forming vocabulary lists, and “phonic and other word attack skills are introduced when appropriate along with specific exercises that enhance further reading development. ” (Masters & Mori, 1986, p. 161). Reciprocal Teaching In reciprocal teaching, the teacher and students participate and interact actively to understand the comprehension text through use of a dialogue. The four main strategies deployed in reciprocal teaching are predicting (Ashmen & Elkins, 1990, p. 30), question generating (Bartel, 1986, p. 61; Vaugh, Bos & Schum, 2000, p. 285), summarising (Jitendra, Hoppes & Xin, 2000), and clarification (Ashmen & Elkins, 1990, p. 531).

In predicting, teachers teach students to activate their prior knowledge on the topic, and check text structure such as headings and sub-headings to predict the content of the intended reading passage, and the purpose of reading. In question generating, teacher models the use of main idea questioning to improve comprehension. Teacher-posed questions” thus direct students’ attention on the reading materials, and show them the type of questions that should be asked to help them understand the passage better (Ashmen & Elkins, 1990, p. 530). Students will be more engaged with the reading passage if they are able to generate their own questions on main ideas in the passage. In summarising, teachers guide students in identifying main ideas through asking questions like the topic of each paragraph (topic sentence) and information relevant to the topic (Jitendra, Hoppes & Xin, 2000, p. 128).

Students will be able to understand the text better through self-monitoring. In clarifying, the students are to establish for themselves the reasons for difficulty in understanding the given reading passage such as new words or disorganised ideas. They are encouraged to re-read or seek help if they do not understand the reading passage. (Ashmen & Elkins, 1990, p. 530, 531) Teachers are to lead and model the use of the four strategies in the beginning, but once the students have mastered them, they will be the ones initiating and maintaining the dialogue (Ashmen & Elkin, 1990, p. 531). Conclusion

Many studies have indicated that direct or explicit teaching is the best strategy for teaching reading skills and reading comprehension. Nevertheless, it is also noted that each learning-disabled student is unique. Therefore, it is important for teachers to be aware of the various approaches and teaching strategies, and be creative in utilising these teaching techniques, either in isolation or combination, in order to meet the reading needs of learning-disabled students. Teaching of Written Expression 1. Writing Problems Writing involves a variety of skills which include (Hammill, 1986, p. 1): “composition, or the ability to generate ideas and express them in acceptable grammar, while adhering to a certain stylistic conventions”, “spelling, or the ability to use letters to construct words in accordance to accepted usage” and “handwriting, or the ability to execute physically the graphic marks necessary to produce legible composition or messages. ”

Composition writing involves three inter-related components, namely, cognitive, linguistic and stylistic. Cognitive component refers to the ability to present a “logical, coherent, and sequenced” writings (Hammill, 1986, p. 2). Linguistic component involves the ability to manipulate syntax structure such as tenses, and semantic structure such as appropriate vocabulary, to present a good piece of writing. (Hammill, 1986, p. 92). Stylistic component is the knowledge of mechanics of writing such as use of correct punctuation and capitalisation to ensure effective writing (Hammill, 1986, p. 93). Therefore, skilful composition writing is a complex process which requires “knowledge, skill, will and self-regulation” on the part of the writers. (Graham, Harris, MacArthur & Schwartz, 1998, 391).

Learning-disabled students, on the contrary, tend to employ a less sophisticated approach towards writing by giving minimum attention to planning, revision and self-regulatory procedures such as reflecting on, or organising the information, they have written (De La Paz & Graham, 1997, p. 168; Vaughn, Bos & Schum, 2000, p. 401). They will write down whatever information they can retrieve from their memory and what they know about the topic without a target audience in mind (De La Paz & Graham, 1997, p. 168; Graham, Harris, MacArthur & Schwartz, 1998, p. 93; Vaughn, Bos & Schum, 2000, p. 402). Consequently, the writings of these students are always short, showing little evidence in development and elaboration of ideas, or refusal to discard irrelevant ideas. (Graham, Harris, MacArthur & Schwartz, 1998, p. 393).

In addition, many learning-disabled students also have limited vocabulary, and struggle with the mechanics of writing such as grammatical rules, spelling and punctuation, which in turn diverted their attention from planning and developing ideas (Kraayenoord & Elkins, 1992, p. 12; Masters & Mori, 1986, p. 25). In short, learning-disabled students are less aware of writing and the writing process, and also tend to focus more on the form rather than the substance of their writing (Graham, Harris, MacArthur, & Schwartz, 1998, p. 393). Research findings have also indicated that learning-disabled adolescents’ composition writings continue to show immaturity in terms of story structure, syntactic form and linguistic cohesion, and the performance gap seems to increase with age (Roth, 2000, p. 18). 2. Teaching Strategies

Many studies have been done on teaching approaches and strategies to improve the writing performance of learning-disabled secondary school students. Most of the recent literature have recommended “process writing” or “Self-Regulated Strategy Development” (SRSD) as effective in enhancing students’ writing skills and ability (Wojasinski & Smith, 2002; Graham & Harris, 1994, p. 276; Graham, Harris & Troia, 2000, p. 7). Process Writing Approach The process writing approach is an important component of whole language instruction. (Salend, 1998, p. 324).

There are four main stages in the process approach, which include planning, drafting, revising and editing, and publishing (Vaughn, Bos & Schum, 2000, p. 405). This approach thus focuses on the purpose and the meaning-making of writing, rather than the mechanics of writing (Graham, Harris, MacArthur & Schwartz, 1998, p. 394). Teachers’ role is to support and facilitate the writing process through the use of writing conferences, peer-collaboration, modelling, and dialogue among students and teachers (Graham, Harris, MacArthur & Schwartz, 1998, p. 94). Planning and Drafting Planning is a crucial component of pre-writing activity when students brainstorm and organise their ideas for writing. The steps for planning stage involves selecting the topic and target audience, establishing the purpose and structure of the writing, and generating ideas. Students may be allowed to select topics which they are familiar with to help them produce more details, and also they will have a sense of ownership of their own writing. (Salend, 1998, p. 325).

Teachers can help students to generate ideas by oral questions, or exposing them to a variety of writing genres such as narratives, poems and reports, and lead discussions on selected writing passages (Salend, 1998; Vaughn, Bos & Schum, 2000). “Planning Think Sheet” which provides a list of prompts such as the intended audience, knowledge on the topic and categorisation of ideas, can be provided to help students develop their own plan of action for writing (Gersten, Baker & Edwards, 1999, p. 1).

Students should also be allowed to select their own topics because they will be more familiar with the selected topics, and have a sense of ownership of their writing. Studies also suggest that “story-starters” or “story enders” such as the first or last paragraphs of a story, are useful leads for some students to plan their initial drafts (Salend, 1998, p. 325). Story frames, story maps and advance graphic organisers are particularly helpful for learning-disabled students who have difficulties organising or developing their ideas. Roth, 2000, p. 18; Salend, 1998, p. 325) Research has found that “TREE” is an effective planning strategy for learning-disabled students to produce and evaluate their initial writing notes. This strategy is particularly useful for expository writing. In “TREE”, students are to plan their writing based on the following steps: develop Topic sentence, note Reasons to support ideas, Examine the validity of each reason, and Note an ending for the writing (De La Paz & Graham, 1997, p. 168).

During drafting, when students put down their brainstormed ideas in sentences and paragraphs, teachers may provide students with “self-evaluation questions” that are specific to the type and purpose of writing task to help them monitor their drafts (Salend, 1998, p. 327). In addition, students should be encouraged to pay more attention to generating and developing their ideas rather than the mechanics of writing when drafting. (Vaughn, Bos & Schum, 2000, p. 408) Revising and Editing Proofreading is integral to revision and editing of written works.

It allows students to assess the quality of their work, and to identify errors for correction (Hammill, p. 1986, 106). It is argued that if the students are given the responsibilities to identify their errors in writing with the help of their teachers and peers, they will be more motivated to improve their written work. (Robinson, 1996a, p. 251). When proofreading their written work, students may be provided with prompts such as if there is a need to delete, add or re-organise their ideas, sentence clarity, and accuracy of grammar and punctuation (Robinson, 1996a, p. 52; Roth, 2000, p. 24, 25). Peer editing is also one useful way for students to obtain feedback from their peers on their written work. Students can work in pairs to critique each other’s work, or alternatively a “class editor” can be appointed to read and edit the written works (Gersten, Baker & Edwards, 1999, p. 1; Vaughn, Bos & Schum, 2000, p. 409). One possible sequence of peer editing is to provide positive comments first, followed by questioning on the negative aspects of written work either verbally or in written form, and lastly, the writers’ response to their peers’ comments.

Teachers can facilitate the peer editing process by providing a list of evaluation criteria to the peer reviewers (Moore, Cunningham, and Cunningham, 1986, cited in Salend, 1998, p. 330). Publishing In post-writing, publishing of written works provides a purpose and motivation for students to be actively engaged in writing exercises. Students’ works are acknowledged and shared with others when published. The “author’s chair”, in which students read aloud their written work to the class, provides opportunities for students to conference, share and obtain immediate feedback and suggestions from their teachers and peers on their written work.

Teachers need to give clear instructions to students on the rules of giving and receiving feedback so that conferencing becomes an effective learning tool for all. In teacher-student conferences, teachers should provide positive feedback and provide suggestions for improvement only on one or two specific areas (Vaughn, Bos & Schumm, 2000, p. 412). Teachers can also conduct brief writing skills lessons, each lasting five to fifteen minutes, on problematic areas based on students’ writing, requests for help, and observations from conferences (Vaughn, Bos & Schum, 2000, p. 13). Conclusion The process approach encourages students to monitor their own writing process.

Teachers play the role of facilitators, providing modelling and coaching wherever necessary to familiarise students with their thinking processes or writing strategies. Providing opportunities for students to write daily, and exposing students with abundant reading materials of varied genres, and regular teachers’ and peers’ feedback on their writing performance are some ways to positively reinforce the writing skills of learning-disabled students (Kraayenoord & Elkins, 1992, p. 35). Conclusion Survey of the extant literature on language teaching approaches and strategies for learning-disabled students yield the following observations. Studies have shown that learning-disabled students lack automacity in reading and writing skills, therefore rendering them to concentrate on irrelevant details rather than meaning-making such as comprehending the reading materials, or establish a writing purpose. Often, these students use ineffective learning strategies, and do not self-monitor their learning.

Both behavioural and cognitive teaching approaches may be deployed to teach learning-disabled students, but there has been increasing emphasis on the cognitive approach in recent years. (Warren & Yoder, 1994). Most literature view explicit or direct instruction, and teacher’s modelling as the most effective teaching strategies to help learning-disabled students acquire competency in reading (reading aloud and reading comprehension) and writing skills.

Besides explicit teaching and teacher’s modelling, it is found that student-centred learning activities such as Self-Regulated Development Strategy (SRDS) produce positive outcomes as students are made aware of their own meta-cognitive processes, and are therefore able to become actively involved in their own learning (Graham, Harris & Troia, 2000). In addition, students’ confidence in learning is boosted when they develop a sense of ownership and self-efficacy over their own learning.

The bulk of literature nevertheless originates from countries with Western traditions such as Britain and United States, where English is the main societal and home language for most learning-disabled students. Consequently, there are only a few studies on teaching approaches and strategies for English language learners who have learning disabilities, particularly from the Asian perspective. Studies need to done on the effectiveness of behavioural and cognitive teaching approaches for learning-disabled English-learners in Asia where English is learnt in schools, and is a second or foreign language.

In addition, learning-disabled students in Asia may display different academic characteristics and learning motivations from those students in countries with Western traditions because of the differences in education system and societal culture. Singapore Context The majority of NT students learn English as a second language. Schools are the only places where they have most exposure to English usage in terms of listening, speaking, reading and writing.

Teachers will probably need to assess first the main causes for students who have performed poorly in language learning, before they are able to appropriate teaching strategies to address students’ language learning needs. A number of NT students face difficulties learning English because of their non-English speaking home environment, and their socio-economic background where they have little contact with English outside schools. Some NT students may perform poorly because of their learning disabilities or language disabilities. One advantage for teachers in Singapore is that NT students follow a slower and less demanding academic track.

This means that teachers are able to try teaching strategies such as repeated reading and process writing, which may be time-consuming but reap benefits for learning-disabled students. Teachers’ modelling, which have been found to be effective in helping students to internalise new skills such as planning in pre-writing, can also be practised as students will have ample time to master new reading and writing skills. In addition, in terms of reducing text difficulty to cater to students’ reading level, it is easier for Singapore teachers to adopt this technique since students of similar academic ability are placed in the same class.

Nevertheless, teachers in Singapore also face some constraints. One example will be the big class size. One NT class normally consists of about 40 students. This means that some teaching strategies such as “reciprocal teaching” and conferencing for process writing may be difficult to carry out. Additionally, teaching activities which require students to collaborate such as Class-Wide Peer Tutoring and peer-editing may work against the students since NT students are similar in their academic ability.

The students may negatively reinforce each other’s errors since they do not work with their more academically-abled peers in the faster streams. Therefore, close teachers’ monitoring and coaching are still required in such student-centred activities. In view of the above constraints, teacher-directed activities may be more suitable in NT classes, particularly in consideration of the fact that secondary school teachers do not have teacher assistants to help them provide more personalised coaching for learning-disabled students.

However, research needs to be done to find out how adequately Singapore teachers are equipped to teach learning-disabled secondary school students, as well as the effectiveness of language-teaching approaches, which is largely based on addressing the learning needs of normal-achieving students. In addition, there is a need to find out how NT students, particularly learning-disabled students, respond to teacher-centred and student-centred language teaching methods in Singapore.


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