How Learner Profiles Help Students (3 Examples with Linguistically Diverse Students)

Linguistically Diverse Learner Profiles by Suzanne Marie with Chinese students playing Scrabble during class

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Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Being an educator encompasses not only our students’ education but also our students’ social and emotional health. Developing learner profiles for linguistically diverse students helps them reach learning outcomes while engaging them in a culturally rich learning environment.

This post explores three case studies with examples, including the importance of the whole student, their education, social and emotional backgrounds, and experiences as multi-language learners.

Discover how learner profiles empower diverse students!

Dive into our three enlightening case studies and join us on the journey to holistic education.

Background

Learning another language impacts students in all aspects of their lives. 

Speaking from personal experience as a multi-language learner, when students learn another language besides their mother tongue, it opens doors for connection with the world around them.

When students learn additional languages at an early age, we must consider the emotional maturity and the impact of language learning on their lives. 

Learner Profiles Enhance Student Outcomes

Language learner identities promote multiculturalism. Additionally, they enhance learner outcomes.

This is accomplished by providing context about the individual learners’ experiences.

In a classroom environment, learner profiles provide valuable information about learner needs, social interaction motivations for engagement, and potential challenges.

Multiculturalism is promoted by developing a clear understanding of the students’ cultural backgrounds and sharing cultural experiences and norms with others.

Multiculturalism is integral in language learning as learners’ motivation is impacted by their ‘attitudes towards the target language and the people who speak it.’ (p. 120)

This sharing promotes enhanced learning outcomes by creating a collaborative and open environment for learning to take place. 

What to Include in Learner Profiles

  1. Consider the multiculturalism and the identities of students.
  2. Activities to promote student motivation in the classroom.
  3.  Personalize the learning experiences of students.

Learner Profiles Case Study with Examples

In this case study, all three of the multi-language learners have different family experiences and cultural backgrounds, mother tongue, and second languages.

They also have different exposure to language learning, attitudes about language learning, and goals for their academic learning.

Each student is also experiencing individual challenges and areas of growth in their language learning. 

Learner Profile Example 1: Beatriz

Beatriz’s mother tongue is Spanish.

She also attended bilingual school and attended language immersion in another country.

She studied English during her summer breaks.

Her exposure to English as a second language throughout her childhood gave her a foundation for understanding the cultural nuances and differences between English and Spanish.

Immersion in an English environment during her student exchange program gave her a contextual understanding of how native speakers of English connect with the world around them and relate to one another.

Learner Profile Example 2: Sarah

Sarah, a native English speaker, was exposed to a foreign language (Amharic) as a baby.

Then, in school, she learned French and furthered her language learning in Portuguese as an adult.

The case study indicates a linguistic link between English, French, and Portuguese, making language learning easier for Sara.

As a result, Sara is a brilliant learner motivated to learn languages to connect with the world around her. 

Learner Profile Example 3: Pedro

Pedro’s mother tongue is Spanish, like Beatriz’s.

However, Pedro’s English language learning is English immersion, with only Spanish spoken socially and at home.

Pedro is younger than the other two case examples.

His social-emotional behavior in his language learning is age-appropriate.

Read Pedro’s full learner profile:

Summary of Learner Profile Examples

All three learners experienced an impact on their motivation to learn additional languages, as each case reports periods of frustration with language learning. 

In this summary, motivation is defined as: 

A state of cognitive and emotional arousal leads to a conscious decision to act, which gives rise to a sustained intellectual effort to attain a previously set goal.

Williams and Burden (1997, p. 120)

It is assumed from the case studies that Beatriz and Sarah are raised in families supporting their language learning.

Research shows children who have actively supportive parents during language learning are more likely to acquire additional languages than those who have passively active parents.

This is because the student’s motivation to learn is reinforced at home.

  • With parental support at home, students acquire a state of emotional arousal for learning additional languages. 
  • Their learner confidence, beliefs, and outlook for the goals they wish to achieve also influence motivation.
  • Overall, their sense of purpose in learning additional languages is essential to their motivation. 

Tips for Promoting Motivation

Adapting to the multi-language learners’ needs as they work through the lesson material is important for a student-centered approach. 

Here are five ways to promote motivation:

  1. Making language classes interesting through various activities and multi-language learners’ input level.
  2. Promoting learner autonomy to encourage discovery and language exploration.
  3. Self-reflection, ownership, and empowerment are essential for language learners’ attitudes toward the language being learned.
  4. Personalizing the learning process by collaborating with students to match tasks with learner abilities.
  5. Increasing the learners’ goal orientation to support students with self-action plans.

Understanding Cultural Context

Educators who understand learner identities and multiculturalism are more equipped in the classroom to meet individual learner goals in language learning.

Understanding the cultural context of the learners helps educators to bridge the learner’s mother tongue and the language being learned in the classroom.

For example, educators understanding the cultural nuances like the gender rule with Spanish having a masculine and a feminine nuance in the language is helpful when teaching a language like English.

This knowledge allows the educator to make meaningful connections when discussing English language elements such as pronouns.

Online Learning Environments

With the exponential growth in online classrooms, what are the contraindications for educators teaching multicultural learners language online? 

In my own experience, I have taught online since 2009 for Canadian universities and in China during the COVID-19 crisis.

My experience in my Canadian university is limited as online courses are not asynchronous, and students log in online to complete activities at their own pace.

However, in China, I taught lessons for up to one hundred and seventy hours a month in Zoom and Tencent classroom platforms.

Although in this experience, the learners were all Chinese, there were undercurrents of multiculturalism as some were abroad in Dubai, Russia, Mongolia, France, and Saudi Arabia.

Complex Language Environment

China has a complex muti-lingual diversity in each region. Although the national language is Mandarin Chinese, there are fifty-six different ethnic groups in China with their own local language.

In addition, there are many dialects of Mandarin and Cantonese with variations in Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Furthermore, there are also differences between north and south China.

However, my experience has been that the multicultural essence in China is more related to society and socio-cultural position in Chinese society based on the industry of work, community, and relationship to the dominant ethnic group, the Han Chinese.

So, what are the implications of language learning with these types of cultural undercurrents?

This is a question that needs consideration when developing personalized student profiles.

Summary

Understanding our students is key to creating successful learning environments.

Learner profiles provide valuable insight into linguistically diverse students’ learning needs, preferences, and strengths.

By creating individualized learner profiles, educators foster a culturally supportive environment that leads to greater student academic achievement.

Thanks for stopping by!

Until next time,

Suzanne

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