The language learning needs of beginner-level international students enrolled in intensive English programs affiliated with American institutions of higher education: a case study

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Southern New Hampshire University
The qualitative case study followed a triangulation model design in which evidence was collected from multiple sources to develop a profile of the language learning needs of a population of beginner-level international students who were enrolled in an Intensive English program affiliated with an institution of higher education located in New England. It is believed that a better understanding of beginner-level language learner needs can improve programmatic facilitation of course content for the growing population of international students in American higher education with low levels of English proficiency. Study participants included one group of 11 beginner-level international students and one group of 5 program faculty involved in facilitation of beginner-level courses. Using a sociocultural theoretical approach to second language learning as an analytical lens, the major analytic themes that emerged from the findings of the study include: beginner-level students’ need for academic and social language; communicative language teaching’s influence on beginner-level instruction; beginning-level instruction as a specialization; the need for cross-cultural sense making when perceptions of needs differ; and the institutional marginalization experienced by the faculty participants. Specific recommendations for Intensive English program administrators and faculty include conducting needs analyses on a regular basis; professional development geared toward beginner-level instruction; and working to increase integration between the program and host institution. Future research is recommended to employ quantitative needs analysis instruments; incorporate multiple case analysis; employ bilingual/bicultural fieldworkers; and incorporate other theoretical perspectives concerning second language learning. (Author abstract)