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Closing the ELL/ESL Achievement Gap with Blended Learning

How to close the achievement gap between English language learners (ELL) or English as a second language (ESL) learners and native English speakers has been the subject of a growing national debate. And with these students now making up one of the fastest growing student populations, finding the right solution has become more crucial than ever.

Many schools and districts are at a loss for how to deal with the issue, but could online and blended learning models hold the key? Many educators believe it can and for good reason. Online components for most blended learning programs offer innovative features that fall in line with best practice guidelines for teaching ELL/ESL students.

Online programs also make lessons more accessible by providing a wide variety of non-verbal cues and visual aids that can help ELL/ESL students gain a better understanding […]

For instance, modeling new tasks or concepts is one of the best strategies for instructing students in general, but it is especially effective when teaching ELL/ESL students. Many blended learning programs provide on-screen instruction where teachers demonstrate new concepts and work through examples. This allows ELL/ESL students to learn by observing and helps them build confidence in their ability to complete the task themselves.

In addition to modeling new tasks, it’s also important for teachers to speak slowly and clearly and to repeat themselves when necessary. With online audio and video, students can rewind and listen to material as many times as they need to. This allows ELL/ESL students the opportunity to work at their own pace and helps develop their listening comprehension skills.

Online programs also make lessons more accessible by providing a wide variety of non-verbal cues and visual aids that can help ELL/ESL students gain a better understanding of course materials without needing to have a perfect comprehension of verbal or written English.

Closing the ELL/ESL Achievement Gap with Blended Learning

However, one of the most valuable tools provided by online and blended learning programs is their continual checks for understanding, which provide educators with real-time actionable data. This helps teachers gauge whether their ELL/ESL students are keeping up with the rest of the class or whether they need more assistance. Educators can then spend more time working with individual students in areas where they are struggling and prevent problems from snowballing.

But technology can’t solve all of the problems associated with the growing achievement gap between ELL/ESL students and native English speakers. Many educators have reported a lack of funding or personal development geared toward addressing the needs of ELL/ESL learners. Technology can, however, be leveraged to personalize the learning experience for these students.

Because the human element of the student-teacher relationship is still a vital classroom component, especially for ELL/ESL students, a blended learning classroom offers an ideal way to cultivate that relationship. Building on that, it may also be the answer to creating a more effective learning environment that lowers the language barrier for educators and increases academic achievement for ELL/ESL students.

About the Author


Debbie Malone

Debbie is an Arizona native and longtime resident of the Phoenix area. She has always had a passion for telling a good story and decided to study journalism and mass communication at Arizona State University where she earned her BA in 2009. Following graduation, she spent four years working as a web content writer before joining the Edgenuity family in 2014. Debbie is proud to be able to share the story of her time at Edgenuity and the company's efforts to propel students everywhere toward academic success and achievement. In addition to writing (both professionally and for fun), Debbie also enjoys reading, gaming, archery, and avoiding sunlight.