UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Teaching English as a Second Language in the Early Years: Teachers’ Perspectives and Practices in Finland Koyuncu, Selma; Kumpulainen, Kristiina; Kuusisto, Arniika


Second language (L2) education in the early years has been steadily increasing worldwide. Since second language education at earlier ages is relatively new in many countries, not much research is available regarding teaching practices in this context. Likewise, limited research attention has been directed to teachers’ perspectives on early L2 teaching. This study investigated what characterises teachers’ pedagogical planning, teaching practices and assessment of language learning, and teachers’ perspectives about the opportunities and challenges in early L2 classrooms within the cultural context of the Finnish education system. The data for this study were gathered through an online survey involving teachers of English (n = 49) as a second language in the early years of primary education in Finland. The results show that the teachers based their pedagogical planning on the curriculum, used a variety of L2 tasks and materials, which they often prepared by themselves, and they mostly used observation, instead of formal exams, for assessing the children’s learning in L2. The results revealed that the teachers’ perspectives to the early start for L2 teaching were positive, which stemmed from the children’s enthusiasm for language learning. The teachers draw attention to challenges such as big group sizes, the diversity in children’s skills (e.g., their prior L2 knowledge, social skills, learning capabilities), and the limited availability of teaching materials targeted for young learner groups in L2 education. The findings demonstrate the opportunities and challenges L2 teachers of early learners face in Finland.

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