Teaching for Transfer
Adapted from workshop presented by Rae
Tamaki Tu Pakari
2 September 2011
“Language is central to our
individual and group identity,
being the principle medium
by which knowledge, ideas,
and cultural values are
Waite, (1992: 9)
“Aoteareo: Speaking for ourselves”
Draw a picture of your perception of
how a monolingual’s brain and
language system operates.
Draw a picture of your perception of
how a bilingual’s brain and two
language systems operate.
Waite, (1992: 9)
“Aoteareo: Speaking for ourselves”
Old Balance Theory
Alternative naïve
picture of two
language balloons
inside head.
perceived as having
one well filled balloon.
Bilinguals perceived
as having two less
filled balloons. As L2
is pumped higher, L1
diminishes in size
leading to confusion,
frustration and failure.
Old Balance Theory
No links between
Tried to reduce L1 balloon/
space to provide space for L2.
Saw bilingualism as a problem.
Led to subtractive approach to
English medium educators
believed they needed to
replace students’ first
languages (often colonised or
minority languages) with a
second or dominant language
(usually English).
Examples: Te Reo Maori,
Pasifika languages, Welsh,
Gaelic, Irish.
Modern View
The brain has only one
central cognitive and
language processing
All languages enrich
concept development.
L1 builds a rich
conceptual system.
Ideas learnt in one
language can be
transferred to the other
Bilingualism seen as
an advantage
especially in academic
Being Bilingual & Biliterate
Balanced Bilingualism /
Bilingualism /
Involves becoming
proficient in
both languages and
Both languages are
adequate for the different
purposes for which they
are needed.
One language is
dominant over the
other which is not
adequate to:
- raise children or
-use for learning.
Providing, of
teachers of
learners know
what they are
knowledge is
Interdependence of the
Cummins (1996, pp. 110-111)
posits a common underlying
proficiency (CUP) model in
which literacy related aspects of
a bilingual’s proficiency in L1
and L2 are seen as common or
interdependent across
Interdependence across languages
The interdependence hypothesis was formally expressed
as follows (Cummins, 1981):
To the extent that instruction in L1 is effective in promoting
 proficiency in L1, transfer of this proficiency to L2 will
occur provided:
 There is adequate exposure to L1 (either in school or
environment) and adequate motivation to learn L2
 There is an underlying cognitive/academic proficiency that
is common across the two languages.
The Iceberg Analogy
Iceberg Analogy
Common underlying proficiency model
Two languages visibly different in outward
conversation however they both operate
through the same central processing
system or ‘think tank’.
Implications of Iceberg Analogy - CUP
If the individual is literate in L1 then skills are
transferrable to L2
The brain has the capacity to store multiple languages
Information processing skills and educational
achievement may be developed through two
languages as well as through one.
The student’s school language must be sufficiently
developed to process the cognitive challenges of the
Speaking, listening, reading or writing in L1 or L2 helps
develops the whole cognitive system.
When one or both languages are not fully functional
cognitive or academic performance may be impacted.
Research suggests “that academic and
linguistic skills in a minority language
transfer relatively easily to the second
language. Simply stated, a child who
learns to read in Spanish at home, or in
school, does not have to start from the
beginning when learning to read in English”.
(Baker, 2006, p. 330)
“Foundations of Bilingualism and
Bilingual Education”
What the research says about teaching for transfer
If biliteracy is encouraged, literacy skills in a
minority language appear to transfer to the second
language (if using a similar writing system).
While the vocabulary, grammar, and orthography
may be different, generalisable skills in decoding
and reading strategies may easily transfer from first
language literacy to second language literacy.
(Baker, 2006, p. 330)
“Foundations of Bilingualism and Bilingual Education”
What the research says about teaching for transfer
Concepts and strategies easily transfer from first
language to second language literacy, e.g. scanning,
skimming, contextual guessing of words, skipping
unknown words, tolerating ambiguity, reading for
meaning, making inferences, monitoring,
recognising the structure of text, using previous
learning, using background knowledge about the
Self-confidence in being literate can also transfer
(Cummins, 2008).
(Baker, 2006, p. 330)
“Foundations of Bilingualism and
(Cummins, 1994)
BICS = basic interpersonal
communication skills
CALP = cognitive academic
language proficiency
(Cummins, 1994)
How long to acquire these?
BICS: 2-3 years
CALP: 5-7 years
The First Language
All students have a first language or languages
Students who are able to use their cultural and
linguistic capital at school (including their first
language) are automatically advantaged over
those who are not able to
The most effective way for students to learn a
second language & to succeed academically is
when the first language is included directly in the
teaching and learning process and particularly
when it is used as a medium of instruction for
50% of the time (May 2009).
Research supports this position
 Two major longititudinal studies in
USA where L1 was significant part of
instruction resulted in bilingual
students outperforming other students
in relation to grade age norm
acheivements in English as well as
their L1
(Thomas & Collier, 2002; Ramirez et al.,
1991, 1992)
Language Learning in Maori Medium Contexts
• Teachers need professional content knowledge in bilingualism,
Bilingual /Immersion Education theory, research and pedagogy.
• Bilingual/ Immersion Education is a major professional field with its own
professional knowledge and expertise, similar to other curriculum areas
(Baker, 2000; 2006; Cummins, 1981).
• While schools would not consider employing teachers who know little
about Maths, many currently employ teachers to run programmes who
know little about bilingualism and Bilingual /Immersion Education.
• May, Hill and Tiakiwai, (2004) argue that increasing Māori Medium
Education (MME) educators’ access to such professional development,
needs to be an urgent priority in order to successfully operate, review
and develop high quality programmes.
• International research in bilingual education can have relevance for
Māori medium settings in New Zealand.
Key messages from research:
 It is possible to learn to read and write in school
to high levels in two languages by year 8
 This high level of literacy/biliteracy in two
languages is what drives academic achievement
at school
• Biliteracy or being able to work and move easily
in two languages is a very different skill from
having literacy in any one language
• Learning to be biliterate is therefore a very
different process from learning to be literate in
any one language
• Oral language can be caught but biliteracy must
be taught
Language Learning in Different Contexts
“There is now extensive experience of
bilingual education in a number of countries,
including Kohanga Reo and Kura Kaupapa
Māori in New Zealand, which makes bilingual
educational provision much easier than in the
However, although bilingual New Zealanders
make up close to 20% of the population, there
is a tendency for bilingualism to be
associated with minority, marginal and
outsider status.”
(Franken & McComish, 2003, p.17)
Importance of Linking to Students’ Worldview
Our experiences to date are the pegs on
which we hang new information. If I can’t
attach new information to old conceptual
knowledge then I can’t learn it. It’s as simple
as that. When all my pegs are unrecognised,
unvalued, unmentioned; by implication my
past experiences are worthless and so am I.
How can I learn at school? And why would I?
An inclusive curriculum means including the
kids we teach in the books we choose, the
stories we tell, the classroom environment
and the content we select. Even more
important is the way we teach: the interaction
between every teacher and every student.
Lingo Video, Australia
language proficiency,
their experiential
What do you know about your students'
language skills?
What do you know about their prior knowledge?
How will you find out this information? How will
it affect your planning?
How will you utilise their total language resource
in your programme?
Thinking About Transfer in Your Own Context
Talk with the Reo Maori kaiako and think together about how
you might implement ideas around teaching for transfer
across languages: the two languages are used strategically
to build on conceptual/language and literacy knowledges in
either reo. A few possible suggestions:
Could some topics be taught at the same time? E.g. Maui
topic in Te Reo: How could that knowledge be tapped into
for Te Reo Pakeha? E.g. Change text purposes/types /
Translanguaging: put in one language and output in
Inquiry question: Different inquiry questions around the
same topic or theme?
Language functions? Teaching same functions at same
Listening/speaking/writing purposes linked?