Setting standards and guidelines, such as the Florida Department of Education’s Subject Area Competencies for ESOL K-12, makes for a goal-oriented curriculum or educational program. Competencies, in all aspects, are the unique sets of “knowledge, skills, or attitudes” (CePH, 2006) that people from different fields of learning or work should accomplish or possess in order for them to meet the standards or expectations of education or work.
For this reason, setting competencies in all fields of learning or work is extremely important because it provides directions or guidelines to people for them to accomplish success. In the field of education alone, setting competencies not only motivates students to acquire adequate knowledge, skills, or attitudes to achieve learning goals and objectives, but also helps in improving the quality of education by qualifying learning content and how educators should plan and carry out the teaching process, which are all based on what the students need to learn.
Thus, setting learning competencies, just as creating learning goals and objectives, serve as precursors to other aspects of learning, including the selection of teaching strategies or approaches, instructional design, lesson planning, execution, the creation of assessment or evaluation tests, and so on. (Spector, 2007; Richards & Rodgers,
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Due to the perceived significance of learning competencies, the remainder of this discussion will explore how setting competencies affects the process of education specifically. This objective will be achieved by analyzing one of the Florida Department of Education’s Subject Area Competencies for ESOL K-12 and how it directly relates to education and the teaching and learning process. The Florida Department of Education’s Subject Area Competencies for ESOL K-12
The Subject Area Competencies for ESOL K-12 set by the Florida Department of Education contains the knowledge, skills, or attitudes that students in K-12 should exhibit or possess, which are specific to different subject areas under the English to Speakers of Other Languages learning programs in various schools in Florida. Since the basic learning necessities of ESOL students are distinct as compared to the learning program for a regular classroom setting, the competencies are constrained to the learning of English across various disciplines.
From the 11 skills or competencies identified by the Florida Department of Education for ESOL K-12, only one will be considered for exploration and analysis. For this discussion, the underlying concepts and issues of the third competency will be used to explore learning and education in ESOL K-12. The third competency requires the student to display “Knowledge of sociolinguistic, cultural, ethnic, and sociopolitical issues.
” Under this competency, there are nine sub-competencies that specify issues concerning sociolinguistic diversity, government policies, political and social trends, culture, cultural adjustment and adaptation, student involvement, and multicultural sensitivity. (Florida Department of Education, 2006) By and large, this third competency is concerned with the knowledge, skills, and values or attitudes that English Language Learners (ELLs) should acquire or exhibit in terms of the relevance of learning English in the present social, cultural, and political landscape of society.
Exploring the Subject Area Competencies ESOL entails many difficulties and challenges especially since the learning goals and objectives vary from the regular classroom setting. Challenges and difficulties arise from the complex aims of ESOL. The program is not merely focused on teaching the English language to non-English speakers but also on how the learning process is relevant or correlated with other disciplines such as Science, History, Mathematics, and so on, and how it matches current social and political situations and addresses various cultural as well.
The complex structure of the ESOL program is best illustrated by the Fourth Touchstone that makes up the foundations of All Language Teaching or ALL curriculum. The Fourth Touchstone reflects how communication, which is the medium and goal of language learning are intertwined with four other principles. The four principles include socio-cultural aspect of language learning, learning how-to-learn, language and cultural awareness, and general knowledge. (Vale & Scarino, 2000)