A Study of Language Learner Needs and Barriers to Accessing Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) Programs in Hamilton, Ontario

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Link: http://www.ocasi.org/downloads/LINC_Research_Hamilton_2007.pdf
By: Louise Gormley and Bhupinder S. Gill
Date: 2007

This research study investigated language learner needs and barriers to accessing Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) programs in Hamilton, Ontario. Researchers conducted focus groups with currently-enrolled LINC students, currently employed LINC teachers, members of the Hamilton newcomer community and conducted interviews with LINC coordinators, LINC stakeholders and had currently enrolled LINC students conplete a questionnaire.

LINC provides language training in one of Canada"s official languages to adult immigrants after their arrival in Canada, so that they may acquire the necessary language skills to integrate into Canadian society.

Research Findings

LINC Students

The analysis of data revealed that the typical LINC participant in this study held a university or college education and that the majority of LINC learners want their own copy of a LINC textbook, a course outline, integrated (versus discrete) skills classes, and a combined practical and academic focus to their English studies. However, there are clusters of LINC learners who do not fit such a profile, for example, some LINC learners with higher levels of education prefer discrete skills classes.

The majority of the currently-enrolled LINC students who participated in focus groups were generally satisfied with their LINC learning experience but had suggestions for improvement. Female newcomers with young children have unique gender-related obstacles because, among other concerns, LINC eligibility rules force them to choose between the right to vote and free childminding.

LINC Teachers

LINC teachers face many challenges including continuous intake, multi-level classes, the changing profile of the LINC learner, among other issues.

Recommendations include further research that explores the feasibility of a LINC textbook, considers best practices with respect to how to provide course outlines for students, examines how to build a more collaborative environment between LINC service providers, investigates effective models of outreach, compares LINC programs to other English programs such as College, Coop, ESL, etc., and investigates ways to increase the general public"s understanding of LINC and Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB), among other suggestions.

The researchers suggest that, "using this study as a springboard, it may be worth doing comparative research around different types of English classes, such as College, Coop, ESL credit, etc. Perhaps each of these other types of English classes simply cater to different niches of the English learner market by offering, say, more academic or more employment focused themes, etc. Or perhaps an in-depth comparison of the LINC program with some of the above English language programs would suggest some possible ideas for future LINC curriculum reform. Since this research focused mainly on the Hamilton LINC experience and was not a comparative study that additionally investigated other English language programs, this study cannot answer such questions, but it does point to directions for further inquiry using comparative research methodologies."

This study is available for download in PDF format (284 KB, 53 pages).