A small scale study exploring the emotional needs of English Language Learners

  • Nooreen Khan

Student thesis: Doctor of Educational and Child Psychology


Previous research into the needs of English Language Learner pupils (ELL) has predominantly focused on progress made in language acquisition and academic attainment, whereby learning and language needs were identified and managed. The current research aimed to explore the emotional needs of ELL pupils, and how they may be different to those of English speaking pupils. All data was collected from responses provided by pupils and teachers within two West Midlands based primary schools. A sequential mixed methods design was employed within a Critical Realist theoretical approach.In Phase 1 quantitative data was collected through the use of the Emotional Literacy Assessment and Intervention measure (2003) as a means of identifying emotional strengths and weaknesses. Self report checklists were completed by 106 pupils aged 9 to11, 29% of which were identified as ELL. Teacher checklists were also completed for each participant. This data was analysed using descriptive and inferential statistics. In Phase 2 qualitative data was collected via focus groups with ELL pupils and their English speaking counterparts, and semi-structured interviews were also conducted with their class teachers. Thematic analysis was used to analyse qualitative findings.Quantitative analysis of the checklist data indicated ELL pupils and their teachers scored ELL pupils as having significantly lower emotional literacy skills than their English speaking counterparts, which suggests they may have greater emotional needs. From the qualitative data, ELL pupils reported experiencing greater negative emotions at the time of starting school in the UK, in comparison to English speaking pupils of the same age. English language proficiency is identified by both ELL pupils and their teachers as the factor that has the greatest impact on their emotional well being. Protective factors such as empathic peers and language partners are identified. Possible mechanisms that may lead to the observed behaviours of ELL pupils are considered within the Critical Realist philosophy. The overall findings are discussed in relation to the literature review conducted, along with a critique of the methods used. The author discusses the lack of consideration of emotional factors within the current national approach to the learning and teaching of ELL pupils. The current study suggests ELL pupils have emotional needs that are specific to their circumstances, and highlights a need to develop a national framework which is grounded in evidence. Future research and the potential role of the educational psychologist in the development of a national ELL framework are discussed.
Date of Award31 Dec 2010
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorKevin Woods (Supervisor)


  • 'English Language Learner'
  • EAL
  • Emotional

Cite this