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Early English: Helen Doron Academic Supervision and Empirical Evaluation


Abstract and Figures

The Department of EnglishTeaching at theCatholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt carried out quantitative research based on questionnaires, as well as qualitative fieldwork on behalf of Helen Doron.
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Early English:
Helen Doron
Academic Supervision and
Empirical Evaluation
Research Report:
Heiner Boettger / Tanja Mueller
1. Introduction to the research context ....................................................................................... 3
2. Main focus of the analysis of classroom observations and interviews .................................. 6
2.1 Variation of activities ................................................................................................... 6
2.2 Variation of topics ........................................................................................................ 6
2.3 Individual treatment of the children ............................................................................. 6
2.4 Introduction to new words ............................................................................................ 7
2.5 Discipline ..................................................................................................................... 8
2.6 Motivation .................................................................................................................... 8
2.7 Use of the target language ............................................................................................ 9
2.8 Course CD .................................................................................................................. 10
3. Statistical evaluation of the quantitative questionnaire ........................................................ 11
3.1 Type of school and class levels .................................................................................. 17
3.2 Knowledge and use of language in a social environment .......................................... 20
3.2.1 English in the holidays ............................................................................................ 24
3.2.2 English in the media ................................................................................................ 24
3.3 Participation in courses .............................................................................................. 27
3.3.1 Impact on performance at school ............................................................................ 48
3.3.2 Levels of satisfaction ............................................................................................... 67
3.3.3 Feedback from parents ............................................................................................ 70
4. Summary and recommendations .......................................................................................... 73
5. Appendix .............................................................................................................................. 76
5.1 Charts of the children`s survey: ................................................................................. 76
5.2 Charts of the parents` survey .................................................................................... 142
Research Report
Results of the empirical quantitative online questionnaire and of
qualitative fieldwork in selected Helen Doron Learning Centres
1. Introduction to the research context
he Department of English Teaching at the Catholic University of Eichstätt-
Ingolstadt carried out quantitative research based on questionnaires, as well
as qualitative fieldwork on behalf of Helen Doron Limited.
The empirical quantitative investigation was carried out using a series of online pre-
tests and was active from 1st April until 1st May 2012. A total of 1038 people took
part, including 280 children and 758 parents.
The questionnaire included questions on the general conditions and courses offered
by Helen Doron, on the reasons that parents and children had for taking part in the
courses, on the children's performance at school, on languages used at home, as
well as questions on socially relevant statistics.
At the time of compiling the research report, empirical qualitative fieldwork had been
carried out at 10 selected Helen Doron Learning Centres in Germany in the period
from January to June 2012 within the framework of a doctoral dissertation (random
On the day of the visit, teaching in at least two classes was observed with the partici-
pation of the researcher, a report was compiled and some of the teaching was filmed
for the purposes of evaluation.
On each occasion, open interviews were conducted with the heads of the Centres
and at least two of the teaching staff, and when possible also with two of the children
and two of the parents.
Researchers sat in on classes in the following Helen Doron Early Learning Centres in
Germany with the aim of gaining an in-depth insight into the research context of the
project and thus being able to situate and carry out the subsequent quantitative anal-
ysis more accurately.
The dissertation based on this research project will be made available following com-
pletion in 2013/14.
The objectives of the investigation were to provide answers to the following ques-
1. How do children learn English in the specific context of the “Helen Doron
Learning Centres” English, i.e. what are the conditions, what is unique or par-
ticular about the learning context and the manner in which they are taught?
2. What are the impacts of this particular method of learning on the develop-
ment of skills in foreign language learning, social skills and learning strategies
in the child’s later school career?
2. Main focus of the analysis of classroom observations
and interviews
This section summarises and collates the various observations and opinions ex-
pressed in the interviews in key areas. Additional findings were used to verify the
quantitative survey.
2.1 Variation of activities
In order to sustain concentration and joy in learning, activities are varied frequently in
both type and design. The younger the children are, the more often they are changed
and the shorter each type of activity is. This follows findings from developmental psy-
chology that show the concentration span of younger participants to be comparatively
shorter. Examples of activities are introducing and practising new words and exercis-
es. Book-based exercises are usually kept short and sandwiched between
2.2 Variation of topics
Although the Teacher Guide portrays the variation of topics as essential, this is not
consistently put into practice. There is a great deal of variation of topics with younger
children, but with older children a whole hour may be devoted to dealing with a single
topic in a number of different ways. If the children request a topic, or the teacher no-
tices that they are responding to it enthusiastically, it will be dealt with more compre-
hensively than other topics. It is suggested at this point that more attention be paid to
varying the topics with older learners, as well; perhaps not so much by jumping be-
tween topics, as by considering different themes based around the central topic.
2.3 Individual treatment of the children
Although lessons generally follow HD's guidelines very closely, the children and their
needs are at the forefront of a strict implementation of the lesson plan.
In more advanced courses the children can say, for example, if they have not under-
stood a point of grammar at school. Exercises/games relating to it that show the chil-
dren how the grammar is used are then carried out. The rules are not explained. Ac-
cording to educational psychology, explanations should be used to engage cognitive
It emerged that an area of sensitivity in the Centres is that of carrying out tests at the
end of a course section. If there are any signs of anxiety regarding this, they do not
take place.
Particularly praiseworthy is the gender-specific differentiation of the methodological
activities: in groups consisting solely of boys there is greater concentration on games
involving movement.
Differentiating aspects become particularly apparent where strong pupils are given
tasks that can be completed independently, because they require little or no help.
Adapting basic games to the level of learning, such as playing Bingo with easy or
difficult pictures, clearly brings joy to the children due to the high level of familiarity
and because it guarantees they will have fun.
2.4 Introduction to new words
As a rule, a large number of different objects are used to explain and clarify words.
For example, when new nouns are taught, an attempt is made to bring the corre-
sponding object or at least a picture of it to the lesson. The Centres' resources are
geared towards this and equipped appropriately - a clear advantage over state insti-
tutions. When there is demand, special 'English preparation rooms' increase teacher
motivation. New verbs are acted out using mime.
It is noted that there are generally few explanations. Where explanations are given,
they are given in English, leaving the children to find the German term. The teachers
remain monolingual - a clear teaching principle, the immersive approach.
2.5 Discipline
Disciplinary classroom management is carried out almost exclusively in German. The
justification for this is twofold: on the one hand, if discipline is experienced in a con-
text that is separated from the English course - in this case by language - it prevents
the children from acquiring negative associations with English. On the other hand, the
children can actually understand what it is they have done wrong.
The children are not usually just reprimanded: reason is also appealed to and the
consequences of their behaviour shown. This takes place in a one-to-one conversa-
tion with the child, so that although the other children can see what is happening, the
child is not exposed in front of the group.
2.6 Motivation
Happily, positive feedback is given very often and in a wide variety of ways. This in-
volves, among other things, giving praise, visibly pleased behaviour on the part of the
teachers and rewards for motivational positive reinforcement of good behaviour.
In all the Centres, the teachers' lively enthusiasm was impressive. They clearly show
considerable enjoyment in teaching, even in difficult conditions. According to com-
ments made by the pupils, they pick up on the teachers' enthusiasm, which in turn
leads them to enjoy English.
The noticeable success of this is impressive: not one of the children observed be-
haved completely passively or counterproductively. Differing levels of engagement
can be seen, and are connected to the teachers' attitude of letting the children decide
for themselves.
The children's voluntary participation is a central tenet of the motivational concept. It
relies on the fact that the children will still pick up all the lesson content and be able
to take part in the next lesson, in a manner similar to the way in which the mother
tongue is acquired subconsciously. However, the child is still constantly invited to
actively join in. With younger children a silent period is respected.
2.7 Use of the target language
(Re)productive speaking is strongly emphasised. The teachers encourage the pupils
to speak as much as possible.
Small communicative errors are often not corrected, or alternatively the teacher will
provide the correct model. More serious infringements of linguistic norms are correct-
ed by repeating the correct version.
Usually, the children respond to stimuli with short phrases. Any comments they make
independently are immediately positively reinforced. Amongst themselves, the chil-
dren almost always communicate in German.
One exception to this is a group in which there is a bilingual child. Since this child
speaks fluent English as well, the other children also use English to speak to each
other (Course: Botty the Robot, 8 years old). This clearly shows that the children in
the other courses possess untapped potential that can be activated by situations
such as this. A similar observation can be made in the bilingual schools of the City of
Vienna, Austria.
In English for Infants, the children cannot yet speak but still they point to the right ob-
jects and respond to explanations, which shows evidence of a high level of under-
In the courses for schoolchildren in year one, the children soon become at home in
English, quickly grasp larger blocks of meaning and after 10 weeks can give answers
consisting of one to three words. Measured against the pedagogic reality in state
primary schools, this is a considerably earlier time of reproductive speech production.
A not insignificant proportion of children about to start school who have been visiting
the course for at least one year seem to opt, together with their parents, to go to in-
ternational schools (e.g. in the Ruhr area). The level of progress in the course is
comparatively high: the teachers do not usually simplify their language when speak-
ing to the children and the level of comprehension is impressive.
2.8 Course CD
Nearly all the children's parents make a great effort to listen to the CD. During the
interviews they generally stressed the importance of the audio CD for preparation
and follow-up as well as an exercise in internalising and consolidating the course
content. The CD should be listened to at the same point each day, so that it is seen
as part of the normal daily routine.
Upon investigation, it seems that the amount that needs to be listened to is not feasi-
ble, and the average taken from those surveyed evens out at 2 or 3 times a week.
3. Statistical evaluation of the quantitative questionnaire
A total of 1038 people took part in the study, including 758 adults and 280 children.
At the time of issuing the questionnaire, the parents surveyed (in a few individual
cases, grandparents were also surveyed) were aged between 26 and 71 years old.
The average age of parents surveyed was 41 years.
In the majority of cases, it was the mother who completed the questionnaire; the per-
centage of fathers who responded was just 10.1%.
The majority of study participants are from Germany, the others come from the
broadest range of nations from Bosnia to Cyprus.
A total of 88.2% of adults surveyed are married and live in households with 3 to 4
members. It is noticeable that many of the parents surveyed were highly educated.
Of the female participants in the study, 43.6% has a university-level qualification; the
percentage of male participants was even 52%.
A total of 30.5% of women and 22.2% of men have an Abitur or Fachabitur (equiva-
lent to A-levels or Baccalaureate). 22.2% of women and 18.5% of men have the mit-
tlere Reife (certificate of secondary level education, equivalent to GCSE). 3.6% der
female participants and 7.1% of males have a qualification from an adult education
college or a Hauptschule. None of the mothers surveyed were without a school-level
qualification, and only 0.2% of fathers.
In keeping with these types of qualification, 55.4% are employed, 5.8% are public
sector employees, 8.6% work as freelancers, 13.2% are self-employed, 2.8% manual
workers, 12.7% are a housewife or househusband, and 0.7% are unemployed or
looking for work.
Average net household income was between 3,000 and just under 4,000 Euro (see
The adult participants in the study are therefore predominantly from highly educated
social groups and have the economic means to enable their children to access com-
mercial educational opportunities.
Figure 1: Net household income
The average age of the children was 8 years old. The children’s ages ranged from
one to 18 years old. It is assumed that the parents of the younger children gave an-
swers on behalf of their children. The extent to which these answers reflect the actual
feelings of the children is questionable at least; leading questions were used in the
qualitative research interviews to provide additional information in this area. The im-
pression gained here was that parents gave considerable help, at least in the com-
pletion of the questionnaire. Since this situation only relates to three children who
were under 4 years old, it does not negatively affect the validity of the study.
Comment on educational theory:
Formation of opinions in early childhood always depends partly on a certain imitation
of the habits of the persons with whom the child most closely identifies, usually the
parents. The strong potential for copying behaviours or speech has an influence on
linguistic development in particular. This means that the role of the parents has
enormous significance in encouraging participation and in developing language skills.
Figure 2: Ages of the children
One of the participants in the study is now over 18 years old, but is still currently tak-
ing classes at a Helen Doron Centre.
A variance analysis of the variables age and ‘current participation in a Helen Doron
course’ indicated that the participation of younger children is currently significantly
higher than that of older children (significance = 0.000**).
ONEWAY descriptive statistics
How old are you? (Levene Test for variance homogeneity: significance = 0.696 conditions of oneway anova are met)
a course
Standard devia-
Standard error
95% confidence interval for
the mean
More than half of the children indicated that they were female (56.3% = 157) and
43.7% (=122) male.
This distribution does not reflect the expected values, since the proportion of males in
that particular age range in the population as whole is larger than the proportion of
females. As the random sampling is not representative of all children in Germany, it
cannot be claimed here with absolute certainty that attendance of an English course
is dependent on the gender of the child; however, the results do seem to suggest
Figure 3: Gender of child
Comment on educational theory:
Selected pedagogical and didactic studies, most of which were conducted in a nar-
rowly qualitative research context with very few participants, indicate the possibility of
a slightly higher gender-specific affinity with language learning, or rather a greater
involvement with languages amongst girls. Neurobiological influences are currently
being investigated. There is a need for course materials aimed specifically at boys.
Figure 4: Distribution of age/gender
Of all the children surveyed, 92.9 % (=260 children) currently attend a Helen Doron
course. This adds validity to the results since the children are involved in the subject
of the questionnaire at the present time and do not need to remember back to events
in the past. Only 7.1% (=20 children) are not currently registered for a Helen Doron
Comment on educational theory:
It is interesting to note again here the slight indication that girls, particularly at pre-
school age, take part more frequently. Neurophysiological findings suggest that some
developmental aspects of language learning (e.g. reading) are demonstrated at a
different, earlier stage in girls; this might support this trend. Better account of this can
be taken through the targeted use of relevant gender-specific teaching (content, top-
ics, methods) which still need to be developed - to convince boys also be become
involved intensively and at an early age intensively with language(s). The latest
trends in media would appear to play a role in this (e.g. whiteboards).
Figure 4: Current course attendance
The current high percentage of participation in courses amongst the subject group of
the study increased the opportunity for targeted self-reflection in responding to the
questions, as well a timely comparison between learning in a school context and out-
side the school context. The research context here focuses on the latter.
3.1 Type of school and class levels
As is to be expected from the age distribution, most children (58.2% =164) attend a
Grundschule, that is primary or elementary school, or are not yet at school (19.3% =
53). A further large proportion (16.8% =46) attends Gymnasium (highest level of sec-
ondary school). None of the children surveyed attend a special school, and only 0.7%
(2 children) attend a Hauptschule (mid-level secondary school). One child (0.4%) at-
tends a Montessori school.
Figure 5: Type of school
Comment on educational theory:
More than half of the parents have an Abitur (certificate of secondary education
equivalent to A-Levels or high school diploma) or an academic qualification. This ex-
plains both the financial ability and intellectual willingness to support either early
learning at pre-school age, or extra tuition later where necessary, or even preventa-
tive additional action to support schooling. One potential task of educational provid-
ers is to supply information aimed at parents without for times education and thus
also convince them to pay for language courses.
Due to the young age and the type of school, most children taking part are in classes
1 to 4. Only 4 children in total are in classes 9 to 12.
The children were asked about their last half-yearly grade in English. Many of the
results here are missing, since many of the pupils in the first class did not provide any
answer, instead of responding in the category of no grade at all.
Comment on educational theory:
There are no grades given for English at primary school level in Bavaria and this will
presumably remain the case in the future. The performance levels of early foreign
language learners should, however, be recorded and documented for diagnostic pur-
poses on a half yearly basis (using on observation forms). This also applies to the
research area. This documentation would also be an advantage as an indicator of
progress; valuable crossover in terms of information and cooperation with school-
based English teaching would result.
Figure 6: School grades
A comparison of school grades revealed that primary school pupils (and former pri-
mary school pupils, presently in class 5) were awarded grades 1 or 2 exclusively,
whilst only pupils from a Realschule or Mittelschule were given a grade of satisfacto-
ry in their latest school report. A direct comparison between the school grades of von
primary school and Gymnasium pupils showed a highly significant (P=0.000**) corre-
lation between the type of school and the school grade (Phi = 0.429).
Comment on educational theory:
It can be concluded from this finding that language skills developed at an early stage
in the Learning Centres have an influence on performance at school.
Greater contact hours, more intensive use of the English language in small groups
and child-friendly methods at the Centres are the decisive parameters in this regard.
3.2 Knowledge and use of language in a social environment
Most of the children came from a background in which both parents could speak Eng-
lish (59.4% = 155). Only 1% (3 children) indicated that neither their mother nor their
father had a command of English.
Figure 7: Do your parents speak English?
The parents’ responses confirmed the responses given by the children. Of the adults
survey, over 60% stated that they had a good or very good level of English.
Comment on educational theory:
The language skills of the parents also give them an indication of the importance of
foreign languages for their children (e.g. preparing early for a professional career).
Where parents are not already aware of this information should be given to them so
that more children can enjoy this particular advantage.
Figure 8: Language knowledge
Although so many parents have a good level of English, only 3.9% (10 children) indi-
cated that they often spoke at home English with their children. By contrast, a total of
74.9% (197 children) stated that English was only occasionally or never spoken at
Figure 9: Frequency of English use at home
The results of the questionnaire for parents confirmed this finding:
Figure 10: English at home (parents’ responses)
There was, however, a difference concerning the results on whether there were peo-
ple with whom the children had close contact who spoke English with the children. In
spite of the small sample group of children, they mentioned several people who often
spoke English with them.
Comment on educational theory:
Speaking English at home with parents is not essential for successful learning in this
research context. A far greater role is played by the encounter with authentic materi-
als: these materials provide linguistic models for imitation outside the Learning Cen-
tres. If the parents are not bilingual, use of English at home may even lead to a risk of
fossilization of the language errors of the parents. For this reason, the focus should
be on a structured organisation of English-speaking encounters outside the Learning
Centres through the use of audio and visual materials.
Figure 11: People with knowledge of English with close contact to the children
Many children also speak other languages, listed in the following:
Albanian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Greek, Russian, Polish, French, Chinese, Italian, Ko-
rean, Croatian, Latin, Ancient Greek, Rumanian, Swiss German, Slovenian, Spanish,
Hungarian, Thai, Turkish.
3.2.1 English in the holidays
Notably, 35.5% (=100) of the children had already been to an English-speaking coun-
try abroad. Countries most commonly visited were the USA and Great Britain, but
Scotland, Ireland, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Jamaica and New Zealand were
also mentioned. The non-typical English-speaking countries mentioned were: the
United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Japan, China, South Korea, Scandinavia, Nepal,
India, Sri Lanka and Turkey.
Of the children who indicated that they had been abroad 68.1% (64) said that they
used English; 30 children said that they did not use English. The reason most com-
monly given for this was that the children were still too young at the time of the stay.
Only two children stated that they did not feel confident enough to speak English.
3.2.2 English in the media
Children encountered English above all on the radio, the internet (each mentioned
121 times) and in books (mentioned 120 times) in their free time. Only 5 children had
not encountered the language at all in the media.
Figure 12: Media
Several children also mentioned music and audiobooks on CD.
The children were able to give countless examples here. The most commonly men-
tioned examples were, however, Star Trek, Harry Potter, Barbie films, contemporary
music, Dora and YouTube videos.
Helen Doron offers online activities for children in the so-called Kangi Club which
has games, songs, instructions for making things, etc. Access is free for the children.
Yet, 35.9% (92) of the children were not aware of this online club. It can be conclud-
ed that the younger children are more likely to know about the Kangi Club, the older
children less likely.
Of those children who were aware of the Kangi Club, 22.7% (37 children) never used
it, 52.8% (86) only seldom, 19.6% (32) occasionally, and 4.9% (8) often.
By far the most popular activity on the Kangi Club website is the game, The
Schoolbag Game (nominated as best game 41 times); other popular activities were
Dress Kangi and Didi the Dragon. The following graph shows the results of the
survey of parents.
Figure 13: Use of Kangi Club (parents)
Comment on educational theory:
More targeted use can be made of the wide-ranging and worthwhile activities online
by introducing specific homeworktasks, even if not compulsory. Ideally, class time
could be used to cover these activities so that children become more familiar with
3.3 Participation in courses
Most of the children began attending to their first Helen Doron course as toddlers or
pre-school children. According to the survey of children, the average age is between
4 and 5 years (mean average = 4.73), and according to the survey of parents it is
3.76 years. The reason for this difference is that the parents also gave precise details
for children under one year.
Figure 14: Age when starting the first course
Depending on the age of the child, the parents either drop their child off at the
course, wait there or take part in the course.
The younger the child, the more the parents actively participate in the course; the
older the child, the more often they attend the courses on their own.
This relationship is highly significant.
Comment on educational theory:
Active participation by the parents, depending on the child's age, plays an important
part in supporting early language learning; carefully decreasing it can engender
greater independence. It also influences the children's long-term motivation to partic-
ipate in the courses.
The majority of children who were 13 when they began attending their first Helen
Doron course say they received a 4 (= ‘sufficient’) in their final half-year school re-
After carrying out a correlation analysis, the results show that there is a highly signifi-
cant correlation between the age of entry to a Helen Doron course and the grades
attained at school (Spearman's rho = 3.7). The correlation is positive, which means
that the younger the age at entry, the better the grade in English in the final half-year
school report. However, the correlation is not very strong, as shown by the very small
range of grades in English.
What grade did
you get for Eng-
lish in your final
half-year report
how old were you
when you first
started attending
a HD course?
Spearman's rho
What grade did you get for
English in your final half-year
report for?
Correlation co-efficient
Sig. (2-tailed)
It was ascertained that the majority of children remain at Helen Doron for several
years, which indicates high levels of satisfaction. Of those children who have only
been to one course so far, 58.1% are between 0 and 6 years old. The average age of
entry also lies in this range.
Figure 15: Total length of course attendance in years
Figure 16: Total number of courses attended (children’s responses)
29.4% (79 children) have only been to one Helen Doron course so far. One child said
they had been to 9 Helen Doron courses, and one said they had been to 10.
An analysis of the relationship between the total number of courses attended and
their grades at school revealed a significant result (p=0,009**) for the Spearman's rho
= -0.250. This correlation is not particularly strong, but does suggest that the more
courses a child has attended, the better will be their grade for English.
What grade did you
get for English in
your final half-year
report for?
Total number of
courses attended
Spearman's rho
What grade did you get for
English in your final half-year
report for?
Correlation coefficient
Sig. (1-tailed)
**. Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (1-tailed)
The courses frequented most often at Helen Doron are primarily the Helen Doron
Early English courses. This can be clearly seen from both the children's and the par-
ents' responses.
Comment on educational theory:
Although it has long been established in didactics that a greater level of input and
more contact time with English leads to better English-speaking skills, it is remarka-
ble that this is so clearly measurable in this case. The successful didactic concept of
the Helen Doron Early English courses is clearly a contributor to the fact that repeat-
edly and continually taking part in the courses leads to better grades in the subject at
school. The didactic focus of the courses (listening comprehension and basic speak-
ing) reflects the central learning aims at primary school in the first instance, but also
reinforce them, consequently leading to the development of strong reading and writ-
ing skills. The ideal age to start learning a foreign language as a young child is three
Figure 17: Courses (children’s responses)
Figure 18: Courses (parents’ responses)
As recommended by Helen Doron, the class size is around 5 or 6 children, which cor-
responds to the mean average calculated from the questionnaire.
Figure 19: Number of course participants (children’s responses)
The reason most often given by the children for attending a Helen Doron course is
that it was their parents' idea. However, 15.5 % said that they attended to a course
because they enjoy English.
Comment on educational theory:
It is to be expected that those with parental authority would initiate course attend-
ance, due to the children not having an overview of their own developmental poten-
tial. The motives, or bundle of motives, for this are very diverse. However, in an ideal
situation, they would be for the children's definite innate capacity for learning lan-
guages at a young age to be used in a focused way. The involvement of those with
parental authority, as exemplified so well by the research subject, is particularly im-
Figure 20: Reasons for registering for a course (children’s responses)
The fact that the idea comes from the parents is not just true for children who were
particularly young when they started attending their first course. The distribution for
this is the same across all age groups.
Figure 21: Relationship between course attendance and age
Moreover, the children list the following reasons for attending Helen Doron (open
Siblings who have already attended a Helen Doron course
Relatives who work at Helen Doron
Acquaintances or relatives who only speak English
Recommendation by the Kindergarten (playgroup/pre-school)
To learn better English
The parents' answers regarding the motivation of their children to attend an English
course at Helen Doron are more varied. One primary reason is that the parents con-
sider knowledge of English to be of paramount importance for the children's future.
The mothers and fathers are convinced that early learning is the best way to acquire
a foreign language, and they want to support the children in this as far as possible.
Comment on educational theory:
Providers of early foreign language learning must take an approach that involves
comprehensively and professionally informing those with parental responsibility of
their children's abilities as well as the didactic approach/methods of the courses re-
sulting from this.
The more that these are tailored toward the individual needs of the parents and chil-
dren, the higher the level of acceptance. Information evenings and the inclusion of
experts as consultants is recommended, as is active participation in conferences and
meetings that include reports based on experience and workshops.
Figure 22: Reasons for registering for a course (parents’ responses)
Most customers had heard about Helen Doron through recommendations by friends
or acquaintances, which indicates high levels of satisfaction on the part of those who
had already booked a course.
The parents are interested in their children's futures and are therefore relatively well
informed about the courses, their content and their teaching methods.
Comment on educational theory:
Recommendations from within the circle of personal friends should be most highly
valued as they are closely connected with the status quo of the personal relationship,
which should not be put at risk.
Figure 23: How well informed
Although it seems that the parents form the main reason for first attending a course
at Helen Doron, the children do nonetheless very much enjoy the courses. Only 1.1%
(3 children) do not enjoy going there.
Comment on educational theory:
The outstandingly high level of satisfaction indicates the particularly needs-driven and
individualised structure of the courses. This is strengthened by the small groups,
close contact with the course administration and an extremely high level of personal
Figure 24: Enjoyment in attending a course
The majority of the children would like to have fun at a Helen Doron course. This re-
sponse option was chosen 228 times, i.e. by nearly all children. Almost as many want
to learn English. Making new friends is of more secondary importance. There is a
highly significant difference for the area of the importance of English for future career
opportunities. This category was chosen much more often by the older children in
Figure 25: Expectations (children’s responses)
The children's expectations are fulfilled by their English courses. They do not feel
overwhelmed by them but regard fun or fun plus learning equally. Only about 7% felt
that they were only there to learn.
Comment on educational theory:
Affective factors such as fun and joy in learning are of great importance on a neuro-
psychological level. Things that are learnt or acquired with a positive feeling will be
anchored in the brain on a longer-term basis. The clear focus of the courses toward
this is one of their success factors.
Figure 26: Fun or learning
The children were asked what in particular they liked about the English courses. On
average, each item was rated as being either very good or good.
Figure 27: Evaluation of the course content (children’s responses)
The children like the games most of all, but also the English language, which is very
encouraging. The Helen Doron courses seem to encourage joy in learning a foreign
language. The Helen Doron CD for the home was rated the least positively, although
it also achieved a mean of 2.
Only 17.2% of the children actually listen to the CD as recommended; 41.2% of the
children say they listen to the CD several times a week. 26.8% answered with several
times a month and 14.5% admit to listening to the CD rarely nor never.
For this it is also shown that the older children listen to the CD less regularly than the
slightly younger children.
Figure 28: Helen Doron CD
The children have a lot of fun on the courses; only a very few (4.1%) find the course
too taxing (see figures below). According to the children, not enough attention is paid
to providing exciting facts about other countries.
Comment on educational theory:
The importance of listening to focused exercises in English at home was pointed out.
Integrating this into the general progress of the course increases both acceptance
and commitment.
Figure 29: Analysis of the course content (children’s responses)
Parents also rated individual parts of the course and its content. On average, each
item was also rated as being good or very good.
Figure 30: Analysis of the course content (parents’ responses)
3.3.1 Impact on performance at school
As already discussed in the first chapter, there is an extremely positive relationship
between the length of time spent attending the Helen Doron courses and grades at
school. However, 62.6% of the children are also aware of a positive effect on their
performance at school. Only 5.3% (11 children) disagree with this.
Figure 31: Subjective impact (children’s responses)
The category “I don't knowwas chosen almost exclusively by very young children up
to those of primary school age.
Looking at this variable with regard to those children who are already at school only
yields the following results:
Figure 32: Have you improved at school because of HD? (school children only)
A total of 73.99% say that they are better at school because of Helen Doron, 6.36%
do not think so.
A very similar picture emerges for the next question, in which the children are asked
to say whether they think that English lessons are easier for them than for children
who do not attend Helen Doron. Only 1.9% (3 children) are very sure that this is not
the case. In contrast, 61.5% (99 children) are very sure that it gives them an ad-
vantage over their fellow pupils.
Figure 33: Advantage provided through Helen Doron (children’s responses)
The positive result given by the children is confirmed by the parents' answers. Almost
95% are able to see a positive effect of the Helen Doron course on the performance
of their children at school.
Figure 34: Positive impact (parents’ responses)
The next section will consider these subjective perceptions of the positive effects
more closely. Both children and parents had to rate various statements regarding
their own behaviour or the behaviour of their children as to how closely they do nor
do not apply.
65.1% of the children say that they enjoy taking part in English lessons at school.
70.6% are completely confident in speaking English out loud in front of the class.
Another 46.8%, nearly half of the children, definitely feel that they have gained more
self-confidence through attending Helen Doron. A further 35% tend to agree with this.
57.5% definitely feel that they are better than the other children in their class and a
further 27.5% tend to agree with this statement.
47.20% would definitely recommend poor pupils to attend Helen Doron; 36.02%
would probably do this.
73.5% definitely feel that English is a great language and that they enjoy learning it.
63.2% say they feel they are now much more at home and confident in English;
28.2% tend to agree with this.
Figure 35: Rating of statements (children)
Figure 36: Rating of statements (parents)
The children were then asked in which areas they do and do not have problems at
school. The only areas in which some children had some problems were grammar,
writing texts and writing words without errors. For the majority of variables, the chil-
dren generally had absolutely no problems. The children performed particularly
strongly in listening comprehension and speaking.
Comment on educational theory:
The findings from the questions regarding the effects of attending a course on the
institutional English lessons and the performance of the respondents were extremely
Both children and parents cite the Helen Doron courses as leading to increased self-
confidence, higher linguistic ability and a secure status in English lessons at school.
They feel school proof and well prepared for the demands of learning English at
school, and the facts also support this.
The only areas in which problems in changing schools can be confirmed are in read-
ing/writing skills and cognitive application. However, this is caused by structural prob-
lems in the schools (inexact fit between the demands of primary and secondary
schools) and definitely not by any deficit of the Helen Doron courses.
In light of this, it is advised to actively and productively include familiarity with written
language early on and, if necessary, to focus on grammatical phenomena.
The following table shows what percentage of the children in each category said they
had no problems.
Figure 37: No problems in English lessons
This impression is confirmed by the next question, which asks in what respect the
English course offered by Helen Doron has so far been helpful for English lessons at
school. The factors most commonly mentioned were once again listening compre-
hension and speaking.
Figure 38: Help afforded by Helen Doron
With respect to this, a highly significant relationship between the length of time spent
at Helen Doron courses and agreement with the statement as to whether the course
did or did not help was again revealed for all variables. The longer the children have
attended the courses, the more frequently they say that the courses were really able
to help them.
In particular, the children have learnt to introduce themselves, greet someone and
understand exercises especially well.
The individual items show a high correlation not just with the age of the children, but
also with the length of course attendance. The more courses they have attended, the
better they are at the individual elements. Whilst there is a steady downward trend in
the response option "not at all good" for each age category, there is a clear upward
trend for the category "very good".
Highly significant differences were calculated between primary and secondary school
pupils for the areas of grammar and creative writing.
Children attending secondary school were more likely to say that the courses offered
by Helen Doron were able to help them in these areas (about 40% in each area),
whereas only about 17% of primary school pupils found this. The primary school pu-
pils' answers therefore have a negative effect on the overall result. However, the re-
sults from the children attending secondary school are to be regarded, as these are-
as only become relevant from secondary school upward.
Comment on educational theory:
Grammar and productive writing do not feature in English lessons in primary school
and are therefore not explicitly evaluated. This effect of the primary school system on
the evaluation can only lead to a generally positive result for primary school pupils, as
the basis for evaluation is almost entirely lacking.
Figure 39: How good are you at...?
The children's and parents’ evaluations of this are confirmed by the grades for Eng-
lish on the one hand and by the children's generally smooth transition to secondary
school on the other hand.
62.6% of the children who are already attending another type of school had not prob-
lems with the transition in the various subjects.
Figure 40: Changing schools 1
In the question asking about the subjects that caused the most difficulty, English was
only mentioned once.
The majority of children feel that the courses offered by Helen Doron definitely made
changing schools easier.
Figure 41: Changing schools 2
Only 1.4% (1 child) of children who are still about to change schools are very afraid of
changing schools. 24.7% (18) are somewhat afraid, 20.5% (15) are not very afraid
and over half (53.4%, 39) have no concerns whatsoever.
Figure 42: Changing schools 3
By including the question asking about English in particular, it becomes obvious that
none of the children are very afraid of changing schools and that in fact 60% (45)
have no concerns whatsoever.
Figure 43: Changing schools 4
Comment on educational theory:
According to the anticipatory assessment of children about to change schools, at-
tending the Helen Doron courses does help with the transition. The stronger positive
mindset is insofar interesting in that it strongly reduces the fear of being unable to
manage new exercises through engendering positive anticipation. Potential failures in
year 5 can therefore be pre-empted in the best possible way.
The parents also assume that there will probably not be any problems with the transi-
Figure 44: Changing schools (parents’ responses)
Comment on educational theory:
The results of all the criteria on the topics surrounding the issue of changing schools,
including both preparation for the transition to secondary school as well as hindsight
from year 5 and above can be clearly categorised: The respondents generally relate
their success, whether past or future, to attending courses in the research context.
What is astonishing is that the key factor to this is not just the increased ability in
English, but also, indirectly, the metacognitive skills acquired (e.g. planning inde-
pendent learning) and specific strategies for language learning (e.g. acquiring vocab-
ulary through playful means, communication strategies).
3.3.2 Levels of satisfaction
As already mentioned, recommendations from friends and acquaintances indicate
high levels of satisfaction. The parents questioned were also asked about their own
personal levels of satisfaction, which confirms this preliminary conclusion.
37.9% are very satisfied with the success so far achieved by the Helen Doron cours-
es; 46.7% are satisfied. Only 0.3% are not at all satisfied.
Figure 45: Levels of satisfaction - success
The few parents who were not at all satisfied say that too many games were played,
too many things from primary school were repeated, or that progress was too slow. A
few parents complained that there was too little transparency and not enough feed-
back about the their children's progress. On the other hand, it was also equally men-
tioned that the content of the Helen Doron courses did not tie in with that of the pri-
mary schools, although it ought to. One problem that was raised was the fact that the
children do not always join a group according to their ability, but depending on the
time desired by the parents, which, according to the parents, prevents 100% success
in learning.
The question about ‘value for money’ was rated somewhat positively. In particular,
the parents mentioned the course materials as being overpriced as well as the fact
that these had to be bought brand new for each sibling. It is not the quality that is a
problem for the parents, but the fact that the price is too high. A lot of parents ex-
pressed the view that only those with a higher income would be able to afford these
courses and that therefore the opportunity to learn English is not available to children
from all walks of life.
The audio CD was mentioned particularly often as having a negative price-
performance ratio, as it is seen to be too childish, with the main complaint being the
speakers' voices. Equally mentioned was the fact that the full course price has to be
paid, regardless of school holidays, although the course does not take place during
them. The school bag or rucksack was also mentioned.
One mother said she was sad that another mother from the course had to withdraw
both of her children from the course because she could not afford to pay for the 2 Din
A4 books, 2 CDs and 2 rucksacks (which are not used for anything else), as the cost
amounts to a total of 200 euros and is in addition to the high course fees.
The quality of the courses was hardly ever questioned and in the majority of cases it
was highly praised.
Figure 46: Levels of satisfaction value for money
Overall, 55% of the parents are very satisfied and a further 42.25% are satisfied. No
more than 2.7% in total are either not satisfied or completely unsatisfied.
Figure 47: Levels of satisfaction overall
3.3.3 Feedback from parents
The times of classes are not very suited to the natural daily routines of small
"Our" Helen Doron teacher is very good at motivating the children, is full of
fun and energy and always has some really nice ideas for ways to structure
the "class"! The "teaching" is much more varied than language teaching at
school and really appeals to my son.
include the current season or celebrations, such as Easter, Christmas, Hal-
loween etc.
It would be nice to have better deals for brothers and sisters.
I think that the Helen Doron concept is very good, but the courses and the
course materials are very expensive compared with others. At Helen Doron
they also make sure that you buy the new version. I don’t really like this, since
it means that families with low income don't have the opportunity to make use
of a good concept.
“Success begins and ends with the teacher!
“…detailed report halfway through would be helpful.
There should be much more encouragement of learning for children at pre-
school age in Germany. At the moment most kindergartens simply watch over
the children and little more. Take the Franconian International School in Erlan-
gen as an example...
The Helen Doron method is a very good way of allowing other children e
same opportunities that bilingual children enjoy.
The songs on the CDs are a strain - awful and in need of updating, they
should be replaced…”
A computer CD for each of the course units would be great!!!
Some of the teaching materials are very outdated, for example, the Botty vid-
eo! They should be updated to make them more interesting.
Helen Doron is SUPER!! Learning languages through play is simply brilliant,
especially for children.
I think it's a real shame that the Helen Doron concept is only available for
English because you could easily transfer it to other languages. I think Span-
ish in particular would be very interesting for younger children, because Span-
ish is also one of the world languages. I would not hesitate in letting my child
learn another language.
I really like English myself and am delighted that my children have been given
an ideal introduction to the language with a really brilliant teacher. Standard
schools haven't yet managed it as well, because the children are not really in-
troduced to the fun of language learning and are usually taught bad pronuncia-
tion. This definitely cannot be said for our Helen Doron teacher. She speaks
fantastic English and is also very good at teaching it.
I would really like to have some feedback from the questionnaires that we
sent back! My hope is that the results of the questionnaire will help parents to
understand that children should learn English as early as possible. I also hope
that it will put an end to the preconception that we have to fight against that we
are putting too much pressure on our children by getting them to learn English
so early and that we are so called ‘Tiger moms’.
I think that as long as speaking a foreign language is not given enough atten-
tion at school where the emphasis is all on learning vocabulary, children
should take the opportunity to take part in a Helen Doron course. Maybe there
could even be some sort of subsidy for children from low-income families.
They definitely need English later in their working life. This is where they will
need active speaking skills! Unfortunately, this is not something that they can
learn at school!
The teaching materials are geared more towards boys; more movement in the
We really appreciated the opportunity of a four-day stay in London supervised
by our HD teacher and our child thoroughly enjoyed this day the stay.”
We are thrilled with the approach which manages to cover the new, the old
and the very latest ideas. It's the perfect playgroup for our little daughter with
music, painting and sports activities.
We wish our schools had a similarly positive approach to teaching as we've
experienced at Helen Doron: been able to enjoy learning, not have mistakes
punished, improved self-confidence, creativity encouraged…”
4. Summary and recommendations
Period of study: January-June 2012
Participants: 1038, consisting of 758 adults and 280 children
Aims: 1. Description of research area: Helen Doron Learning
Center (fieldwork)
2. Analysis of the impact of this approach to learning on
the transition to secondary education
1. Action can be taken to address gender-specific differences in motivation to
take part. Special provision is required for boys as regards choice of top-
ics, subject matter and methodology (more explorative language learn-
2. Service users are primarily parents or guardians from social groups with a
background in for times education and an affinity for languages, as they are
better informed and more interested. HD offers partnership working with pri-
mary schools. Adults are involved and can participate actively. Consideration
should be given to the use of programmes targeted at socially disadvan-
taged groups (“English for all campaigns” etc.) as a means of increasing
3. The average age of children when they start attending courses is 4-5 years i.e.
pre-school age, which is ideal.
4. The younger a child is when they start attending courses, the better their Eng-
lish grade for the last six months is likely to be.
5. The more courses a child has taken, the better their English grade is likely to
6. Over 94% of the children find the courses very enjoyable, which provides
strong motivation for them to take part.
7. In order to identify more precisely the reasons for their enjoyment, participants
were questioned about the English language, materials, topics generally and
methods. Both children and adults rated all of these as either “very good” or
8. Questions about course subject matter yielded the same result. Children feel
there is scope to expand coverage of cultural topics relating to English-
speaking countries.
9. 62.6% of children (130) feel that the courses have had a positive impact on
their performance at school. This is confirmed by 95% of parents.
10. 61.5% of children (99) are completely sure that the courses give them an ad-
vantage over their fellow pupils.
11. 81.8% are strongly convinced that the courses have given them more confi-
dence in their linguistic ability; 91% feel at home and secure in English.
12. Difficulties with grammar and writing have a systemic basis, owing to a gap in
the transition from primary to secondary level. However, in nearly every se-
cond case, the quality of the preparation provided by HD courses is confirmed
by children’s performance at the schools they subsequently attend.
13. Children feel that the courses have assisted them in their English lessons, es-
pecially when it comes to communication i.e. oral and written language pro-
14. The majority of children (80.4%) are convinced that the Helen Doron courses
have facilitated their transition to secondary education.
15. Children who have still to make the switch have either no concerns (60%) or
few concerns (40%) about English as a subject.
16. 95% of parents consider their children to be well equipped for the transition.
17. 37.9% are very satisfied with the results that the Helen Doron courses have
been able to achieve so far, while 46.7% are satisfied. The general satisfaction
level stands at over 97%.
Nuremberg, 01.07.2012
Prof. Dr. Heiner Böttger
Department of English Teaching
Catholic University Eichstätt-Ingolstadt
Universitätsallee 1
85072 Eichstätt, GERMANY
Telephone: +49 8421 93 - 1155
5. Appendix
5.1 Charts of the children`s survey:
Welche Note
hattest du im
letzten Halbjah-
reszeugnis in
Welche Note hattest du im letz-
ten Halbjahreszeugnis in Eng-
Sig. (1-seitig)
Kursteilnahmen insgesamt
Sig. (1-seitig)
Welche Note
hattest du im
letzten Halbjah-
reszeugnis in
Wie alt warst du
ungefähr, als du
deinen ersten
HD Kurs be-
sucht hast?
Welche Note hattest du im
letzten Halbjahreszeugnis in
Sig. (2-seitig)
Wie alt warst du ungefähr,
als du deinen ersten HD
Kurs besucht hast?
Sig. (2-seitig)
5.2 Charts of the parents` survey
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