Port Moody, Mainland/Southwest
AIM Language Learning
Port Moody, Mainland/Southwest
AIM Language Learning (www.aimlanguagelearning.com) is an independently owned Canadian educational publishing company. AIM provides highly effective teaching and learning resources based on our proprietary Accelerative Integrated Methodology (AIM). AIM is a highly accelerative language teaching approach that is built on the most current research. Authentic learning is achieved through scaffolding techniques which use story-telling, gestures, active collaboration and repetition. The use of high-frequency vocabulary, introduced with gestures and contextualized in stories, drama, songs and dance, allows students to rapidly achieve levels of oral and written proficiency rarely seen with conventional methods. Students using the methodology are generally able to write stories and carry on spontaneous conversations in 100 instructional hours, something that historically, language educators have found difficult, if not impossible to achieve. Since AIM Language Learning was incorporated in 2004, the Company has focused on the development, marketing and distribution of curriculum resources and training for the teaching of second languages. AIM is currently used in thousands of schools in Canada in five languages. In addition, AIM has an Australian licensee, who sells the curriculum resources and training to a growing customer base in that territory. We are used widely in the Netherlands and sales there have supported our business. The primary goal of both language instructors and ministries of education, whether in Canada or elsewhere, is to promote true linguistic proficiency. Historically, it has been very challenging for most students to achieve any level of proficiency as mandated by Ministries or language institutions. AIM is now making it possible for students to achieve the expected language proficiency levels, and moreover they become fluent communicators – both orally and as writers. Developed by a BC teacher in her classroom, AIM is now transforming how language is taught all over the world.
In Business Since 2004
What motivated you to start your business, what challenges did you overcome?
AIM was developed out of a Need to Teach the Way Students Learn. In 1988 I started my career as a French teacher – inspired to share my passion for language with her students. But after several years I became frustrated to see, that by using the conventional method of language instruction, my students were not becoming proficient in the target language. And that’s when it hit me: If my students weren’t learning the way they were being taught, I had to teach the way they learned. My teaching partner told me that I must use the prescribed curriculum. I reached out to my department head and she insisted that I must not expect students in the primary years to be exposed to the written word. However, as a former Immersion teacher and as someone who is very much a visual learner myself, I did not agree. As I began to develop the methodology, I hid my results. Students in grades one and two were interacting orally in discussions with me and their peers exclusively in French! They were writing stories of 3, 4 5 pages and more - and they only had French 30 minutes per day! Meanwhile students in other classes taught through the traditional method could not speak, read or write. There developed a grass-roots movement to find out more about AIM as French teachers heard about my success. In 2004, I created a company with my partner, to develop resources for teachers. Large publishing companies saw that AIM was now a serious competitor. As a result, we were faced with unfortunate studies that put AIM in a bad light. We did not give up and despite the fact that many Canadian-owned publishing companies have since gone out of business, AIM is thriving and has been profitable in the last three years! We are one of the few solely Canadian owned and operated educational publishing companies in existence.
Why do you deserve to win the Best Innovation award?
AIM is a company that started as an idea by a teacher who wanted to help her students. Sharing my success with other teachers, I realized that this could transform the way languages are taught all over the world - and it did! The following is a quote from Jim Cummins, professor emeritus and one of the leading researchers in language instruction in the world who states better than I, why I deserve the Award: "Canadian core FSL programs have experienced minimal success in developing students’ French oral or written competence, despite the dedication of teachers and the investment of significant amounts of instructional hours and associated financial costs. Canadian Parents for French, a federally funded advocacy group, summarized the outcomes of FSL programs: “Only 3% of [Ontario] core French students continue with the program to Grade 12, most graduating with little ability to converse in, or understand French” (Canadian Parents for French, 2008, p. 17). AIM has radically re-thought the instructional assumptions underlying FSL and the results are outstanding with respect to students’ growth in oral and written proficiency and in their enjoyment of learning French. Wendy developed the AIM in her own classroom, refining the approach based on her observations of her students’ engagement and learning. Canadian publishers and French coordinators in school districts and provincial governments were initially skeptical (and some remain so) because AIM challenged the assumptions underlying conventional instructional practice to which many of these individuals were either personally or professionally committed (despite its meagre success). Unfazed by this skepticism and supported by the enthusiasm of teachers, Wendy decided to publish and expand AIM herself. This involved an enormous amount of additional curriculum development to create materials across the age/grade range, a national (and later international) professional development and summer institute effort, and the need to manage a growing business and the significant financial risks involved. More tangible evidence of impact comes from the rapid expansion of the program from its roots in BC to classrooms across Canada and internationally. Teachers, parents, and students see that AIM is working dramatically better than other instructional options There is no ‘big money’ behind AIM – just a program that is grounded in solid theory and language learning research and the remarkable drive of its creator."