Developing Capacity in High School Teachers to Meet the Instructional Needs of English Learners

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Developing Capacity in High School Teachers to Meet the Instructional Needs of English Learners

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Title: Developing Capacity in High School Teachers to Meet the Instructional Needs of English Learners
Author: Russell, Felice
Abstract: This qualitative case study investigates the professional learning opportunities of mainstream content teachers to meet the needs of English learner (EL) students in a small high school over the course of one school year. Drawing on sociocultural learning theory, specifically ideas concerning communities of practice and situated learning, the study explores the development of teacher capacity for meeting a culturally and linguistically diverse student population. Focusing on school-embedded supports for professional learning, the study considered a series of influences on content teachers’ professional learning, among them school leadership and cultural context, teacher leadership, instructional coaching, collaboration between the English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers and mainstream content teachers, and teacher community. Together, these factors comprised a “system of support” for teachers’ learning, and more specifically for the improvement of their approach to the EL students within their classrooms. Specifically, this study captures how a school leadership vision for inclusion of EL students, alongside the work of teacher leaders with expertise in language acquisition and development, help to implement, and advocate for, school practices that focus on meeting the needs of linguistic minority students. The investigation reveals that mainstream content teachers learn to meet the needs of English learner students through their participation with classroom-embedded instructional coaching and collaboration. A strong teacher leader able to advocate for EL students’ academic and social needs at multiple levels (with students, teachers, and the principal) contributes to content teachers’ ability to focus on and engage with linguistically diverse learners in mainstream content classrooms. This research suggests that developing and supporting teacher leaders of this sort – with expertise in language acquisition and development, knowledge of school change, and working effectively with adult learners – may be a good investment for schools and districts. In addition, efforts at supporting content teachers’ learning in this area may be well served by cross department collaboration between ESL teachers and content teachers at the secondary level are revealed.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1773/16587

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