Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Dr. Patricia Davis-Wiley

Committee Members

Dr. Ilona Leki, Dr. Norma Mertz, Dr. Judith Boser


The enrollment of English language learners (ELLs) in U.S. public schools has increased dramatically in the past three decades. With the predominance of pull-out ESL programs, ELLs spend much of their day in the classrooms of mainstream teachers who may have received little or no training to work with language minority students. The purpose of this study was to examine high school teachers’ attitudes and perceptions of ESL inclusion in mainstream classes. The research design included both quantitative and qualitative inquiries. First, a survey was administered to 279 subject area teachers in four high schools to measure teachers’ attitudes and perceptions of ESL inclusion. Second, a qualitative inquiry, consisting of a five-month interview and observation cycle of four high school teachers, examined the experiences of teachers of ELLs in detail.

While teachers’ general attitudes toward ESL inclusion in mainstream classes were positive, this study revealed teachers’ frustration with their lack of time, training, and support to work effectively with ELLs. In addition, teachers’ perceptions of the utility of ELLs’ native languages as a classroom resource were generally negative, and teachers encouraged the rapid linguistic assimilation of ELLs. Teachers’ attitudes toward the modification of coursework suggested teachers’ belief in equalizing coursework standards for all students regardless of English proficiency. Finally, survey participants perceived the inclusion of ELLs in mainstream classes to be a multicultural learning experience for English proficient students. Data from the qualitative inquiry, however, portrayed ELLs as marginal members of mainstream classrooms who rarely interacted with English proficient peers or teachers.

Implications of teachers’ attitudes and perceptions of ESL inclusion and recommendations for further research conclude the study.

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