Date of Award

12-2017

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Education

Major Professor

Clara Lee Brown

Committee Members

Stergios Botzakis, Barbara J. Thayer-Bacon, Dolly J. Young

Abstract

English Learners (ELs) are the fastest growing subset of the population in U. S. k-12 schools. ELs are students whose primary language is one other than English and who qualify for specialized services based on an English language proficiency test (Francis, Rivera, Lesaux, Kieffer & Rivera, 2006). One popular approach for supporting ELs academically is the inclusion model (Reeves, 2004). The inclusion method places ELs in classes with Native English Speakers (NES) in which teachers are required to teach English and content to ELs and grade level content to NESs. However, due to the failure of many pre-service programs, teachers assigned to teach these classes have little or no training on procedures to make content comprehensible for ELs. This is particularly true of secondary science classes where ELs scores are approximately 40 points below NESs on standardized tests.This paper details a study using the Professional Learning Community (PLC) format to support inclusion science teachers of ELs. During the meetings, approximately 48 EL-appropriate instructional strategies and the Second Language Acquisition (SLA) process were explored and modeled. The purpose of the PD was to change participants’ instructional practices and beliefs about ELs which in turn may impact ELs’ academic success in science.Results revealed that participants gained an average of 20.5 EL-appropriate strategies and changed some beliefs they held concerning ELs. The findings also showed that participants embraced the PLC format, citing communication and collaboration with colleagues as inspiration for teacher growth and improvement. The study’s findings identified specific changes participants were willing to make in their instructional practice and exact barriers to change following the PLC PD that go beyond the current literature. It is suggested that in service general education teachers receive training in ESL methods through PLCs, that departments of education devise detailed courses of study for preservice teachers that include English as a Second Language (ESL) methods, and that standards scores be used as a tool to help students learn; otherwise, the achievement gap for ELs will remain.

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