Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Meeting the Needs of a Latino English Language Learner through Teacher Research

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Meeting the Needs of a Latino English Language Learner through Teacher Research

Article excerpt

Over the years, Ms. Lane's third grade mathematics classroom had become increasingly diverse. Challenged by the growing population of English Language Learners (ELL) and her need to change her teaching practice to meet their needs, Ms. Lane selected to study how best to teach one of her greatest challenges, Ana, a Latino ELL who also had a learning disability. Ms. Lane and her two university mentors found that using a collaborative action research model provided a structure for researching, designing, and implementing strategies that helped Ana improve her mathematics performance. The university mentors found that they, too, benefited from working together as critical partners while assisting Ms. Lane in this collaborative action research.

Key Words: Teaching Practice, Mathematics, Mentoring, Collaborative Action Research, and English Language Learners


Fundamental to the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act is that every child can learn and that all schools are accountable for student progress. One of the implications of this initiative is teacher accountability and a commitment to help every student in the classroom meet high expectations. Education Secretary Spellings (United States Department of Education, 2006) emphasized the importance of meeting the needs of the fastest-growing student population in the United States of America, the English Language Learners (ELLs). She strongly urged educators to help every child reach grade level because school children deserve nothing less.

Ms. Lane, 3rd Grade Teacher

Ms. Lane, a monolingual Anglo woman and an experienced third-grade teacher in a large urban district, taught a class with a growing highly diverse student population. Even though she had taught ELLs for four years, she had not received formal training in second-language acquisition or second-language teaching methodology in mathematics, or in how to address the specific needs of students with learning disabilities in mathematics. Ms. Lane wanted to improve her instructional practice by finding better ways to work with her ELL students who faced several barriers to success. One of her strategies for improvement was to take graduate coursework in both instructional leadership and mathematics pedagogy. This opportunity was provided by a Teacher Quality Grant, a federally funded 17-month professional development program, which targeted elementary mathematics teachers. The competitive grant focused on both mathematics content and pedagogy using a collaborative partnership between universities and public schools. Through this grant, Ms. Lane and 11 other teachers received books, tuition, training, and manipulatives for implementing best practices in their mathematics classroom.

As part of the process of improving instructional practice, Ms. Lane and the other grant participants examined their own teaching by analyzing student data and reflecting on what areas needed improvement. This required them to also research effective teaching practices and to complete an action research project. As an expectation of the grant, two university grant project directors took on the role of mentors to participants during the classroom implementation of effective teaching practices.

Ms. Lane's University Mentors

In teaching Ms. Lane to become a classroom researcher, the university mentors performed several roles throughout the research. As both instructors and mentors, the first two authors shared strategies for effectively researching teaching practices that Ms. Lane identified as areas she needed to improve. One university professor (first author) supported her effort in improving her mathematics content knowledge and pedagogy during her action research project; the other mentor (second author) monitored and provided feedback regarding her curriculum and instructional design models. The feedback from both mentors provided Ms. Lane with the tools to evaluate and implement effective teaching practices as part of her coursework. …

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