Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Linguistically Responsive Teacher Education: Preparing Classroom Teachers to Teach English Language Learners

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Linguistically Responsive Teacher Education: Preparing Classroom Teachers to Teach English Language Learners

Article excerpt

Across the United States--in small Midwestern towns and rural areas, in the Southeast, as well as in coastal metropolitan areas--classroom teachers are increasingly seeing English language learners (ELLs) (1) in their classes. In 2003, 18.7% of 5- to 17-year-olds in this country spoke a language other than English, up from 8.5% in 1979 (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2005). Between 1990 and 2000, the enrollment of students with limited proficiency in English increased by 105%, compared to a much lower 12% overall enrollment gain (Kindler, 2002). Whereas some of these students are able to participate in mainstream classes, many face a daunting challenge in learning academic content and skills through English while still developing proficiency in English. Yet, most mainstream classroom teachers are not sufficiently prepared to provide the types of assistance that ELLs need to successfully meet this challenge. At present, the majority of teachers have had little or no professional development for teaching ELLs (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2002); few have taken a course focused on issues related to ELLs (Menken & Antunez, 2001); and most do not have the experiential knowledge that comes from being proficient in a second language (Zehler et al., 2003). It is not surprising, then, that the majority of teachers report that they do not feel prepared to teach ELLs (National Center for Educational Statistics, 1999).

In response to the growing presence of ELLs in preK-12 schools, a number of recent articles and books have examined ways to adapt mainstream teacher education to prepare all teachers to teach ELLs (e.g., Brisk, 2007; Valdes, Bunch, Snow, & Lee, 2005). Consisting primarily of program descriptions, small-scale qualitative studies, and program evaluations, this literature highlights approaches being used by teacher educators to prepare all teachers to teach ELLs, including the addition of a single course or field experience to an existing curriculum (e.g., Walker, Ranney, & Fortune, 2005); the revision of one or more existing courses or field experiences to incorporate attention to teaching ELLs (e.g., Friedman, 2002); the addition of a minor or supplemental certificate program to a standard certificate (e.g., Brisk, Horan, & Macdonald, 2007); innovative program structures that foster collaboration among mainstream, bilingual and English-as-a-second-language (ESL) teachers, and teacher candidates (e.g., Evans, Arnot-Hopffer, & Jurich, 2005); and professional development for teacher education faculty (e.g., Gort, Glenn, & Settlage, 2007). Most of this literature, however, does not attempt to fully articulate the knowledge base incorporated into the approaches being discussed.

A different body of literature has given some attention over the past 15 years to that knowledge base--that is, what teachers need to know and be able to do to teach ELLs (e.g., August & Hakuta, 1997; Wong-Fillmore & Snow, 2005). Unfortunately, this literature has not made its way into many teacher education programs. One reason may be that much of it focuses on the preparation of specialists (i.e., ESL, bilingual, or sheltered content teachers) rather than mainstream teachers. Another reason may be that these publications use linguistic approaches and terminology that can be challenging for those inexperienced in linguistic analysis. Perhaps most problematic, much of this literature seems to suggest the need for an extensive body of knowledge and skills for teaching ELLs, a daunting task for teacher educators given the tight constraints on credit hours in the professional education sequence and the increasing demands on the preservice curriculum from state departments of education and accrediting agencies.

Despite the promising evidence that some teacher educators are seriously tackling the challenge of preparing all teachers to teach ELLs, most perservice teacher education programs still have a long way to go to sufficiently develop among teacher candidates the necessary knowledge and skills. …

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