Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Integrating Language Diversity into Teacher Education Curricula in a Rural Context: Candidates' Developmental Perspectives and Understandings

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Integrating Language Diversity into Teacher Education Curricula in a Rural Context: Candidates' Developmental Perspectives and Understandings

Article excerpt

This study took place at the University of Wyoming, located in the rural mountain West. The University of Wyoming, with approximately 13,000 students, is the only four-year university in the state. The teacher education population of the College of Education is about 600, and demographically, this population is about 90% White, predominately female, and from rural communities across the state and other states that border Wyoming. Likewise, most school districts in the state of Wyoming are less diverse (ethnically, racially, and linguistically) than the national averages. Given this context, the College of Education has tried to address issues of diversity at the program level over the last decade or so. The inclusion of topics related to issues of diversity in education has been evident in many courses across different departments in the College. Still, most of these efforts were largely made at the course level, as opposed to being made collaboratively at the program level to assure a continuity of diversity components across courses.

For example, in our educational studies (foundations) department (EDST), individual faculty members chose content they believed was the best for their course. With regard to language diversity, there was a discontinuity among EDST courses. While some courses in the department included relevant knowledge and skills that allow teacher education candidates to make sense of current politics of English as a Second Language (ESL) in a larger context, others dealt with this topic in a superficial manner. Working for the state department of education on an ESL endorsement initiative for inservice teachers, one of the authors of this article proposed that EDST department members collaboratively develop and integrate progressively interconnected diversity components into our teacher education courses.

Background

This article provides an account of a curriculum development, integration, and implementation initiative in the EDST. The content to be integrated in the program focused on language acquisition, a critical need given the urgency for teachers to support and honor rapidly growing populations of English language learners (ELLs) in the state, region, and nation. Given the need to develop and implement curricula and pedagogy that support learning for all children, including those who speak languages other than English, we felt morally and professionally compelled to begin to consider the ways we might prepare our students, teacher education candidates, (1) for the language diversity they are sure to experience in their careers. This challenge is especially unique in our context, a rural state with a rapidly increasing ELL student population and an unfortunately small number of teachers with ELL credentials and/or experience working with second language learners. It is our hope that in creating and sharing this account, we are able to advance understandings about the role teacher education can play in preparing the next generation of teachers for the linguistic diversity in our PreK-12 schools.

The Need to Address Language Diversity in Teacher Education

The number of students in the United States (U.S.) who are ELLs continues to increase substantially. According to the National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition (2007), the number of English learners attending schools in 2005-2006 was just over five million. This number represents a 57% increase from the numbers in 1995-1996, over a time the general student population increased a sparse 3.7%.

Despite the need for highly qualified teachers for the increased presence of ELLs, the national picture looks less than satisfactory. While over 40% of all U.S. teachers reported having ELLs in their classrooms, only 12.5% of those teachers had at least eight hours of professional training around language diversity within a three-year period (U. S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2002). …

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