Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Learning to Educate English Language Learners in Pre-Service Elementary Practicums

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Learning to Educate English Language Learners in Pre-Service Elementary Practicums

Article excerpt

Introduction and Purpose

Studies have repeatedly shown that English language learners (ELLs) in elementary and secondary schools are frustrated because the school system is failing to support them in achieving their goals of acquiring English and obtaining postsecondary education (Menken, 2008; Olsen, 1997; Suarez-Orozco, Suarez-Orozco, & Todorova, 2008; Valdes, 2001). Teachers of ELLs often tell students to stop speaking their native languages, require students to repeat tedious grammar drills that are not cognitively demanding, and communicate low expectations of these students. Many ELLs are left wondering "when, if ever, [they] will experience the kind of teaching [they] need" to succeed in elementary and secondary schools (Jimenez & Rose, 2010, p. 403). Too often, this growing population of ELLs, which likely will be one in every four students in K-12 schools by 2025 (U.S. Department of Education, 2006), is not getting the educational services they need to thrive within and beyond school.

All K-12 teachers, not just English language specialists, are responsible for educating ELLs (Harper & de Jong, 2009; Valdes, 2001). To support students learning English as an additional language, however, all teachers need opportunities to learn how they can educate these learners effectively. Because teacher quality affects students' academic success (Rockoff, 2004) and teacher education can enhance teacher quality (Darling-Hammond, 2000), more evidence is needed regarding how and when teacher candidates learn to educate linguistically diverse students in their teacher education programs (Jimenez & Rose, 2010; Lucas & Grinberg, 2008). More specifically, because students' academic achievement in elementary school directly predicts high school success and graduation rates (Hernandez, 2012), and vocabulary and reading abilities in first grade predict academic success in eleventh grade (Cunningham & Stanovich, 1997), further analysis into how elementary teachers learn to work with ELLs in their pre-service programs is an especially urgent need.

In this article, I report major findings from a study that documented how and when pre-service elementary teachers learned to educate ELLs during their thirteen-month Masters with Certification in Elementary Education (MCEE) program. First, I provide a synopsis of the literature on what we already know about preparing teachers to educate ELLs. Then, I describe my theoretical perspective, methods, and findings. Finally, I discuss implications for research and practice that could enhance the ways we guide teachers to educate ELLs.

What Do We Know about Preparing Teachers to Educate ELLS?

We know that:

(1) Infusing culturally and linguistically responsive pedagogy into teacher education programs can enhance students' experiences in K-12 schools.

(2) Certain projects, courses, or practicum experiences can be shaped to help candidates learn to educate ELLs.

(3) We have to think broadly about how pre-service programs guide candidates to learn not only knowledge and dispositions but also skills across program experiences.

Culturally and linguistically responsive pedagogy in teacher education engages teacher candidates in reflecting on their own backgrounds, affirming students' prior experiences as assets to learning, finding ways to bridge students' prior knowledge with new content, recognizing inequalities in K-12 schools, and embracing the role of advocate for increasing equity in K-12 schools (Villegas & Lucas, 2002). Additionally, linguistically responsive pedagogy in teacher education guides candidates in gaining awareness of principles of second language acquisition, the importance of learning about and using students' linguistic backgrounds, and incorporating knowledge of language acquisition theories and students' experiences into practice (Lucas, Villegas, & Freedson-Gonzalez, 2008). …

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