Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Learning to Teach English Learners: Instructional Coaching and Developing Novice High School Teacher Capacity

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Learning to Teach English Learners: Instructional Coaching and Developing Novice High School Teacher Capacity

Article excerpt

The number of English learners (ELs) in our schools continues to increase, and at the same time, the academic achievement of ELs consistently lags behind the achievement of native-English-speaking peers (Goldenberg & Coleman, 2010). These second language learners bring with them a set of special needs for teaching and learning, especially for mainstream content area teachers, who often have little or no specialized training for meeting these needs (Bunch, 2010). Although there is not yet extensive empirical work focused on how mainstream content teachers at the secondary level typically teach ELs or how they learn to more effectively teach these children in mainstream classrooms, scholars have begun to address the importance of linguistic knowledge for mainstream classroom teachers (Fillmore & Snow, 2000; Harper & de Jong, 2004; Lucas, Villegas, & Freedson-Gonzalez, 2008; Walqui, 2000). These scholars have argued that teachers need to provide rigorous, content-rich academic course work integrated with language development strategies to meet the instructional needs of ELs. This push for mainstream teachers to teach all students high-level content, including all levels of ELs, creates a challenging instructional environment, especially for novice teachers.

In addition, few principals possess pedagogical expertise or personal experience with ELs (Reyes, 2006); consequently, English as a second language (ESL) teachers are increasingly called on to be the experts in their buildings (Brooks, Adams, & Morita-Mullaney, 2010) and are charged with the task of meeting the instructional needs of ELs both in their ESL classes and in mainstream classes. This leadership responsibility of ESL teachers can include developing the capacity of mainstream teachers to more effectively meet the instructional needs of ELs in content classrooms. Many ESL teachers, however, do not have the time in their daily schedules to do the work that is expected or necessary, nor do they have the training or positionality (Creese, 2002) to provide such support.

Furthermore, recent research has highlighted the role of teacher induction (programs that provide support, guidance, and orientation for new teachers) in novice teacher professional learning (Flores, 2006; Ingersoll & Strong, 2011) and has spoken to the importance of mentoring relationships that support novice teachers in navigating their particular school contexts (Wang, Odell, & Schwille, 2008). Instructional coaches are on the rise in core subject areas like mathematics and literacy, but we know little about the nature of EL-focused instructional coaching, particularly for novice teachers. This article addresses this important gap in the literature by examining the relationship between an EL facilitator (1) and novice teacher as a support for teacher learning. This analysis focuses on the following research questions:

1. How does the novice teacher learn to meet the instructional needs of ELs?

2. How does a novice teacher and EL facilitator relationship serve as a support for teacher learning?

In this article, I describe and analyze the professional learning of a novice teacher by focusing on her social participation with an EL facilitator within one high school. I argue that this relationship was a support for the novice teacher and that the interactions between these individuals contributed to the professional learning of this high school teacher and, ultimately, to the capacity of this teacher to meet the instructional needs of ELs in her mainstream classroom.

Framing the Problem

The approach that I use to analyze this novice teacher's professional learning draws on Wenger's (1998) Communities of Practice as a lens for understanding social participation as a means for learning. The interactions between the EL facilitator and the novice teacher are analyzed as the novice teacher makes meaning of her teaching and comes to understand what it means to be a content teacher in this particular context. …

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