Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Before They Teach: How Pre-Service Teachers Plan for Linguistically Diverse Students

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Before They Teach: How Pre-Service Teachers Plan for Linguistically Diverse Students

Article excerpt


Today's new teachers, with growing frequency, are assigned to teach linguistically diverse students, often referred to as English Language Learners (ELLs) (de Jong & Harper, 2005; Pappamihiel, 2007). Many novice teachers, however, express feeling ill-prepared to work across languages and cultures, and researchers have found that new teachers need better training in this field (Fillmore & Snow, 2000; Hooks, 2008; Jones, 2002; Short & Echevarria, 2004). Pre-service teachers (PSTs) sometimes base their beliefs about teaching language-minority students on experiences they had as students (Busch, 2010). Often, however, PSTs' personal experiences do not match those of linguistically diverse students (Jones, 2002). Compounding this mis-match is that teachers increasingly look less like students they teach, with student populations diversifying while the teaching force remains predominantly White and middle class (Hooks, 2008; Verma, 2009).

All these issues can result in linguistically diverse students' placement in classrooms where success is far from guaranteed. Monolingual teachers specifically might have little empathy for how students experience learning second languages (Pray & Marx, 2010). Teachers with little training in linguistic issues or second language acquisition (SLA) might not think about language until it becomes a "problem" (Valdes, Bunch, Snow, Lee, & Matos, 2005). Given the grave consequences of not providing students equal opportunities, understanding how novice teachers conceptualize linguistically diverse learners becomes imperative. This study considers how PSTs' describe linguistically diverse students and make recommendations for improving their own teaching of these students in case-study projects, written during the semester after student-teaching, just prior to graduation from a teacher preparation program at a public, university in a South-Atlantic state.

Teaching Strategies

Teaching linguistically diverse students is not an exclusive responsibility of English as a Second Language (ESL) (1) teachers but is instead a responsibility of all teachers with linguistically diverse students in their classrooms (Lucas & Grinberg, 2008). With the introduction of the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards in the United States and their emphasis on the development of sophisticated disciplinary knowledge for all students, such "shared responsibility" (Bunch, Kibler, & Pimentel, 2012) has taken on increasing importance (Bunch, 2013).

Grant and Agosto (2008) have asserted that teacher educators must assess their roles in promoting social justice. Providing equitable educational opportunities to students across subjects requires preparation of teachers across disciplines in effective, sensitive ways regarding language. Valdes et al. (2005) contend, "No matter what subjects they teach, and whether they work with kindergarteners, middle school students, or high school students, teachers use language in many varied ways in all of their teaching activities" (p. 126). Yet many teachers are unaware of and must first consider their own language use and the ways in which language is used in their disciplines, what has recently been described as "pedagogical language knowledge" (Bunch, 2013; Galguera, 2011). From a teacher preparation perspective, de Jong and Harper (2005, 2010) argue that while many view quality instruction for ELLs as "just good teaching," the challenging linguistic tasks and classroom contexts students face suggest otherwise. Teachers not versed in ELL instruction, they contend, might mistake students' silence for limited cognitive ability, or consider first-language (L1) use as an academic hindrance. Further, de Jong and Harper (2005) maintain that content instruction must support second-language (L2) development. Although "many content-area teachers assume that ELLs will be taught English in another class" (p. …

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