Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Course Work to Classroom: Learning to Scaffold Instruction for Bilingual Learners

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Course Work to Classroom: Learning to Scaffold Instruction for Bilingual Learners

Article excerpt


The population of emerging bilingual adolescents in U.S. secondary schools has increased dramatically in recent years (Capps et al., 2005; Pandya, Batalova, & McHugh, 2011). Even though older emerging bilingual (EB) (1) learners face the "triple challenge" of simultaneously learning academic content, academic English, and the culture of schools (Kirp, 2015; Short & Fitzsimmons, 2007; Suarez-Orozco, Suarez-Orozco, & Todorova, 2008; Tellez, 1998), they are less likely to receive English as a second language (ESL) or bilingual instruction than their elementary-age counterparts (Paez, 2009; Ruiz-de-Velasco & Fix, 2000). U.S. schools place EBs directly into mainstream classes due to multiple related factors: pressures of annual high-stakes testing (Beykont, 2002; Brisk, 2006; Lucas & Grinberg, 2008), a mounting political climate of"English-only" policies epitomized by ballot referenda that eliminated bilingual education in several states (Brisk, 2006), costs associated with specialized language instruction; shortages of trained ESL and bilingual teachers, and increased immigration to non-traditional destinations (Capps et al., 2005). Indeed, most EBs spend the majority of their time in mainstream classes taught exclusively in English (de Jong & Harper, 2005; Gibbons, 2015) by teachers with little to no specialized training (Lucas & Grinberg, 2008). Consequently, many adolescent EBs encounter inadequate time and support to develop sufficient academic English to pass high-stakes examinations prerequisite to high school graduation (Alliance for Excellent Education, 2007; Beykont, 2002; Francis, Rivera, Lesaux, Kieffer, & Rivera, 2006); drop out rates remain disproportionately high among adolescent immigrants and U.S.-born EBs (Suarez-Orozco et al., 2008). Given the confluence of the aforementioned trends, all secondary teachers must be equipped to scaffold instruction for EBs, that is, to provide adapted instruction, so students still developing academic English proficiency can engage in standards-based content learning within the classroom community (Gibbons, 2009; Walqui, 2006; Zwiers, 2008). In this article, I present an analysis of how a cross section of history teachers who completed targeted coursework within a teacher education program learned to scaffold instruction for EBs from their student teaching to early years of full-time teaching experience.

History challenges students who speak a language other than standardized English because it consists of abstract concepts and complex linguistic structures quite different from everyday language (Schleppegrell, Greer, & Taylor, 2008). History students must unpack lexically dense texts with unfamiliar content situated in long noun phrases and nominalizations (when a process is turned into a noun, such as industrialization). Multiple terms often represent the same concept within a passage: the British Empire, the imperial system, the English government. To complicate matters further, history teachers are socialized into a profession that largely sees its task as covering content, because history standards span vast geographies and time periods (Barton & Levstik, 2004; Schall-Leckrone & McQuillan, 2012).

Some argue mainstream classrooms provide an ideal setting in which to integrate second language and content instruction for EBs (Echevarria, Vogt, & Short, 2017; Gibbons, 2009, 2015). However, transmission-oriented instructional practices like lectures--typical of many history classes--do little to facilitate comprehension and production of historical knowledge (Schall-Leckrone & McQuillan, 2014). Therefore this analysis of how history teachers learned to scaffold instruction may be especially relevant to teacher educators and secondary teachers who seek to actively engage EBs in rigorous content instruction in mainstream settings.

Preparing Mainstream Teachers to Work With Emerging Bilinguals

There has been heightened attention to the urgent need to prepare mainstream teachers to work with EBs (Lucas & Grinberg, 2008; Lucas & Villegas, 2013; Lucas, Villegas, & Freedson-Gonzalez, 2008; Schall-Leckrone & Pavlak, 2015). …

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