Instructional Styles Used by Regular Classroom Teachers While Teaching Recently Mainstreamed ESL Students: Six Urban Middle School Teachers in Texas Share Their Experiences and Perceptions

By Curtin, Ellen "Aileen" | Multicultural Education, Summer 2005 | Go to article overview

Instructional Styles Used by Regular Classroom Teachers While Teaching Recently Mainstreamed ESL Students: Six Urban Middle School Teachers in Texas Share Their Experiences and Perceptions


Curtin, Ellen "Aileen", Multicultural Education


Introduction

It is the teachers of America who meet the daily challenge of addressing the culturally diverse needs of both immigrant and native students. Researchers demonstrate that understanding the background and culture and immigrant children is a necessary component for teachers to provide a more successful educational experience for these students (Banks, 2001; Gay, 2000; Olson, 1997; Sleeter & Grant, 1991).

Much educational research illuminates that the majority of teachers who do not have English as a second Language (ESL) background or training can be illequipped to work with immigrant, nonEnglish speaking, and culturally diverse children (Trueba, Cheng, & Ima, 1993; Ladson-Billings, 1994). Research reveals that 75% of non-English speaking students are placed with teachers who lack specialized training in second language acquisition, English as a second language, or bilingual education (McKeon,1994).

What instructional methods do nonESL trained teachers use in their classrooms with ESL students? Byrnes et al. (1998) examined the practices used by regular classroom teachers involved in teaching ESL students. Using survey data, the researcher team examined teachers' knowledge about second language learning and their classroom practices. The findings of this study suggested that teachers who had not typically received formal training in second-language learning demonstrated inadequate teaching strategies for ESL students. The study demonstrated that there were inadequate resources available to regular classroom non-ESL teachers, and that these teachers were engaged in teaching practices that were detrimental to the academic and personal development of ESL students.

Many states including Texas require that all students pass state standardized tests (TAKS: Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) to graduate from high school. The impact of such state mandates also effects ESL students at the middle school level who are now required within three years to achieve on-grade level academic goals in a second language. What specific teaching strategies do regular content middle school teachers use to ensure that their ESL students can meet state level expectations?

This article presents the results of a qualitative research study conducted in one Texas urban middle school. One of the purposes of the study was to investigate the instructional methods used by regular classroom teachers to address the unique needs of ESL students recently main-streamed into these teachers' regular content classes.

Western Heights Middle School

The site chosen for this study was an urban middle school in a large school district in Texas. This school was located in an economically disadvantaged urban setting, had an immigrant student population of more than 30%, and has an "acceptable" academic rating on the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS: Texas Assessment of Academic Skills) for the 2000-2001 school year. The state standardized test was named Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS) during the data collection period. The test was replaced the following year by the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) test.

The immigrant students for this study spent a year in the Immigrant Welcome Center, a service that was supported by local funds from the district. After a year in this center, the immigrant student spent a minimum of one year in a Language Center (sheltered ESL center) developing basic English language skills acquired from the Welcome Center while learning grade level specific content.

All teachers in the Language Center were ESL certified teachers. The teachers in the Language Center determined when each ESL student was ready to be mainstreamed into the regular classrooms for some or most of the day. This usually occurred during the students' third year in the United States and their second year at the Language Center. The student was also required to take the TAAS test at the end of the third year of education in the United States. …

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