Contemporary Special Education Research: Syntheses of the Knowledge Base on Critical Instructional Issues

By Russell Gersten; Ellen P. Schiller et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 2
The Professional Knowledge Base on Instructional Practices That Support Cognitive Growth for English-Language Learners

Russell Gersten Scott Baker Eugene Research Institute

In decrying the high levels of passion and low levels of rational discourse on the subject of the education of English-language learners, Yzaguirre ( 1998) noted that a shift in emphasis toward instructional issues and variables is likely to significantly improve both the level and the quality of discourse on the topic. Scholars such as Goldenberg (personal communication, 1994; 1996) and Moll ( 1988) have argued convincingly that research needs to go beyond which language is used to teach English-language learners and beyond which model of bilingual education is best, and move toward a delineation of instructional methods for how to teach successfully. Goldenberg (personal communication, October 8, 1994) noted, for example, that "The language of instruction debate has so dominated discussion of how to best serve the needs of language minority children that other issues, which are at least equally important, have not been adequately addressed." In 1989, Figueroa, Fradd, and Correa decried the lack of "a substantive body of empirical data on actual, well-controlled interventions . . . that improve the academic abilities of students who are English-language learners" (p. 17). By and large, despite huge interest in the topic, this is still the case.

The recent report by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) ( August & Hakuta, 1997) on the knowledge base of effective education for English-language learners laments that little has been learned from large- scale program evaluation studies, which have focused primarily on issues of the language used for instruction and the optimal time for introducing English. These program evaluation studies are problematic because of sig-

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