Preparing Teachers for Success with English Language Learners: Challenges and Opportunities for University TESOL Education

May, 2012

Source: The Teacher Educator, Volume 47, Issue 4, p. 302–327, 2012
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The study examines the role that university English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) programs play in shaping inservice teachers’ work with English Language Learners (ELLs).
Specifically, the authors focused on changes in teachers’ (a) attitudes toward ELLs, (b) beliefs about how children acquire second languages, and )c) knowledge of pedagogical practices that promote successful language and content learning.

The participants were 16 in-service elementary teachers at ‘‘Wheatland Elementary School,’’ located in a midsize, Kansas city. They participated in the 18 credit-hour sequence of courses. Five teachers five taught primary grades (K–2) and five taught intermediate grades (3–6). Ten teachers had at least a master’s degree. In addition, Fourteen teachers had studied a foreign language.
The authors collected data from multiple sources, such as teachers’ comments on course evaluations, written class assignments, formal observations of their post-coursework instruction, and a questionnaire administered at the onset and conclusion of an 18 credit-hour program.

The findings reveal that the ESOL endorsement program contributed positively to Wheatland Elementary teachers’ preparation for their transition to becoming a district ESL site.
The results show that there was an increase in an appreciation of the use of students’ first language to facilitate comprehension of content and promote bilingualism.
These results suggest that well-planned university programs influence even very experienced teachers and those who may be ambivalent toward ESOL endorsement mandates, and policies that limit the requirements for those seeking state ESOL endorsement may be ill advised.
The authors argue that teachers must accept mandates for ESOL training despite their skepticism of the effectiveness, or even the necessity, of such professional development.
The authors note that teachers must reconcile daily their goal to help all students meet state imposed standards with the knowledge that individual differences demand differentiation of instruction.

The authors conclude that the finding that a series of courses can result in changes for even experienced teachers leads them to conjecture that teachers with fewer educational experiences, fewer years of teaching, and fewer multicultural experiences could benefit even more greatly from this university endorsement program. 

Updated: May. 16, 2018