Factors Associated With Novice General Education Teachers’ Preparedness to Work With Multilingual Learners: A Multilevel Study

September/October 2021

Source: Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 72(4) 489–503

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study explored the factors at the teacher-level and school-level that influence public-school general education teachers’ perceived preparedness to work with multilingual students in their first year of teaching.
A conceptual framework illustrates the authors’ effort to examine the potential factors affecting teacher-perceived preparedness to work with multilingual learners.
Based on the literature, theoretical perspective, and conceptual framework, they asked the following research questions about general education teachers:
1. To what extent did teachers report feeling prepared to work with multilingual learners in their first year of teaching?
2. To what extent were teacher-perceived preparedness to work with multilingual learners related to their preservice teacher education experiences?
3. To what extent were teacher-perceived preparedness to work with multilingual learners related to their first-year teaching experiences?
4. To what extent were teacher-perceived preparedness to work with multilingual learners related to school contexts where they taught?


Data Source and Samples
In this study, the authors linked two nationally representative datasets to include the information at two analysis levels: teacher and school.
One was the latest available public-school data from the 2015 to 2016 National Teachers and Principal Survey (NTPS) from the NCES, which comprised the majority of the data for this study.
NTPS is a large sample survey that aims to collect information about public elementary and secondary schools and their staff in the United States.
For this study, they used data from the Teacher Questionnaire and School Questionnaire.
The purpose of the Teacher Questionnaire was to collect teacher information such as general background, education information, early career experiences, working conditions, school climate, and teacher attitudes. The School Questionnaire was to obtain information of school characteristics, such as demographics, staffing, and programs. For this study, all sampled teachers who responded to the teacher preparedness question (dependent variable) in the Teacher Questionnaire were included.
The authors also used the Civil Rights Data Collection from the Office of Civil Rights (CRDC) to extract school-level information in the 2015 to 2016 school year in terms of the enrollment of students labeled as “English Learner.”
CRDC was a survey of all public schools and school districts in the United States that collects information about school characteristics, programs, services, and student outcomes.
As a result of combining these two datasets, their sample included a total of 6,670 teachers and 3,770 schools, representing a weighted sample of 754,100 teachers and 86,980 schools.

Results and discussion
The study results have implications for improving teacher quality and subsequently enhancing the learning opportunities for multilingual students.
In combination, the authors’ findings suggest the need for concentrated and explicit coursework in preservice teacher preparation programs that specifically supports teachers in learning about working with multilingual learners (e.g., Alim et al., 2020; García et al., 2017).
Overall, teachers in this study did not feel well prepared to work with multilingual students, but higher levels of perceived preparedness was with teachers who did have such courses.
The authors suggest that such coursework needs to be part of every teacher-preparation program and likely expanded to support higher levels of perceived preparedness with general education teachers.
Their findings also suggest the need for supportive new teacher induction programs built around teacher collaboration and opportunities for pre- and in-service teachers to work extensively with multilingual students. Separately and in combination, these variables have a strong impact on new teachers’ perceived preparedness to work with multilingual students.
Based on these findings, the authors call for continued research to understand factors that impact teacher-perceived preparedness to teach multilingual learners as well as the relationship between teacher preparedness and other desirable outcomes for both teachers and students (e.g., pluralist learning outcomes, cultural and linguistic connections to communities, graduation rates, teacher retention and satisfaction). Due to their finding that coursework focused on preparing preservice teachers of multilingual learners impacts new teachers-perceived preparedness, further research into the principles, processes, and practices in preservice coursework working with multilingual students is beneficial.
What they argue for here is beyond a focus on activities and approaches—rather the kinds of principles and theories that should guide and inform the design and implementation of strong coursework to support the development of quality general education teachers of multilingual learners.
The Enduring Principles of Learning (also known as the Standards for Effective Pedagogy) are a strong empirically and theoretically grounded example of this kind of work (e.g., Teemant & Hausman, 2013; Viesca & Teemant, 2019): joint productive activity, language and literacy development, contextualization, teaching complex thinking, instructional conversation and critical stance.
They also see opportunities for preservice programs to work more collaboratively across institutions to develop principle-based courses that can then be part of larger collaborative research projects.
Because of their finding that supportive teacher induction practices, particularly grounded in collaboration, impact teachers-perceived preparedness to work with multilingual students, they suggest further development and research of strong collaboratively based induction practices that particularly focus on developing strong teachers of multilingual learners.
The research literature suggests inter-disciplinary collaborations that include both language specialists and general education teachers are particularly helpful (Babinski et al., 2018; Martin-Beltran & Peercy, 2014; Peercy et al., 2015).
Finally, it is clearly important for teachers to have the opportunities to learn about and work directly with multilingual students.
Multilingual students themselves are great teachers of how to be a great teacher of multilingual learners.
While they would not suggest that students have the burden to teach teachers to be successful teachers of multilingual students, they do argue that there is a valuable learning opportunity in mediated and supported opportunities for teachers to work with multilingual students.
These opportunities should ideally be available to both pre- and in-service teachers and are fruitful grounds for further research into the nuance, opportunities and pitfalls of such work.

Alim, H. S., Paris, D., & Wong, C. P. (2020). Culturally sustaining pedagogy: A critical framework for centering communities. In N. S. Nasir, C. D. Lee, R. Pea, & M. M. de Royston (Eds.), Handbook of the cultural foundations of learning (pp. 261–276). Routledge.
Babinski, L. M., Amendum, S. J., Knotek, S. E., Sánchez, M., & Malone, P. (2018). Improving young English learners’ language and literacy skills through teacher professional development: A randomized controlled trial. American Educational Research Journal, 55(1), 117–143.
García, O., Johnson, S. I., & Seltzer, K. (2017). The translanguaging classroom: Leveraging student bilingualism for learning. Caslon.
Martin-Beltran, M., & Peercy, M. M. (2014). Collaboration to teach English language learners: Opportunities for shared teacher learning. Teachers and Teaching, 20(6), 721–737.
Peercy, M. M., Martin-Beltrán, M., Silverman, R. D., & Nunn, S. J. (2015). “Can I ask a question?” ESOL and mainstream teachers engaging in distributed and distributive learning to support English language learners’ text comprehension. Teacher Education Quarterly, 42(4), 33–58.
Teemant, A., & Hausman, C. S. (2013). The relationship of teacher use of critical sociocultural practices with student achievement. Critical Education, 4(4), 1–20.
Viesca, K. M., & Teemant, A. (2019). Preparing mainstream content teachers to work with bi/multilingual students. In L. C. de Oliveira (Ed.), The Handbook of TESOL in K-12 (pp. 371–386). Wiley. 

Updated: Dec. 22, 2021