Benefiting the Educator and Student Alike: Effective Strategies for Supporting the Academic Language Development of English Learner (EL) Teacher Candidates

Fall, 2011

Source: Issues in Teacher Education, Volume 20, Number 2, Fall 2011, p. 95-109.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article details specific, research-based feedback strategies that the authors have found useful in working with and supporting the academic language development of English Learners (EL) preservice secondary teachers.

These feedback strategies are organized and discussed in terms of the following four themes:
1. Focused Feedback on Student Writing
In helping teacher candidates explore appropriate ways to scaffold writing for their future students, as well as in helping EL teacher candidates develop their own academic writing, the authors frequently highlight the importance of focused feedback on student writing.

The primary goal of this type of focused feedback is to identify specific conventions for writers, provide scaffolding for learning or improving those skills, and then to follow up on subsequent writing to determine whether the writer is internalizing these skills.

2. Focused Feedback on Oral Communication
Teachers not only need competent writing skills, but they also must be able to use oral language in meaningful and effective ways.
Just as faculty members can model appropriate written feedback strategies with preservice teachers, this same type of approach can be beneficial for oral language development.

Classroom discussions typically allow for more informal use of language, and as long as there is not a breakdown of meaning or communication, overt correction of oral language should not be used. In cases in which there is a breakdown in communication, clarifying questions can often be used effectively to determine the speaker’s meaning.

3. Explicit Modeling
The strategies of explicit modeling which teacher candidates use for improving reading comprehension, include surveying the text, paraphrasing, pre-/post reading, and effective questioning methods.

4. Revision and Assessment
Because multiple revisions of academic work typically result in overall improvement of the work, researchers emphasize the idea of building opportunities for revisions into the grading scheme.
In this article, teacher candidates have expressed their appreciation for receiving specific feedback on language usage and for having the opportunity to revise and resubmit their papers, which suggests that it has been beneficial in helping them focus on and improve their academic writing.


Today, teacher education programs in California must ensure that the K-12 teacher candidates whom they prepare for the profession have the knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary to support the EL students whom they will be serving in school.

As a result, programs have embedded courses and experiences in their curricula specific to helping teacher candidates understand and support the academic language development of their students.
A major theme in these courses and experiences is that content-area teachers are also teachers of academic language and that it is not solely the responsibility of the mainstream English or English language development (ELD) teachers to support the language development of students.

As such, it is incumbent upon faculty in teacher education programs to not only emphasize this theme in their content-area courses but also to model the approaches that they promote with their own EL teacher candidates.

Further, professors in teacher education could greatly benefit from professional development to learn how to find and articulate grammatical errors using the vocabulary of academic English.
Administrators in universities could play an important role in helping faculty develop skills in this area by supporting opportunities for professional development in academic language feedback among their teacher education faculty, particularly by allocating necessary time and resources.

Updated: Nov. 26, 2014