Teacher Education for English Language Learners: What We Know and What We Need to Do

Today’s blogger is Adrian D. Martin, New Jersey City University, whose essay (co-authored with Ana Maria Villegas, Kit SaizdeLaMora, and Tammy Mills) on preparing future teachers to teach ELLs appears in The Educational Forum.

In many respects Cecilia is a typical third grader.

She enjoys spending time with her friends, loves her family, and dreams about the possibilities for her future. Cecilia’s favorite class is art, where she creates masterpieces with watercolors, paints, brushes, scissors, glitter, and glue to adorn her bedroom walls. She hopes to one day become an art teacher and inspire boys and girls to create masterpieces of their own.

Yet in September 2017, her hometown of Corozal, Puerto Rico, experienced the widespread destruction and devastation of Hurricane Maria. Although Cecilia and her immediate family survived this tragedy, their home and her school suffered significant damage. As a result, Cecilia’s family decided that it would be best to leave Puerto Rico and live with relatives on the mainland United States.

The challenges of this major transition were compounded when Cecilia enrolled in her new school in Cleveland, Ohio. Although she had some instruction in English as a second language while in Corozal, Cecilia struggled to understand Ms. Williams, her new teacher; and as the only speaker of Spanish in her class, she experienced difficulty in communicating with her new peers. For Ms. Williams, teaching Cecilia was challenging. Like many mainstream teachers, Ms. Williams was a monolingual speaker of English and lacked professional experience with linguistically diverse students. Because Ms. Williams had never studied a second language, she had no personal insight into Cecilia’s experience learning English as a second language. Without preservice preparation or ongoing professional learning experiences to teach English language learners (ELLs), Ms. Williams struggled to identify ways she might aid Cecilia’s academic progress while simultaneously advancing her English language development.

Given the increasing number of students who speak a language other than English at home and are emergent speakers of English, along with the trend to place ELLs in mainstream classrooms, it is imperative for teacher educators to develop a teaching workforce that possesses the knowledge, skills, and dispositions conducive to the affirmative inclusion of ELLs in mainstream classes. Unfortunately, research suggests that ELLs are often marginalized in schools and classrooms, and that many mainstream teachers, despite best intentions, are unresponsive to these students’ academic, linguistic, and socio-emotional development. From a social justice perspective, such an approach to educating ELLs is not only negligent, but also antithetical to the aims of education in our democracy.

Yet despite this urgent problem, little is known about ongoing initiatives within preservice teacher education to promote teacher learning for linguistically diverse students. To address this knowledge gap, the article I co-authored with Ana Maria Villegas, Kit Saiz de la Mora, and Tammy Mills on the preparation of future mainstream teachers for today’s linguistically diverse classrooms offers a systematic review of existing research on this topic. Our critical appraisal of the empirical literature published since 2000 synthesizes the findings from 21 studies to identify the nature and outcomes of learning experiences provided to preservice teachers for teaching ELLs. Using the central tasks for learning to teach at the preservice level proposed by Sharon Feiman-Nemser to guide our analysis, we identified a variety of learning activities teacher educators are using to engage preservice mainstream teachers in learning to teach ELLs. Specifically, the review paints a detailed portrait of how teacher educators can help teacher candidates interrogate their beliefs about ELLs and how to teach them, develop their skills for learning about these students’ out-of-school experiences, and build their practices as linguistically responsive teachers.

To be sure, had Ms. Williams—and other teachers like her—been provided with professional preparation to teach ELLs along the lines depicted in the studies we reviewed, she would likely feel confident in her ability to support Cecilia in learning academic content while developing English language skills. Struggles to determine how to modify instruction, scaffold classroom activities, and promote a linguistically inclusive classroom would have been mitigated by professional knowledge, skills, and dispositions to engage in a linguistically responsive, affirmative, and sustainable pedagogy. Thus, our literature review serves as an entry point for teacher educators, education researchers, professional development providers, and other stakeholders in the field of education committed to supporting students like Cecilia, who struggle in schools due to linguistic differences.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share Adrian D. Martin’s essay with the education community. Access the article at Taylor and Francis Online, free through April 30, 2018.

Literacy Alive! Top Projects Announced

literacy-alive-banner

It is with great pleasure that we announce the top projects from the 2015-2016 review cycle.

Gold Projects

  • The University of North Carolina at Charlotte  (Omicron Pi Chapter)
  • Bethune-Cookman University  (Pi Delta Chapter)
  • Fitchburg State University  (Xi Psi Chapter)
  • Madonna University  (Sigma Xi Chapter)
  • Liberty University  (Pi Sigma Chapter)

Silver Projects

  • Ferris State University  (Alpha Alpha Iota Chapter)
  • Kean University  (Delta Rho Chapter)
  • University of St. Thomas – Houston  (Pi Lambda Chapter)
  • Chapman University  (Chi Beta Chapter)
  • University of North Texas  (Alpha Iota Chapter)

Bronze Projects

  • St. Joseph’s College, Brooklyn Campus  (Alpha Epsilon Omega Chapter)
  • Armstrong State University  (Nu Zeta Chapter)
  • University of Pittsburgh  (Omicron Phi Chapter)
  • Marian University, Indianapolis  (Alpha Alpha Tau Chapter)
  • Concordia University  (Pi Psi Chapter)

2015-2016 proved to be another awesome year for Literacy Alive! with more than 100 projects submitted, 35,444 people served, and 26,631 books were collected for distribution globally!

literacy-alive-image1

To learn how you can participate in the 2016-2017 review cycle, and read a summary of each of the Gold Project award winners, visit the Literacy Alive! homepage on the KDP website.

Children of Unauthorized Immigrants

Catherine Gonzalez is an Elementary and Special Education double major with Social and Behavioral Sciences with a minor in Psychology at Seton Hall University (SHU). She is currently the Vice President of Kappa Delta Pi, Xi Gamma Chapter at SHU.

SHU_event23jpgThe program I spearheaded was Children of Unauthorized Immigrants, which involved four panelists all with backgrounds in the social sciences and teaching students of unauthorized immigrants. One panelist also spoke from firsthand experience, as a woman who went through school while being undocumented.

SHU_event1During this program, the Seton Hall community got the chance to explore a world that they likely hadn’t put a lot of thought into before now. Students and faculty alike got the chance to step into the metaphorical shoes of people in this country who face struggles and experiences many of us never have to even consider.

It was a chance to catch a glimpse into the firsthand experience of those who come to this country with nothing for the small possibility of building a better life.

SHU_event4When the idea of this program was brought up, I instantly felt drawn towards it.  I was involved in this program because I felt it would spark an important conversation, on a topic that isn’t often spoken about. During this presidential election, the conversation of immigration itself has been a hot topic. With negative and hateful views becoming more publicized and growing in number, we felt as an organization that the best way to combat this would be through providing information. Ignorance is usually based in misunderstanding and missing information, so we thought to combat that in the way we knew best: educating others.

SHU_event6As a first-generation American and college student, this was something that was very near to me, through my personal experience of seeing people go through similar issues. I was pleased to find that, when working with advisors and other students, they shared my opinion of the importance of discussions on this topic. These discussions led to further conversations on topics that many students who are going into teaching or becoming professionals that work with children hadn’t really thought about before.

Kappa Delta Pi instills in its members the values of knowledge, duty and power. This discussion of teaching children of unauthorized immigrants and what we as educators and other professionals can do is important as it emerges into the core values that Kappa Delta Pi stands for, and that we as future educators strive to reach.

SHU_event8

Research from The Educational Forum: edTPA and Illusions of Rigor (Part 2)

Today’s bloggerDover_photo_sm is Dr. Alison G. Dover (@AlisonDover1), Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Inquiry and Curriculum Studies at Northeastern Illinois University. She writes here in the first of a two-part series to describe research recently published in an article (coauthored by Dr. Dover and Dr. Brian D. Schultz) in The Educational Forum.

Part 2: Narrowing the Definition of “Good Teaching”

In Part 1 of this blog series, I described several examples of policies that reflect a broader context of privatized, profit-driven education reform, in which the rhetoric of rigor, accountability, and choice is being used to systematically destabilize public—and teacher—education. In our recent article in The Educational Forum, coauthor Brian D. Schultz and I examine the impact of one such reform: high-stakes, privately operated teacher performance assessments (TPAs) that shift the responsibility for defining “good teachers” from university-based teacher educators with local, longitudinal, and multifaceted knowledge of candidates and their communities to anonymous, external scorers. Virtually unheard of just 3 years ago, the edTPA (the most widely used TPA nationwide) is now being used to evaluate teacher candidates in 656 educator preparation programs across 36 states. Under edTPA, candidates submit self-curated samples of 3–5 lesson plans, approximately 20 minutes of video, samples of 3 students’ work, and lengthy written narratives to an anonymous online scorer. Scorers—who have been “calibrated” to ensure their numerical scores are standardized according to test developers’ requirements—provide numerical ratings, but no feedback, approximately 1 month later. In states where edTPA is required for licensure, candidates who fail to meet the state-determined cut score are not eligible for a teaching license, regardless of all other evaluations of their readiness.

Our research challenges the nature, structure, and impact of high-stakes TPAs, their scoring, and the growing industry of TPA-related tutoring services. While edTPA’s emphasis on planning, instruction, and assessment may appear to mirror the elements of effective teacher preparation, in practice, its function as a high-stakes assessment undermines its educative value. By design, high-stakes TPAs narrow and standardize the definition of “good teaching,” equate task fidelity with competency, and artificially decontextualize teaching and teacher education. Rather than fostering candidates’ ability to articulate and enact their vision with the support of a team of school- and university-based mentors, TPAs encourage them to adopt an external and reductive construction of effective practice. The system rewards candidates when they teach toward the TPA rubrics, rather than their own conscience.

This carries tremendous risk for our candidates, their future students, and our profession as a whole. What does it mean to be a good teacher? Who should decide? If we are not careful, TPAs will define and delimit this construct on our collective behalf.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share Dr. Dover and Dr. Schultz’s article free with the education community through February 29, 2016. Read the full article here.

Chicago area teachers, preservice teachers, and teacher educators are invited to continue the conversation about edTPA at DePaul University’s Winter Education Issues Forum: Taking a Critical Look at the edTPA. This year’s forum will be held on February 18, 2016, and is free and open to the public.

 

masthead_rev_sm

Research from The Educational Forum: edTPA and Illusions of Rigor (Part 1)

Today’s bloggerDover_photo_sm is Dr. Alison G. Dover (@AlisonDover1), Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Inquiry and Curriculum Studies at Northeastern Illinois University. She writes here in the first of a two-part series to describe research recently published in an article (coauthored by Dr. Dover and Dr. Brian D. Schultz) in The Educational Forum.

Part 1: Learning How to Grow

What does it mean to be a good teacher? For most teachers and teacher educators, the answer to that question would include some variation of “it depends.” It depends on our context. It depends on the needs of our students. It depends on the demands of our content area. A good biology teacher might not make a good history teacher; an excellent high school teacher may or may not have the qualities required to teach first grade. Good teachers are able to respond reflexively to a complex constellation of factors. They draw upon their curricular, pedagogical, and professional expertise to identify the best approach for a given teaching moment. They nourish curiosity, evoke engagement, prioritize justice, and challenge themselves and their students to grow within and beyond the classroom.

Do you agree? Or would you have defined it differently? Which of us is right? Why? These are the sorts of conversations that teachers and teacher educators have throughout (and well beyond) the teacher preparation process. We are always asking: What are you doing? Why? Is it working? How do you know? What will you change? Through interactions like these, candidates develop and articulate personally, culturally, and contextually resonant visions of themselves as teachers, and begin the challenging work of developing the skills necessary to enact their vision while responding to the ever-changing demands of their students and profession. It’s not easy: candidates grapple with research, theory, and mentorship, experiment with different curricular and pedagogical strategies, and learn from their successes and mistakes. But it is critical practice for the demands of a career in education. Good teaching is a perpetual act of becoming, and good teachers learn how to grow.

However, changes to teacher preparation are putting processes like these at risk. We are undergoing a seismic shift with uncertain fallout. The newly proposed federal Teacher Preparation Regulations have met widespread critique for (among other things) their “reliance on scientifically discredited processes of test-based accountability and value-added measures for data analysis” and support of privately run “fast-track” teacher licensure ventures. Well-respected universities are creating online-only teacher education programs, where candidates are evaluated exclusively by video. Citing a “teacher shortage” and the “expertise of individuals in business and industry,” the Alabama State Board of Education recently decided to hire part-time classroom teachers who hold neither undergraduate degrees nor teacher licenses. These policies reflect a broader context of privatized, profit-driven education reform, in which the rhetoric of rigor, accountability, and choice is being used to systematically destabilize public—and teacher—education. It is a changing world.

These reforms risk damaging the vital process of candidates learning how to grow in their profession. In Part 2 of this series, I will concentrate on the impact of one such reform: high-stakes, privately operated teacher performance assessments, such as the edTPA.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share Dr. Dover and Dr. Schultz’s article, “Troubling the edTPA: Illusions of Objectivity and Rigor,” free with the education community through February 29, 2016. Read the full article here.

Chicago area teachers, preservice teachers, and teacher educators are invited to continue the conversation about edTPA at DePaul University’s Winter Education Issues Forum: Taking a Critical Look at the edTPA. This year’s forum will be held on February 18, 2016, and is free and open to the public.

masthead_rev_sm