Can Online Education Be the Answer?: Exploring Transformational Learning in Two Online Teacher Education Courses

Can Online Education Be the Answer?: Exploring Transformational Learning in Two Online Teacher Education Courses

Nilufer Guler (Avila University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0968-4.ch009
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The number of English Language Learners (ELLs) is increasing rapidly in American schools, and mostly, they are enrolled in mainstream classes. This means that mainstream teachers have an important role in the academic success of these students. However, research on mainstream teachers and ELL students suggests that mainstream teachers may have negative perceptions of ELLs, and they may use the wrong approach to teaching these students, owing to their lack of knowledge in ELL education. This study aims to demonstrate how online classes on ELL education, and developing online communities of practice, might change mainstream teachers' methods of instruction of ELLs. The results showed that mainstream teachers significantly changed their perceptions and instructional strategies for teaching ELLs as a result of taking online classes, and particularly, online discussions had an important role in this change of perception. Some implications for developing online ELL education courses for pre-service and in-service teachers are also provided.
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Research on mainstream teachers and ELL education reveals that experience in teaching ELLs, speaking another language, and even the geographic location of the teachers influence mainstream teachers’ instructional methods and perceptions of ELL students. However, the most consistent and important factor found to influence mainstream teachers’ ELL instructional methods is education (Echevarria et al., 2006; Pettit, 2011; Reeves, 2006; Walker, Shafer & Liam, 2004; Youngs & Youngs, 2001). ELL students bring strong linguistic, social and cultural backgrounds to classrooms, and they have considerably different academic needs from those of non-ELL students. Therefore, strong pedagogical knowledge and good teaching are not enough to teach ELLs in mainstream classes; mainstream teachers should learn about second language acquisition and ELL education theories (Coady, Harper & de Jong, 2015; Lucas, 2011).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Online Communities of Support: Online discussion groups in which people with similar problems and challenges explain their case, exchange ideas and receive some support to overcome their challenges.

Online Education: Online education is teaching a class totally or partially through internet and online course management tools.

Perception: Perception is assumptions, attitudes, and how we interpret events around us. Our perceptions are constructed, developed and changed throughout our lives.

Mainstream Teachers: Mainstream teachers are content are teachers who are trained to teach some specific grades (such as 3 rd , 4 th grades) or a specific topic (such as math, science).

Online Communities of Practices: Online discussions where people with similar problems, concerns and interests come together to discuss and exchange ideas, find solutions and build new knowledges.

Socio-Constructivist Perspective: Socio-constructivist perspective is a theory that highlights that discussions and society is crucial for meaning making and learning. People learn and create new meanings according to social discussions they have in their communities. Even though meaning making happens in society, socio-constructivist theory highlights that each individual creates their own meanings through social interactions.

English Language Learners: English language learners are students at U.S. schools whose first language is not English and who are still in the process of learning English. It is an overarching term including immigrant students, students who were born in the U.S. but did not speak English at home, or students who come to the U.S. at any time in their education and are in the process of learning English.

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