Elementary Teacher Candidates' Perspectives on the Teaching and Learning of English Learners

Elementary Teacher Candidates' Perspectives on the Teaching and Learning of English Learners

Stefanie D. Livers (Missouri State University, USA) and Liang-Yin. Lin (University of Alabama, USA)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2906-4.ch002
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Research suggests that K-12 teacher candidates are not prepared to meet the needs of English Learners (ELs) (O'Neal, Ringler, & Rodriguez, 2008), and that their belief systems about teaching impact their ability to learn best practices for instruction (Nosich, 2009). In order to be successful teachers of ELs, teacher candidates must be adequately prepared to meet the needs of diverse learners by making targeted changes to instruction. It is essential that teacher preparation programs include opportunities to develop knowledge and skills. The goal of this study was to evaluate one preparation program's effect on knowledge, beliefs and attitudes, and self-efficacy of teacher candidates in regard to teaching ELs. The study examined perceptions, experience and knowledge of ELs and the effectiveness of a teacher preparation program in changing teacher candidates' beliefs about ELs. This exploratory study builds on previous research from a four-phase elementary teacher preparation program at a research institution.
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Classrooms across the United States are a microcosm of society displaying the growing numbers of diverse people. Twenty-one percent of school-aged children in the United States speak a language other than English at home (USDOE, 2011). As this population of students increases, the demographics of the teaching force remains to be primarily white females. When analyzing the types of teaching found in elementary classrooms the differences are easily observed depending on the demographics of the students being served. We can find widely varying curricular activities, discourses, value systems, and norms. While there certainly is not a particular teaching that can be identified for White learners, it has been fairly well-documented that students of color and those coming from lower-income households tend to experience impoverished instruction, one that is predominantly focused on basic skills and internalization of rules in preparation for a narrow set of standardized test questions (Delpit, 1988, 2006; Harry & Klinger, 2007; Ladson-Billings, 1997). This disparity highlights the need for teachers to be prepared to teach a diverse student body including those learning English. It is imperative that teachers have the ability to modify their instructional practice to accommodate student needs including language support. Currently, teacher candidates are not prepared to meet the needs of English learners (ELs) in classrooms (Echevarria, Vogt, & Short, 2008; Gay, 2002; Hutchinson & Hadjioannou, 2011; O’Neal, Ringler, & Rodriguez, 2008; Verdugo & Flores, 2007). This reality means that it is critical for teacher preparation programs to adjust their programs to meet this growing need.

This study seeks to build upon previous studies and evaluate the four semesters of one elementary teacher preparation program. By studying teacher candidates across the four semesters, insights will be gained as to the strengths and weaknesses of the program related to preparing candidates for teaching ELs. This study provides evidence that will impact future program changes and validate aspects of the program’s curriculum.

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