Intercultural Competence for Teachers of Young ELLs

Intercultural Competence for Teachers of Young ELLs

Ellen Yeh (Columbia College Chicago, USA) and Guofang Wan (University of West Florida, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3955-1.ch010
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Language educators encounter challenges of integrating meaningful cultural content and assessment into ELL curricula, mainly due to inadequate professional support and training. Regardless of the growing number of young language learners and institutes around the globe, very limited studies have been conducted and published regarding young ELLs' intercultural competence (IC) development. The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) Global Competence Position Statement (2014) reinforces the importance of teachers helping learners deal with these challenges. This chapter conducted qualitative meta-analysis reviewing the existing literature on the various models of IC teacher preparation programs for young ELLs aiming to improve the IC components in teacher preparation curricula. The main components of IC to be infused into curricula include: (1) the educational needs and state standards of IC in teacher education programs; (2) IC theoretical frameworks and assessment models; and (3) IC practices in teacher education for young ELLs.
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The population in preK-12 settings in the U.S. is progressively more diverse than past decades, containing a wide variety of races, ethnicities, languages, and cultures. This diversity exemplifies the rapid growing population and changing characteristics of English language learners (ELLs) in public schools (NCES, 2013). These changing characteristics of ELLs consist of home language use, participating in English language programs, differences in race and ethnicity groups, and support for special needs programs.

In 2011, over 26% of the preK-12 population were identified as ELLs (Ryan, 2013). The evidence of demographic changes is also found in the enrollment in U.S. public elementary and secondary schools. The enrollment rate range shifted from 64.8% White students in 1995 to 51.7% in 2011 and from 13.5% Hispanic/Non-White students in 1995 to 23.7% Hispanic/Non-White students in 2011 (NECS, 2013). Based on NCES statistics from NCES, studies predict students of color will represent more than 55% of enrollments by 2021 (NECS, 2013).

Increasing diversity not only exists in student population but also in pre-service and in-service teacher programs in public elementary and secondary schools. In 2012 the population of the White teachers was 81.9%, down from 86.5% in the early 1990’s. Furthermore, the Hispanic/Non-White teacher population has increased from 4.2% in the early 1990’s to 7.8% in 2012. The roles educators play are extremely crucial because their knowledge (i.e., global literacy skills and intercultural competence), attitudes, and practices in culturally diverse classrooms impact how students interact and communicate with peers from different cultural backgrounds (Sandell & Tupy, 2015).

Previous research suggests that pre-service and in-service teachers may unintentionally stereotype ELLs and their families due to lack of culturally relevant knowledge (Sandell & Tupy, 2015; Solomon & Levine-Rasky, 2003). Educators are required to understand these invisible regulations in various social and intercultural contexts in order to develop mutual understanding and healthy relationships with their students and families. Studies also report the benefit of culturally relevant and responsive teaching on learning outcomes of diverse students (Sleeter, 2010).

In 2013, the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) announced new standards for diversity curriculum. The new set of standards include emphasizing learning disabilities, language learners, gifted learners, and learners from different racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds. More specifically, the first CAEP standard reinforces this policy in the Interstate Teacher and Support Consortium (2011) and emphasizes the importance of enhancing intercultural competence, individual learning and differences, as well as collaborating with families and communities. The second standard promotes in-service and pre-service teachers to expose themselves to diverse cultural environments and cross-cultural practicum experiences.

The statistics show an increasing pressure on educators to be prepared to work with ELLs in order to ready them for the challenges of the global world. The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) Global Competence Position Statement (2014) and the World-Readiness Standards for Language Learning (2015) reinforce the importance for teachers in general, and language teachers in particular, to help learners deal with these challenges. However, integrating meaningful cultural curriculum and instruction into language learning environments, one of the most critical elements in teacher preparation programs, still remains underdeveloped.

Key Terms in this Chapter

English Language Learners (ELLs): ELLs are individuals who come from homes where a language other than English is the native language.

Synchronous CMC: Synchronous CMC refers to a type of computer-mediated communication that a sender replies a message at the same time than the person who receives the message, such as video conferencing.

Asynchronous CMC: Asynchronous CMC refers to a type of computer-mediated communication that a sender replies a message at the different time than the person who receives the message, such as e-mail.

Intercultural Competence: Intercultural competence refers to how individuals from diverse backgrounds and cultures communicate and interact with others and become competent in acquiring a foreign language.

Virtual World Learning Environments: Virtual worlds are identified as types of computer-simulated environments that take place in either realistic settings or imaginary settings.

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