Professional Development for Teachers of English Learners (ELs): How Constructivist Thinking and Culturally Responsive Pedagogy Can Support Best Practice for ELs

Professional Development for Teachers of English Learners (ELs): How Constructivist Thinking and Culturally Responsive Pedagogy Can Support Best Practice for ELs

Christina T. Kozlowski (University of Michigan – Dearborn, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9348-5.ch003


This chapter focuses on the role of professional development in supporting teacher capacity for instructing English learners (ELs) while placing the reader at the intersection of three significant areas of research as they relate to ELs: culturally responsive teaching, effective PD, and constructivism. These lenses merge to highlight the important role theory coupled with pedagogical practices influence instruction. The research in this chapter provides key findings from the field as well as recommendations for how to utilize constructivism and culturally responsive pedagogy when planning effective PD. This chapter argues that in order for even well-designed reform models of PD to create sustained instructional change, there must be inclusion of deeper conceptual understanding of second language acquisition (SLA) and culturally responsive teaching.
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As teachers of English Learners (ELs), educators must consider multiple perspectives and influences that may impact their students’ academic learning and language acquisition. This chapter specifically examines how the literature of culturally responsive teaching, effective professional development (PD), and constructivism can be utilized to benefit ELs. By accentuating a distinct review of the literature and the results of an inservice research study, this chapter contains the following objectives:

  • 1.

    To guide the reader through the literature and allow the reader to construct potential connections from three lenses of theory (culturally responsive teaching, effective professional development, and constructivism) when planning teacher PD.

  • 2.

    To allow the readers the opportunity to reflect on their own PD experiences and the learning opportunities they may provide for ELs.

  • 3.

    To share key findings from the research study on effective professional development for teachers of ELs.

  • 4.

    To provide implications and conclusions based on the findings.

  • 5.

    To provide recommendations for effective PD for teachers of ELs.


Background: Pd For Culturally Responsive Teaching

This chapter highlights key theories of literature and their relation to teaching English Learners: culturally responsive teaching, effective professional development, and the constructivist approach. With each theory, connections to English Learners and their second language acquisition (SLA) are demonstrated to provide the foundation to the findings of the author’s study. The purpose of this literature review is to present culturally responsive pedagogy in relation to the learning and language needs of ELs, what effective professional development looks like for teachers of ELs, and the constructivist approach to learning as it connects with both culturally responsive pedagogy and effective professional development.

Key Terms in this Chapter

English Learners (ELs): An individual who is learning English as his/her second (or more) language. ELs are those students who speak another language (other than English) as their native language.

Signature Pedagogy: Developed by Shulman (2005) as a way to describe the depth and application of knowledge a professional acquires. Signature pedagogies include three dimensions: surface structure, deep structure, and implicit structure.

Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP): A researched-based instructional model (developed by Echevarria, Short, and Vogt) consisting of eight major components for lesson planning and delivery.

Professional Development (PD): Inservice learning opportunities for teachers. Examples include trainings or workshops, coaching, and other educational learnings centered around a common focus with the objective for classroom change.

Constructivist Approach: A theory of learning developed by Piaget (1978) that focuses on people constructing knowledge through interpretations of their experiences. Social constructivism was developed by Vygotsky (1987) , which expanded ideas to social constructs where knowledge is developed through peer interactions and reflecting upon those interactions.

Culturally Responsive Teaching: A pedagogy that includes being aware of one’s own complex cultural views and understandings and those of their student. Founded upon the work of Gloria Ladson-Billings (1994) AU37: The in-text citation "Gloria Ladson-Billings (1994)" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. and Geneva Gay (2002) .

Second Language Acquisition (SLA): The process of acquiring, or developing, another language.

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