Service-Learning as a Means for Preparing Preservice Teachers to Work With English Language Learners

Service-Learning as a Means for Preparing Preservice Teachers to Work With English Language Learners

Hyesun Cho (University of Kansas, USA) and Debby J. Adams (University of Kansas, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4041-0.ch004
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This chapter explores ways in which preservice content-area teachers were engaged in service-learning as part of a teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) methods course at a public research university in the U.S. Midwest. It describes the reflections of 26 undergraduate students majoring in English Language Arts, Math, Science, Foreign Languages, and Social Studies Education, who were involved in service-learning as a medial field experience. Findings reveal that the experience contributed tremendously to their understanding of the backgrounds of English language learners as well as the challenges these learners faced in and out of school. As a result of this “eye-opening” experience, teacher candidates reported a commitment to valuing diversity and equity in their future classrooms, as well as a responsibility to advocate for their culturally and linguistically diverse learners. The chapter concludes with suggestions for implementing service-learning for preservice teachers across content areas in a teacher education program.
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Service-learning has now long been a popular concept in academic communities, particularly in the field of preservice teacher education. While some have doubted the depth of the practice’s permeation into the education community (Anderson & Erickson, 2003), the scholarship has consistently pointed to positive personal and professional gains for teacher candidates participating in service-learning. On a basic level, service-learning that is related to the curriculum being taught in the classroom has been shown to improve academic outcomes by enhancing students’ ability to understand and apply the material (Simons & Cleary, 2006; Roldan, Strage, & David, 2004). Other benefits documented include social development, an increased awareness of social justice issues, appreciation of diversity, and increased self-efficacy and ability to work well with others (Anderson & Hill, 2001; Cho & Gulley, 2016; Simons & Cleary, 2006; Wade, 2000). Furthermore, studies have found that service-learning positively affects a preservice teacher’s views of culturally and linguistically diverse learners, in addition to enhancing their desire or willingness to work with diverse students (Baldwin, Buchanan, & Rudisill, 2007; Garcia et al., 2010; Sleeter, 2001).

The area of teacher preparation in which service-learning has perhaps been most widely employed and studied is multicultural education. Here service-learning is operationalized as a strategy to address what Ladson-Billings (1991) refers to as the “multicultural illiteracy” of a teaching labor force overwhelmingly composed of white, middle-class individuals, generally females, who tend to have little previous experience that prepares them to work with culturally and linguistically diverse students. The result is that teachers often enter the workforce feeling unprepared for the diversity of learners they face in classrooms following graduation, especially in relation to ELLs (Gándara, Maxwell-Jolly, & Driscoll, 2005). Service-learning has been widely documented as a medial method to bridge the broad cultural gap that exists between the predominantly white teacher population and an increasingly non-white student population. Emerging scholarship has supported the notion that service-learning in a methods course is of particular value in enhancing a medial field experience in this regard (Sulentic Dowell & Meidl, 2016).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Preservice Teachers/Teacher Candidates: University students preparing for a career as teachers.

ESL or ESOL: English as a second language, or English for speakers of other languages.

TESOL: Teaching English to speakers of other languages.

Content-Area Teachers: Teachers of specific subjects such as Math, Science, English Language Arts, Foreign Languages, Social Studies, History, etc.

Pedagogical Knowledge: Knowledge of instructional methods.

ELL: English language learner, which in most schools is an official designation resulting from a home language survey and/or testing. An ELL is a student who needs English language support in school because English is not their first language.

Para-Educator/Para-Professional: An assistant to the classroom teacher who often provides support to ELLs or students with special needs.

Multimodality: Using multiple means of communication to teach a lesson, such as visual, aural, linguistic, textual, etc.

Pull-Out ESL: When students are “pulled out” of their regular content-area classes in order to receive English language support or testing.

Social Justice: The view that all people within society should receive fair and just opportunities and privileges.

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