Voices of Experienced Physical Educators of English Language Learners

Voices of Experienced Physical Educators of English Language Learners

Desmond Woodruff Delk (Langston University, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 24
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9989-0.ch013


The purpose of this chapter was to explore the factors that impact the teaching behaviors and goals of physical education teachers of English language learners (ELLs). Guided by the tenets of the theory of planned behavior, field notes and interviews of four PE teachers were conducted. Using qualitative methods through an interpretivist paradigm, the researcher found that these teachers 1) used an array of strategies to teach ELLs (peer helpers, demonstrations, Spanish infusion, and classroom routines) and 2) aspire to create inclusive and comprehensive learning environments for ELLs irrespective of administrative and parental engagement. The findings from this study indicate that the participants exhibit a commitment to diverse pedagogical approaches when teaching ELLs. Their limited background knowledge on teaching ELLs has forced these educators to develop unconventional practices and implement a variety of pedagogical approaches to ensure that all students learn, including ELLs.
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Teachers in the United States are experiencing a shift in the language diversity of their students. Over the last decade, there has been a burgeoning number of English Language Learners (ELLs) in United States classrooms. Between the school years of 2004–2005 and 2014–2015, the percentage of students whose first language differs from English increased from 9.1% (4.3 million) to percent 9.4% (4.6 million) of the overall student population (National Center for Education Statistics, 2016). Although some states have maintained overall low enrollment of ELLs, counties in Alabama—for example—has seen an increase in the number of English Language Learners (ELLs) in the 100%–200% range within the last decade (NCELA, 2011). This exponential increase in ELLs indicates a shift in the demographics of U. S. classrooms and the need to develop culturally diverse pedagogical approaches across all teaching disciplines. This is particularly important in physical education (PE) as PE teachers instruct the entire student body of most schools and not solely a homeroom.

As the number of English Language Learners exponentially increases in U.S. classrooms, so has the need for more in-depth understanding of ELLs in the context of physical education. While much of the extant research have been centered on working with all students through culturally responsive practices (Chepyator-Thomson, 1994; Wonseok & Chepyator-Thomson, 2011), research has produced concepts about how to work with ELLs in the context of the gym (Bell & Lorenzi, 2004; Clancy & Hruska, 2005). These studies were evidently beneficial in terms of educating about working with cultures in general, but there still lacked a central focus on the diversity in linguistics in physical education.

The clarion call for PE teachers to be inclusive of ELLs is nearly three decades old. In 1993, Barbara Glaskas published a paper urging physical educators to implement effective classroom practices into their teaching repertoire for ELLs. Fortunately, PE teachers do use several strategies to communicate class expectations to ELLs. For example, some teachers rely on demonstrations to help convey instructions (Flory & McCaughtry, 2011), while others infuse Spanish into PE pedagogical practices. Scholars have found that incorporating Spanish into teaching benefits both ELLs and native English speakers wherein they gain familiarity with a new language and key words associated with an array of sports and fitness activities (Columna & Lieberman, 2011). Notably, the work of Glaskas (1993) is garnering the attention of researchers as the linguistic diversity in PE classes continue to evolve (Sato & Burge-Hall, 2010). More recently, Toscano and Rizopoulos (2013) presented strategies to assist ELLs in physical education. The extensive list of techniques encompassed multiple dimensions of a typical physical education class such as a) predictable routines, b) visual aids, c) modeling, and d) cultural responsiveness. Although it is evident that teachers develop effective instructional methods, the need for diversity training in physical education teacher education (PETE) programs is as ever important presently as it had been in the past (Glaskas, 1993; Sato & Hodge, 2016).

The experiences of PE teachers of ELLs are becoming a significant part of the growing literature (Sato & Hodge, 2016; Sato, Miller, & Delk, in press; Sato, Walton-Fisette, & Kim, 2019). Findings suggest that teachers express a paradoxical benefit from the frustrations with both ELLs and their parents (Sato, Walton-Fisette, & Kim, 2019). Participants’ cultural differences impact not only their emotions but their views of their effectiveness as a teacher (Sato & Hodge, 2016). As they acquired context of their students’ cultures and needs, they felt they improved on incorporating learning strategies that met the needs of ELLs. In addition to the teaching experiences, it is well-documented that teachers’ beliefs and attitudes have an overwhelming effect on teaching practices (Reeves, 2006; Yoon, 2008). Inevitably, the intersection of experiences, beliefs, goals, and attitudes should be considered when attempting to explore the development of novel teaching techniques. The consistent increase of English Language Learners is a clear indication of the need for physical education teachers to be well-equipped with the pedagogical skills necessary to address the needs of this specific population of students.

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