Title

Planning to Succeed: Teachers Discuss Their Beliefs and Planning Methods Regarding English Language Learners

First Presenter's Institution

LaGrange College

Second Presenter's Institution

NA

Third Presenter's Institution

NA

Fourth Presenter's Institution

NA

Fifth Presenter's Institution

NA

Location

Harborside East & West

Strand #1

Academic Achievement & School Leadership

Strand #2

Social & Emotional Skills

Relevance

Our study focuses on teachers in a small, southern town. Like many small towns, this community has grown increasingly diverse over the past few decades, and now has a significant population of students of Hispanic and Asian descent. As a result, this town's school system has expanded its programs for English Language Learners. Even so, we wonder about the attitudes held by general education teachers towards these students. How do teachers in the community view their role as it pertained to English Language Learners? Do teachers understand what was required of them to help these students succeed in the classroom? While these and other questions guide our inquiry into the academic achievement component of the study, we also seek to explore teachers' abilities to welcome Hispanic and Asian American students into their classrooms and create a positive environment (social and emotional skills).

Brief Program Description

Our study examined pre- and in-service teachers’ attitudes towards English Language Learners in the mainstream classroom. We present the findings of surveys and focus groups with these professionals who serve students in an increasingly diverse community. The results of our study may be valuable to anyone seeking a starting point to help teachers better serve English Language Learners and incorporate them into their classroom communities.

Summary

Our study explores pre- and in-service teachers’ attitudes towards English Language Learners in the mainstream classroom. These teachers operated in a small, southern town that has grown increasingly diverse since the dawn of the twentieth century. The town has a complex and somewhat troubling history of race relations that has been documented in works such as “Legacy: The Secret History of Proto-Fascism in America's Greatest Little City” (Smith, 2011). Even so, this community now boasts a diverse population including many English Language Learners of Hispanic and Asian descent. Because of this, we wanted to know how teachers in this town felt about their responsibilities to these students. Did they understand their role as it pertained to English Language Learners in the mainstream classroom? Did they feel equipped to succeed? Perhaps most importantly, we sought to discern teachers’ beliefs on how best to incorporate these students into their classroom environments in a way that promotes success and celebrates diversity.

Our research utilizes surveys and follow-up focus group sessions to examine teachers’ perceptions of English Language Learners in the mainstream classroom. In particular, we were interested in these how these teachers viewed their roles and how prepared they felt to support English Language Learners. This was of particular significance to us due to research that suggests that negative attitudes towards English Language Learners are most likely to prevail when teachers feel unprepared and unsupported (Walker, Shafer, & Iiams, 2004). We also seek to present findings regarding teachers’ attitudes regarding one of the more compelling imperatives of ELL instruction, that of affirming diversity and multiculturalism rather than claiming “color blindness” (Husband, 2016).

Husband, T. (2016). Ignorance is not bliss: Moving beyond colorblind perspectives and practices in education. In But I Don’t See Color: The Perils, Practices, and Possibilities of Antiracist Education, T. Husband (Ed.), 3-19. Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers.

Smith, S. (2011). Legacy: The Secret History of Proto-Fascism in America’s Greatest Little City. Charleston, SC: CreateSpace Independent Publishing.

Walker, A., Shafer, J., & Iiams, M. (2004). “Not in my classroom”: Teachers’ attitudes towards English language learners in the mainstream classroom. NABE Journal of Research and Practice, 2(1). 130-160.

Evidence

Data for this study is collected through surveys and focus groups. Surveys are generally utilized with large groups for the purpose of generating statistics (Fowler, 2014). The major goal of our surveys is not to generate statistics, however, but to afford focus group participants the opportunity to reflect on their attitudes and opinions prior to the focus group. We utilize the focus groups model as this approach promotes natural discussion (Grudens-Schuck, Allen, & Larson, 2004). The focus groups in this study will be conducted by the lead researcher as well as 2-3 undergraduate students who were selected for participation in a grant to encourage undergraduate research. Focus groups will be recorded and the audio-recordings will be transcribed for the purpose of identifying patterns and themes in the language (Creswell, 2007).

Creswell, J.W. (2007). Qualitative inquiry & research design: Choosing among five approaches. (2nd Ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Fowler, F.J. (2014). Survey Research Methods (5th Ed.) Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Grudens-Schuck, N., Allen, B.L., & Larson, K. (2004). Methodology brief: Focus group fundamentals. Extension Community and Economic Development Publications. Book 12.

Format

Poster Presentation

Biographical Sketch

Dr. Robert "Colby" Jones is Assistant Professor in the Department of Education at LaGrange College in LaGrange, GA. Prior to joining the faculty at LaGrange College, he earned his doctoral degree from Auburn University in Auburn, AL. While at Auburn University, he served as an instructor, an internship supervisor, and worked on various grants such as the Teaching American History (TAH) Plowing Freedom’s Ground Project. In addition to serving as a professor and part-time instructor for educational courses, Colby has also taught history courses at nearby community colleges in Opelika, AL, and Columbus, GA.

Before beginning his doctoral studies at Auburn University, Colby was employed at Troup County Comprehensive High School in LaGrange, Georgia where he taught United States History, World History, Comparative Religions, and AP(C) Psychology for 7 years. Colby graduated from Auburn University with a B.S. degree in Secondary Social Science Education in 2003. He completed work on his M.Ed. degree in Curriculum and Instruction at LaGrange College in 2007. He received his Ph.D. from Auburn University in 2016 before joining the faculty at LaGrange College. His research interests include problem-based historical inquiry in social studies classrooms, support for new teachers during the induction period, and methods for bridging the divide between academia and practicing teachers.

Note: Other authors will be added to this study in the coming weeks as part of an initiative to incorporate undergraduate students into academic research.

Keyword Descriptors

ELL, ESL, English Language Learners, Classroom Climate, Multicultural Education, Diversity

Presentation Year

2017

Start Date

3-7-2017 4:00 PM

End Date

3-7-2017 5:30 PM

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Mar 7th, 4:00 PM Mar 7th, 5:30 PM

Planning to Succeed: Teachers Discuss Their Beliefs and Planning Methods Regarding English Language Learners

Harborside East & West

Our study examined pre- and in-service teachers’ attitudes towards English Language Learners in the mainstream classroom. We present the findings of surveys and focus groups with these professionals who serve students in an increasingly diverse community. The results of our study may be valuable to anyone seeking a starting point to help teachers better serve English Language Learners and incorporate them into their classroom communities.