Supporting Teachers Working with English Learners: Engagement and Impact of a Professional Development Program

Written by: Ye He, Dawn Bagwell
Published on: Apr 11, 2022

smiling teacher near the board
Photo credit: stockartstudio/Adobe Stock

Despite the growing number of English learners in the United States, teachers continue to report that they do not feel well prepared to support English learners. It is critical to offer quality professional development accessible for all teachers and to engage teachers in exploring teaching applications involving English learners. In this study, the authors describe a yearlong strengths-based professional development program with a focus on engaging educators in reflections on their teaching beliefs and practices. Based on both quantitative and qualitative data, the researchers report teachers’ beliefs and practices and highlight the impact of the yearlong professional development. Discussions and recommendations regarding future professional development efforts to support teachers working with English learners are provided.

The total number of English learners (ELs) in the United States grew from 3.8 million in the 2000–2001 academic year to over 5 million in the 2017–2018 academic year (Office of English Language Acquisition, 2021). However, teachers have continued to report feeling not well prepared to work effectively with ELs and emergent bilinguals in K–12 classrooms (Crawford et al., 2008; Hansen-Thomas, Grosso Richins, Kakkar, & Okeyo, 2016). Teachers can benefit from more professional development (PD) opportunities that engage them in reflections on their language ideology, surface beliefs that guide their instructional decision making, and empower them to explore ways to support learners’ academic growth and overall well-being beyond just good teaching (de Jong & Harper 2005; Franco-Fuenmayor, Padrón, & Waxman, 2015; He, Prater, & Steed, 2011). In addition to offering quality PD for teachers, there is a critical need to study the impact of PD for teachers working with the culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD)1 student population (Molle, 2013).

In this article, we describe a yearlong PD program designed for educators working with CLD students. Using data collected throughout the PD, we explored teachers’ beliefs and self-reported practices working with CLD students. We also report the impact of the PD.

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