Predictors of the Instructional Strategies that Elementary School Teachers Use with English Language Learners
by Lucy Rader-Brown & Aimee Howley — 2014
Background/Context: According to demographers, the number of English language learners (ELLs) in U.S schools has been increasing and is likely to continue to increase in coming years. For various reasons relating to language acquisition, cultural adjustment, and persistent discrimination, these students tend to experience academic difficulties. Improvement in their performance depends on teachers’ use of effective instructional strategies, but few surveys have investigated the extent to which teachers use such strategies or the conditions that encourage them to do so.
Focus of Study: This study addressed the following research questions: (a) To what extent do elementary content-area teachers use various research-based practices for teaching ELLs? (b) In consideration of appropriate statistical controls, to what extent are elementary content-area teachers’ professional training, attitudes, bilingualism, and their schools’ characteristics, singly and in combination, associated with their reported use of a set of research-based strategies for teaching English language learners?
Participants: Participants were a random sample of Ohio elementary school teachers (n = 419) in schools in the highest quartile of ELL enrollment.
Research Design: The current study surveyed elementary teachers in Ohio and then used multiple regression methods to identify significant predictors of teachers’ use of research-based strategies with ELLs.
Findings: Findings showed that teachers reported frequent use of research-based strategies, but their preference was for strategies recommended for all learners. They were less likely to use strategies specifically intended for ELLs. In addition, regression results showed that teachers’ attitudes and the percentage of ELLs in their schools were significant predictors of teachers’ use of research-based strategies—a positive predictor in the first instance and a negative predictor in the second. Ancillary analyses revealed that teachers’ years of experience and bilingualism, as well as the schools’ resources, were significant predictors of teachers’ attitudes toward ELLs, with more experienced teachers exhibiting more negative attitudes, and bilingual teachers and those in higher resource schools exhibiting more positive attitudes.
Conclusions/Recommendations: Findings point to the likelihood that continued efforts to prepare elementary school teachers to work with ELLs will entail the provision of additional resources to schools with large and increasing ELL populations. In addition, efforts to increase teachers’ use of research-based strategies with ELLs will involve professional preparation powerful enough to change attitudes. Instruction in a second language appears to be an approach that bears consideration.
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