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English Learner Instruction Through Collaboration and Inquiry in Teacher Education

reviewed by Heidi L. Hallman - February 23, 2015

coverTitle: English Learner Instruction Through Collaboration and Inquiry in Teacher Education
Author(s): James F. Nagle (Ed.)
Publisher: Information Age Publishing, Charlotte
ISBN: 1623964849, Pages: 214, Year: 2013
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English Learner Instruction Through Collaboration and Inquiry in Teacher Education, edited by James F. Nagle, is a collection of ten chapters that explore how teachers and teacher educators have responded to and learned from English language learners. The book situates itself in the current era of accountability and its increased demand for recognition of multiple forms of literacy and literate practice. It acknowledges that English learners comprise a significant portion of the student population across the United States, and teachers in all content areas must be responsible for providing high quality instruction that meets the needs of this group of students. Collectively the chapters work from a teacher learning framework premised on three themes: joint work, an inquiry stance, and the integration of disciplinary knowledge with linguistically responsive teaching. The purpose of the book will resonate with teachers and teacher educators as they strive to comprehend a framework from which to approach the teaching of English learners.

The volume is divided into three sections. In the first section, readers encounter four chapters that frame the book’s basis as one concerned with dissolving traditional boundaries: content boundaries, disciplinary boundaries, teaching boundaries, and demographic boundaries. Together, these chapters explore how such traditional boundaries constrain teacher educators, teachers, and students in the way learning is addressed in the classroom. For example, the first chapter highlights the collaboration between a university professor, a doctoral student, and a 4thgrade teacher whose focus is on constructing a science curriculum that effectively addresses content learning and vocabulary instruction for mainstreamed English learners. Throughout this chapter, the authors stress the collaborative nature of their relationship and state that “the detailed description of our collaboration in reading, writing, and talking about science with English learners illustrates the importance of affordances of the opportunities to talk and work together, enabling us to recognize each other’s strengths and expertise” (p. 6).

Though the term collaboration can be read as somewhat cliché, Nagle and his colleagues are careful to outline that collaboration does not merely mean working together. Rather, the authors within the volume outline what each collaborator brings to the process of curriculum design—whether the expertise is knowledge of science content or an understanding of systemic functional linguistics (Halliday & Matthiessen, 2004). Outlining these essential components of the collaborative effort is key to understanding how a teacher learning framework can be successful. As a whole, chapter authors describe the roles each actor plays within a teacher learning framework, and this aspect of the volume will be helpful to readers seeking to replicate the program design within their own teacher education programs.

The second section continues with an emphasis on the theme of collaboration, but the focal point is the teacher education program setting. One important chapter in this section describes a project shared between teacher educators from a university and a local school district administrative team to design high school curriculum for English learners who have experienced interrupted formal education. Hos and Curry cite the fact that many newcomer programs struggle to provide rigorous curriculum that will help students learn English and academic content while simultaneously helping English learners catch up with their age cohort (Hos, 2012). Supported by a five-year federally funded grant, the authors explain how they were able to create and implement a curriculum within their locale that focused on articulating short and long term curricular goals for English learners. Hos and Curry note that drafts of the curriculum were shared with pre-service educators, in-service educators, and doctoral students as a way to raise awareness of the issues at hand. The authors tell us that “working on the curriculum also illuminated variations among the university faculty members and the teachers working with English learners” (p. 112), and cite this realization as underscoring the need for various collaborators to bring their areas of expertise and strength to a collaborative project.

In continuation, the third section stresses components of the teacher learning framework, and highlights the importance of collaboration, inquiry into practice, and the integration of disciplinary content knowledge with linguistically responsive teaching. One key point in section three stresses the suggestion that university faculty may need professional development to enhance their understanding of teaching English learners. From such professional development, faculty will be able to broaden their conceptual and pedagogical knowledge, and more successfully integrate an awareness of teaching culturally and linguistically diverse students into their courses. This section emphasizes that teaching English learners is a topic that concerns teacher educators in all content areas.

As a teacher educator, one aspect of the volume that I found particularly helpful was its firm rooting in linguistically responsive teaching. This theoretical framework, undergirded by systemic functional linguistics (Halliday & Matthiessen, 2004), was referenced in multiple chapters and revealed a meaningful partnership and bridge with another framework—one that many teacher educators know as culturally relevant teaching (Ladson-Billings, 1994). Though Ladson-Billing’s work has importantly impacted the field, many teacher educators who have little knowledge of linguistics may draw exclusively on this framework in teaching English learners. Yet, the volume emphasizes that part of a collaborative effort in teaching English learners means recruiting expertise—from faculty or teachers—who have a solid understanding of linguistically responsive teaching, in order to be successful teachers and teacher educators of English learners. The volume recognizes the importance of linguistically responsive teaching and provides examples of how teacher educators and teachers, through collaborative efforts, can implement practice based on a bridge between culturally relevant teaching and linguistically responsive teaching.

Another aspect of the volume that will resonate with teachers and teacher educators is the emphasis on disciplinary knowledge and disciplinary literacy. Highlighting how learning within the disciplines—i.e., “doing history” (Wineburg, 1991)—is an essential part of learning within a content area provides a meaningful backdrop for teaching literacy to English learners. Teaching English learners through a focus on teaching disciplinary literacy moves away from the idea of teaching basic skills and towards a view of literacy as situated practice. Such a focus is promising, and it resonates with work in literacy studies over the past two decades (Gee, 1990) that has defined literacy as situated and social, as opposed an isolated skill set.

English Learner Instruction Through Collaboration and Inquiry in Teacher Education responds to the critical question of how teachers and teacher educators might teach English learners through a balance of teaching of content through pedagogical practice that is culturally and linguistically responsive. I highly recommend this book to teachers and teacher educators, as it presents numerous examples of how a teacher learning framework can, indeed, help dissolve outdated boundaries in the teaching of English learners. This book will help the field step forward into the 21st century to meet the learning needs of English learners in today’s classrooms.


Gee, J. P. (1990). Social linguistics and literacies: Ideology in discourses. London: Falmer Press.

Halliday, M. A. K. & Matthiessen, C. M. (2004). An introduction to functional grammar. London: Arnold.

Hos, R. (2012). The experiences of refugee students with interrupted formal education in an urban secondary school newcomer program (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database. (UMI No. 1018061311)

Ladson-Billings, G. (1994). The dreamkeepers: Successful teaching for African American students. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Wineburg, S. S. (1991). On the reading of historical texts: Notes on the breach between school and academy. American Educational Research Journal, 28(3), 495–519.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: February 23, 2015
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17869, Date Accessed: 5/28/2022 7:29:39 AM

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About the Author
  • Heidi Hallman
    University of Kansas
    E-mail Author
    HEIDI L. HALLMAN is an associate professor of Curriculum and Teaching at the University of Kansas. Her research interests include studying “at risk” students’ literacy learning as well as how prospective English teachers are prepared to teach in diverse school contexts. Dr. Hallman’s work has been published in English Education, Teacher Education Quarterly, Equity & Excellence in Education, Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, English Journal, and Teaching Education, among others. Her book, co-authored with Melanie Burdick and entitled, Community Fieldwork in Teacher Education: Theory and Practice, will be published by Routledge in spring 2015.
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