Graduation Year

2008

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Psychological and Social Foundations

Major Professor

Barbara Shircliffe, Ph.D.

Keywords

English language learners, Limited English proficient, Professional development, Language policy, ESL

Abstract

Much of how Florida and other states across the country justify the practice of mainstreaming English language learners into regular content classrooms rests on the premise that with the guidance of state officials, local school districts adequately train content teachers to work with English language learners. Yet little to no research exists that can help identify and analyze the overall efficacy of these programs. Consequently, this study has attempted to determine whether district training sessions in Florida are sufficiently covering the state-mandated content areas that teachers are required to learn and to what extent in-service teachers agree or disagree that they received the appropriate amount of instruction that would prepare them to instruct English language learners. Training sessions in three large Florida school districts with high proportions of English language learners were studied using a mixed-methods approach that gathered quantitative and qualitative data from observations, surveys and in-depth interviews. Among other things, the findings revealed a pattern of districts overemphasizing cross-cultural awareness issues to the detriment of other critical areas teachers need to know such as methods and curriculum. In addition, there was a general consensus on the part of participants that the trainings lacked specificity and were both impractical and redundant. A number of specific recommendations are offered such as ways to modify the focus of the curriculum, provide incentives to teachers, and create more accountability and oversight of the training sessions themselves. Policymakers are strongly urged to prioritize these types of programs by providing training sessions with more resources and attaching to them a larger sense of importance.

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