Preparing Every Teacher to Reach English Learners

2012

All educators need a basic set of knowledge and skills that promote English learners’ achievement. But that’s where many teacher-preparation programs stop. 

In our new book, Preparing Every Teacher to Reach English Learners, my coeditors Kouider Mokhtari, Carine Strebel, and I describe a professional development model for incorporating a focus on English learners (ELs)  in courses and clinical experiences that prepares educators of different subjects, grade levels, and roles. 

Our model stresses that some educators, such as academic subject teachers, need more preparation to work with ELs, and others, such as language arts teachers, need even more. More doesn’t mean “more of the same” but rather information specific to the subject taught and to the role of the educator. For example, high school counselors need to recognize different levels of English proficiency to help ELs enroll in appropriate courses. Literacy coaches also need to recognize levels of English proficiency, but in addition they should be able to analyze language data from ELs at different levels of English proficiency to be able to support language development. We named our model One Plus to denote this type of layered approach to preparing educators for their specific role regarding ELs.

Coupled with this layered approach is an emphasis on connecting the focus on English learners to topics and practices that future educators are learning in their areas of specialization. For example, when school psychology candidates learn about Response to Intervention, they also learn how the process of acquiring a second language can affect screening and progress monitoring. Our book provides practical examples of infused teacher preparation courses ranging from child development to methods of teaching mathematics to developmental reading.

Included among the 17 featured courses and the faculty who infused them, Nazan Bautista, a science education professor at Miami University, revised her demonstration of an inquiry-based science activity to include two versions: the first in her native language, Turkish, and then the second repeating the same lesson in English. Putting preservice educators in the position of nonnative speakers of the language of instruction helped them understand the importance of modeling and hands-on instruction for ELs to learn science.

It’s time for educator preparation to move beyond teaching the basics about English learners and infuse ongoing professional learning that is targeted to grade level, content area, and professional roles. Fine-tuned, high-quality English learner–focused training has a place at every level of preservice coursework and professional development.

Post submitted by Joyce Nutta, coeditor of Preparing Every Teacher to Reach English Learners (Harvard Education Press, 2012)