Hearing the Voices of Alternatively Certified Teachers in Texas: Narratives of Teaching English Language Learners in Urban Secondary Mainstream Classrooms
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In Texas, nearly half of all new teachers are alternatively certified (AC) whilst English language learners (ELL) are over one-third of the public school population in some districts. As this trend continues, the likelihood that AC teachers will teach ELLs increases and alters what Texas teachers must know upon entering the classroom. This research explores teacher knowledge and beliefs about teaching ELLs through constructivist and narrative lenses. Four AC science teachers in two diverse school districts participated in in-depth interviews and reflective interviews following classroom observations to answer the research questions: (1) how do AC teachers describe and interpret their acts of teaching ELLs in mainstream classrooms; and (2) how do AC teachers describe and interpret their learning to teach ELLs in mainstream classrooms. Data were transcribed and analyzed using thematic narrative methods. This study found that participants saw ELL instruction as: (1) "just good teaching" strategies, (2) consisting primarily of cultural awareness and consideration for student comfort, and (3) less necessary in science where all students must learn the language. The most experienced teacher was the only participant to reference specific linguistic knowledge in describing ELL instruction. Many of the teachers described their work with ELL students as giving them an opportunity to improve their lives, which was consistent with their overall teaching philosophy and reason for entering the profession. Participant narratives about learning to teach ELLs described personal experience and person-to-person discussions as primary resources of knowledge. District support was generally described as unhelpful or incomplete. Participants portrayed their AC program as helpful in preparing them to work with ELL students, but everyone desired more relevant information from the program and more grade-appropriate strategies from the district. Participant narratives reveal AC teachers needed a pragmatic and less theoretical understanding of diversity during pre-service training. Participant tendency to draw upon "common sense", affective, and practical strategies in teaching ELL students in lieu of the state-mandated English language proficiency standards (ELPS) suggests AC programs should have teachers articulate and discuss their beliefs about ELL instruction in order to provide training targeted towards misconceptions about language development, particularly in science.
English language learners
Zannou, Yetunde (2012). Hearing the Voices of Alternatively Certified Teachers in Texas: Narratives of Teaching English Language Learners in Urban Secondary Mainstream Classrooms. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from