Problem. Students who arrive in the United States from other countries face the dual challenge of content-area, academic demands and the acquisition of language (Cadiero-Kaplan & Rodriguez, 2008; Hawkins, 2004). Many teachers are in the position of educating students who are learning English, as well as native-English-speaking students, in mainstream classes, and are at a loss as to how they could possibly address the needs of all learners (Irizarry, 2007; Lenski et al.,2004; Reeves, 2006). This study explored the experiences of teachers and administrators in a suburban public intermediate school in central New Jersey and their knowledge, dispositions, and skills regarding how they educate their population of English language learners (ELLs) who are integrated heterogeneously in classrooms with native-English speakers.
Methodology. This qualitative case study investigated the ways that educators in an intermediate school educate ELLs alongside native English-speaking students. Six content-area teachers and three administrators participated in interviews and completed questionnaires about their experiences with these students. Each of the teachers was observed in his or her classroom for five consecutive class periods. The data was analyzed through the lens of a sociocultural theory of language acquisition, which posits that languages are acquired through participation in socially situated interactions (Anton & DiCamilla, 1997, 1999; DeGuerrero & Villamil, 2000; Donato & McCormick, 1994; Foster & Ohta, 2005; Lantolf & Appel, 1994; Ohta, 2000; Walqui, 2006; Wells, 1999).
Findings. Teachers in this school reported that they do not have sufficient educational background or professional development to successfully educate English language learners. They do not know what types of accommodations are necessary or appropriate for ELLs and feel uncertain and overwhelmed. Teachers were not familiar with the students' cultural backgrounds. Observations revealed that ELLs are often segregated from the rest of the class in the physical structure of the classroom and left to their own resources (for example, using peers as cultural brokers) to gain access to class content. There was little articulation of goals or procedures for educating ELLs between the administrators and teachers.
Conclusion. This dissertation documents the urgent need for teacher educators, administrators, policy makers, and researchers to prepare mainstream teachers to foster the achievement of ELLs in their classrooms. Suggestions for meeting these needs through pre- and in-service education, school leadership, policy changes and future research are offered.