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UNCW EDN 523 - Secondary MS Attitudes QE CS

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ublic school teachers throughout the United Statesare working with an ever-increasing number ofEnglish-language learners (ELLs). From 1995 to2001, the population of students identified as limited Eng-lish proficient (LEP) grew approximately 105% nationwide(Kindler, 2002). An estimated 4.5 million LEP students arecurrently enrolled in K–12 public schools in the UnitedStates. Furthermore, census projections estimate continuedlinguistic diversification in the coming decades (U.S. Cen-sus Bureau, 2000). Because the student population is expe-riencing a linguistic shift, education research set in multi-lingual classrooms has become a high priority, andresearchers have explored the perspective of ELLs (Cum-mins, 2000; Fu, 1995; Harklau, 1994, 1999, 2000; Lucas,1997; Lucas, Henze, & Donato, 1990; Mace-Matluck,Alexander-Kasparik, & Queen, 1998; Valdes, 2001;Walqui, 2000). Others have chronicled the professionallives of English-as-a-second-language (ESL) teachers(Creese, 2002; Johnson, 1999; Johnson & Golombek,2002). Markedly absent in the research are mainstreamteacher perspectives on ELL inclusion. The experiences ofsecondary teachers, in particular, have received littleresearch attention. I designed this study to help redress thepaucity of research by examining secondary mainstreamteacher attitudes and perceptions of ELL inclusion.Secondary ELLs, particularly those in schools with smallELL populations, typically spend the majority of the schoolday in mainstream1classes and attend ESL classes for oneor two periods. Yet, teachers in those mainstream class-rooms are largely untrained to work with ELLs; only 12.5%of U.S. teachers have received 8 or more hours of recenttraining to teach students of limited English proficiency(National Center for Education Statistics, 2002). Unfortu-nately, little is known about how an underprepared teach-ing force is coping with its increasingly linguisticallydiverse classrooms. Some preliminary research into teachers’ views of lin-guistically diverse schools is available. Although subject-area2teachers of ELLs have rarely been the primary focus ofresearch attention, their attitudes toward ELL inclusionhave been alluded to in a number of studies (Fu, 1995;Harklau, 2000; Olsen, 1997; Schmidt, 2000; Valdes, 1998,2001; Verplaetse, 1998; Vollmer, 2000) in linguisticallydiverse classrooms. The portraits of teachers in those stud-ies, although incomplete, grant at least limited insight intoteacher experiences with ELLs. Commonalities and recur-ring themes exist in the preliminary studies, includingteachers’ (a) attitudes toward ELL inclusion in mainstreamclasses, (b) views on modification of coursework, and (c)feelings of (un)preparedness to work with ELLs. Attitudes Toward InclusionSeveral qualitative studies exploring the schooling expe-riences of ELLs have alluded to mainstream teacher atti-tudes toward ELL inclusion. Teachers in those studies wereportrayed as holding negative, unwelcoming attitudes (Fu,1995; Olsen, 1997; Schmidt, 2000; Valdes, 1998, 2001), aswell as positive, welcoming attitudes (Harklau, 2000;Reeves, 2004; Verplaetse, 1998). In general, teachers inthose studies held ambivalent or unwelcoming attitudes,Address correspondence to Jenelle R. Reeves, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 118 Henzlik Hall, TLTE, Lincoln, NE 68588. (E-mail:[email protected]) Copyright © 2006 Heldref Publications131Secondary Teacher Attitudes TowardIncluding English-Language Learnersin Mainstream ClassroomsJENELLE R. REEVESUniversity of Nebraska-LincolnABSTRACT Researchers have given limited attention toteacher attitudes toward inclusion of English-language learn-ers (ELLs) in mainstream classrooms. The author explored 4categories within secondary teacher attitudes toward ELLinclusion: (a) ELL inclusion, (b) coursework modification forELLS, (c) professional development for working with ELLs,and (d) perceptions of language and language learning. Find-ings from a survey of 279 subject-area high school teachersindicate a neutral to slightly positive attitude toward ELLinclusion, a somewhat positive attitude toward courseworkmodification, a neutral attitude toward professional develop-ment for working with ELLs, and educator misconceptionsregarding how second languages are learned.Key words: English-language learners, mainstream classrooms,secondary teacher attitudesPalthough there were notable exceptions (Harklau; Ver-plaetse). In determining the welcoming or unwelcomingnature of teacher attitudes, researchers suggested a host offactors that could be influential. The factors fall into threecategories: (a) teacher perceptions of the impact of ELLinclusion on themselves, (b) impact of inclusion on thelearning environment, and (c) teacher attitudes and per-ceptions of ELLs.Research suggests that teachers may be concerned about(a) chronic lack of time to address ELLs’ unique classroomneeds (Youngs, 1999), (b) perceived intensification ofteacher workloads when ELLs are enrolled in mainstreamclasses (Gitlin, Buenda, Crosland, & Doumbia, 2003), and(c) feelings of professional inadequacy to work with ELLs(Verplaetse, 1998). In terms of the impact of inclusion onthe classroom learning environment, teachers are con-cerned about the possibility that ELLs will slow the classprogression through the curriculum (Youngs) or result ininequities in educational opportunities for all students(Platt, Harper, & Mendoza, 2003; Reeves, 2004; Schmidt,2000). Finally, some evidence of subject-area teacher atti-tudes and perceptions of ELLs is present in research,including a reluctance to work with low-proficiency ELLs(Platt et al.), misconceptions about the processes of sec-ond-language acquisition (Olsen, 1997; Reeves, 2004;Walqui, 2000), and assumptions (positive and negative)about the race and ethnicity of ELLs (Harklau, 2000;Valdes, 2001; Vollmer, 2000). All of the studies listed in the preceding paragraph werequalitative and had a small number of teacher participants;few held mainstream teachers as the primary focus of study.In their quantitative study of 143 middle school teachers,however, Youngs and Youngs (2001) focused exclusively onmainstream teacher attitudes. In a survey of participants,the researchers found that teacher attitudes were neutral toslightly positive in response to the following two questions:(a) “If you were told that you could expect two or threeESL students in one of your classes next year, how wouldyou describe your reaction?” and (b) “How would


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