Diverse Teaching Strategies for Immigrant Children

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Abedi, 2004; Alliance for Excellent Education, 2005a; Alliance for Excellent Education, 2005b; Aronowitz, 1984; August & Hakuta, 1997; Batalova, 2005; Berman et al., 1995; California State Board of Education, 1999; Capps et al, 2005; Carter & Chatfield, 1986; CEP, 2005; Collier, 1989; Consentino de Cohen, Deterding, & Clewell, 2005; Cornelius & Rumba, 1995; Council of Chief State School Officers, 2004; Crandall, 1994; Cummins, 1979; Duff, 2005; Echevarria, Vogt, & Short, 2004; Fazel, Wheeler, & Danesh, 2005; Fisher, Frey, & Fehrenbacher, 2004a; Fisher, Lapp, & Flood, 2005; Freeman, 2001; Garcia, 1988; Genesee, 1998; Genesee, Lindholm-Leary, Saunders, & Christian, 2006; Gonzàlez & Darling-Hammond, 1997; Hakuta, Butler, & Witt, 2000; Heath, 1983; Henderson, Abbott & Strang, 1993; Lucas, 1997; Lucas, Henze, & Donato, 1990; Mace-Matluck, Alexander-Kasparik, & Queen, 1998; McKay & Wong, 2000; National Association of Secondary School Principals, 2005; Minicucci & Olsen, 1991; Olsen & Chen, 1988; Olsen & Jaramillo, 1999; Olsen, Jaramillo, McCall-Perez, & White, 1999; Olsen & Mullen, 1990; Orfield, Losen, Wald, & Swanson, 2004; Padolsky, 2005; Park, 1999; Ruiz de Velasco & Fix, 2002; Rumbaut, 1994; Short & Boyson, 2000; Short & Boyson, 2004; TESOL, 1997; Trumbull, Rothstein-Fisch, Greenfield, & Quiroz, 2001; United Nations Population Fund, 2003; Van Hook, Bean, & Passel, 2005; Wiggins & McTighe, 1998; Wong, Filmore, & Valadez, 1986; Zehler et al, 2003; Zeichner, 1992.

Teaching and Learning Strategies for Immigrant Students

While the number of immigrant students in U.S. schools continues to increase, the number of teachers from other countries and from non-English-language backgrounds is declining, as is the percentage of teachers who have special preparation for teaching ELLs. In 2001-2002, Zehler and colleagues found that 43 percent of public school teachers had ELLs in their classes, which is 3.5 times more than those teachers surveyed in 1991-1992; 60 percent of teachers with at least three ELL students received relevant training in the previous five years, but with only an average number of four training hours. Moreover, teachers in schools with high concentrations of ELL students are more likely to be new teachers, have less academic preparation, and hold provisional certification than those in schools with low ELL enrollment (Consentino de Cohen et al, 2005). Thus many of the four million ELLs in U.S. classrooms spend most of their day with teachers who have not been trained to work with them.

Unless both preservice and inservice teacher education programs change, this situation is likely to become worse, since the greatest population growth in the United States is expected to be among Hispanics and Asians and Pacific Islanders. By 2050, the Hispanic population in the United States is expected to increase from 13% of the total population to 23 %; Asian and Pacific Islander from 4% to 10%. Demographics show that many of these students will not be native English speakers. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2001).

Sustainable Professional Development

Teachers need to be prepared to provide instruction that reflects an understanding of (1) second-language acquisition and development, (2) integration of language and content instruction, and (3) cross-cultural communication (Crandall, 1994). Some states (California and Florida, for example) have changed their certification requirements to reflect changing school demographics and address these areas of need. Sixteen states currently require K-12 ESL teachers to pass the Praxis II: English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) for certification (Educational Testing Service, 2005). Even where certification requirements have not changed, districts and schools have undertaken various approaches to provide professional development in these three areas.

Professional development includes programs of peer observation, mentoring and coaching, teacher inquiry and research groups, and college courses. Effective professional development models are driven by student assessment data, teacher reflection and conversation, and a staff development team led by teachers from different academic departments. Teacher collaboration should not only be within departments, but also horizontal (across departments), and vertical (across grade levels). For any of these techniques to be effective, however, they must be long-term, site-based, teacher-designed and teacher-directed; programs must be designed to improve student learning, and must allow adequate time for teacher inquiry and reflection (Crandall, 1998; Darling-Hammond, 1996; Frey & Fisher, 2004a; González & Darling-Hammond, 1997; National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, 1996).

One way to ensure long-term commitment is to establish partnerships between universities and schools that simultaneously address needed changes in teacher preparation and inservice professional development through a professional development school or center. In the professional development school, teacher educators, experienced and novice teachers, administrators, and other stakeholders in public education work together to provide a program of teacher education, much of which is taught on site by teams of experienced teachers and university faculty members (Alliance for Excellent Education, 2005b; Crandall 1994, 1998; Fisher, 2001).

Teacher candidates work alongside expert teachers, experiencing the reality of schools by spending more time in them than is now standard. In the process, teacher candidates provide schools with an additional, knowledgeable adult working in the classroom and help refresh potentially burnt-out teachers with their enthusiasm and new ideas. One result of this collaboration is that the gap between preservice and inservice teacher education and between theory and practice is partially bridged (Crandall, 1994, 1998; González & Darling-Hammond, 1997; Holmes Group, 1990).

In one such partnership, an ESL/bilingual teacher education program provided a series of courses, workshops, and ongoing research and curriculum development that has helped to better prepare current teachers to work with their increasingly diverse student populations. In turn, these experienced teachers helped both the teacher education program and current graduate students develop a far better understanding of the challenges and strengths these students represent (Crandall, 1994, 1998).

The following teaching and learning strategies are central to any program of professional development for teachers and other educators who seek to meet the needs of a multilingual, multicultural student population. Current pressures associated with a stronger emphasis on testing and accountability may make some teachers hesitant to incorporate strategies that don’t directly link to the bottom line: student outcomes on state tests and other national measures of progress. However, it is this comprehensive collection of strategies that support students academically, emotionally, and socially that will prepare students to meet the high expectations that schools are justifiably asking of them. Each strategy includes a rationale, followed by several classroom examples. References offer the opportunity for further exploration. Teacher names are pseudonyms.

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