Training teachers of English language learners through instructional conversations: A metalogue

Date of Completion

January 2001


Education, Bilingual and Multicultural|Education, Teacher Training|Education, Curriculum and Instruction




As the linguistically and culturally diverse student population increases nation wide, schools are under pressure to examine their assumptions concerning the students in their classroom and their instructional practices (Darling-Hammond & Gonzalez, 1997; NCES, 1997). Most educators do not receive the preparation to teach this population before entering the workforce, however, and they have limited opportunities to update their knowledge and skills in an ongoing basis throughout their careers (Echevarria, Vogt, & Short, 1999; Lighthown, & Spada,1999). ^ The purpose of this research was to examine the role of the instructional conversation (IC) as a professional development strategy for middle school mainstream and bilingual teachers. The IC is a sociocultural based pedagogical tool that encourages knowledge construction as it is assisted through dynamic participation in language (Echevarria & McDonough, 1993; Rueda, Gallimore & Goldenberg, 1992; Tharp & Gallimore, 1991). Although the IC has been documented as a successful tool to teach English language learners (ELLs) and other at-risk students, the literature fails to locate studies of the IC as a professional development tool to teach these students (Dalton & Sison, 1995; Tharp & Yamauchi, 1994). ^ The participants of this study included middle school teachers of ELLs in the mainstream and in the bilingual program and the students of Clearview Middle School. The data were collected through key informant interviews, participant and non-participant observations, and focus groups. The researcher videotaped and rated a series of IC professional development sessions and IC lessons. They were analyzed on the basis of IC elements present and the participants' perceptions of IC as a tool for professional development and classroom lessons. In addition, the teachers involved in the IC lessons were randomly selected for semi-structured interviews and pile sorting activities. These ethnographic techniques were analyzed on the basis of the participants' perceptions of the IC as a professional development and teaching tool. The findings of this study are intended to provide data useful in the implementation of professional development programs for middle school teachers of ELLs. Furthermore, the findings of this study seem to indicate that IC could be an effective tool for professional development with teachers of ELLs. Moreover, this study serves to add to the existing knowledge base concerning the IC as an effective teaching strategy in bilingual and mainstream classrooms. ^