Carla Meskill, University at Albany, State University of New York
The federally funded Training All Teachers (TAT) project is an innovative program of curricular enhancement for preservice and inservice educators across disciplines. The project focuses on English language learners (ELLs) in U.S. schools and the fact that the training of school personnel in issues related to these learners’ needs has not kept pace with the growing numbers of these learners. The goal of the TAT project is to increase opportunities for all pre-/inservice teachers, pupil services personnel, administrators, and other education personnel to learn about issues specific to ELLs. To these ends, School of Education faculty across departments and disciplines participated in a variety of activities designed to support integration of ELL issues into their teacher/professional graduate courses. The goals and structure of these faculty development activities and their outcomes are discussed, as well as the implications of such training.
The goals of the Training All Teachers (TAT) program of activities are
(a) to infuse ELL issues throughout core curricula for teachers and school personnel in training and
(b) to extend this knowledge into on-site partnerships with in-service practitioners and school personnel.
Content of PD
+ present ELL-related information (change beliefs & knowledge about ELLs)
+ develop / revise course syllabi
+ "push-in" work
Professional development efforts concerning ELLs in U.S. schools must gently confront these often ingrained misconceptions. For the TAT Project, doing so consisted of sharing basic information with faculty in specific education courses and encouraging productive conversation. In the following section, specific activities designed for various participating faculty and students is detailed.
--> Beliefs targeted
Societal/Conceptual Challenges Regarding the Education of ELLs
1) beliefs about the English language
2) beliefs about ELLs' native language
3) beliefs about language & learning
4) beliefs about ELLs and their families
In an effort to undertake curricular revision and enhancement of core courses required of all preparing and practicing classroom teachers, school administrators, counselors, and area specialists training at the university, TAT forums consisted of (a) ‘‘push-in’’ work, wherein ELL experts worked directly in participating faculty classrooms to infuse ELL issues on an ongoing basis; (b) group workshops with follow-on support, wherein faculty grouped by discipline were provided with knowledge and tools as a group, then individual support throughout the academic year; and (c) peer presentations, wherein graduate students specially trained in ELL issues presented tailored information to faculty and their students on demand.
The training emphasized the following broad topics:
Language: the nature of language and its relation to society and culture;
Acquisition: the processes of first language (L1) and L2, including best instructional strategies and accommodations;
Culture: cross-cultural issues in schooling;
Regulations: roles and responsibilities of schools and school personnel regarding ELL children;
Communication: methods for communicating effectively with school personnel and parents regarding ELL children.
Additional topics of concern were determined for each of the focal groups: for example, special methods and accommodations for the teaching of mathematics to ELL children for math teacher educators, issues associated with biliteracy for reading specialists, and particular emphasis on state and federal regulations regarding ELL children for special education specialists and school administrators.
Collaboration groups (~30 participants?)
+ Math education
+ English language arts (ELA)
+ Ed administration
+ School counseling
+ Ed psych
+ Special ed
In part because of the complexities of such a potentially sensitive issue (individual faculty course content) and in part because of the dearth of models for working with higher education faculty on curricular enhancements, in addition to the core elements described above, project staff relied almost exclusively on planning and processes that emerged from work with individual faculty. As such, our project evaluation efforts, like our negotiations with participants, were structured to be as open-ended and responsive to individual contexts as possible.
Each of the participating faculty completed a questionnaire to assess
(a) any shifts in their beliefs concerning issues related to ELL children;
(b) whether and how they had integrated training session content into their curricula; and
(c) additional ELL-related issues they would be interested in pursuing in subsequent trainings
5 faculty responses
Additionally, 123 graduate students in participating courses completed a questionnaire concerning their knowledge of ELLs (see Appendix B). Students (n=123) from seven of the courses taught by participating faculty completed a questionnaire concerning their knowledge and understanding of ELLs.
The TAT Project used push-in workshops in Math, ELA, School Counseling, Educational Psychology, and Special Education classes, where TAT trainers infused ELL issues directly through minilectures, class activities, and discussions.
+ faculty's perceptions of ELLs changed
+ In terms of faculty, participating instructors reported undertaking integration or plans to integrate this information in their professional educator curricula and consistently underscored the need for additional efforts at integrating ELL issues for future education professionals of all kinds.
+ After working with the TAT Project, these faculty expressed eagerness to expand the role of ELL issues in their future courses.
+ TAT-related course experiences appear to have provided students not only with increased awareness, but also with specific strategies for working with these children.