Uncovering Mainstream Classroom Teachers' Understanding of Working with English Learners

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The purpose of this exploratory study was to analyze the mainstream classroom teachers in this unique K-8 school setting report focusing on English Learners (ELs), what they perceive to be their roles and responsibilities in working with ELs, and what they want to learn further about ELs. For this study, mainstream teachers refer to those who provide content instruction to ELs in the areas of language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies. The study addressed three questions regarding mainstream teachers including what they report that they currently know about working with ELs; what they perceive their roles and responsibilities to be in instructing ELs; and what knowledge and skills they need to better work with ELs. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with eight of elementary and middle grades teachers at one school in a large urban district. Teachers were selected based on the criteria that they were teachers of language arts, mathematics, science and social studies in grades 4 through 8 and had ELs enrolled in their class. Interviews were also conducted with the ESL teacher at the same school and the district Title III Supervisor. Key findings included the following: mainstream teachers used the same instructional strategies for ELs that was used for all students, the mainstream was responsible for teaching ELs, and a need for professional development and resources in order to be successful instructing ELs.