Mainstream Teachers’ Perceptions of the Effectiveness of Professional Development Programs in Meeting the Academic and Literacy Needs of Adolescent English Language Learners



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There is a learning gap between what mainstream teachers ought to know and practice to effectively teach English language learners (ELLs) and what they know and practice in actuality when working with adolescent ELLs. This study employed a qualitative method to assess the effectiveness of teacher professional development (PD) opportunities from the perspectives of mainstream teachers of ELLs. This research is best situated within social constructivist theory and the theory of adult learning. By listening to the voices of ten experienced mainstream teachers from a middle school, I was able to shed some light on their attitudes and perceptions about their PD experiences amid teaching ELLs. Generally, the views of the participating teachers provide a holistic picture of how teachers make meaning of their experiences of their PD activities. A key finding of this study indicates that the main challenge mainstream teachers face is figuring out how to successfully enhance ELLs’ English proficiency while teaching them the content of the subject area. The participants openly expressed their desire and interest to learn and apply new instructional strategies and practices through a cohesive set of PD offerings rather than one-shot PD. While the participants revealed that their previous PD activities had partially helped them improve their attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions toward teaching ELLs and toward PD opportunities, they mostly relied on their previous experiences and prior beliefs when developing their attitudes toward teaching ELLs. Differentiating PD to meet teachers’ different learning needs was also highlighted by many of the participants as a major suggestion for improving PD opportunities. Within the concept of differentiation, participants highlighted the need to get special training on supporting those ELLs with varying degrees of English proficiency and academic abilities. The findings of the study also revealed that mainstream teachers need sufficient time to shift their thinking and start practicing what they have learned in PD activities.