As the most widely spoken language across the world, English is increasingly being learned by non-native speakers. Particularly, elementary schools through 12th grade teach English consistently. However, there has been a challenge in terms of realizing the training objectives of the language, both from the students’ perspective and from the teachers’ stand-point. Over the years, there has been increasing focus on the methods of English language education delivery, resulting in the development and recommendation of various approaches for English language instruction including group activity, use of individualized instruction models, and the use of collaborative instruction models. Additionally, inclusive learning has been used to enhance particularly spoken English of non-native speakers. Extensive training and an effective understanding of the training methods are required to ensure that the English learning content is delivered accurately and with expected outcomes. Teachers have to be extensively prepared in terms of content, context, and classroom management.
A full comprehension of the dimensions of teaching namely, active student engagement, prior understanding of the content, catering for student diversity, continued enhancement of students’ conceptual understanding, student awareness of key learning outcomes, linkage between disciplinary and interdisciplinary theory to achieve objectives, effective use of learning materials and the environment, appropriately structured material presentation, understanding students’ feedback on teaching practices, and giving appropriate feedback to students on time (Learning & Teaching, 2016). Given the scope of preparation that teachers have to undertake, it is important to note that at any given time, the extent of teacher preparation will influence their delivery capability and the capacity of the learners to understand the teaching progress. Notably, teacher preparation across various dimensions has not been easy to accomplish due to various challenges, either systematically or institutionally (Wissink & Starks, 2019). Accordingly, this study aims to explore the perspectives of teachers regarding their preparedness to teach English language learners (ELLs). In particular, there will be a focus on their academic preparation in teaching ELLs and their perceptions regarding the effects of their preparation on comprehension outcomes among learners.
English language learning is an inevitable part of every educational institution. The rate of English language learning has been increasing at approximately 10% per year across the United States. In particular, the number of non-native English learners has increased over the past five years by 20%, currently standing at between 0.9% and 20% in different states of the U.S (National Center for Education Statistics, 2019). Accordingly, the conventional language teaching approaches and the academic preparation of teachers forms a significant factor in determining the teaching effectiveness of the English language regardless of the targeted learners. Various studies have, however, shown that the training of English teachers does not effectively reflect the needs of the learners, as their capability to achieve all the teaching dimensions is affected in one way or the other (Copeland, Garton, & Burns, 2014). Teacher training institutions focus on improving the quality of service delivery, and without an understanding of the gaps in teacher preparation, it is difficult to achieve the targeted learning outcomes.
Various studies aimed at establishing the effectiveness of knowledge dissemination to ELLs from teachers, with a focus on the preparation and effectiveness of the process. The results show that there is still a gap in terms of teacher perceptions of their effectiveness in disseminating comprehension knowledge to learners. Studies such as Correll (2016) showed that there is particularly an issue with meeting the needs of diverse knowledge learners in English language learning. This is particularly a result of the inclusivity that is increasingly being introduced in English language learning, whereby students from native and non-native speaking backgrounds are combined to attain collaborative learning. In such an environment, teachers’ academic effectiveness would be instrumental in fostering the accomplishment of all teaching dimensions as outlined. With increasing new demands from people intending to improve their language skills even among native speakers, teachers are left with the need to fit their competencies into the competing and divergent learner needs (Samson & Collins, 2012). Because of this challenge, teacher perceptions about the effectiveness of their knowledge dissemination process also vary widely based on their variable abilities to fine-tune the teaching competencies to the student needs.
Despite a large number of language students across the world and the existing training methods for English language teachers, challenges still exist in terms of teacher preparation to teach ELLs. These challenges span across the different teaching dimensions for the ELLs and can be addressed by first understanding their impacts on the learners. English comprehension is one of the learning dimensions in which there has been a significant impact on the lack of teacher preparation or limited preparation. The teachers themselves have different perceptions about the effectiveness of their teaching methods, pegged on the extent of preparation with which they associate. Accordingly, understanding the teachers’ perceptions about the effectiveness of their teaching methods on ELLs and the impacts of those methods on comprehension outcomes can help to identify preparation gaps, which can be used to direct the academic preparation of teachers (Wissink & Starks, 2019). Re-directing academic preparation is expected to result in better comprehension outcomes for learners regardless of whether they are native speakers or not. This study will descriptively determine the perceptions of teachers regarding the effectiveness of their academic preparation on the comprehension outcomes when teaching English language learners.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of the proposed study will be to determine the teachers’ perceptions regarding their preparation to disseminate comprehension knowledge within a diverse learners’ environment, where learners have varying needs and capabilities. The study will use the dimensions of teaching to determine different perspectives that can be used by teachers to report their self-perceptions. To achieve the objective of this study, the independent variable will be the teacher preparedness, measured through the teaching dimensions. The dependent variable on the other hand will be the effectiveness of comprehension of EELs. Through the teaching dimensions, the study will explore various aspects that will enable the researcher to determine the existing gaps in teacher preparation. The research design will be a descriptive qualitative approach. The descriptive qualitative research design has been recognized for its effectiveness where the objective is to explain more about a phenomenon. The design uses variable methods to obtain extensive information that cab used to understand a phenomenon. Through the findings of the study, it will be possible to establish gaps in teacher preparation that affect the effectiveness of comprehension for ELLs.
In order to address the study objective and solve the problem at hand, the following questions will guide the intended outcomes.
- What are the academic preparation concerns among English language teachers in elementary schools?
- What are the perceptions of teachers regarding the effectiveness of their preparation for comprehension knowledge dissemination during ELLs teaching?
Advancing Scientific Knowledge and Significance of the Study
From the previous studies, it has not been shown how teacher preparation affects the effectiveness of comprehension during ELLs teaching. For this reason, this study contributes positively to the academic content in this subject. Moreover, the findings from this study can be practically applied to various educational contexts in determining the training gaps in English teacher education, and subsequently training teachers to disseminate knowledge effectively to diverse English learners. It is, thus, deductible that the study will contribute to both theory and practice, by expanding the perspectives on teacher training gaps and providing proposals that can be used to enhance teacher performance in terms of learning outcomes not only for English learners but also for students undertaking subjects in which there is a lot of diversity in learner characteristics.
The identified teacher preparation gaps will influence practice by expanding the areas of training to which teachers need to be subjected for effective knowledge dissemination. In this way, the study promises to contribute positively to both theory and practice of teaching as it would give the basis for expanding the teacher training curriculum.
Rationale for the Methodology
The selection of the descriptive qualitative research design is founded on the objective of the research. The purpose of the proposed study is to answer the questions: What are the academic preparation concerns among English language teachers in elementary schools? And What are the perceptions of teachers regarding the effectiveness of their preparation for comprehension knowledge dissemination during ELLs teaching? These questions can only be answered effectively through a study design that not only considers the distinct account of the dissemination of knowledge during ELLs teaching but also digs deep into the rationale for the methods used. Various studies would consider the lack of proficiency build-up in students from the perspective of student deficiencies, but the proposed study will focus on the effectiveness of teaching.
The descriptive qualitative research design answers questions centered on ‘what’, ‘when’, ‘where’ and ‘how’. The questions of concern in this study are centered on ‘what’ hence making the method suitable for the proposed research. Additionally, a variety of both qualitative and quantitative approaches can be used during data collection for the descriptive study, hence the design gives sufficient flexibility to explore the phenomenon under study and thus obtain an in-depth answer to the research questions. According to Kim, Sefcik, and Bradway (2017), the descriptive method is also suitable where a study is conducted as a precursor to other quantitative or qualitative methodologies. In the proposed case, it is observable that while the findings for the study may be complete and effective in answering the research questions, recommended studies may be conducted in future with diverse approaches to research. The descriptive research conducted therefore, will suit its function as a precursor to further research activities.
The hypotheses of the proposed study include: 1.) there are notable academic preparation gaps based on the teaching dimensions; and 2.) teachers feel that a combination of factors such as student discipline and administration support can be blamed for the lack of effectiveness in knowledge application by teachers. The hypotheses are aligned to the research problem, and through the answers to the outlined research questions, it is expected that the research problem will be addressed.
Nature of the Research Design
As mentioned previously, the research design will be a descriptive qualitative design. The particular approach to be used will be a combination of interviews and observation. The qualitative research design can help researchers to access the thoughts and feelings of participants and to additionally understand the perceptions attached to those thoughts and feelings (Sutton & Austin, 2015). The interpretation of data will also depend to a large extent on the prior beliefs of the researcher and the effects of those beliefs on the questions asked by the researcher. This implies that the selected research design is vulnerable to bias, and it is the responsibility of the researcher to establish strategies for eliminating bias in the interpretation of the findings. The descriptive design however, is a qualitative research practice that focuses on the actual thematic areas of research. The object of focus in the proposed study will be the teacher, and different tools can be used to collect data from the teacher including interview questions and performance report forms for the ELLs students.
Definition of Terms
There are a series of terms that will be used throughout the proposed study. The following catalogue presents a definition of some of the terms.
ELL – English language learner – refers to all students who are registered and learning English as a second language.
Teaching dimensions – this is a combination of 5 factors adopted from the 5D instructional framework for implementing high quality instructional practices developed by the Center for Educational Leadership (2020). The factors include the purpose of teaching, curriculum and pedagogy, student engagement, assessment of learning, and the classroom environment or culture.
Teacher effectiveness – the ability of a teacher to disseminate knowledge within the intended purpose and to be able to produce gains on the student scores, measured by the progress from the baseline scores prior to teaching with the scores after teaching (Rahimi, 2015). The effectiveness of teachers determines how they layer information and present it to the target populations.
Comprehension – understanding of the ELL concepts taught in class and their application in both spoken and written contexts.
Assumptions, Limitations and Delimitations
This section of the paper gives a brief description of the assumptions, the limitations and the delimitations of the study. The assumptions in this regard should be taken to mean a self-evident truth. For instance, one of the assumptions made for the purpose of the proposed study is that the information obtained from the teachers on the student performance in ELL is an accurate representation of the effectiveness of the teaching process. This first assumption is founded on the fact that the assessment of learning is one of the dimensions of teaching, and any effective teacher would have records of such assessments. The consideration of the assessments as a dimension of teaching implies that they can be used to gauge the performance of both teachers and students. Additionally, it is assumed that the five dimensions of learning cover the most important measures of academic preparedness for teachers. The second assumption is founded on the fact that these dimensions have been approved by the Center for Educational leadership (2020) and can thus be considered to be valid.
The main limitation of the study would be the use of a small sample population. By constraining the research participants to a small category of students, it may be difficult to generalize the information obtained to other schools. Generalization would be more justifiable for more diverse classrooms that do not focus on the English language capabilities in learning. The delimitation on the other hand, relates to the focus on existing dimensions of teaching as the basis for evaluating teacher performance. The use of these dimensions is a delimitation because the framework has been pre-existing and confirmed effective, making the study effective in achieving its purpose.
Summary and Organization of the Remainder of the Study
The remainder of the prospectus is divided into 5 chapters. Chapter 2 gives an overview of the literature review; Chapter 3 gives a detailed description of the research methodology, comprising of a description of the research design, the participants, sampling methods, ethical consideration, and data analysis methods among others.
Center for Educational Leadership (2020, January 27). 5 dimensions of teaching and learning. Center for Educational Leadership. Retrieved from www.k-12leadership.org/content/tool/5-dimensions-teaching-and-learning%E2%84%A2
Copeland, F., Garton, S., & Burns, A. (2014). Challenges in teaching English to young learners: Global perspectives and local realities. TESOL Quarterly, 48(4): 738-762. Retrieved from www.jstor.org/stable/43268015?seq=1
Correll, PK. (2016). Teachers’ preparation to teach English Language Learners (ELLs): An investigation of perceptions, preparation, and current practices. Theses and Dissertations–Curriculum and Instruction. 19.
Kim, H., Sefcik, J.S., & Bradway, C. (2017). Characteristics of qualitative descriptive studies: A systematic review. Research in Nursing & Health, 40(1), 23-42. Retrieved from www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5225027/
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Samson, J.F., & Collins, B.A. (2012). Preparing all teachers to meet the needs of English language learners: Applying research to policy and practice for teacher effectiveness. Center for American Progress. Retrieved from files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED535608.pdf
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National Center for Education Statistics. (2019). English language learners in public schools. U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_cgf.asp
Wissink, B., & Starks, S. (2019). Elementary teachers’ perceptions of preparedness to teach English language learners. Educational Research and Reviews, 14(10): 349-357. Retrieved from files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1216718.pdf