Middle school mathematics teachers' beliefs about English language learners in mainstream classrooms
Pettit, Stacie Kae
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The purpose of this study was to explore the beliefs middle school mathematics teachers have about English Language Learners (ELLs) and the factors influencing those beliefs, to identify the strategies teachers use to help ELLs, and to explore the support teachers need to teach ELLs. One hundred six middle school mathematics teachers from 11 school systems in Georgia completed the “Middle School Mathematics Teachers’ Beliefs about English Language Learners Questionnaire.” From volunteers on the questionnaire, five teachers were interviewed. In addition, through interviews with four ELLs, students’ experiences in mathematics classrooms were explored. Results from the questionnaire indicated that 86% of the teachers welcome the inclusion of ELLs in their classrooms, but 88% feel that language is an issue in mathematics classrooms. Teachers who had received training felt significantly more prepared to teach ELLs and to help them understand class materials than did teachers who had not received training. In addition, females believed significantly more than males that teachers should modify assignments for ELLs. Only 24% of the teachers believed they have adequate training to teach ELLs, and 74% of the teachers wanted more training in working with ELLs. The students interviewed reported having difficulties in mathematics class because of words they could not understand; these ELLs also desired more materials in their native language. Recommendations for middle school mathematics teachers include taking responsibility for the ELLs in their classrooms and increasing their collaboration with the English to Speakers of Other Languages teacher. Teachers need more training in teaching ELLs and additional bilingual resources compatible with the Georgia Performance Standards. Additional research should be conducted with school systems with ELL populations that vary in size and nationalities. In addition, researchers could use longitudinal studies to investigate changes in teachers’ beliefs over time.