ERIC Identifier: ED435185
Publication Date: 1999-10-00
Author: Clair, Nancy - Adger, Carolyn Temple
Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics Washington DC.
Professional Development for Teachers in Culturally Diverse
Schools. ERIC Digest.
The changing face of the U.S. student population is well documented. Over the
last 10 years, the population of English language learners has increased by 1
million students. English language learners now comprise 5.5% of the total
school-age population, with a disproportionate number of these students in
California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Illinois (Fleishman & Hopstock,
1993). And if demographic trends persist, the numbers of English language
learners will continue to grow. These students are not a homogenous group. They
enter U.S. schools at different ages and at different times during the school
year. They come to school representing a diversity of languages, cultures,
experiences with school, and economic and social power.
At the same time, school reform efforts demand that schools become places of
excellence for all students. Educators committed to these reforms face enormous
challenges, not the least of which is the education of teachers. Although the
responsibility for improved schooling must be shared among administrators,
teachers, parents, and students, school reform efforts place a tremendous weight
on teachers (Clair, Adger, Short, & Millen, 1998), especially those who have
received no preparation for teaching English language learners (Clair, 1995,
1998; Gonzalez & Darling-Hammond, 1997). Clearly, professional development
plays a role in equipping schools to meet the challenges facing them.
This digest focuses on professional development for teachers in culturally
diverse schools. It summarizes what is known about effective professional
development and the conditions that allow it to succeed. It provides three
examples of professional development that are grounded in the academic
achievement of English language learners as a fundamental ingredient to overall
PROMISING PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
There is a growing
consensus in the literature regarding the elements of effective professional
development for teachers. It incorporates principles of adult learning: Adult
learners need to be self-directed; they display readiness to learn when they
have a perceived need; and they desire immediate application of new skills and
knowledge (Knowles, 1980). Effective professional development is embedded in the
reality of schools and teachers* work. It is designed with teacher input. It
fosters critical reflection and meaningful collaboration. It is internally
coherent and rigorous, and it is sustained over the long term (Little, 1993;
Renyi, 1996; Sparks & Hirsch, 1997). Promising professional development is
aligned with effective teaching and learning: "Principles that describe
effective teaching for students in classrooms should not differ for adults in
general and teachers in particular" (Rueda, 1998).
These elements underlie various professional development structures such as
university- school partnerships (Darling-Hammond, 1997), teacher networks and
collaboratives (Little, 1993; Renyi, 1996) and teacher study groups (Clair,
1995; 1998), to name a few. What these structures have in common is
opportunities for teachers to take ownership of the professional development
process to be knowledge creators as opposed to mere receivers of information.
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT FOR TEACHERS OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE
The above elements and structures are crucial for designing
professional development, but they are insufficient for educating teachers in
culturally diverse schools. Any professional development in culturally diverse
schools must address specific knowledge and attitudes that are relevant to
teaching English language learners. Teachers need to understand basic constructs
of bilingualism and second language development, the nature of language
proficiency, the role of the first language and culture in learning, and the
demands that mainstream education places on culturally diverse students (Clair,
1993). Teachers need to continually reassess what schooling means in the context
of a pluralist society; the relationships between teachers and learners; and
attitudes and beliefs about language, culture, and race (Clair, Adger, Short, & Millen, 1998; Gonzalez & Darling-Hammond, 1997). Moreover, teachers
need a "vision of students as capable individuals for whom limited English
proficiency does not signify deficiency and for whom limited academic skills do
not represent an incurable situation" (Walqui, 1999). Finally, promising
professional development in culturally diverse schools assumes that combining
content, ESL, and bilingual teachers would make complementary knowledge and
perspectives available to everyone (Adger & Clair, 1999; Clair, 1998;
Gonzalez & Darling-Hammond, 1997).
CONDITIONS FOR PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
development to improve schooling for all students requires a minimal set of
conditions (Adger & Peyton, 1999; Clair, Adger, Short, & Millen, 1998;
Darling-Hammond, 1997; Gonzalez & Darling-Hammond, 1997; Nadelstern, Price,
& Listhaus, 1999).
District and school policies must support coherent and integrated professional
Many districts and schools have competing initiatives that drain their
resources and dilute their efforts. It is not uncommon to see lists of district-
and school-sponsored workshops tacked on school bulletin boards on topics as
diverse as cooperative learning techniques, meeting the needs of at-risk
students, and internet training for teachers. Unless there is a coherent and
integrated professional development plan that grows out of a district and school
vision for student success to which teachers and administrators are committed,
workshops will lack meaning.
District and school leadership must make student, teacher, and organizational
learning a priority.
District leaders and building principals must have current substantive
knowledge about effective teaching and learning for students and adults. They
must have knowledge about trends in effective professional development and the
education of English language learners. In order to make teaching and learning a
priority, principals must safeguard teacher and student time, engage the entire
staff in taking responsibility for the education of English language learners,
model collegial relationships with teachers and students, and participate
actively in the learning community of the school.
There must be sufficient time and resources for promising professional
development to take hold.
Promising professional development is about improvement and change. The more
complex the change process, the more unpredictable it is (Fullan, 1999).
Introducing professional development calls for teachers to work together in new
ways in order to improve schooling for all students. Learning new ways of
working together and tackling the complexities of teaching in culturally diverse
schools takes sustained time, focus, and resources.
EXAMPLES OF PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT FOR TEACHERS IN CULTURALY
Although different in form and focus, the following examples
highlight ongoing professional development that promotes school-based inquiry
and continual improvement. Each example brings together ESL, bilingual, and
content teachers or interdisciplinary teams of teachers to support the academic
success of all students.
"The International High School at LaGuardia Community College" (Nadelstern,
Price, & Listhaus, 1999)
This alternative high school serves students who are recent U.S. arrivals and
who have varying levels of English language proficiency. Professional
development is built into the governance and instructional organization of the
school. The over-arching goal is to guarantee that all staff have the tools to
support students in meeting rigorous graduation requirements. All staff must
continually improve their ability to manage a student-centered classroom,
accommodate heterogeneous arrangements, and integrate first and second language
into the content areas. Interdisciplinary teacher teams work collaboratively to
develop and revise curriculum, plan schedules, discuss student learning, and
share successful practices. Staff members hold each other accountable through
peer coaching, peer evaluation, and teacher portfolio presentations.
"California Tomorrow and Alisal High School" (Jaramillo, 1998)
Alisal High School is an urban school with 1,800 students, 94% of whom are
Latino. More than half of the student population is classified as limited
English proficient. Constituting themselves as the Working Group on Race,
Language, and Culture, a group of teachers set out to explore language and
language development issues that helped to explain their students* performance.
Professional development involved looking at research and school-based
professional development models, examining student achievement data and school
progress, creating a plan to improve students* literacy, peer coaching, and
reporting findings to the greater school faculty.
"The Northeast and Islands Regional Educational Laboratory and The Lowell
(MA) Public Schools" (Clair & Adger, in press)
The Lowell school district is highly culturally diverse with approximately
60% of the student population speaking languages other than English. Partnering
with researchers from the Regional Laboratory at Brown University, ESL,
bilingual, and content teachers explored the problem of standards implementation
in classrooms that include English language learners by drawing upon knowledge
and experience of standards and education reform, second language development,
and effective educational practices for English language learners. An essential
aspect of the professional development involves four sustainable strategies:
standards analysis, student work, peer visitation, and discussion of
professional literature. These strategies hold promise for ongoing reform at the
school level, because with practice they can be used independently. The goal is
for teachers to adapt these strategies for use in school-based study groups.
Demographic trends suggest that the profile of
U.S. public school students will continue to be diverse. Education reform
requires that educators provide quality schooling for all of their students.
Clearly, professional development must equip teachers for this challenge. There
is growing evidence that professional development approaches that are guided by
teacher input and that view teacher learning as continual and transformative
makes schools a better place for students and staff.
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the professional development of their teachers." Paper presented at an
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the National Educational Research Policy and Priorities Board, the Office of
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