- Year 2017
- NSF Noyce Award # 1339947
- First Name Catherine
- Last Name Ulrich
- Discipline Math
Bettibel Kreye, Virginia Tech, firstname.lastname@example.org
Anderson Norton, Virginia Tech, email@example.com
Megan Wawro, Virginia Tech, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jesse Wilkins, Virginia Tech, email@example.com
Catherine Ulrich, Virginia Tech, firstname.lastname@example.org
Bettibel Kreye, Virginia Tech, email@example.com
Gresilda Tilley-Lubbs, Virginia Tech, firstname.lastname@example.org
Alina DiRito, Virginia Tech, email@example.com
Students who are English language learners (ELLs) make up almost 10% of the public school population in the United States, with a well-established upward trend over time (Kena et al., 2016). Furthermore, in the Commonwealth of Virginia, where most of our Noyce Scholars plan to teach, the percentage has increased at a fairly constant rate from about 27,000 students in 1998 to about 97,000 students in 2014 (Tate, 2014). By the time our pre-service teachers (whether Noyce Scholars or not) leave our secondary mathematics licensure program, we want them to feel confident in their ability to be an effective mathematics teacher for ELLs. We feel that there are two key aspects of achieving this confidence: (1) skills and knowledge for adapting instruction when working with ELLs without decreasing the mathematical demand of a lesson, and (2) field experiences and service learning opportunities in schools with substantial ELL populations in which these skills can be tried out.
Our goals are to prepare students to be effective secondary mathematics teachers for English language learners by providing the necessary experiences and skill development during their teacher preparation program. The initiatives we will focus on in this poster are two-fold: (1) a co-taught course in Multicultural Teaching focusing on issues and strategies for teaching diverse student populations that emphasizes skills for working with English language learners (ELLs), and (2) placements and service learning in a partnering school district.
One of our co-PIs, Dr. Kreye, co-teaches a course with an ESL faculty member in which math and ESL pre-service teachers collaborate in assignments ranging from classroom observations to lesson planning and service learning with ELLs in an after-school program. The service learning opportunity is made possible by a partnering school district, Roanoke City Public School. This school district has over 1000 ELLs speaking 40 different home languages, for a percentage of almost 8% of the student population. This is the highest in our local area. In addition, they have a dedicated middle school for ELLs who need instructional support, Stonewall Jackson Middle. Students are able to do service learning opportunities at Stonewall Jackson. We also take advantage of our partnership with RCPS to place several students there for field experiences and student teaching. This past year, two of those placements involved classes with high percentages of ELL students.
In their end-of-year portfolios, our pre-service teachers have demonstrated effective planning for and implementing lessons with diverse student populations in both Multicultural Teaching service learning projects and their field experiences in high-needs schools. This past year, this was confirmed by comments from university supervisors. Eventually, we hope to analyze interview notes from our external evaluator to see if these initiatives emerge as effective from our evaluator’s points of view. More anecdotally, we have noticed that the student teaching placements in classes with a high population of ELLs is much more effective as a learning opportunity when the mentor teacher has a positive disposition towards working with ELLs. We have been fortunate in that one of our past Noyce Scholars, Sean Lewis, has now started working with more ELLs and mentoring student teachers in Roanoke City.
In a broader sense, these initiatives are changing our overall teacher preparation program in ways that should serve us well after our Noyce funding is gone. The co-taught course and associated service learning will continue. The Methods courses now incorporate requirements for ELL accommodations in lesson planning, strategies for building on the diversity of student extra-curricular experiences and skills, and strategies for supporting explicit discourse norms that can ease the varied expectations of teachers and students when working with a diverse student population. Finally, both the service learning and student placements in Roanoke City Public Schools has strengthened our relationships and contacts with the district in ways that will benefit the program for years to come.
Drs. Kreye and Tilley-Lubbs have already begun disseminating information about their course in several presentations and articles.