Teaching English language learners: Teacher candidates' language beliefs




Caceda, Carmen Rosa

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This research, grounded in the Community of Practice (CofP) theoretical framework (Lave & Wenger, 1991; Wenger, 1998; Wenger, McDermott, & Snyder, 2000), examined teacher candidates' multilayered responses on language beliefs about English language learners (ELLs). Four questions were pursued: (a) the beliefs teacher candidates brought to an ESL methods course, (b) entry differences in trainees' language beliefs considering three demographic features, (c) changes that have taken place in trainees' language beliefs, and (d) exit differences in trainees' language beliefs considering three demographic features. The participants were trainees who took part in a semester-long ESL methods course during the academic year of 2008 in a Hispanic-serving university in the Southwestern part of the United States.

Following a sequential complementary mixed-methods research approach, the data gathered consisted of: (a) questionnaires, (b) pre- and post-Language Beliefs (LABE) surveys, (c) two one-page reading reflections, with responses posted on Web-CT, an on-line discussion site of a selected class, (d) a focus group of 7 participants, (e) interviews with faculty members, and (f) researcher field notes of class activities when participant observation took place. The information collected was analyzed following a two-fold process. An initial qualitative part examined a single classroom in depth. For the analysis, I employed Gee's (2005) discourse framework with an emphasis on how information about language beliefs was made significant (p. 11), that is, how trainees contrast or stress their discourse on beliefs. This was followed by the administration of a survey to 165 participants in 6 classes. Surveys were analyzed employing the statistical software SPSS (George & Mallery, 2003). Frequencies and cross-tabulations were conducted in order to obtain participants' language beliefs and to summarize three demographic features. MANOVA tests were conducted to determine (a) trainees' differences between their language beliefs and three demographic features and (b) changes in their language beliefs.

The qualitative data reveals that teacher candidates' language beliefs experienced some changes. In the case that there were no major changes, trainees' awareness was heightened. The quantitative component suggests four results: (a) some participants' language beliefs are in tune with research while other beliefs need deconstructing; (b) main effects were observed between trainees' three demographic features and one language belief; (c) change occurred between participants' pre- and post- responses, and (d) main effects were noted between one demographic feature and three language beliefs. Two implications can be drawn from this study. First, language beliefs need to be explicitly emphasized during preparation sessions so that trainees become aware of these and language beliefs need reframing or nurturing during preparation sessions given that these will have an effect in the ELLs' language learning processes.


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Accent, Beliefs, Code-switching, ELLs, Language, Teacher candidates



Bicultural-Bilingual Studies