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The Role of the ESL Teacher In Relation to Content Teachers


"The estimated number of English language learners (ELLs) in the nation's public school systems is 4.5 million, as reported by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES, 2016a). This increasing student population is concentrated in urban school settings. Also, 67% of the nation's ELLs are concentrated in the elementary grades (K-5; NCES, 2016b). The growing ELL population makes ELLs an important segment of the overall student population and their access to college, careers, and citizenship in US and globally (Llosa et al., 2016) is a civil right issue (Tate, 2001). This makes it imperative that teachers are prepared to teach science in rigorous and socially just ways. Teachers should also be prepared to be responsive to cultural and linguistic diversity of ELLs. Various consequences are linked to inadequate preparation of mainstream and English as a Second (ESL) teachers such as lower levels of academic achievement, lack of classroom participation, lack of meaningful teacher feedback and peer interactions, and lack of opportunities for meaningful language development (Langman, 2003; Sharkey & Layzer, 2000; Valdez, 2001; Verplaetse, 2000). Further, without adequate preparation, teachers tended to hold negative views or beliefs about teaching ELLs (Youngs & Youngs, 2001). With some training though, Youngs & Youngs (2001) found that the mainstream teachers held more positive beliefs in teaching them. The importance of adequate teacher preparation for ELL student populations has been raised both in the science education literature (Fradd & Lee, 1999; Lee, 2002; Rosebery, Warren, & Conant, 1992; Warren, et al., 2001) as well as in literature on Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) teacher education (de Oliveira & Wilcox, 2017). Drawing on these two literatures, the current paper attempts to address the following questions:

1. What are the main roles of ESL teachers in K-12 schooling? How may this vary in different contexts?

2. How are ESL teachers prepared to interact with content teachers in K-12 contexts? What activities and roles are assumed in that ESL teacher preparation? How might this relate specifically to STEM classroom contexts?

3. What do we know from research about collaboration between ESL and STEM teachers about how they can best work together?

4. Are there evolving views among TESOL professionals that would suggest that the preparation of ESL teachers may be changing in ways that will potentially impact relationships between ESL teachers and STEM teachers in K-12 contexts in the future?"