Pre-Service Teachers' Beliefs about Teaching Ells: Implications for a Teacher Preparation Program



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Background: Research on teacher quality supports the notion that highly effective teachers have an enriching effect in the lives of their students and are the most important contributors for students’ academic success. Given the increasing demands on teachers to prepare all students coupled with the rapid growth of a culturally and linguistically diverse student population, examining the role of teacher preparation programs and the perceived self-efficacy of pre-service teachers to teach English language learners (ELLs) is crucial. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to explore pre-service teachers’ attitudes and beliefs about ELL students, their feelings of self-efficacy in regard to their skills and abilities to teach ELLs, and their perceptions of their program’s effectiveness adequately preparing them to teach ELLs. Methods: Participants consisted of 53 pre-service teachers seeking Early Childhood through 6th grade Generalist and Bilingual Generalist certifications enrolled in the final student teaching semester of their teacher education program at a large urban university in Texas during fall of 2018. Participants responded to two questionnaires, one exploring their attitudes and beliefs, and the other their perceptions of preparedness and their program’s effectiveness. Survey data were analyzed quantitatively using SPSS to obtain descriptive statistics such as means and standard deviations. The associations between the scales were inspected through correlational analysis to explore whether attitudes toward language were related to self-efficacy in teaching ELLs. Responses to open-ended questions were coded and examined for common themes using thematic analysis. Results: Pre-service teachers who participated in the study reported feeling only moderately confident in their abilities to teach ELL students as addressed by TEA standards, despite being enrolled in the final semester of their teacher preparation. The inspection of mean scores showed that the two groups scored similarly on the self-efficacy scale, yet no significant correlation between pre-service teachers’ attitudes and beliefs and self-efficacy scores for either the EC-6 Generalist or the EC-6 Bilingual group was found. Field experiences were the most mentioned influential program component having an effect in heightening pre-service teachers’ self-efficacy, yet suggestions for program improvement include coursework refinement, increased exposure to ELL students in early field experiences, and careful consideration of the selection of student teaching placements and mentor teachers. Conclusion: Teachers’ beliefs in their abilities are potent predictors of the behaviors, strategies, and level of persistence they will display in the classroom. The goal of every teacher preparation program should be to produce knowledgeable, compassionate, and resourceful teachers who are confident in their abilities. Teacher preparation programs must be bold to create the changes necessary to prepare a highly qualified teacher force that will ultimately affect the hundreds of students they will teach over the years.



Pre-service teachers, English language learners, Teacher preparation, Self-efficacy