Article first published online: 20 AUG 2012
© 2012 TESOL International Association
Special Issue: Teacher Collaboration in TESOL
Volume 3, Issue 3, pages 313–319, September 2012
How to Cite
Honigsfeld, A. and Dove, M. G. (2012), Editorial. TESOL Journal, 3: 313–319. doi: 10.1002/tesj.30
- Issue published online: 20 AUG 2012
- Article first published online: 20 AUG 2012
Why collaboration? What compelling reasons deemed it necessary to devote an entire special topic issue to teacher collaboration for the sake of English language learners (ELLs)? This brief introduction offers rationale for the issue as well as for engaging in collaborative practices in support of ELLs’ linguistic and academic development. Implications for pedagogy, teacher education, and further research are also discussed.
When closely examining current trends in demographics, research-based English language teaching practices, and changing educational policies, we have found that the need for collaboration is becoming more persuasive, more frequently discussed, and more crucial than ever before:
- In the United States, a growing number of ELLs enters the school system every year. According to Shin and Kominski (2010), California, with a record 43%, had the largest percentage of 5-year-old or older non-English-language speakers. Next came New Mexico (35.8%), Texas (34.3%), New York (29%), Nevada and New Jersey in a tie (28.5%), Arizona (27.7%), and Florida (26.6%). Nevada also had the largest increase in non-English-language speakers (193%), followed by Georgia (164%), North Carolina (151%), Utah (110%), Arkansas (104%), and Oregon (103%). The diversity of languages spoken in U.S. homes has also increased. According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2010),
Spanish speakers accounted for the largest numeric increase—nationwide, there were 23.4 million more speakers in 2007 than in 1980 representing a 211 percent increase. The Vietnamese-speaking population accounted for the largest percentage increase of 511 percent (1.0 million speakers) over the same timeframe. (para. 2)
- The implementation of the Common Core State Standards (www.corestandards.org) requires that K–12 districts and schools establish common goals and shared ownership of curriculum and instruction to successfully reach all learners, including ELLs. A single English as a second language (ESL) teacher or English language development (ELD) specialist, or an isolated, fragmented ESL/ELD program cannot adequately address the needs of ELLs. Instead, a more collaborative, inclusive approach to working with these students is essential (Frattura & Capper, 2007; Honigsfeld & Dove, 2010; Theoharis, 2009).
- Content and language integration is demonstrated by research-based, comprehensive lesson planning and delivery systems such as the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (Echevarria, Vogt, & Short, 2008), the Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach (Chamot, 2009), or Expediting Comprehension for English Language Learners (Calderon, 2007), all of which emphasize how critically intertwined academic language instruction is with content attainment. Sustained professional development and opportunities for teacher collaboration are essential for successful implementation of any of these frameworks.
- Collaboration is a key 21st century skill. It requires the formation of an often diverse group of people into collaborative teams that focus on agreed-upon issues, collectively problem solve, and come to consensus on a plan of action. These action plans by teachers for students often center on the foundations set by the school or district in terms of a shared vision and mission for the education of ELLs. A shared vision and mission determines an overall understanding of the ELL student population, identifies achievable and measurable goals for working with ELLs, and fosters an understanding of how teaching may change as a result of this newfound understanding.
When we first posted a call for manuscripts for this special issue, we noted that collaboration would be treated in the broadest possible sense, inclusive of collaboration among ESL and English as a foreign language (EFL) specialists as well as general education teachers and instructors and their language teaching counterparts both in and out of the classroom. We were looking for contributions that would draw from researchers and practitioners working in diverse instructional contexts on all levels, from Prekindergarten to adult classrooms, from college and workplace to teacher preparation or professional development situations. We emphasized that the goal of this issue is to offer a collection of articles that address successful practices from multiple perspectives. Recognizing that a variety of English language program models, diverse local needs, and considerable regional differences in ESL and EFL services exist, we invited authors to describe their locally developed ideas and research while allowing for broader generalizations and transferability of practices. We were especially interested in research-based or well-documented practices that describe informal, grassroots collaborative initiatives as well as more formal endeavors such as curriculum alignment, coteaching or team teaching, and professional learning.
Several of the articles in this issue remind us that collaboration allows teachers to see that others might be struggling with similar issues, that resources could be combined and professional development efforts coordinated, and that the larger educational community and more stakeholders could be engaged. Each of the articles addresses a distinct approach to teacher collaboration: some focus on professional development, others on curriculum development, and yet others on instructional practices.
The first three articles explore different aspects of collaborative learning and joint professional development among teachers for the sake of ELLs. In “Learning Labs: Collaborations for Transformative Teacher Learning,” Ruth Brancard and Jennifer QuinnWilliams present the results of a qualitative study of a sustained professional development program that led to changes not only in teachers’ instructional practices but in their underlying beliefs about their own and students’ roles, responsibilities, and capabilities. In “Collaboration Cubed: Isolated Mainstream Teachers Become ESL Experts to School Systems,” Lorrie Stoops Verplaetse, Marisa Ferraro, and Ann Anderberg describe Southern Connecticut State University's Training for All Teachers Program and report on how 10 mainstream teachers in Grades K–12 have become experts on ESL matters in their own school systems and leaders in ESL teacher preparation throughout the region as a result of a series of collaborative efforts. In “Charting New Waters: Collaborating for School Improvement in U.S. High Schools,” Melanie Schneider, Susan Huss-Lederman, and Wallace Sherlock document the process of collaboration with cross-disciplinary teams of teachers in three high schools in districts that participated in a federally funded Title III National Professional Development Project.
Next, the issue offers two articles concerning collaboratively designed curriculum aligned with standards-based instruction. In “Cross-District Collaboration: Curriculum and Professional Development,” Deborah J. Short, Nancy Cloud, Patricia Morris, and Julie Motta describe an innovative, cross-district curriculum development project that resulted in a four-level, standards-based ESL curriculum as well as a four-subject newcomer curriculum for students with limited formal schooling. Describing a research project that emerged from a university–school district professional development partnership with 26 English to speakers of other languages (ESOL) and mainstream teachers across 11 elementary schools, Melinda Martin-Beltrán and Megan Madigan Peercy, in “How Can ESOL and Mainstream Teachers Make the Best of a Standards-Based Curriculum in Order to Collaborate?”, explore how a standardized, standards-based curriculum may support collaborative efforts among ESOL and mainstream teachers.
School culture plays a key role in collaborative practices, which is highlighted in the next two articles. In “A Culture of Collaboration: Meeting the Instructional Needs of Adolescent English Language Learners,” Felice Atesoglu Russell explores the types of supports needed for an ELL facilitator to contribute to a culture of collaboration between the ESL and Language Arts departments in order to more effectively meet the instructional needs of ELLs in one culturally and linguistically diverse high school. Anne Walker chronicles how a school district, in collaboration with community agencies and other key local stakeholders, developed a range of partnerships to address the academic and social challenges created by the sudden influx of immigrant youth into the school system and community in “Collaborating With the Community: Lessons From a Rural School District.”
Finally, we present a research study that explores the attitudes and perceptions of ESL teachers and their preferences for different ESL program models. Grounding their work in survey research conducted with K–12 ESL teachers across a wide range of settings, in “Points on a Continuum: ESL Teachers Reporting on Collaboration,” Angela B. Bell and Laura Baecher present a new model for understanding collaboration and suggest consideration of the intersection of the variables of frequency (limited to extensive) and type of practice (formal to informal).
Based on the findings reported in these articles and, more specifically, on the challenges and successful outcomes of the documentary accounts focusing on teacher collaborations in diverse educational contexts, we have the following recommendations:
- The underpinnings of any successful education plan for ELLs begin with the skillful implementation of collaborative efforts so that all stakeholders have an opportunity to share their concerns, opinions, and expertise. This implementation often requires a shift in the school culture so that there is an increase in the equity among stakeholders to assure all school community members are valued.
- Teacher collaboration must be made a priority to allow for ongoing job-embedded professional learning for all educators in a school. We concur with Elmore (2000), who noted more than a decade ago that collaboration allows for “respecting, acknowledging, and capitalizing on differences in expertise” (p. 25) and also helps teachers move from isolation to partnerships.
- Teachers must have ample opportunities to acquire, practice, and refine their collaboration skills during their teacher preparation years. Both pre- and in-service professional learning opportunities must be created for sustained collaboration, and frameworks for collaborative conversations must be put in place to create more productive outcomes for collaborative practice as a whole. These frameworks must outline specific agendas, set goals, narrow the scope and focus of conversations, and promote more productive collaborative sessions.
- Among the many areas of focus for teacher collaboration, shared instructional practices often make an impact on the teaching and learning of ELLs. Quality instruction is key to the success of ELLs (August & Shanahan, 2006), and that can only be accomplished with the collaborative effort of instructional experts: the classroom teacher who has command of the academic content and the ESL specialist who understands the complexities of second language acquisition.
- That fact that research on the impact of teacher collaboration on student achievement is scarce—or, at best, is emerging (see select chapters in Honigsfeld & Dove, 2012)—comes as no surprise, because “research on effective instruction for ELLs is inadequate to help educators meet the educational needs of ELLs or close the achievement gap between minority and nonminority students” (Working Group on ELL Policy, 2009, p. 3). We, therefore, recommend the development of action research to gather local data on the impact of collaborative practices.
The GUEST EDITORS
Andrea Honigsfeld is a professor and Maria G. Dove is an assistant professor in the Division of Education at Molloy College, in Rockville Centre, New York. Employing their extensive experience as ESL specialists and TESOL teacher educators, they have published articles and book chapters concerning the education of ELLs. They frequently provide professional development regarding teacher collaboration and inclusive approaches for instruction.
- 2006). Developing literacy in second language learners: Report of the National Literacy Panel on Language Minority Children and Youth. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. , & . (Eds.). (
- 2007). Teaching reading to English language learners, Grades 6–12: A framework for improving achievement in the content areas. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin. . (Ed.). (
- 2009). The CALLA handbook: Implementing the cognitive academic language learning approach (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Pearson ESL. (
- 2008). Making content comprehensible for English learners: The SIOP model (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon. , , & (
- 2000). Building a new structure for school leadership. Washington, DC: Albert Shanker Institute. Retrieved from http://www.ashankerinst.org/Downloads/building.pdf . (
- 2007). Leading for social justice: Transforming schools for all learners. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin. , & (
- 2010). Collaboration and co-teaching: Strategies for English learners. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin. , & (
- 2012). Coteaching and other collaborative practices in the EFL/ESL classroom: Rationale, research, reflections, and recommendation. Charlotte, NC: Information Age. , & (
- 2010). Language use in the United States: 2007, American Community Survey Reports, ACS-12. Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau. , & (
- 2009). The school leaders our children deserve: Seven keys to equity, social justice, and school reform. New York, NY: Teachers College Press. (
- U.S. Census Bureau. (2010). New Census Bureau report analyzes nation's linguistic diversity. Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/american_community_survey_acs/cb10-cn58.html
- Working Group on ELL Policy. (2009). The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: Recommendations for addressing the needs of English language learners. Retrieved from http://ellpolicy.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/ELL-Stimulus-Recommendations.pdf