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This qualitative case study explores teacher learning about English language learners (ELLs) in a small-group, school-based context at an urban elementary school inArizona. Sociocultural perspectives on teacher learning guided the analysis of teachers’ participation in a teacher study group over six months. The teacher study group aimed to support educators of ELLs at a time of new language policy implementation, which required ELLs to enroll in an English language development (ELD) classroom for four hours of skill-based English language instruction.

In the first semester of language policy implementation, I collected discursive data that showcased the social interaction of teachers and their co-construction of knowledge in the study group. After seven teacher study group sessions and 14 individual interviews, I analyzed teachers’ discourse to discern the cultural models of language, learning, and ELLs to understand the figured world of ELD teaching. Using documentation of language policies and observations of ELD teacher trainings, I scrutinized the structures in the educational institution that supported the dominant cultural models reflected in teachers’ discourse – most notably the English-only policies mandated by Arizona Proposition 203. I then explored how teachers’ situated identities mediated discourse in teacher study group sessions to allow for the acceptance or rejection of dominant cultural models.

Finally, I delved into teacher learning about ELLs through the investigation of the changes in teachers’ cultural models and discourse over time. I discovered that the introduction of literary tools allowed teachers to take new perspectives and interrupt dominant cultural models. Teachers’ talk changed over time, as they negotiated dominant cultural models and co-constructed knowledge for ELD classroom practice. The most substantial changes in teachers’ talk, related to cultural models of language and learning, occurred later in the semester, in conjunction with the period when institutional pressures to comply with language policies waned. My research holds implications for teacher learning and ELLs and calls for re-figuring education for ELLs by supporting teachers in policy implementation, creating change from within schools through teacher learning communities, and designing university coursework to emphasize the unique and diverse needs of ELLs in the classroom.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.