CLIMBS Research


The lack of empirical scholarship on professional development initiatives for teachers of English language learners (ELLs) in U.S. schools has been repeatedly documented in educational research. The present dissertation project examines a professional development course specifically designed for K-12 teachers of ELLs. The course aims to foster the development of a professional learning community and provide educators with practical tools for the instruction of ELLs. The researcher uses ethnographic methods and discourse analysis to investigate the factors that affect the sustainability and nature of that community, and the teacher learning that occurs. She explores the learning context of the professional development course and shows how the trainers foster a climate of collaboration and respectful challenge among participants. The researcher also documents that two of the most important benefits of the course include a raised awareness of the needs of ELLs among general education teachers, as well as a sense of trust and understanding among general education and ESL/bilingual staff. The researcher concludes that each site at which the professional development course is offered represents a distinct professional learning community despite the common curriculum used. Through a detailed empirical analysis of the interaction among stakeholders with diverse knowledge of and experience with ELLs (including course facilitators, school administrators, district administrators, mainstream teachers, specialists, and observers), the project sheds light on a phenomenon that is currently little understood: the professional learning of teachers of ELLs that has the potential to positively affect their practice.


Molle, D. (2010). Professional development for teachers of English language learners: Discursive norms, learning processes, and professional communities (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Wisconsin-Madison.