The purpose of this study is to determine whether or not collaboration through inquiry-based learning can help ELLs increase vocabulary and literacy skills in order to close the reading achievement gap. A mixed methods design was used with triangulation, using a questionnaire and semi-structured interviews to determine the themes in the qualitative data and frequencies and percentages were used in quantitative data. Some implications to help increase vocabulary and literacy skills would be: for the district- to provide ideas of new professional development to supply within schools to help ELLs more; professionally- ways to implement collaboration through inquiry-based learning with ELLs and non-ELLs; and scholarly- issue educational leadership ways to integrate ELLs native language and English through peer communication, collaboration, and academic inquiry to increase the quality of instruction.
English Language Learners (ELLs) have limited vocabulary and literacy skills in both their native language and English (Huang, 2013; Sibold, 2011). Vocabulary and literacy skills are problematic areas in reading achievement due to needing to learn grade-level content, while at the same time learning the second language used for instruction (Synder, Witmer, & Schmitt, 2017). There is a significant achievement gap between ELLs and non-ELLs in reading which has not changed significantly from 1992 to 2009. The achievement gap affects ELLs from working on grade level with their non-ELLs peers (NCES, 2011).
In 2000 to 2016, the United States public schools percentage of ELLs increased from 8.1% to 9.6%, or 4.9 million students (NCES, 2019). Given the rapid increase of ELLs, there is pressure to meet their needs and help close the achievement gap between ELL and non-ELL students for educators (Greene, 2019). Working towards meeting ELLs needs, Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) replaced No Child Left Behind (NCLB) in 2015, which differs by giving states more flexibility in its’ framework to setting goals for student achievement. The ESSA reports states must set achievement targets for students furthest behind, as well as provides funding for evidence-based instruction in literacy skills (ESSA, 2015). Given these changes, educators still need to recognize and adapt their instruction to use more effective tools and strategies to meet the needs of their ELLs. Most educators admit not knowing how to support ELLs due to lack of professional development (Thompson, 2019) and whether or not to use their first language as a medium of academic instruction, rather than focusing on integrating the two languages to increase the quality of instruction (McGlynn, 2009). Research has shown academic success through a blended learning curriculum of English Language Development (ELD) and inquiry-based learning for ELLs in science curriculum (Zweip, Straits, Beltran, & Furtado, 2011).
Based on prior research, there is a gap to be addressed in whether or not collaboration with ELLs and non-ELLs through inquiry-based learning will increase vocabulary and literacy skills in reading achievement. To date, data has not shown significant improvement in vocabulary and literacy skills in reading achievement, the way it is currently being taught in schools. In order to better understand how to increase vocabulary and literacy skills for ELLs, I will be investigating how inquiry-based learning environments can create positive collaborative spaces between ELLs and non-ELLs.
Review of literature
Over the years, the percentage of ELLs in classrooms have been ascending rapidly (Henry, Nistor, & Baltes, 2016), making Hispanics the fastest-growing population in schools in the United States (NCES, 2011). With the numbers of ELLs growing each year, districts, schools, and educators need to continue finding different ways to increase vocabulary and literacy skills to close the achievement gap between ELLs and non-ELLs. There are positive connections between science inquiry for ELLs (Zweip et al., 2011; Killion, 2016; & Nargund-Joshi & Bautisa, 2016) and peer collaboration with non-ELLs in inclusion classrooms to increase vocabulary and peer communication (Bowman-Perrott, deMarín, Mahadevan, & Etchells, 2016; Cole, 2018; & Greene, 2019). However, ELLs reading achievement gains continue to be problematic. It is imperative for ELLs to accumulate vocabulary and literacy skills to increase their reading achievement, as well as continue to close the gap while working towards grade level proficiency with their non-ELL peers.
Lack of Support
The first major topic found in the research that shows a lack of support for ELLs is administrators, the district, and educators having limited knowledge and time. Educators being given little to no professional development opportunities to support teaching ELLs (Johnson & Wells, 2017; McGlynn, 2009; Ortiz & Franquiz, 2012; Pray, Daniel, & Pacheco, 2017; Savinovich, 2018; Stewart, 2016; & Thompson, 2019). Researchers report a discussion of educators stating they have a lack of targeted professional development focused on ELLs (Johnson & Wells, 2017; & Pray, Daniel, & Pacheco, 2017) that shows academic achievement gains There is a need of professional development that is focused towards ELLs that shows academic achievement gains (McGlynn, 2009; Stewart, 2016; & Thompson, 2019). Johnson & Wells (2017) & Ortiz & Franquiz (2012) also suggest administrators to provide opportunities for educators to practice new skills to support ELLs to make achievement gains.
Administrators have limited knowledge of appropriate ELL instruction and a lack of assistance for educators to support ELLs (Mungula, Spring 2017; Pray, Daniel, & Pacheco, 2017; Thornton, 2017). A principals’ role is to believe in academic achievement, which will then make them hold teachers accountable and provide more targeted professional development geared towards ELLs (Mungula, Spring 2017). The data has indicated based on the findings that ELLs are not on administrators’ radar (Pray, Daniel, & Pacheco, 2017) because their scores don’t count the first two years. Thus, administrators have a lack of adequate understanding of English Language (EL) instruction for educators to implement. Lastly, teachers have reported needing more resources to effectively teach ELLs (Thornton, 2017).
Educators also reported having inefficient meeting and planning time (DelliCarpini & Gulla, 2009; Goralski, 2015; Lewis, 2017; Lopez, 2019; Pray, Daniel, & Pacheco, 2017). Time is a challenge when planning for developing instruction or ELLs which is an issue for educators. Planning time is being used up for data chats and other inefficient meetings, rather than discussing how to meet the needs of ELLs individually and when working with their non-EL peers. There is a need for collaboration with other teachers beyond the school day in order to support ELLs (Goralski, 2015; Lewis, 2017). Due to data chats and other inefficient meetings, educators are lacking collaboration with other teachers such as ESOL paras to learn ways to meet the needs of ELLs and plan how to incorporate those strategies.
The second major topic found in the research depicts collaboration as an asset in an inclusion classroom setting for ELLs.
Rationale for the Study and Research Questions:
Based on the findings from previous research, I will conduct my own study to determine whether or not collaboration through inquiry-based learning can help ELLs increase vocabulary and literacy skills in order to close the reading achievement gap. With the ELL population growing substantially every year in the United States, I want to conduct my study around how to incorporate more collaboration through inquiry-based learning with non-ELL peers in inclusion classrooms. I want to find new ways to meet the needs of ELLs by using what I have learned from previous findings in research that worked or need tweaking. Providing educators with ways to implement new strategies and tips to increase vocabulary and literacy skills and helping the growing population of ELLs to succeed in public schools.
- Bowman-Perrott, L., deMarín, S., Mahadevan, L. & Etchells, M. (2016). Assessing the academic, social, and language production outcomes of English language learners engaged in peer tutoring: A systematic review. Education & Treatment of Children, 39(3), 359-388.
- Campbell, V. (2019). ESOL and content teachers’ instructional strategies and the impact of engagement on English language learners’ academic success (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global database. (UMI No. 13420495)
- Cole, M. (2018). Effectiveness of peer-mediated learning for English language learners: A meta-analysis. RIO, 12-18. doi:10.3897/rio.4.e29375
- ESSA (2015). Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015, Pub. L. No. 114-95 § 114 Stat. 1177 (2015-2016).
- Greene, M. C. (2019). Best practices for addressing the achievement gap for Hispanic elementary students (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global database. (UMI No. 13806388)
- Harvey, S., & Daniels, H. (2009). Comprehension & collaboration: Inquiry circles in action. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Educational Books.
- Henry, D. L., Nistor, N., Baltes, B. (2016). Examining the relationship between math scores and English language proficiency. Journal of Educational Research and Practice, 4(1), 11-29.
- Huang, J. (2013). Bridging authentic experiences and literacy skills through the language experience approach. Journal of Adult Education, 42(1), 8-15.
- Killion, J. (2016). 5th-grade science intervention focuses on English language learners. Journal of Staff Development, 37(5), 58-60.
- McGlynn, A. P. (2009). Experts report on the ELLs achievement gap. The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education, 19(9), 34-35.
- Nargund-Joshi, V., & Bautista, N. (2016). Which comes first–language or content? Science Teacher, 83(4), 24-30.
- National Center for Educational Statistics (2011). Achievement gaps: How Hispanic and White students in public schools perform in mathematics and reading on the national assessment of educational progress. Retrieved from ERIC database. (ED520981)
- National Center for Educational Statistics (2013). The nation’s report card: Mega-states – an analysis of student performance in the five most heavily populated states in the nation. Retrieved from ERIC database. (ED539827)
- National Center for Educational Statistics (2019). English Language Learners in Public Schools. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_cgf.asp
- Ortiz, A., & Fránquiz, M. (2012). Coeditors’ Introduction: Native and second language proficiency: Keys to the social and academic success of English language learners. Bilingual Research Journal, 35(1), 1-4. Doi:10.1080/15235882.2012.678192
- Pray, L. C., Daniel, S. M., & Pacheco, M. B. (2017). Functional systems that afford and constrain elementary teachers’ adaptation of instruction to support multilingual students. International Multilingual Research Journal, 11(4), 205-222. doi:10.1080/19313152.2016.1239458
- Savinovich, E. (2018). A case study of elementary teachers’ experiences with project-based learning and English learners (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global database. (UMI No. 10744088)
- Sibold, C. (2011). Building English Language Learners’ academic vocabulary: Strategies and tips. Multicultural Education, (19)2, 24-28.
- Stewart, A. (2016). Case study for improving ELL achievement with common core standards through teacher professional development. Retrieved from ERIC database. (ED582869)
- Synder, E., Witmer, S. E., & Schmitt, H. (2017). English language learners and reading instruction: A review of the literature. Preventing School Failure, 61(2), 136-145. doi:10.1080/1045988X.2016.1219301
- Thompson, S. (2019). Perspectives on English language learner programs: A case study (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global database. (UMI No. 13900155)
- Thornton, J. (2017). Case study of English language teachers’ perceptions of educating ELLs in English-only monolingual settings (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global database. (UMI No. 10638682)
- Torgesen J. K., Houston D. D., Rissman L. M., Decker S. M., Roberts G., Vaughn S., Wexler J., Francis D. J., Rivera M. O., & Lesaux N. (2017). Academic literacy instruction for adolescents: A guidance document from the center on instruction. Retrieved from ERIC database. (ED578488)
- Zwiep, S., Straits, W., Stone, K., Beltran, D., & Furtado, L. (2011). The integration of English language development and science instruction in elementary classrooms. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 22(8), 769-785. doi:10.1007/s10972-011-9254-z