Content-area teachers and scaffolded instruction for English language learners

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  • Teaching and Teacher Education 24 (

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    Scaffolding provides content-area teachers (CATs) with an effective means to integrate language instruction into

    Research on approaches to instruction for English

    tion for Core Curriculum, 2000; Vars, 1996) point to

    as, and often better than, students in a conventional

    (US) given the 65.03% growth in ELL enrollmentgrowth over the last 10 years in kindergarten to

    ARTICLE IN PRESSsecondary (K-12) schools in the US (US Depart-ment of Education, 2006). Additionally, 77% of

    0742-051X/$ - see front matter r 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


    Tel.: +1 812 856 8274; fax: +1 812 856 8287.E-mail address: fpawan@indiana.edulanguage learners (ELLs) indicates that integratingcontent into language instruction introduces anauthentic academic challenge to learners via itsdemand for higher order thinking skills (Snow,1998). In addition to accelerating English Languagelearning (Bunch, Abram, Lotan, & Valdes, 2001;Dong, 2002), the authenticity of the challengeinherent in the approach sustains intellectual pro-gress and provides motivation to succeed. Analysesof several studies (Arhar, 1997; National Associa-

    compartmentalized program.Scaffolding is an approach that provides teachers

    an effective means to integrate ELL instruction intocontent-area instruction and to enable ELLs todemonstrate their knowledge without completereliance on language. Effective scaffolding is thusa critical element of the knowledge base of allteachers who have ELLs in their charge. Content-based language instruction and scaffolded instruc-tion for ELLs is a timely subject in the United Stateswhile they were pursuing professional development in an American university classroom over 32 weeks. The discussions

    yielded 408 scaffolding statements that were coded and analyzed. The ndings identied linguistic, conceptual, social and

    cultural scaffolding as part of the CATs personal practical knowledge. Also, the ndings demonstrated that CATs

    knowledge of cultural scaffolding is limited in comparison to other scaffolding strategies. The ndings have an impact on

    the nature of ELL instruction and its effectiveness.

    r 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

    Keywords: Scaffolding; English language learners; Content-area teachers; Content-based language instruction; Teacher personal practical

    knowledge; Cultural scaffolding

    1. Introduction the same general conclusion: students in any type ofinterdisciplinary or integrative curriculum do as wellcontent-area instruction for English language learners (ELLs). Data for this study were derived from 33 CAT discussionsContent-area teachers anEnglish lang


    Indiana University, Language Education, Wright Education Buildi

    Received 20 April 2006; received in revised f

    Abstract2008) 14501462

    caffolded instruction forge learners


    1 North Rose Avenue, Room 3030, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA

    27 January 2008; accepted 7 February 2008

  • thu


    b. What scaffolding categories do these practices

    stress that scaffolding has been inadequately con-ceived as a linear process of providing and removing

    ARTICLE IN PRESSF. Pawan / Teaching and Teacher Education 24 (2008) 14501462 1451fall under?c. In what ways do these categories inform us abouthow CATs ELL instruction can be supportedand reinforced?

    1.1. Theoretical framework

    1.1.1. Scaffolding as practical knowledge of teachers

    Shulman (1986, p. 9) conceptualized teacherspedagogical content knowledge (PCK) as theintersection between teachers knowledge of theirspecic subject area and the ways of representingand formulating the subject in a way that makes itcomprehensible to others. Scaffolding is a pedago-gical component of PCK and thus that of teacherspractical knowledge (TPK) of how to teach how toteach. TPK arises out of prior experiences includingteacher education, life experiences, interaction withcolleagues and students, perceived values andconstraints operating within the school and class-room environment, as well as teacher interpreta-tions of the particular circumstances encountered inclassroom situations. The current study focuses on

    anDo CATs perceive, as effective, scaffoldingpractices for ELLs in the learning of academiccontent areas or subject matter in English?s as follows:

    stracontent-area teachers (CATs) report lacking pre-paration of any kind in working with ELLs(National Centre for Educational Statistics, 2002).Given their direct involvement with ELLs, and thefact that the latter spend 80% of their school daywith CATs (Dong, 2002), it is thus important tounderstand CATs practical knowledge or knowl-edge in the practice of scaffolding instruction forELLs.Research on scaffolding has primarily focused on

    the impact on learning of various scaffoldingstrategies and applications. Current research onscaffolding, however, lacks data on teachers knowl-edge of scaffolding strategies. These data areessential for identifying those areas of pedagogythat should be reinforced or added to teachereducation programs.The purpose of this study is to identify major

    types of scaffolding recognized by CATs in the USas well as a signicant variation and emphasis inteachers practical knowledge (TPK) of scaffolding

    tegies. The research questions for the study areaspect of teacher knowledge involving CATslearning support for learners. They argue for amulti-tiered notion of scaffolding involving thedynamic interplay and interactions between mem-knowledge of scaffolding, what this constitutes andwhat is prioritized by teachers when the instructionof ELLs is concerned.

    1.1.2. Types of scaffolding

    Vygotsky (1978) denes scaffolding as thesocial interaction between experts and novicesduring which the former engage in supportivebehaviors and create supportive environments fornovices to acquire skills and knowledge at a highercompetency level. Nevertheless, the concept ofscaffolding has evolved from learning supportand assistance at the interpersonal level to one thatincludes the use of a multitude of tools, guides andresources (Brush & Saye, 2001). Studies at theinterpersonal level include Ulanoff and Pucci(1999), Nassaji and Cumming (2000), and Mohanand Beckett (2003). The common thread in all thesestudies is the effect of expert assistance on languagelearners. For example, Ulanoff and Pucci (1999)looked at teachers use of the concurrent translationand previewreview approaches amongst 60 bilin-gual elementary students (third graders) in LosAngeles and found that the previewreview ap-proach contributed to the highest scores in vocabu-lary tests.Peers and/or equal non-experts (Anton, 1999) are

    also included in scaffolding studies focusing oninterpersonal interactions. Ewald (2005) argues thatpeer interactions proceeded naturally even withoutthe attainment of a good common grade (positiveinterdependence) as motivation. de Guerrero andVillamil (2000) undertook a study of scaffoldingmechanisms used during interactions between twomale college English-as-a-second-language (ESL)learners engaged in writing revisions. Resultsindicated the importance of the peer reader tomediate learning; the establishment and mainte-nance of a feeling of intersubjectivity and sharedfocus between the reader and the writer; and theconsequent assumption of independent action andlearning on the part of the peer writer. A relatedaspect of peer-to-peer scaffolding is its multi-dimensionality and uidity. Cumming-Potvin, Re-nshaw, and van Kraayenoord (2003), for example,bers in a group working together, whereby the

  • scaffolding has focused on investigations on theimpact of scaffolding on student learning. Interestin cultural scaffolding, in particular, has emergedfrom efforts to expand the conceptions of literacyand to engage in culturally relevant and meaningfulteaching, given the diversity of students in theAmerican public school systems. This study takes adifferent turn and investigates practical knowledgeof scaffolding among CATs who work with ELLs.The ndings from this paper will demonstrate thatCATs pedagogical knowledge of cultural scaffold-ing in ELL instruction is signicantly overshadowedby their knowledge of conceptual, linguistic andsocial scaffolding.

    2. Methodology

    2.1. The research setting

    The research was conducted in 20042005 with

    ARTICLE IN PRESSF. Pawan / Teaching and Teacher Education 24 (2008) 145014621452boundaries between expert and novices are blurredand interchangeable.Cultural scaffolding is exemplied by scholarly

    works in the early and mid 1990s on primary andsecondary discourses (Gee, 2000), funds of knowl-edge (Moll, 1994) and cultural responsive teach-ing by Ladson-Billings (1994). In this respect,current pedagogy strives for the interconnectivitybetween students out-of-school and school experi-ences that provides a means for students to enter intoan intellectual partnership or at least be greatlyhelped by cultural artefacts in the form of toolsand information resources (Salomon & Perkins,1998, p. 5) culturally and historically familiar tothem (Gee, 2000; Street, 2005). Cultural scaffoldingdenes a pedagogical approach, which, according toSalomon and Perkins (1998), involves the manipula-tion of cultural tools. The authors explain thatthese tools range from information sources tosocially shared symbol systems that are culturallyand historically situated. The tools form the basis forlearning systems, action reorganization and thedetermination of what can be carried out (p. 5).From an instructional perspective, this means thatthe use of cultural referents is central in impartingknowledge, skills and attitudes (Ladson-Billings,1994, p. 18). If undertaken well, this pedagogicalapproach will result in culturally responsiveteaching whereby students cultural differences inbackgrounds, knowledge base and experiences areused as conduits to teach them more effectively (Gay,2002).Virginia Colliers Prism Model that emerged

    from a study on factors for school effectiveness forlanguage minority students (LMS) (Thomas &Collier, 2002) specically contributed to the typesof scaffolding most relevant to ELLs. The researchinvolved a macroscopic study of the impact ofinstructional strategies on LMS long-term achieve-ment that was undertaken by ve large schooldistricts (700,000 students). The utility of the modelstems from its ability to identify and demonstratethe interdependency of four factors, namely linguis-tic, academic, cognitive and socio-cultural support,in helping ELLs to succeed. Linguistic factors coverall aspects of language development support includ-ing formal, informal, conscious and sub-consciousaspects of the acquisition and learning of oral aswell as written language skills in students rst andsecond languages. Academic and cognitive factors,on the other hand, involve sustaining conceptual

    and intellectual support in school work and throughthe use of students rst language at least throughthe elementary school years (p. 43). Finally, socio-cultural factors include the facility given to studentsto incorporate into their school learning experi-ences, their past, present and future experiences athome, in school, in their community and in thebroader society. The importance of these fourfactors provides the rationale for the use of thePrism Model as the basis for coding in our study(Fig. 1).As can be seen from the review above, research on

    Language Acquisition for School

    The Prism Model

    L1 + L2 Cognitive Development

    L1 +

    L2 A





    nt L1 + L2 Language Developm


    Social andCultural


    Fig. 1. Prism Model (copied with permission).CAT participants in the Collaborative Teaching

  • tea

    language arts, two taught mathematics and one


    Table 1





    F. Pawan / Teaching and Teacher Education 24 (2008) 14501462 1453Institute (CTI).1 The main thrust behind theprogram is that ELLs are not just the responsibilityof English-as-a-second-language teachers (ESLTs)but also the responsibility of all teachers. Hence, allteachers must undergo teacher education in ELLinstruction as language and content instructioncannot be separated (Kaufman & Crandall, 2005).CATs in the program pursue a 9-month, sustainedin-service professional program development onELL instruction through online classes that aresupplemented with onsite visits by their instructorsand workshop consultants.The participants in this study were in-service

    teachers in the 20042005 CTI cohort from sevenschool districts that were identied by the Depart-ment of Education in a Midwestern state as districtsthat are highly impacted by ELL enrollment. Theteachers participated in two identical online gradu-ate classes that were taught by the same instructorand specically designed for CTI participants. Theclass is student-centered in that members of the classselect and choose themes for discussion andengagement. After 2 weeks in which the instructormodelled online engagement by leading and mod-erating discussions, participants assumed leadership

    Participant characteristics



    Male Female Years




    Content 7 26 520 15

    Area All subjectsroles in conducting discussion for the remainder ofthe course.

    3. Respondents

    The study involved gathering data from 33 CATsin the program. Table 1 provides a prole of theteacher-participants in the study.The respondents were primarily female teachers

    and consisted mostly of teachers who have had atleast 15 years of classroom teaching experiencesthough one-third of the teachers had only 5 years of

    1CTI is a pseudonym.taught science. At the high school level six taughtmath and science, two taught health and physicaleducation, and the rest of the teachers each specia-lized in history, art and journalism. One teachertaught adult education whose students neededremedial help to obtain a high school diploma.

    3.1. Data for the study

    Besides data from a survey at the end of theprogram, data from the study are primarily derivedfrom textual discussions in an online, asynchronousforum. Hence, the main sources of data were:

    a. 3734 CATs online postings on scaffolding across32 weeks of instruction and

    b. two teacher surveys (open-ended and Likert) onopportunities and challenges in scaffolding in-struction for ELLs.mid3.2

    ananpringThtoIncopacochers taught all subjects but not ESL. At thedle school level, three teachers taught Englishweteaching experiences. Fifteen teachers taught at theelementary level, 11 at the high school level and sixre middle school teachers. The elementary school

    dle school High school Adult


    Total number

    of participants

    11 1 33

    g Arts,

    th, Science

    Math, Science,


    Physical Ed,





    Ed, GED. Data collection and analyses

    There were three phases in the data collection andalyses. In the rst phase, daily textual postingsd discussions in the asynchronous forum wereinted out and analyzed for instances of scaffold-statements. In the second phase, coders used

    omas and Colliers Prism Model as a basis,code the statements into...


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