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 scaffolding categories.the nal phase and upon the completion of theding of the postings, we twice surveyed therticipants opinions on scaffolding in order tontextualize our ndings in the previous phases.

  • the




    1. We specied that in linguistic scaffolding, the



    Using the modied coding scheme, the inter-rater

    ARTICLE IN PRESSF. Pawan / Teaching and Teacher Education 24 (2008) 145014621454I realize that I need to do more than just rewritethe assignments; I need to alter my delivery anduse supportive material as well, so students areboth learning the content and being givenopportunities to practice language.

    Direct mention of scaffolding:

    It does help to speak the childs language but it isnot a requirement for getting licensed in ESLhere. What is more benecial is how you teach. Itneeds to be hands-on, interactive, etc. This isscaffolding, right?

    The coders undertook check-coding (Miles andHuberman, 1984) whereby they coded separatelyand later reviewed the data together. There was93% inter-rater reliability for the three coders basedon the number of agreements over the total numberof agreements and disagreements.

    Phase 2: As noted previously, we utilized thelanguage acquisition factors in ELL success identi-ed in Colliers Prism Model (Thomas & Collier,2002) as a basis for our coding. We undertook aninitial coding of 104 messages using the model. Theinitial coding led us to the following modicationsof the model:

    a. Linguistic scaffolding: Simplifying the Englishlanguage, for example, by shortening selections,speaking in the present tense, avoiding the use ofidioms, etc.

    b. Conceptual scaffolding: Providing students withsupportive frameworks for meaning by providingorganizational charts, metaphors, etc.

    c. Social scaffolding: Using social interaction tosupport and mediate learning (e.g. group work).

    d. Cultural scaffolding: Using artifacts, tools andinformational sources that are culturally andhistorically situated within a domain familiar toIth content-area instruction and 110 were state-nts that mentioned scaffolding in particular.An example of each is included below:mplied statements on scaffolding:meclarative or interrogative) or a paragraph of eachsting; 298 such statements alluded to variousans for assisting and helping students to keep upof

    ated to scaffolding. The unit of analysis consisteda segment of wordsmost often a sentence(10Phase 1: Three coders analyzed statements fromparticipants daily postings and identied 408% of 3734) as those containing informationlearners.reliability rate for this coding phase was at 95%.Phase 3: We administered two survey forms tostutwo friends who speak Spanish. She has beenvery quiet, yet when she has her groupssupport, she has been more willing to shareand to participate. Group work and social scaffolding: I also setup group work as I have also found thatstudents do help each other out. And whatbetter way to learn than to teach it yourself. Ihave found while going from group to groupas the year progressed, students tend to feelmore open to get involved in the discussions,or even sometimes start discussions.

    Group work and cultural scaffolding: Eventhough it may seem like my beginning level 1student could get lost in the task, she hasbegun to open up when I put her with one orlanguage to be scaffolded is English in order toapply more specically to the place where the studywas undertaken, i.e. where state law establishes thatEnglish is the ofcial medium of instruction.We collapsed the academic and cognitivefactors into a single category of conceptualscaffolding. In both factors, the use and acknowl-edgement of students rst language to accessschoolwork and to demonstrate existing knowl-edge are central in Thomas and Colliers model.Hannan, Land, and Oliver (1999) capture theessence of those factors at the macro level in theirdenition of conceptual scaffolding as theincorporation of various possible tools, methodsor informative elaborations to achieve and shareunderstanding.We separated the socio-cultural factor into twoscaffolding categories. We found the two cate-gories (social and cultural) necessary as studentsengagement in classroom social activities thatwere developed to support learning are notnecessarily related to ELLs cultural heritage.For example, students are put into social dyadsas conversation partners for the completion of anactivity rather than as a means to put them in aculturally familiar context. The following quotesare illustrative:deOur modications of the PrismModel (see Table 2)included the following:nts. The rst was a set of two open-ended


    e fram





    F. Pawan / Teaching and Teacher Education 24 (2008) 14501462 1455Table 2

    Scaffolding types

    Linguistic: Simplifying and

    making the English language

    more accessible

    Conceptual: Providing supportiv

    for meaning, providing organiza

    metaphors, etc.

    Free journalling Prewriting Oral presentation ofmaterials

    Reading out louda Conversational mode inlesson delivery

    Written instructions

    Modellinga Show instead of explaina Body languagea Think-alouds Structured step and choicesa Pre-teaching difcult concept Frequent practice test session Bookmarking relevant websisurvey questions that we shared during onsite visitswith the teachers in their schools in the middle ofthe program, after they had been in the program for4 months (Table 3). Then by focusing on the mostfrequently occurring themes, we developed a set ofLikert scale survey questions (Table 4) and dis-tributed the survey in the face-to-face weekendretreat in July at the end of the program. We thentallied the percentages of agreement of responses foreach item, i.e. numbers 4 and 5 on the Likert scale.

    4. Findings

    4.1. Posting analyses

    From the 408 postings analyzed, the majorityof statements (47.2%) consisted of references to

    Simplied language Slowed pacinga Direct instruction of formand meaning

    Direct instruction of form Vocabulary teaching Reading instruction

    Explicit connections between in clout of class experiences (life exper

    Explicit/transparent expectations Sourcebooks Condensed material Computers Realia/authentic artifacts Visualsa Charts Checklists Posters Pictures Simulation Experiments Games

    Total: 21.6% Total: 47.2%

    aIdentied also as special education strategies.eworks

    l charts,

    Social cultural: Mediating and situating students

    learning in a social context involving the engagement

    and support of others (expert and novice, peer and peer)

    (social). Also using artifacts, tools and informational

    sources that are specically culturally and historically

    situated within a domain familiar to learners (cultural)

    Social Cultural

    Teacher: one-to-oneassistance and


    Pairing ELLs withNS

    Combination ofindividual and

    group work

    Students prior knowledge Literature from studentsculture

    Students learning styles L1 peer work Spanish-speaking teachercolleagues for translation

    and instructionconceptual scaffolding. Linguistic and social scaf-folding both received relatively equal attentionat 21.6% and 23.4%, respectively. References tocultural scaffolding, however, occurred in only6.3% of the statements in the sample (Table 2).Conceptual scaffolding is multi-faceted and a

    combination of teacher-initiated and student-centered activities. Teacher-initiated activities includeteacher modelling, showing instead of explaining,teachers using body language and total physicalresponse, and think-alouds. The scaffolding alsoincludes direct teaching involving teachers struc-turing choices for students, pre-teaching difcultconcepts, practicing tests with students, pre-select-ing websites, demonstrating explicit in- and out-of-school connections to a topic, and explicitlystating expectations. Scaffolding in this category

    ass and


    Peer-coaching onassignments

    Specic roleassignment in small


    Total: 23.4% (Social) Total: 6.3% (Cultural)

    Total postings: 408 (298+110)

  • Engagement of students in a social and non-structured setting with teachers and peers consistedof 23.4% of activities that were categorized under


    scaffolding practice related to ELLs that I undertake. (Indicate

    the practice, reections and other additional comments.)

    b. Enclosed are 25 sentence reections about a current belief I

    hold about scaffolding. (Indicate the belief, reections and

    other additional comments.)

    Table 4

    Survey items and response percentages

    Survey items % of strong

    agreement (4 and 5)

    i. Scaffolding is important for all

    students and not just ELLs.

    52.6 out of 100%

    Disagree 12345 Strongly agree

    ii. Collaboration with ESLTs is

    essential in ELL scaffolding


    38.5 out of 100%

    Disagree 12345 Strongly agree

    iii. Scaffolding for ELLs is the

    responsibility of all teachers

    19.2 out of 100%

    Disagree 12345 Strongly agree

    iv. Scaffolding training is needed 9.4 out of 100%

    Disagree 12345 Strongly agree

    v. Scaffolding for ELLs is difcult 7.6 out of 100%

    Disagree 12345 Strongly agree

    vi. ELLs cultural background is

    essential in scaffolding content area


    2.5 out of 100%

    Disagree 12345 Strongly agree

    F. Pawan / Teaching and Teacher Education 24 (2008) 145014621456also includes many other assistive elements such asteachers use of supplementary materials includingsource books, condensed texts, computer andmulti-media resources, artifacts from real life orrealia and visuals (e.g. posters). Simulations, experi-ments and games either on the computer or live inthe classroom are also among those mentioned aspart of student-centered conceptual scaffolding.Below is a quote that illustrates conceptual

    scaffolding. In addition, the quote also illustratesa common position that the eld works hard toovercome, that is, good teaching of ELLs isequivalent to good teaching for all students (seeHarper & de Jong, 2004).

    As I read the authors examples (pre-teaching,giving real-life examples, etc.) I was thinking thatI have done all of those things over the course ofmy teaching career, but I never considered itsheltered instruction, or scaffolding, or whatever.I just considered it common sense and goodteaching. Are we all looking for magic bulletsthat we (as good teachers) already possess?

    Linguistic scaffolding refers to making theEnglish language accessible by situating it within apersonal realm (free journalling), in a process(prewriting) and expanding literacy as a multi-modal practice (oral presentations of material,reading out loud, using a conversational deliverymode and writing down instructions). Direct teach-ing involves form- and meaning-based instruction,as well as the teaching of vocabulary and readingskills. Simplifying language and slowing downspeech are also part of CATs efforts to assist ELLslinguistically. The following quote illustrates a fewof the scaffolding strategies as well as a caution thatunless ELLs developmental stages are clearlyunderstood, their learning struggles could be mis-labelled as a learning disability:

    This year for the rst time I had ELLs mixed inwith Native English speakers, but still continuedwith the Julius Caesar activity (this is where I rstbegan to wish that my ELLs were mixed in withnon-learning disabled students). I modelled read-ing for them but slowed down my reading. Mylevel 3 students and a few of my level 2 studentsdid a good job; my level 1 students struggled andI had to modify by allowing them more time forthem to read to me directly rather than have the

    whole class staring at them.Table 3

    Open-ended survey questions

    a. Enclosed are 25 sentence reections about a currentsocial scaffolding. There is individualized learning

  • ARTICLE IN PRESSF. Pawan / Teaching and Teacher Education 24 (2008) 14501462 1457(Merrill, Reiser, Merrill, & Landes, 1995) wherebystudents work with teachers during which time thereis one-to-one assistance and encouragement fromteachers. Peer learning (Blumenfeld, Marx, Solo-way, & Krajcik, 1996) is undertaken by virtue of theexible grouping of students in dyads, small groupsand a combination of individual and group work.Groupings of students with specied tasks (peercoaching, collaboration via specic roles to com-plete tasks) are also evident. In terms of ELLs,CATs have placed ELLs in dyads and small groupswith native speakers (NS) and non-native speakers(NNS) of English. Below is a quote illustrating aparticular type of peer group work as part of asocial scaffolding approach:

    It has been very difcult for me to adapt mycurriculum to meet the needs of my ESLstudents. Recently I have had students that arein Upper level Spanish classes work with the ESLstudents or translate assignments into Spanish.

    When participants reported grouping ELLs withother NNS with similar linguistic (L1) and culturalbackgrounds, the grouping was categorized undercultural scaffolding.Cultural scaffolding is the use of artifacts, tools

    and informational sources that are culturally andhistorically situated within a domain familiar tostudents. A total of 6.3% of statements in thediscussions called for helping students make con-nections between the target content-area knowledgeand that gained from home and communityexperiences. Scaffolding strategies thus includedacknowledging and using students prior knowl-edge, literature from the students home culture andtheir different learning styles. As mentioned above,teachers also reported placing ELLs with peerworking groups with others who share similarlanguage backgrounds. Finally, CATs also reportedcollaborating with Spanish-speaking colleagues forassistance in ELL instruction and translation.

    Most of our ESL/ELLs could not read even thelowest level books offered in the program, so thelibrarian got Spanish books in for them. Weconstantly debate whether or not that is bene-cial or not. I also use diaries and as my studentswrite their Diarios, or weekly journals inSpanish, they begin writing in Spanglish. Theywrite what they know in Spanish, but use Englishfor what they dont know. The resource teacher

    helps to translate the Spanish information.As the quote illustrates, collaboration is also animportant component in the work of CATs insupporting their ELLs.

    4.2. Survey analyses

    The open-ended mid-term survey provided uswith the most frequently occurring items related toteachers scaffolding opinions that we used in theLikert scale survey (see Tables 3 and 4). In terms ofthe latter, in Table 4, question 1 is targeted atidentifying the importance of scaffolding in terms ofthe overall responsibility of CATs job; questions 2and 3 targeted collaboration and engagement of allteachers in ELL scaffolded instruction, i.e. centralCTI components; questions 4 and 5 focused on theneed for training; and question 6 focused onthe studys ndings under cultural scaffolding.Table 4 shows the survey items and the percentagesof agreement responses to each of the items.Survey ndings in this study situate CATs

    scaffolding efforts in a larger context of teachersprofessional world impacting their pedagogicalknowledge. Although half (52.6%) of CATs re-sponding to question 1 in Table 4 acknowledge thatscaffolding is important for all students and slightlyless than half (38.5%) indicated that collaborationwith their ESL counterparts are important inscaffolding instruction for ELLs, only 19.2% ofthose responding to question 3 agree that it is theresponsibility of all teachers. Also, only a smallpercentage (9.4%) indicated that CATs need train-ing in the area, and only 7.6% think that scaffoldingis difcult. Finally, only 2.5% report that culturalknowledge is important for scaffolding in thecontent area.

    5. Discussions and implications

    At the overall level, the data included in this studyprovide insight into the multi-dimensional andmacro aspects of teaching presence (Anderson,Rourke, Garrison, & Archer, 2001) that includesperformance assistance (Bliss, Askew, & Macrae,1996) in a combination of teacher design andadministration of classroom procedures, learningfacilitation and direct instruction. The data providean indication of what CATs do in the classroom,particularly in instructing and assisting ELLs. Atmore specic levels, and in addition to demonstrat-ing the frequency and the types of scaffolding

    undertaken by CATs, the ndings of the postings

  • ARTICLE IN PRESSF. Pawan / Teaching and Teacher Education 24 (2008) 145014621458also demonstrate the opportunities and the chal-lenges the teachers encounter in the instruction ofELLs.

    5.1. Findings from postings

    5.1.1. Cultural scaffolding

    The posting and survey analyses therefore in-dicate that cultural scaffolding is seldom referencedby CATs and presumably seldom used in theclassroom. However, amongst the postings categor-ized under the category, there were also those suchas the use of literature from students culture (seeTable 2) that demonstrated an orientation towardLees (2001) cultural modelling framework inwhich supports were developed to lead students toreect on their prior knowledge and its relevance tothe task at hand.A closer look at the cultural scaffolding items in

    the postings also suggest efforts to help studentsbridge the particularities of their experience, knowl-edge and cultural heritage with elements in theircurrent classroom circumstances. However, it isnot evident that scaffolding included interpersonalengagements for the purposes of developing cross-cultural relationships with their students. Effectiveteaching must include teachers competency todevelop these relationships with their students, theabsence of which can hinder students academic andsocial progress (Nieto, cited in Burns, Keyes, &Kusimo, 2005). Kramsch (1995) has argued thatteaching culture is a social process during whichmeaning and understanding emerged through socialinteraction. Taken from this perspective, Americanpublic school teachers such as the CTI teachers inthis study as well as teachers elsewhere who plan onundertaking cultural scaffolding should see theclassroom as a privileged site of cross-culturaleldwork (Kramsch, 1993, p. 29). Through tea-chers interpersonal engagements with studentsand direct communication with them, teacherswould have opportunities to listen, watch andinterpret students successes and struggles to achievemeaning as well as to engage with them in theirdevelopment of a cross-cultural personality, in all itscomplexities.Nevertheless, as mentioned earlier in the introduc-

    tion, a majority of US teachers lack training inworking with ELLs, even though nationally almosthalf (41%) of public school teachers reported instruct-ing limited English procient students (National

    Centre for Educational Statistics, 2002, p. 43). In thisstudy, the teachers lack of training is reected amongstthe challenges they reported. The following quote isindicative of the situation:

    With ESL students, its hard to tell if theyre notmaking the connections because of learningdifculties, or because of a language decit, orbecause of cultural differences. How do youprovide ESL students with a link to something inour American real world, when the only realworld they know may be a totally differentculture? I dont know how to do thisy

    5.1.2. Social scaffolding

    While we separated cultural from social scaffold-ing, the two are sometimes intertwined in teaching.Teacher postings, on the whole, indicated clearlywhether the scaffolding that teachers used wassocially or culturally based (see Section 2). Althoughon the whole, an overview of scaffolding items listedfrom the posting ndings suggests that a majority areteacher-fronted or teacher-led activities, the postingscoded under social scaffolding show that almost aquarter of the time, teachers are also engaged instudent-centered activities, mediated and un-mediated by them. One the one hand, the ndingssupport assertions such as those by Cazdens (2001)that teacher talk dominates classroom discourse, buton the other, the ndings suggest teachers use ofexible groupings (one-to-one, peer-to-peer dyads,small groups, etc.) at least some of the time anddemonstrate a certain level of awareness of thebenets of differentiated instruction.

    5.1.3. Conceptual scaffolding

    Analyses of teacher postings indicate that formany of the CATs in the study, teaching strategiesinvolve scaffolding the conceptual understandingof the subject matter being taught. The teacherspostings indicate that they undertake transmedia-tive (Siegel, 1995) and multi-modal approaches tohelping students access specialized knowledge. Theapproaches require that teachers use multiple signsystems to transfer understandings derived from onesystem to understand another. A social studiesteacher in the study explained the utility of themulti-modal approach in her teaching:

    Some kids like to talk about what they read,some like to perform as a response, some like towrite or draw about what they read, and I like togive them a variety of opportunities to respond

    and construct their own learning.

  • ARTICLE IN PRESSF. Pawan / Teaching and Teacher Education 24 (2008) 14501462 1459It is a scaffolding approach that would be similarlyundertaken by effective teachers of all students in allareas, for example, in literacy by means of multi-modal communications (Richards, 2002); musicusing visual, aural and kinesthetic resources (Ham-mel, 2003); science education through the explora-tions of visual, action and linguistic communication(Jewitt, Kress, Ogborn, & Charalampos, 2001);math using manipulatives (Weiss, 2005/2006); andhistory via engagement in multi-media learningenvironments (Saye & Brush, 2002).

    5.1.4. Linguistic scaffolding

    CATs also spent time on linguistic scaffolding.Gee (2000) sees literacy as discourse involving waysof using language, of acting and thinking withinspecied domains. Dened as such, literacy instruc-tion is an inherent element of all instruction. This isevident in the following comment from a CAT:

    Teaching US History to Juniors I see that theESL standards as being very close to what wealso work with. Things such as vocabulary,comprehension, reading, writing, listening skillsare what we are really teaching all of thestudents.

    Researchers from content-area instruction are inagreement. For example, Akerson (2001) points outthat teaching reading, writing and communicatingare essential components of teaching scienticinquiry to elementary students. Similarly, Fang(2006) adds that explicit attention to the languageof science should be an integral part of scienceliteracy pedagogy. Draper (2002) argues that byengaging students in literacy activities withinmathematics instruction keeps students engagedand interested in the subject and more importantlyprovides them an avenue to access mathematicalconcepts. These activities include teaching studentshow to make meanings out of text and sustainingconversations regarding the text. (For additionalefforts on the juxtaposition of literacy in content-area instruction, see also Bing and Thomas (2005,chemistry), Bintz and Shelton (2004, social studies),Witherell, (2000, arts) and Panell (2005, computerclassroom).)

    5.2. Survey findings

    Survey ndings in this study situate CATsscaffolding efforts in a larger context of teachers

    professional world impacting their pedagogicalknowledge. Although half of CATs acknowledgethat scaffolding is important for all students,including ELLs, only 19.2% indicate that it is theresponsibility of all teachers. On the other hand, lessthan half (38.5%) of the CATs indicated thatcollaboration with their ESL teacher counterparts(ESLTs) is necessary in undertaking scaffoldedinstruction. These ndings suggest several interpre-tations. They include that the CATs do not feelequipped to undertake ELL instruction and thusthey rely on ESLTs to provide assistance. Addi-tionally, CATs may feel that they do not share asimilar community of practice (Wenger, 1998)with ESLTs that engages them jointly in commontasks over an extended period of time and in whichthey share resources, common practices, back-ground knowledge, beliefs and understandings(Wenger, 1998). Also, unlike their ESLT counter-parts, CATs are responsible for mainstream, ELLs,as well as other students with individualized needs.The professional lives of these teachers are thusencumbered with a multitude of standards to beaddressed for each set of students, a stressfulsituation derived from role overload (Conley &Woosley, 2000). In this respect, specialized trainingin scaffolding may be required in order to giveteachers options for helping ELLs master contentmaterial. For example, Saye and Brush (2002)conceptualized a distinction between soft andhard scaffolds. Soft scaffolds involve teachersconstantly monitoring and providing timely supportto students and thus are generally more associatedwith intensive, individualized and ongoing attentionfrom teachers. Hard scaffolds, on the other hand,are supports that can be embedded ahead of time ininstructional materials (e.g. guiding questions).When computer software is utilized, hard scaffoldscan be individually adapted to the level of studentsability and to the difculty of the task.Also of note in the data is that only a small

    percentage (9.4%) indicated that CATs need train-ing in the area, and only 7.6% think that scaffoldingis difcult. One possible interpretation of the ndingis that the majority of CATs in the study feel thatthey already know how to scaffold for ELLs and/orcurrently undertaking the process without addi-tional training. This interpretation could be linkedto what is observed across the four scaffoldingcategories in the survey ndings. CATs associatedsome scaffolding strategies they used with ELLswith those used for special education students; these

    are marked with an asterisk accompanying items in

  • ARTICLE IN PRESSF. Pawan / Teaching and Teacher Education 24 (2008) 145014621460Table 2. The following comment illustrates thepoint:

    As others have pointed out, a lot of theapproaches are very similar to teaching SpecialEd studentsy Modifying and scaffolding forELLs is just like modifying for Special Ed. Manyof the modications I make for the special needsstudents transfer very well for the ESL students.

    The association may indicate that for some CATs,ELL scaffolded instruction may not be anythingnew but similar to what they are already doing fortheir special education students. Indeed, Case andTaylor (2005) provide another perspective. Theyfound that ESL students are heavily over-repre-sented in special education programs. They pointout that one of the reasons for this is that severalELL developmental processes of acquiring secondlanguage skills may resemble signs of learningdisabilities (p. 127). These include articulationdisorders in pronunciation, difculty in understand-ing and use of negation, word order and mood insyntax, and challenges in the semantics and use ofgurative language. Confusion emerges when ELLsdevelopmental stages in learning a second languageare seen as dening the overall limit of their learningabilities. Clear guidance is essential for CATs indistinguishing natural language learning processesfrom learning difculties. More importantly, CATsmust be forewarned that if they begin with theassumption that ELLs are in the same category asphysically and mentally challenged students; theymay be subscribing inadvertently to instructionalapproaches that underestimate ELL abilities.Finally, only 2.5% report that cultural knowledge

    is important for scaffolding in the content area. Thending suggests both lack of training and awarenessas to the importance of cultural scaffolding in thecontext of subject area teaching and conrms thendings on cultural scaffolding described earlier.The situation makes a strong statement regardingthe importance of teachers cultural knowledge oftheir students, and in this study, the use of thatknowledge to scaffold instruction. The lack ofknowledge and the cultural mismatch betweenteachers and their ethnically diverse students oftenlead to the latters underperformance, a phenomen-on well documented in research (Phuntsog, 1999).For the trend to be reversed, teachers culturalknowledge must be seen as a permanent feature ofinstruction necessary for building meaningfulness

    and sense-making through effective scaffolding.6. Conclusions and limitations

    This study on the content-area teacher (CAT)knowledge base emerged out of teachers dailytextual discussions in a classroom that is triangu-lated with surveys that are open-ended and based onitems on a Likert scale. The ndings suggestempirically that cultural scaffolding is an elementof content-area instruction that requires focusedattention by all English Language Learners (ELLs).Similarly, the ndings also support other researchasserting that literacy instruction is an inherentcomponent of subject matter instruction and that afoundation in literacy instruction needs to be a partof the teacher education experience of all contentarea teachers, especially those working with ELLs.Finally, the ndings address, to a certain extent,

    the question as to whether effective ELL instructionis similar to effective instruction for all students, aquestion CTIs program consultants and instructorsencountered often throughout the program. Theanswer to this question is both yes and no. EffectiveELL teaching is an element of good teaching ingeneral but good teaching for ELLs must alsoinclude teachers competency to develop cross-cultural relationships with their students. Thisimplication extends beyond the contexts of CTIand American public schools with ELLs. Accordingto Windschitl (2002), in classrooms where teachersare unaware of students interests and life experi-ences, they not only fail to build on local knowledgebut essentially offer disinvitations to participate inclassroom discourse (p. 18). Buzzelli and Johnston(2002) remind us that teaching is fundamentallyrelational (p. 8). Taken in that light, teacherscultural competency should constitute more thanteachers striving for universality or for maintainingthe cultural particularities of students (Kramsch,1995, p. 92). Rather, cultural competency should alsoinclude teachers dialogic engagement and relation-ship building with students. In foreign and secondlanguage teaching, this competency is evident inKubotas (1998, p. 406) responsive teaching andPrabhus (1990, p. 172) teachers sense of plausi-bility. In both cases, the value of language teachingis not a question of their ability to implement goodor bad methods but rather their ability to maketeaching active, alive or operational enough tocreate a sense of involvement for both teachers andstudents (Prabhu, p. 173). Consequently, in thepost-method era (Kumaravadivelu, 2006), teaching

    second and foreign languages centers on teachers

  • and the modied Prism Model categories can

    ARTICLE IN PRESSF. Pawan / Teaching and Teacher Education 24 (2008) 14501462 1461also be instrumental in eliciting student input as tothe scaffolding strategies that are meaningfuland purposeful to them. Such information will beessential if teachers are to recognize legitimate andnecessary practices (Saye & Brush, 2002) in theclassroom that are worthy of use in ELL instruction.


    I wish to thank George Cheu-jey Lee for hisinsights on this paper. Also, I wish to thank thethree coders, Daniel Craig, Erin Schmeidl and AnnaLynch. Finally, I am grateful to the anonymousreviewers for their instructive comments.


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    Content-area teachers and scaffolded instruction for English language learnersIntroductionTheoretical frameworkScaffolding as practical knowledge of teachersTypes of scaffolding

    MethodologyThe research setting

    RespondentsData for the studyData collection and analyses

    FindingsPosting analysesSurvey analyses

    Discussions and implicationsFindings from postingsCultural scaffoldingSocial scaffoldingConceptual scaffoldingLinguistic scaffolding

    Survey findings

    Conclusions and limitationsAcknowledgementsReferences


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