What I Learned

INED 8760 - Osman Khan - Spring 2016 - Dr. Kuhel

Reflection

Growth

All of the discussions and assignments in INED 8760 provided me with the resources and tools to further advance scholarly knowledge as well as build the instructional prowess required to meet the diverse needs of SWDs and ELs. For example, the Evidence Based Template (EBP) activity allowed me to compile resources that directly relate to the field of English Language Arts as well as link the benefits of fostering critical thinking in the classroom. I learned that engaging students in discussion and oral language practice is extremely important in helping students achieve second language acquisition as this process increases critical thinking abilities.

This semester, I also learned about upcoming education policy that directly influences the educational experiences of exceptional students. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) includes more funding for schools that serve English language learners (ELLS). According to Education Central (2015), the bill authorizes $756 million dollars which work out to about $166 per student. Although that seems like a lot, it still is not enough since we have more than a million more ELLs since 2002, a year when Title III received $664 million which equated to providing $184 per student. Secondly, the ESSA may be beneficial because it reforms the accountability systems that would have altered the funds a school would be eligible based on test scores and attainment of English language proficiency levels. However, this also leads to more accountability measures on teachers and administration.


Overall, the ESSA gives state more power and control over decision-making. For example, under Title I states now have choice to determine their own accountability systems (The Working Group, 2016). But, what if schools have inadequate frameworks for learning and poor accountability systems set in place? Ultimately, the students suffer. Under Title II, teacher development plans and programs are closely monitored. In specific, states are now required to reveal how teachers, principals and school leaders provide instruction for ELs and the activities must address the specific learning needs of ELs. Furthermore, under Title III, procedures for entering exiting students from language services must be similar in school districts and the numbers of ELs must be reported to the U.S. Department of Education through recent data and surveys.


I also learned that the ESSA is not perfect and there are potential issues with the policy. For example, according to The Working Group (2016), ESSA does not discuss the value of bilingualism for ELs even though there is growing evidence base for promoting bilingualism and biliteracy for all students in the United States. In addition, the law does not set expectations that promote improved achievement of ELs such as guidelines that are centered on focused, and goal‐driven school and district‐wide efforts. Some efforts taken by school systems ensure that learning goals are integrated for all students. These goals are understood and practiced by all staff such as assessment practices that provide data information on students’ current status that leads to the ability to reflect and change instruction to meet the needs of learners. In addition, schools that have instructional resources aligned with learning goals see higher academic gains in ELs. Schools that provide professional development that helps teachers understand assessment results which can help them change their methods to assist students with attaining learning goals have also proven worthy.

Additionally, I learned that it is highly important that teachers dissect the language of the Common Core and become familiar with the expectations before introducing standards to students. Ask yourself, “How am I going to get students to learn this standard?; and, How am I going to get students to accomplish the task?” I recommend using the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) which provides an avenue for students and teachers to enter genuine discourse and critical thinking through social interaction and contextualized communication (Vogt, Echevarria, & Short, 2013). Teachers that work with ELs should also get comfortable with understanding World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment (WIDA).

WIDA provides “Can Do Descriptors” that allows teachers to reflect on what ELs should able to understand and produce in the classroom as it corresponds with their ACCESS testing results (WIDA, 2012). These descriptors apply to all five English language proficiency standards, which mean they provide an opportunity to connect language development across content areas. In order to justify proper differentiation, it is critical to modify the language of the primary objective in the domains of listening, speaking, reading, and writing.

Challenges

My biggest challenge was identifying and acquiring a guide or resource that provides differentiation strategies and accommodations for dual-served students in relation to their individual disability and English proficiency levels. When students have multiple exceptionalities, the teacher must seek to find instructional strategies and differentiation techniques that are specialized to meet the needs of that student. This may require combining frameworks such as Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) model with the integration of Tier 4 interventions and differentiation strategies delivered using an instructional delivery method such as Universal Design for Learning (UDL) or Explicit Direct Instruction (EDI).

Another challenge for me is fully understanding the implications of ESSA. I want to be competent with my knowledge on this policy change, so that I can spread the correct information and prepare for the changes that will soon be introduced. Although I know some aspects of this new education law, I still feel like I do not know enough to properly raise awareness and properly prepare for the change that is about to come.

Next Steps

My next step is to continue researching new methods and practices for fostering critical thinking skills in SWDs and ELs. Secondly, since one of my professional goals is to create a social, emotional, and academic learning curriculum, I will rely on using the Curriculum Analysis checklist to make sure that my learning model includes methods for developing critical thinking to foster English acquisition in k-12 students with disabilities (SWDS) and English Learners (ELs).

One of my major goals is to raise awareness about the policy shift that will be integrated into schools next year. Although we live in a reactive society that waits for the change to happen, desirable or otherwise, it is of utmost importance that those of us in the field of research and educational scholarship raise awareness of pertinent issues by becoming proactive and sharing our findings. For example, I can begin this process by bringing up the implications of ESSA in future professional development meetings. It would also be wise for me to continually check for news and discourse on ESSA as it will help shape and clarify my understandings of the policy. In the future, I can also send out mass e-mails to co-workers about any updates on ESSA as well as how it will effect our students, policy requirements, and our methods of instructional delivery to diverse learners.


I will have to place more focus more on what my students know and understand and then assist students engage at higher levels using a modified framework of the SIOP model that is more student-centered rather than teacher-centered. I can accomplish this by allowing student-led discussions that allow higher levels of critical thinking as well as ensuring students continuously receive proper background knowledge and vocabulary practice/review. In relation to my own professional development, I will be able to create a matrix in the future which will help me distinguish similarities and differences when exploring a topic of interest. Equally important, this project taught me how to look for themes and commonalities in texts in relation to a specific topic using matrix system.


Concerning ESSA, I want to know the following:

1. How will ESSA effect Standardized Testing for students with exceptionalities?
2. How will ESSA change accountability measures for ESOL and resource teachers?
3. What effect will ESSA have on instructional frameworks?
4. Why do these laws not back social and emotional learning and continue to follow the strict use of content-based standards that disregard the pre-requisite social and emotional learning skills and language skills that students require to complete simple to complex learning tasks demanded by the Common Core and it's accompanying language objectives? (Elias, 2014).

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Analysis

All of the texts I found had the common theme of peer interaction and communication as a primary mediator for positive literacy outcomes in English learners (ELs). I learned that instructional conversations promotes language acquisition while assisting students discuss concepts while justifying their answers to questions (Jenson, 2015). Additionally, I learned that the SIOP framework is not perfect. Teachers can enhance the benefits of the SIOP framework by placing more emphasis on student-centered learning where focus is placed on student contributions during the process of developing questions which expands student thinking that is derived through direct discussions (Daniel & Conlin, 2015).


Additionally, the Critical Friends assignment allowed me to assess the work of a fellow student using specific criterion. I learned to identify strengths and weaknesses of another students' Curriculum Analysis project as well as discuss the benefits of their tool in ensuring curriculum and text clearly address the diverse needs of SWD & ELS in accordance to instructional approaches and assessment strategies.


Furthermore, the Pair/Trio presentation assignment required me to interview fellow colleagues on their perspectives when it comes to differentiation was a great learning experience. I was able to analyze the responses and identify common themes which is a process used in qualitative research.

Making Connections

I have come to learn that there are connections between the SIOP model and the promotion of critical thinking skills. In addition to utilizing WIDA, teachers working with dual-served populations should consider adopting the the SIOP model which provides an avenue for students and teachers to enter genuine discourse and critical thinking through social interaction and contextualized communication (Vogt, Echevarria, & Short, 2013).


Additionally, the work done for the EBP Matrix provided me with scholarly insights that helped me complete the Curriculum Analysis project (CAP). I am learning to build on prior projects from previous courses and past assignments as well as use differentiation strategies and EBP findings to create more effective instructional frameworks. For the final project, I created a Curriculum Analysis checklist using my findings from the what I compiled for the EBP Matrix. The checklist is a beneficial tool because it allows teachers and researchers to assess whether or not a curriculum or a teacher text proficiently develops critical thinking and English acquisition in k-12 students with disabilities (SWDS) and English Learners (ELs). An image of the Curriculum Analysis Checklist is provided below.

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Related Video

In the video, bilingual speech-language pathologist, Dr. Cárdenas-Hagan, discusses effective assessment and instruction strategies for ELLS with learning disabilities. She also includes methods for increasing engagement that includes finding ways to involve parents of dual-served students in their schools.
English Language Learners with Learning Disabilities

References

Cole, M. W. (2014). Speaking to read: Meta-analysis of peer-mediated learning for English language learners. Journal of Literacy Research, 46(3), 358-382


Daniel, S. M., & Conlin, L. (2015). Shifting attention back to students within the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol. TESOL Quarterly: A Journal For Teachers Of English To Speakers Of Other Languages And Of Standard English As A Second Dialect, 49(1), 169-187.


Education Central. (2015). The Every Student Succeeds Act and dual language learners - EdCentral. Retrieved May 02, 2016, from http://www.edcentral.org/essadlls/


Echevarria, J., Vogt, M. E., & Short, D. J. (2013). Making content comprehensible for English language learners (4th ed). Boston: Pearson Education.


Elias, M. J. (2014). Social-emotional skills can boost common core implementation. Phi Delta Kappan, 96(3), 58-62.


Fountas, I. C., & G. S. Pinnell. 2001. Guiding Readers and Writers: Teaching Comprehension, Genre, and Content Literacy. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.


Haynes, J. (2007). Getting started with English language learners. Retrieved March 13, 2016, from http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/106048/chapters/Key_Concepts_of_Second-Language_Acquisition.aspx

Greene, K. (2015). Unlocking language for ELLs: 12 tips for building skills for English language learners. Instructor (1990), (1). 39.


Jensen, R. J. (2015). The effectiveness of the socratic method in developing critical thinking skills in English language learners. Online Submission.


The Working Group. (2016). Statement from the Working Group on ELL policy re: every student succeeds act of 2015. Retrieved from http://ellpolicy.org/wp-content/uploads/ESSAComments.pdf


Thurlow, M., Moen, R., Liu, K., Scullin, S., Hausmann, K., & Shyyan, V. (2009). Disabilities and reading: Understanding the effect of disabilities and their relationship to reading instruction and assessment. Retrieved April 18, 2016, from http://www.cehd.umn.edu/nceo/onlinepubs/PARA/DisabilitiesReadingReport/PARADisabilitiesReadingReport.pdf


Vogt, M. E., Echevarria, J., & Short, D. J. (2013). Making content comprehensible for English language learners ( 4th ed). Boston: Pearson Education.

WIDA. (2012). The English language learner can do booklet. Retrieved November 23, 2014, from http://www.wida.us/get.aspx?id=21