Date of Conferral

2014

Degree

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

School

Education

Advisor

David Falvo

Abstract

Faculty at a public school in Georgia have been unable to explain how and why English language learner (ELL) students improved their performance on English and writing standardized tests. Leadership at this school desired an evidence-based ELL teaching model, which required exploration of this improved performance. The purpose of this qualitative, phenomenological, and heuristic project study was to understand the roots of this ELL achievement. Guided by teacher effectiveness theory, which suggests that examining the role of teachers is a valid way of understanding student achievement, this theory provided a specific construct of effectiveness consisting of distinct behaviors and characteristics. Thirteen teachers of ELLs were purposively sampled and participated in semi-structured interviews in which they described possible connections between instructional practices, student success, and consistent expectations of themselves and their students. Through analytic strategies of horizontalization, thematic clustering and synthesis, the data revealed that teachers favored the push-in approach, despite the established practice in the school to use a hybrid model, because of various pedagogical advantages. The findings established a professional development plan to guide future ELL pedagogy and support activities. This study generated knowledge to help educators in the target school in selecting the most appropriate instructional strategy to ensure the academic, economic, and social success of ELL students, which is of increasing importance given their growing percentage among students in the United States.