Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Ellen Scales


Disciplinary teachers who teach mathematics, science, and social studies are challenged to embed literacy instruction into their disciplines for the growing population of English language learners (ELLs). In a rural middle school in the Southern region of the United States, disciplinary teachers are struggling to embed literacy instruction to support ELLs to meet grade-level achievement standards. The purpose of this basic qualitative study was to explore teachers’ perceptions about the challenges of using literacy strategies to teach ELLs in the disciplinary classroom. The conceptual framework for this study included Mezirow’s theory of transformative learning. The key research questions of this study were designed to identify disciplinary teachers’ perceptions about the challenges of using literacy strategies to teach ELLs, and to understand their efforts to improve literacy outcomes for ELLs. For this research design, semistructured interviews were conducted with nine middle school teachers in Grades 6, 7, and 8 in the disciplinary areas of math, science, and social studies. Data collected were transcribed with open coding to conduct a thematic analysis. Results of this study indicated that disciplinary teachers need professional development to learn how to meet the literacy needs for ELLs. Disciplinary teachers in this study learned that addressing ELLs’ own learning challenges will lead to incorporating strategies that are most effective. A professional development series was created to address the needs of these teachers. This study has implications for positive social change on a local and national level, which can guide instructional changes that provide teachers with literacy strategies that improve the social and academic outcomes for ELLs in the local school district.