Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2011

Degree Type


Degree Name



Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

Monte E. Piliawsky


The purpose of this study was to collect and analyze data from practicing mainstream K-12 teachers currently enrolled in graduate courses at a large, urban, Midwest university regarding four categories of their attitudes toward English language learners: (a) inclusion of ELLs, (b) the second language acquisition process/language and language learning, (c) modification of coursework, and (d) ESL professional development. Though studies on teacher attitudes toward ELLs remain sparse, research on this topic is important for two reasons. First, as the rigor of grade level curriculum increases ( i.e. high school graduation requirements, state MEAP testing, NCLB) understanding complexities of ELLs and background knowledge of the language acquisition process can be beneficial for educators, parents, and students in educational reform efforts of ELLs, whose academic performance currently substantially lags behind their native English speaking peers. Second, an examination of teacher attitudes toward English language learners might provide support for the importance of requiring coursework in the areas of language acquisition and methodology for all preservice teachers at institutions that offer teacher preparation programs. At the time of this study, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) did not require this type of coursework.

Three statistically significant findings emerged from this research study regarding teacher attitudes toward English Language Learners: (a) past coursework in ESL positively impacts teachers' attitudes toward ELLs; (b) professional development was positively associated with past coursework in ESL; (c) an association was found between teacher's attitudes toward professional development and the number of graduate and undergraduate credit hours that deal specifically with language minority students. These findings confirmed the value for teachers to take courses in ESL, and also suggested the need for state policy makers to consider requiring coursework in ESL for preservice teachers. As the influx of ELLs continues to impact public schools throughout the nation, school systems and educators must be appropriately prepared.