Teachers’ Perception of English Language Learner Students’ Academic Abilities: A Qualitative Phenomenological Study
The population of students labeled English language learners (ELLs) is steadily rising in every state. ELLs continue to underperform their non-ELL peers in assessed academic areas. The problem is that teachers view ELLs from a deficit-based perspective rather than focusing on their assets. The purpose of the qualitative phenomenological study was to explore the factors affecting teachers’ perspectives and attitudes toward English language learners. Gaps in the literature showed that little is known about the factors affecting teachers’ perceptions and attitudes toward ELLs. Mindset theory by Dweck and pygmalion theory by Rosenthal and Jacobson provided a framework for understanding teachers’ perceptions of ELLs. The research questions that guided the study were: how do teachers’ perceptions of ELLs affect classroom instruction; what are teachers’ perceptions of ELLs; how do participants describe their cultural and academic experiences in the context of ELL education. The qualitative phenomenological study involved 15 mainstream teachers from public high schools in the Central Florida school district. Semi-structured interviews were used to collect the data. Interview transcripts were analyzed and coded into themes. Key findings revealed that teachers view ELLs as deficient in academic and language skills, have stereotypes about ELLs’ backgrounds and skills, are attentive to the students’ needs, and utilize various resources to support classroom instructions. The priority for student learning and success was reflected in every interview. The study results can guide district hiring, staff development practices, and teacher support procedures.