Research at Nebraska 2019-2020 Report
Above, from left: Lauren Gatti, Jessica Mitchell-McCollough, Kara Viesca and Aaron Johnson

Improving Training for Teachers of Multilingual Students

More than half of K-12 public school teachers nationwide have at least one student classified as an English language learner, estimates show. Yet the training for teachers of multilingual students varies widely across states and school districts.

This complicates an already challenging task: educating students with varying levels of English fluency, different home languages and different cultural expectations of education.

Husker education researcher Kara Viesca is using a $2.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition to expand a set of e-workshops that offer professional development and support to K-12 teachers of multilingual students. First launched in 2011 in Colorado, Viesca’s program fosters collaboration and mentorship among participants.

Now, she and her team of teaching, learning and teacher education colleagues and numerous current and former students are expanding the International Consortium for Multilingual Excellence in Education into at least 11 more states. She’s also designing tailored e-workshops for specialized groups, like school psychologists and special education teachers.

A cornerstone of the workshops is respect for students’ home languages and backgrounds.

“There is often a monolingual approach, in that we ‘treat’ what we see as a deficiency in English,” said Viesca, associate professor of teaching, learning and teacher education. “This ignores the rich ability and knowledge of speakers of multiple languages. We want teachers to recognize the value of home languages in the classroom.”

To reach more teachers with this philosophy, Viesca’s team forged a partnership with WIDA, a consortium of 40 states, territories and federal agencies focused on English development standards and assessments. This led to the launch of the program in eight states beyond the 11 targeted.

In Nebraska, the team is working with stakeholders to increase use of the e-workshops. About 7% of Nebraska’s public school students are English language learners, according to the Nebraska Department of Education.

In the program’s research component, the team is studying outcomes of participating educators to pinpoint successful strategies. They’ve also collaborated with colleagues in Europe to disseminate the e-workshops in Finland and Germany.

+ Additional content for Improving Training for Teachers of Multilingual Students

Nebraska news release: Nebraska team targets improved training for teachers of multilingual learners

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