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Rural educators find solutions to support multilingual learners


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A new study finds that a professional development program helped teachers in a rural school district in the Southeast collaborate and identify innovative solutions to serve multilingual learners, or students learning English as a second language.

The study published in Journal of Research in Rural Educationsuggests that professional development can help prepare teachers in rural areas that have fewer resources and an increased need to support multilingual learners.

“Professional development is necessary in rural communities, where you may not have resources for specialists such as a literacy coach, bilingual school psychologist, or bilingual family engagement specialist,” said Maria Cody, Goodnight Distinguished Professor of Educational Equity at Carolina State University. North and the first author of the study.

“In this project, we provided a structure for professional collaboration and development, and this group of outstanding educators learned together, supported each other, and came up with innovative solutions to their truly unique needs together. They did things that we, as educators and educators, had never imagined.”

The researchers provided a professional development program to 22 teachers from middle and high schools in one rural area. The district, which covers 1,000 square miles, has only one bilingual support staff member for each group of 25 multilingual students.

The researchers hosted six graduate-level courses over three years, starting with a course designed to help teachers think about the questions they want answered. In subsequent courses, researchers have provided knowledge and resources to address these questions, including courses in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages; teaching in environments of high poverty in rural areas; teacher leadership and social change; and educational training to enhance the learning of English.

“The first course was a way for teachers to think about ‘what is going on in my school,’” Cody said, “and what is one question I really want answered, such as how important is the background of multilingual students in relation to classroom instruction?” “Then, we provide tools, knowledge, and resources to help them unpack and understand these issues so they can learn how to find answers to their questions, and best offer their own resources, with support.”

The researchers found that professional development led to collaboration between teachers, which ultimately benefited the multilingual learners. The courses helped teachers learn about students’ cultural and language backgrounds, home literacy practices, learning styles, and what they like to do. These results made a difference in the types of tasks the teacher created, and allowed them to connect with students’ strengths to improve their learning.

“The study opened up a space for teachers to build relationships with each other, which is essential,” Cody said. “They also understood what their language resources were in the community, and built extensive relationships with children and families—learning what rural families do, what they need and what they can expect when the child comes home at the end of the day.”

Coady said the NC State College of Education plans to offer certificates at the certificate and master’s levels to help educators find solutions for working with multilingual learners. In addition, researchers like Coady aim to work directly with more school districts to address solutions for multilingual learners.

more information:
Maria R Coady et al., “It’s Like Fuel”: Sparking Rural English Learner Education Through Place-Aware Professional Development, Journal of Research in Rural Education (2023). doi: 10.26209/jrre3901

Provided by North Carolina State University

the quote: Rural Educators Find Solutions to Support Multilingual Learners (2023, March 28) Retrieved March 28, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-03-rural-solutions-multilingual-learners.html

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