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Research as praxis in ESL teacher education

Elizabeth A Robinson, University of Massachusetts Amherst


In July of 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) determined that Massachusetts had violated the civil rights of its English Language Learners (ELLs) by placing them in classes with inadequately prepared teachers. Massachusetts is the contextual background for this study but it also serves as an example of the challenges across the U.S. in preparing teachers to meet the diverse needs of the growing population of ELLs within a national context of increasingly standardized curriculum and testing. The U.S. Secretary of Education, the Massachusetts Commissioner of Education, policy makers, teacher educators, and academics are all looking to educational research for answers to the current challenges. There are many answers or approaches coming from multiple discourses of educational research. However, as has been demonstrated in Massachusetts, research-based approaches to educational challenges are not always successful. More needs to be understood about how these approaches are actually taken up in classrooms. Unfortunately, there is limited research about teachers’ understandings and uses of different discourses of research. ^ In this dissertation I have explored how two urban ESL teachers engaged with research at different stages of their professional development. The questions that guide this study focused on how the teachers made meaning of research and enacted research during the three stages of the study: their master’s program, their ESL practicum and a site visit two years after graduation. I conducted two longitudinal case studies drawing on constructivist grounded theory (Charmaz, 2006). Building on the findings from my literature review of ESL teachers’ engagement with research I collected and analyzed data from the three stages mentioned above over a five-year period. Multiple phases of analysis included critical incident analysis (Angelides, 2001), and text analysis (Fairclough, 1992; 2003; Janks, 2005). ^ The findings of this study show that while the teachers engaged in multiple ways with research, certain types and discourses of research discouraged teachers from meeting the needs of their students. The teachers’ engagement with research as praxis (Lather, 1986) was complex but entailed change-enhancing engagement with theory, practice, and action that not only met students’ needs, but promoted socially just teaching. ^

Subject Area

English as a second language|Teacher education

Recommended Citation

Robinson, Elizabeth A, "Research as praxis in ESL teacher education" (2012). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3545979.