Investigating the New Phenomenon of English Language Learner Coaches

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Spaziani, Abigail Emily
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Middle Tennessee State University
ABSTRACT It is estimated by the year 2025, ELLs will make up one-quarter of the student population in the U.S. (Baecher et al., 2012). Simultaneously, literature has repeatedly demonstrated a lack of preparation for preservice and Inservice teachers to meet the needs of ELLs (e.g. Ballard, 2016; de Jong, 2013; Lucas et al., 2013; Villegas et al., 2018; & Weedle et al., 2021). As Fillmore and Snow (2003) argue, too few teachers understand the challenges inherent in learning to speak and read Standard English. Coaching is an educational trend that has emerged to support teachers as they improve their practice. However, “we know little about the nature of EL-focused instructional coaching” (Russel, 2015, p. 28). Consequently, examining the role of the ELL coach as they help teachers develop the knowledge and skills to support the growing population of ELLs is of vital importance. As such, this research is guided by the question, how do ELL coaches define, describe, and interpret their role in supporting teachers of linguistically diverse students? This descriptive phenomenology is grounded by the Linguistically Responsive Teaching (LRT) framework, conceptualized by Lucas and Villegas (2013), and phenomenological interviewing by Seidman (2021). Data was collected from five ELL coaches across districts in Tennessee. These coaches were interviewed twice to gain their stories and understanding of their unique coaching roles. The findings are framed as vignettes to highlight coherent stories of ELL coaches’ experiences and interpretations. Findings were further categorized into themes of role creation, unclear roles and responsibilities, request to interview, and shifts of the role. Additional themes around common coaching activities included learning opportunities, observations with feedback, modeling or coaching cycles, planning, and collaboration. Furthermore, the ELL coaches described two major challenges of the work which were serving multiple schools and working with stakeholders that lack Linguistically Responsive Teaching practices. The stories described ELL coaches’ orientations towards coaching including their beliefs about equity for ELLs and challenges to individualize orients and pedagogical skills.
ELL Coach, English Language Learners, Linguistically Responsive Teaching, Education, English as a second language