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Listening to Head Start teachers: Teacher beliefs, practices, and needs for educating dual language learners

Using a multiple methods approach, this study investigated (1) Head Start teachers’ beliefs and practices regarding dual language learning and education for dual language learners (DLLs), and (2) the received supports, challenges, and needs teachers have when educating DLLs. Open-ended semi-structured interviews were conducted with eight Midwestern, English monolingual, Head Start lead teachers who had DLLs in their classrooms. The data were analyzed using structured thematic content analysis. The credibility and understanding of the findings from the interviews were enhanced by additional data sources including a survey of teacher beliefs on dual language learning and education, an observation of classroom materials for teaching DLLs, and quantitative data on teachers’ language use in the classroom. Findings showed that a majority of teachers reported using instructional strategies specific to DLLs, but they felt unsure about their preparation. When there was support, the teachers tended to report a sense of comfort in educating DLLs. Teachers had pro-bilingual beliefs, but their beliefs vary on the use of differentiated or universal teaching practices. Furthermore, teachers viewed supporting the home language of DLLs as important, but several also felt that some parents’ preferences contradicted their beliefs on the importance of fostering the home language(s). Teachers reported receiving some support from their administration and parents to help educate DLLs, and also identified multiple challenges in working with DLLs and their families (e.g., difficulties in communication). They expressed needing more support and personnel who can assist them in communicating with a wide variety of DLLs and their parents beyond those who use Spanish. Implications for practice are discussed. (author abstract)
Resource Type:
Reports & Papers
United States

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