Description: BYU Professor Stefinee Pinnegar is working to improve how English language learners are taught in the classroom.
Start: May 1, 2012
End: April 30, 2017
- Sponsor: US Department of Education, Office of English Language Acquisition
- Principal Investigator: Stefinee Pinnegar
- Website: http://education.byu.edu/tell
English language learners are students in the United States whose native language is not English and are thus in the process of learning English while in school. In the 2012-2013 school year, there were over 4 million English language learners across the nation, making up almost 10% of public schools. Most of the states with the highest percentage of students learning English are in the Western U.S., compelling many institutions, including BYU, to improve the nature of their teaching programs to accommodate the learning of these students.
Dr. Stefinee Pinnegar is one of the leading professors of the Teaching English Language Learners Program, or TELL Program, at BYU. This program encourages undergraduate students to make this aspect of their teaching a priority, leading them to a certified ESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) endorsement with the state of Utah when they graduate. The TELL Program gives students experience in their student teaching programs to interact specifically with English language learners. Additionally, the ESL endorsement is a requirement for all Elementary Education majors at BYU, since students learning English are most affected in younger grades. The better the head-start, the more successful these students will be in future classes and subjects.
There are many people involved in the process of teaching and training, including teachers already in practice and those presently studying to become teachers. Dr. Pinnegar’s five-year project covers all aspects of the spectrum by focusing on the knowledge and teaching abilities of BYU education faculty, student teachers and their mentors, and current teachers in local school districts. Because the number of English language learners has been increasing in more recent years, this has especially become a new matter for teachers who have already been teaching for many decades. Hence, Dr. Pinnegar has been not only been concentrating on new teachers entering the workforce but is also enhancing the pedagogy, or teaching methods, of existing teachers in surrounding public schools through ESL courses and endorsements.
One of the specific emphases of this project is to promote increased participation for teachers in the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). It is harder for English language learners in these subjects to learn because of many technical terms used. These are terms which the students have probably never encountered in English before, and therefore extra help is required when learning in these types of classes. Dr. Pinnegar’s team closely analyzes gathered data and monthly evaluates the observed results of the project with the proposed outcomes to ensure progress.
Several states and districts in the U.S. are starting to require ESL courses and certifications for all of their teachers, as the number of English language learners in the U.S. is growing. Dr. Pinnegar’s efforts, in collaboration with the education programs at BYU, are preparing our current and future teachers to meet those needs. The benefit of this work affects not only the skill of teachers in our community, but most significantly progresses the education of thousands of students. Students who are English language learners in the United States are not students with disabilities, but simply an outcome of the melting pot our nation has become.