Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning


This qualitative study focused on the following question: What are the perceptions and experiences of mainstream classroom teachers working with ESL students in their regular, content area classrooms? There are increasing numbers of ESL students entering mainstream classrooms. Unfortunately, most mainstream teachers often are not trained to teach ESL students.

This study was conducted in a Great Plains community. It began with a district-wide survey to profile the typical mainstream teachers' experience with ESL students. Then, eight mainstream teachers were recruited for a series of intensive interviews, and interviews of three ESL administrator/teachers also were conducted.

The survey showed that district teachers currently were teaching 2 to 3 ESL students and had taught an average of 11.2 ESL students during the past six years. Their students came from diverse countries. Survey data from the eight interviewed teachers were compared to the district-wide data and revealed that the experiences of interviewed teachers were similar to those of the typical district teacher.

Interviews revealed that teachers worked within a context of marginalization. ESL students were marginalized within the school; mainstream teachers were marginally prepared in ESL pedagogy; and the ESL program/teacher had a marginal status in the school. Within this context, mainstream teachers felt a time bind in meeting diverse student needs; they were unclear about expectations for ESL students; and teachers wanted more collaboration with the ESL program/teacher. Teachers felt they lacked voice in affecting change.

The study concludes with recommendations for schools and future research. Teachers suggested that there should be regular orientation sessions, mentors for ESL students, special cultural events, pre-service training in ESL, a full-time ESL teacher/staff, clarification of expectations for ESL students, and improved collaboration between mainstream and ESL teachers. Future research should examine whether these results would differ where there are more ESL students, the ESL students come from more (or less) diverse backgrounds, and there is a well-funded ESL program. Such research could help all students to flourish in American schools.