Graduation Term


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Psychology: School Psychology

Committee Chair

Matthew Hesson-McInnis

Committee Member

Beth Hatt


With an influx in immigration across the United States our educational policies have needed to change to meet the instructional needs of our students, especially our English Learners (Koyama, 2004; Mantero & McVicker, 2006). Historically, these educational language policies were an outcome of court cases that highlighted discrimination and racist practices against our English Learners. These cases, such as the Chicano civil rights movements or East L.A. “walkouts” in 1968, Lau v. Nichols (1974), Serna v. Portales Municipal Schools (1974), Rios v. Read (1978), and U.S. v. Texas (1981), Plyver v. Doe (1982), Castaneda v. Pickard (1981), have resulted in policies that provide English Learners access to instruction and support in developing bilingualism. Despite all these language policies that advocate for English Learners’ access to education, there have also been anti-bilingualism sentiments or “English-only” policies. These “English-only” policies are a reflection of individuals in our society being anti-English Learners.

The rise in culturally and linguistically diverse student population is made up of approximately 4 million of English Learners, with majority of students coming in with Spanish as their native language. Despite the changes in our student population becoming more culturally and linguistically diverse our teacher demographics continue to remain very homogenous encompassing of a majority White-middle class females. These differences between student and teachers have lead to cultural and language mismatches that make teachers vulnerable to stereotypes about students. Previous studies have found that teachers hold misperceptions, stereotypes, myths, deficit-based perceptions, or majoritarian rules (Estrada, Gómez, & Ruiz-Escalante, 2009; Fránquiz, Salazar, & DeNicolo, 2011; Gonzalez & Ayala-Alcantar, 2008; Harper & de Jong, 2004; Kolano & King, 2015; Mantero & McVicker, 2006; Marx, 2002/2009; Ortiz, 2011). These perceptions have been noted to impact teacher practices and instructional approaches, such as using a pedagogy of poverty (Diaz, Whitacre, Esquierdo, & Ruiz-Escalante, 2013; Ghaouar, 2015; Harper & de Jong, 2004). Research has suggested that teachers perceptions influence students academic performance and achievement (Diaz, Whitacre, Esquiero, & Ruiz-Escalante, 2013; Glock & Kovacs, 2013; Lumdsen, 1997; Mantero & McVicker, 2006; Richardson, 1996).

Considering the strong implications teachers perceptions have upon student performance, this study sought to gather a comprehensive understanding of teachers’ perceptions of English Learners. A comprehensive literature review of a mix of qualitative and quantitative based studies was used to gather over 400 teacher statements about English Learners. These statements were sorted into 28 categories that generated 92 consensus stimuli items for the card-sorting task. Participants included a total of 40 teachers (20 pre-service and 20 in-service teachers) from a Historically White institution and a school district in Illinois. Participants completed several questionnaires and card-sorting task that was analyzed with the use of Multidimensional Scaling (MDS). Findings generated a MDSCAL three-dimensional solution that was similar and significantly correlated with INDSCAL by subgroup (Pre-service and In-service) differences. Dimension 1 reflected Positive vs. Negative statements, Dimension 2 reflected statements about students (ELs) vs. statements about teachers, and Dimension 3 reflected Systemic Barriers vs. Resources encountered when teaching ELs. Therefore, all teachers hold similar perceptions and Pre-service and In-service teachers perceive English Learners similarly; however, In-service teachers attend two Dimension 2 twice as much than Pre-service teachers. Findings indicated that teachers perceptions are influenced by their Teaching Status (Pre-service or In-service), Frequency of Contact with ELs, and Professional Development. It was concluded that teaching experience matters.


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