Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Education and Human Services


Teacher Education and Teacher Development

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Ana María Villegas

Committee Member

Michele Knobel

Committee Member

Emily J. Klein


In this qualitative study, I followed three teachers as they participated in a sheltered English instruction professional learning initiative planned and implemented by their school district for purposes of preparing middle school science and social studies teachers to teach English language learners (ELLs). I explored the professional learning process of these teachers and how the ideas to which they were exposed in the professional learning initiative moved into their classroom practices, if at all. The study was guided by a complexity perspective, from which teacher professional learning was conceptualized as emerging from nested systems. In general, the study sought to uncover the systems comprising the overall system of teacher learning and their elements as they interact with one another, combining in complex and unpredictable ways to enable or constrain teacher learning and the transformation of classroom practice. Specifically, I sought to find research-based answers to the following question: What do three middle school mainstream teachers seem to gain from professional learning opportunities focused on sheltered English instruction, and how do those insights appear to play out in their practice?

Findings were presented as three themes, each giving nuanced insight into the processes of teacher learning and change: (1) walking in their students’ shoes and attending to the “deeper things” rather than focusing solely on “English language learning; ” (2) being content area and language teachers simultaneously: (not) knowing what to do with language learners’ English proficiencies; and (3) from the known to the new: refining the already-in-place and trialing the not-yet-in place for the benefit of ELLs and other students.

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