Lindsey Evans
EDU 713
October 13, 2010


DelliCarpini, M. (2009, May). Dialogues across disciplines: Preparing English-as-a-second-language teachers for interdisciplinary collaboration. Current Issues in Education [On-line],11(2). Available:

As the number of ELL students increase in the schools in the United States, the collaboration between ESL teachers and mainstream teachers is becoming more important. Most of the time, ESL teachers have not received training on how to teach content to students, while mainstream teachers have had little or not training on how to help their ELL students. Although collaboration is recognized as a valuable tool, collaboration between ESL and mainstream teachers has not increase; as a result, the researchers at Lehman College, The City University of New York looked at how the barriers of collaboration between ESL and mainstream educators, and how methods courses can help remove the barriers so that real teaching partnerships can develop (DelliCarpini, 2009).
The Project
The researchers worked with students in a graduate program over the course of a semester; eighteen were working on a master’s in TESOL, and 16 were working on a master’s in English Education. The participants were given opportunities to discuss challenges of ELL students, how to help ELL students in mainstream classrooms, and to collaboratively create a unit for a mainstream young adult literature class. The researchers looked at qualitative data collected through reflective writing by the participants, group discussions, and interviews with the participants.
The faculty members of the TESOL and English Education departments collaborated to modify the course work for their graduate students to include more collaboration between the two groups. The researchers conducted individual interviews of the participants at the beginning of the course, and again at the end of the course. Group interviews/discussions were conducted four times throughout the semester, and were taped and transcribed. The participants wrote weekly journals in a narrative format about the collaboration that was going on.
There were quite a few themes that appeared within the interviews, group discussions, and weekly journals. One of the themes that arose was the barriers of collaboration- time, knowledge of content by ESL teachers, and being isolated. Many of the ESL teachers felt that since they did not have a designated “home” to teach in, that ESL was not taken as seriously as the content areas, which did not help the attitude of the ESL participants when they initially started the course; this was another theme that was discussed in detail. Many of the ESL teachers felt that mainstream teachers did not value their ELL students as much as the other students or that they had many misconceptions about ELL students. A third issue that was discussed was the lack of collaboration skills; the teachers, across the board, did not know how to really work together to achieve their set goal. A fourth issue was the feeling that the collaboration between ESL and mainstream educators forced more work on the teachers. In the end, one very important theme was that most of the educators changed their beliefs; the participants learned about collaboration, learned to see the other person’s point of view, and learned from each other about the aspects of teaching ELLs that they did not previously have. The researchers found that it is necessary for teacher education programs to provide opportunities for future teachers to read and learn about collaboration, as well as opportunities for explicit instruction on how to develop collaboration skills.
Discussion, Implications, and Recommendations
The researchers suggest that administrators can require projects within the school building, or within the district to build collaboration skills. The study identified many issues of collaboration between ESL and mainstream teachers that need to be worked on in order for ELL students to meet their fullest potential. While the study was relatively small, it supported prior research that showed teachers need to be exposed to collaboration techniques.
My Thoughts
I believe that this study is a good example that shows how important collaboration is across disciplines. The study showed how the participants who are involved in collaboration experiences learned from each other, and worked to solve a problem. Although there are issues that will need to be overcome in the collaboration groups, once these issues are dealt with, benefits will be seen by all, but most importantly, by the students.
I was especially struck by the initial thoughts of the ESL teachers in the first round of interviews and weekly journals. I can see how these feeling could occur; since I am an elementary education teacher who is working on a master’s in ESL, I know see both sides of the coin when it comes to ESL setting versus the mainstream classroom. I think it is important for the different disciplinary fields to understand where the teachers they interact and collaborate with come from. I think it was very interesting to see how the changes of the educators changed over just a semester course; imagine what would happen if these collaboration groups could continue.
The study did a good job of pointing out the issues with collaboration between ESL and mainstream teachers. I think more research needs to be done on how to overcome these barriers; especially the issue of ESL teachers not being prepared to teach content areas, and mainstream teachers not being prepared to teach ELL students within the classroom. Neither group of educators should have to feel like they are in the situation of having to either “sink or swim”.
Connection of Course Material
This article is a prime example of the cycle of teams as described by Friend and Cook (2007). Although the reason for forming the collaboration groups was because of an assignment for a graduate class, the rest of the steps were vividly shown throughout the study. In the first interviews and journals, the researchers saw the many problems that were going on in the storming stage of the team cycle. Many of these problems were big; feelings were hurt, people were controlling thinking that their views were the most important, and the group members felt stuck and frustrated. Part of the problem in the storming phase, which also carries over into the norming phoase, was that the participants did not know how to collaborate; the participants confessed that they had roles, but did not know what to do with these roles and usually talked about their jobs. As the participants started figuring out their roles and skills in the collaboration groups, they started to confront their issues. In the end, opinions changed, and they developed a unit for a young adult literacy class. The participants have a new understanding of collaboration and what their colleagues do to help ELL students.
Another topic that Friend and Cook (2007) discussed was that of parity. The members have to feel equal, and feel that their opinions matter. In the beginning of this study, it was obvious that the members did not feel equal in the minds of their colleagues; this showed how impossible it is for successful collaboration to occur when there is no parity within the group.