Date of Award

Summer 2023

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Educational Studies

First Advisor

Todd Lilly


The population of English Learner (EL) students in the United States is increasing and is projected to represent 40% of our country by 2030 (Flynn and Hill, 2005). Many educators do not feel prepared to teach this marginalized group of students effectively. Therefore, EL coaches in this urban district in the Midwest collaborate with teachers to support instruction for EL students. However, teachers in this district still have a difficult time implementing classroom discourse, one of many EL components to help EL students achieve Fluent English Proficiency (FEP) status. This dissertation in practice (DIP) seeks to investigate and answer two research questions: What structures promote high levels of classroom discourse for ELs? What obstacles hinder high levels of classroom discourse for ELs? Discovering answers to these questions is important because EL students need explicit practice using the English language with their peers and teachers.

To answer these research questions, a descriptive, qualitative case study was created to analyze what teachers are currently doing to support classroom discourse and what areas or professional development (PD) are effective for theory to practice transfer. For this case study, five elementary teachers in the district were asked to participate by being interviewed, answering survey questions, providing lesson plans, and answering journal prompts. Data was then analyzed through the lens of Krashen’s second language acquisition theory by finding themes and codes that reoccurred.

This study confirmed Krashen’s theory about second language acquisition for ELs through classroom discourse as an effective strategy. Data communicated that EL coaches are beneficial for supporting new teachers with implementing classroom discourse. However, during this study veteran teachers conveyed they did not feel as though coaching and other PD experiences provided met their professional needs. A variety of PD opportunities targeted to individual teachers and their students is necessary. Teachers also communicated that PD experiences directly related to their students and classrooms are more effective for theory to practice transfer. This study revealed that using a larger variety of proven PD models to promote classroom discourse will likely be the most effective intervention to improve EL student’s output of language.


© 2023, Jillian Camille Plum