Date of Award

Fall 2023

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Educational Studies

First Advisor

Elizabeth Currin


Far too many English learners in my district enter elementary school as non-native speakers, gradually developing skills only to plateau at early intermediate levels as determined by the annual proficiency exam. As these students become long-term English learners (LTELs) in junior high, the pattern of failing and retaking the test wears on them, likely exacerbated by the district-mandated curriculum for English language development (ELD) classes. Unit topics such as money matters and U.S. national monuments at advanced levels fail to tap into students’ lived experiences. I responded to this problem of practice through mixed-methods action research, beginning with a quantitative survey to measure LTELs’ perceptions of ELD. While implementing a unit I adapted to reflect principles of multicultural education, culturally relevant pedagogy, and constructivism, I used strategic journal prompts to elicit students’ counter-stories of their experiences in ELD. Finally, a post-adaptation survey reflected how the unit influenced students’ perceptions of the class. Quantitative data revealed an improvement in students’ perceptions, and three themes appeared in the qualitative data: (a) a clearly negative perception of being in ELD and a desire to “get out,” despite (b) an overall perception of the course’s benefit, along with (c) confusion about placement policies and procedures. I conclude with a call to better understand LTELs’ perceptions and needs while being more transparent about their test results and progress toward proficiency. The district may also consider forgoing the existing curriculum at advanced levels in favor of more culturally relevant content.


© 2024, Molly M. Staeheli