Teacher beliefs concerning the importance of background knowledge and the ESL student

Wiley, Ida
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The purpose of this study was to learn the beliefs of ESL teachers and non-ESL teachers concerning the importance of background knowledge when teaching reading to ESL students. Questionnaires were sent to a group of kindergarten through third-grade teachers in the north Texas area. From the questionnaires returned, 80 were randomly selected. Forty questionnaires were those of ESL teachers and 40 were questionnaires were from non-ESL teachers. The questionnaire contained one open-ended question asking teachers to state the most important strategy they used to help their student become literate. It also contained 21 statements related to beliefs about teaching reading. Teachers were asked to indicate their agreement with the statements by marking a scaled response. The questionnaire also contained questions that asked if the teacher had had inservice training and college or university training for working with ESL students. It also asked them to state their highest educational attainment, years of experience in education, and their ethnic background. The study also indicated that ESL teachers appeared to be more sensitive to the importance of background knowledge than non-ESL teachers. The results of this study indicated that inservice training for working with ESL students did not seem related to teachers’ attitudes about the importance of background knowledge. In addition, non-white teachers, as defined in this study, teachers who had taught 10 years or less and teachers who have no hours above a bachelor’s degree seem to believe more strongly that background knowledge is an important factor when teaching ESL students.

Elementary school teachers, English as a second language, Elementary reading, Elementary study and teaching