The last several years have seen a dramatic increase in the popularity of two-way immersion (TWI) programs around the country, from 30 programs in 1987 to 225 programs in 1998 (McCargo & Christian, 1998). These programs integrate native English speakers and language-minority students for academic instruction and aim to promote bilingual proficiency, high academic achievement, and cross-cultural awareness in all students (Christian, 1994). The expanded popularity of these programs has meant a surge in the demand for and recruitment of TWI teachers. At the same time, there is very little research documenting the teaching experiences or professional development needs of current teachers in this unique teaching environment. Without this type of documentation, it is difficult to know which types of pre-service and in-service professional development activities will best prepare teachers to work effectively in TWI programs.
One study conducted specifically with TWI teachers describes a professional development project in El Paso, Texas, that utilized peer ethnography to foster reflective practice among 24 team-teachers in two TWI programs (Calderón, 1995). As a result of ongoing participation in this action research study, teachers reported improved collaboration with team members, improved dual-language teaching skills, renewed enthusiasm for teaching, and interest in pursuing graduate degrees. A related study investigating the self-reported professional development needs of French immersion teachers (Day & Shapson, 1996) found that, by far, workshops were the prevalent form of in-service professional development, and that French language arts and curriculum and materials development were teachers' top priorities. These studies are useful in that they initiate a dialogue on the professional development needs and practices of teachers in immersion settings.
Because TWI programs are increasingly popular but not well studied as teaching environments, it is important to continue this dialogue in a way that targets the specific professional demands of TWI teachers. Like all teachers who work in programs that facilitate second language acquisition, TWI teachers must constantly strive to integrate language and content objectives in every lesson. What makes the task of the TWI teacher distinct, however, is that at all times, regardless of the language of instruction, they are asked to deliver instruction to integrated groups of native speakers and second language learners. Therefore, they must always be mindful of ways to make the content comprehensible to the nonnative speakers, while still making the lessons stimulating and challenging to the native speakers. Likewise, because of the integrated nature of the programs, TWI teachers need to possess strong interpersonal skills that allow them to function well in cross-cultural environments. Not only do TWI teachers need to be able to promote positive cross-cultural relationships among students in their classes, they also need to be able to work effectively with other staff members and parents from both cultural groups.
Research on TWI being conducted at the Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL) under the auspices of the Center for Research on Education, Diversity & Excellence (CREDE) is investigating the professional development of TWI teachers. An important premise of the investigation is the belief that questions about how to prepare teachers to work in TWI settings are best answered by teachers themselves. For this reason, interviews and questionnaires were used to elicit teachers' perspectives and to gain demographic information about this understudied population. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with eight elementary TWI teachers from various programs across the country, and their responses were used to formulate a professional development needs assessment questionnaire that was distributed to 181 pre-K-8 classroom teachers in 12 TWI programs. Findings from the interviews and questionnaires are presented in this digest.