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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Improving Classroom Instruction and Student Learning for Resilient and Non-resilient English Language Learners


Some English language learners (ELLs) do well in school despite coming from school and home environments that present many obstacles for learning. It is important to know why these students, who are at risk of academic failure, are resilient and successful in school while other ELLs from equally stressful environments are unsuccessful or non-resilient. This educational resiliency perspective is meaningful because it focuses on the predictors of academic success rather than on academic failure. It enables us to specifically identify those "alterable" factors that distinguish successful and less successful students. The thrust in this area of research is to extend previous studies that merely identified and categorized students at risk of failure and shift to studies that focus on identifying potential individual and school processes that lead to and foster success (Wang, Haertel, & Walberg, 1994; Winfield, 1991).

During the past 4 years of the CREDE project, "Improving Classroom Instruction and Student Learning for Resilient and Non-Resilient English Language Learners," we conducted research with approximately 1,000 fourth and fifth-grade students from 21 classrooms in three elementary schools identified as having large proportions of ELLs (i.e., more than 80%) as well as having students from high-poverty families (about 90% received free or reduced-cost lunches). Classroom teachers were asked to identify their population of students at risk (e.g., students from families of low socioeconomic status, living with a single parent, relative, or guardian). Students identified as "gifted or talented" or "special education" were excluded from the population in order to avoid potential effects related to ability differences. From the final pool of students at risk of failure, teachers selected up to three "resilient" and three "non-resilient" students in their class. "Resilient" students were high achieving on both standardized achievement tests and daily school work, were very motivated, and had excellent attendance. "Non-resilient" students were low achieving on both standardized achievement tests and daily school work, were not motivated, and had poor attendance. The following sections briefly summarize some of the key findings from our work as we focused on the concept of resiliency. 10% of the time. Both resilient and non-resilient students were observed interacting with their teacher only about 10% of the time and with other students only about 8% of the time. Resilient students were observed being "on-task" about 83% of the time, whereas non-resilient students were observed being "on-task" only 63% of the time.

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