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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol: A Tool for Teacher-Researcher Collaboration and Professional Development

  • Author(s): J. Short, Deborah
  • Echevarria, Jana
  • et al.

Professional development for teachers is a complex and multifaceted endeavor and is becoming more so as popularity grows for standards-based education. Teachers generally report feeling pressure to cover the curriculum at nearly any cost. For English language learners, the cost is greater than usual as teachers often inadvertently pay less attention to the language needs of these students in content courses. The project described in this report was designed with the belief that teacher professional growth can best be fostered through sustained collaborative inquiry between teachers and researchers. It has set out to incorporate what we know about quality professional development with the special features needed to meet the needs of English language learners.

The purpose of the research project was to develop an explicit model of sheltered instruction that teachers could use to improve the academic success of their LEP students. The project has defined a model of sheltered instruction that is based on the research of best practices, as well as on the experiences of participating teachers and researchers who collaborated in developing the observation tool being utilized in the study. The tool, the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP), provides concrete examples of the features of sheltered instruction that can enhance and expand teachers’ instructional practice. In this project, the model was used to train middle school teachers to implement effective sheltered strategies in their classes in four large urban school districts (two on the east coast and two on the west coast). The project teachers use sheltered instruction in a variety of settings, such as traditional English as a second language (ESL) classes, content-based ESL classes, and sheltered content classes. English language learners represent 22-50% of the total population at the project schools, and the proficiency levels of these students range from beginning to advanced.

To date, this project has helped the participating teachers to expand their knowledge base. They have created learning communities in which they can discuss issues of real importance and set the pace for their own professional growth. Through discussion with more capable others, the teachers have had opportunities to increase their understanding of the subject matter — both the content and the language development topics — and they have explored new teaching and assessment strategies. For those untrained in ESL instruction, the project has provided a venue for learning about second language acquisition and for understanding the challenge English language learners face each day as they study multiple subjects through their non-native language.

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