Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy


Education, Teaching-Learning Processes

Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Kim Song, Ed.D


Cody Ding, Ph.D.

Rebecca Rogers, Ph.D.

Alina Slapac, Ed.D.


Middle schools in the United States today have a large population of English learners (ELs), and many of them have been educationally labeled as long-term English learners (LTELs). In some middle schools, over half of the ELs in seventh and eighth grades meet the criteria for classification as LTELs. This is especially concerning as these students will shortly be moving on to high school with limited English proficiency, which will continue to affect their academic performance and may limit their choices in higher education and career paths. This study explored the educational experience of LTELs in middle school by seeking out their perspectives regarding their academic and linguistic learning. Student perceptions of learning have a significant impact on achievement, self-esteem, motivation, and performance (Roeser & Eccles, 1998). Using their own voices, LTELs shared their perceptions of what they believed they needed to grow during semi-structured interviews. Classroom observations revealed how LTELs responded to instruction as it was taking place. An analysis of English proficiency test scores indicated there was no significant difference between LTELs and ELs not classified as long-term. The results of the study indicated that LTELs already possess strengths and assets for learning, and dual-language competencies that could be used to enhance their experiences as bilingual and biliterate learners. They form relationships with teachers and peers that are central to their learning experiences (Cummins, 2000) and reflect Vygotsky’s (1978) sociocultural perspective in the way they learn through the medium of social interactions. They require a safe, welcoming environment to overcome anxiety, as well as scaffolding of learning tasks to ensure they are able to interact meaningfully with instruction and meet the language demands of the content being taught.