Document Type



Doctor of Education



Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Rebecca Rogers, PhD


Wolfgang Altolph

Ralph Cordova

Virginia Navarro


This qualitative research examines a practitioner inquiry group comprised of teachers of English Language Learners (ELLs) with the following research questions in mind: What happens when a group of ESL teachers collaborate in a dialogically inspired professional development context to learn about navigating discussion with complex texts and their ELL students? How does teacher learning evolve and address the complexities of the teacher/learner discourse under discussion in the professional development inquiry? What are the thematic and discursive contours of teaching and learning in this professional development context? In what ways will lesson development be relevant to the needs of those in the practitioners’ settings? This study documents the concerns, strengths, and weaknesses that ELL teachers express about teaching ELLs’ literacy through an examination of teachers’ experiences over eight months of group sessions. Dialogic teaching is presented in the inquiry as a lens to compare and contrast teachers’ ideas about their engagement with ELLs in comprehending complex texts in literacy learning. Data sources include (1) digital recordings of initial interviews, (2) field notes and digital recordings of group meetings, (3) digital recordings of exit focus group, (4) transcripts of observed lessons, (5) digital recordings of debriefing interviews after observations, (6) a case study of two teachers in their classrooms, and (7) the researcher’s reflexive journal. Case studies of two teachers include additional classroom observations and in-depth interviews. Data analysis tools included narrative structure (Gee, 2011; Labov & Waletzky, 1987), critical discourse analysis (Fairclough, 1992; Rogers 2011), and grounded theory techniques (Strauss & Corbin, 2008). Findings show that practitioners’ discourse changed to include more positive appraisals of their students’ classroom discussions after working through readings about dialogic teaching (Alexander, 2008; Boyd & Markarian, 2011; Reznitskaya, 2012; Wells, 2002). An awareness of how EL students are positioned in higher education is revealed with an understanding of the complex nuances of English language practitioner discourse. This research adds to existing scholarship in professional development for English language teachers and in-service teachers as well as to narratives about teaching literacy with ELLs.

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