School of Education


Doctor of Education in Curriculum & Instruction (EdD)


Lucinda Spaulding


English Language Learners, English as a Second Language, Self-determination Theory, Second Language Acquisition Theory, Efficacy, Best Practices


Education | Elementary Education


While the English language learner (ELL) population continues to grow at a rapid rate in the United States, teachers find themselves ill-equipped to meet the needs of these students. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to describe how teachers experience and overcome challenges in the acquisition and implementation of best practices for meeting the academic needs of English language learners in the general education setting. The central question of this study was: How do classroom teachers experience and overcome challenges in the acquisition and implementation of best practices to meet the needs of English language learners? The theories guiding this study were Deci and Ryan’s self-determination theory (SDT) and Krashen’s second language acquisition theory (SLA). For this study, self-determination was defined as doing what needs to be done, despite obstacles and challenges. English as a second language (ESL) is defined as the teaching program used to educate non-native English speakers in the school setting. The study was conducted with teachers who have experience with ELLs. Data were collected through questionnaires, efficacy surveys, interviews, and letters of advice. The key findings of this study indicate that teachers are motivated to overcome obstacles to educating ELLs through three avenues: feelings of success in working with the families of ELLs, empathy toward ELLs, and effectively implementing strategies and resources which led to increased self-efficacy. Implications of this study include creating programs for teachers which focus on opportunities for success in meeting student needs. There were indications of a need for intense pre-service training and early professional development experiences for teachers in educating diverse learners to increase feelings of high self-efficacy early in teachers’ tenures.