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FLIPPING ELEMENTARY PRESERVICE TEACHERS' ESL COURSEWORK: FOCUS ON TEACHING WRITING FOR ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS
Yong-Jik Lee, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA & Tuba Yilmaz, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA


Yong-Jik Lee


Tuba Yilmaz

As a result of an ever-increasing number of English language learners (ELLs) in the school system, mainstream teachers in the United States are expected to work with ELLs and differentiate instruction based on diverse student learning needs. However, many teachers in the United States are not effectively prepared to teach ELLs in mainstream classrooms. For this reason, educating preservice teachers with English as a second language (ESL) teacher education and coursework is a critical issue (de Jong, 2014).

Flipped learning has emerged as an innovative teaching approach through which teachers can develop effective teaching strategies, such as efficient use of class time, flexible instruction with a learning management system, and meaningful interactions between students and teachers (Goodwin & Miller, 2013). However, the flipped learning approach has not been fully explored in preservice teacher ESL teacher education (Egbert, Herman, & Lee, 2015). To respond to this call, the study discussed in this article aims to explore how the flipped learning approach encourages elementary preservice teachers to develop their pedagogical skills in teaching writing to ELLs.

Statement of the Problem

A flipped learning approach was implemented in an ESL methods course that prepares elementary preservice ESL teachers for endorsement in a teacher education program. Students in the course were undergraduates who majored in elementary education. Traditionally, the course consisted of face-to-face instruction with some support through learning management software Canvas as an online component. In this regard, the instructor, the second author of this paper (Yilmaz), aimed to create a more authentic and interactive learning environment for preservice teachers so that they could reflect on what they had learned from the course readings during in-class activities. Yilmaz especially tried to develop preservice teachers’ skills for teaching writing to ELLs because focusing on their literacy skills, such as writing development, is key for their academic success (Aguirre-Muñoz, Park, Amabisca, & Boscardin, 2009).

Research Design

The study was conducted in a large, public university located in the southeast region of the United States in the fall 2016 semester. The data sources consisted of preservice teachers’ reflections (n=38), the course instructor’s individual interview (n=1), and 19 recorded videos from ESL microteaching activities. The interview data were analyzed using thematic analysis. The first author, Lee, read Yilmaz’s written narratives and created general and specific codes that emerged in the data.

Implementation of a Flipped Learning Approach

To implement the flipped classroom approach, Yilmaz designed her class in a way that allowed preservice teachers an opportunity to reflect on what they had learned from course materials in a collaborative and student-centered learning environment. Table 1 shows the design of the flipped learning approach used in this study.

Table 1. The Process of Flipped Learning

Three Stages

Students’ Activities

Assessment

Duration

Before class (at home)

Reading the assigned materials and watching online videos through Canvas

Evaluation of the online quizzes that are about the readings and the videos

1 hour

In class

1. Asking questions and participating in discussions about the content

2. Modifying their lesson plans by adding language objectives and differentiating instruction

3. Implementing their lesson plans as microteachings

Informal assessment: Active participation

Formal assessment:

Evaluation of microteachings with the microteaching rubric

2.5 hours

After class

Posting reflection after microteaching experience in Canvas: online discussion activity

Informal assessment: Evaluation of the microteaching lesson plans and the reflections after microteaching

30 minutes


Before Class

Preservice teachers read assigned reading materials before class. In addition, they watched the assigned instructional videos that were uploaded to Canvas. The videos focused on developing ESL-specific pedagogical skills in terms of promoting ELLs’ literacy skills, such as vocabulary, reading, and writing instruction. The videos were approximately 20–30 minutes long. After reading the materials and watching the videos, through Canvas, preservice teachers took 10-question online quizzes to check their comprehension. The quiz took about 20 minutes. These before-class activities and assessment methods aimed to encourage preservice teachers to come to the class well prepared.

In Class

At the beginning of class, Yilmaz revisited quiz questions to clarify preservice teachers’ misunderstanding and misconceptions of reading materials and online video content. This activity took 10–20 minutes in each flipped classroom. Then, she conducted collaborative activities for about 40 minutes to promote preservice teachers’ critical thinking and higher order thinking skills. For instance, she asked preservice teachers to modify, in pairs, one of their preplanned lesson plans and add language objectives that aimed to develop ELLs’ writing skills. In the second half of class, students performed 10-minute microteachings of their lesson plans in pairs. Five coteachers were asked to conduct microteaching in each microteaching session.

After Class

After class, Yilmaz encouraged the coteachers to reflect on their microteaching experiences. By using the online discussion forum in Canvas, they wrote two to three paragraphs for their reflections. The guiding questions for reflections included identifying what the main goal of teaching writing for ELLs was, how they felt their teaching went, and how they collaborated to plan microteachings. The guiding questions also included what they did well in terms of ESL writing accommodation strategies and what needed to be improved. Then, the preservice teachers who did not perform microteaching in that microteaching session were asked to respond to these reflection postings on Canvas. In this way, they could exchange ideas to improve their pedagogical skills for writing. After each microteaching activity, Yilmaz provided feedback to the teaching groups using a specifically designed rubric.

Data Analysis

Preliminary data analysis suggested that the flipped classroom approach not only provided opportunities for preservice teachers to plan and demonstrate their skills for teaching writing to ELLs but also created an avenue for the instructor to provide feedback. Through various in-class activities, such as modifying lesson plans and performing microteachings, preservice teachers learned strategies for teaching writing by observing their peers' microteaching. They also received more opportunities to demonstrate their teaching skills with appropriate accommodations. The analysis further suggested that the preservice teachers received valuable experience to prepare them for applying theory from the ESL coursework to practice through a flipped classroom approach.

Final Reflections

This article aims to illustrate how an implementation of a flipped learning approach in an ESL methods course influences preservice teachers’ skills in teaching writing. Based on our pilot study, we provide some suggestions for implementing the flipped classroom in ESL teacher education courses.

  1. Start by flipping only a small part of your class (a pilot study is critical): To reduce trial and error, research recommends that faculty members flip a small portion of the semester first, not the entire semester (Cockrum, 2014). In this study, Yilmaz started by flipping one class to gauge students' reactions and responses. She focused on teaching writing only because one of the main goals of this course was to provide ample opportunities for preservice teachers to practice their pedagogical skills for teaching literacy to ELLs.

  2. Gather data from your students regarding their satisfaction with the flipped mode (surveys or questionnaires): We recommended that the instructors who want to flip the classroom create their own surveys or questionnaires to understand preservice teachers’ flipped classroom experiences.

  3. Utilize an online discussion forum to promote students’ higher order thinking skills (reflective teaching and thinking): Based on students’ responses, the instructor can decide whether he or she should expand the number of flipped classrooms. Furthermore, it is important to utilize the online discussion forum through a learning management system to promote students’ critical thinking skills.

References

Aguirre-Muñoz, Z., Park, J. E., Amabisca, A., & Boscardin, C. K. (2009). Developing teacher capacity for serving ELLs' writing instructional needs: A case for systemic functional linguistics. Bilingual Research Journal, 31(1-2), 295–322.

Cockrum, T. (2014). Flipping your English class to reach all learners: Strategies and lesson plans. New York, NY: Routledge.

de Jong, E. J. (2014). Preparing mainstream teachers for multilingual classrooms. Association of Mexican American Educators Journal, 7(2), 40–49.

Egbert, J., Herman, D., & Lee, H. (2015). Flipped instruction in English language teacher education: A design-based study in a complex, open-ended learning environment. TESL-EJ, 19(2).

Goodwin, B., & Miller, K. (2013). Evidence on flipped classrooms is still coming in. Educational Leadership, 70(6), 78–80.


Yong-Jik Lee is a PhD candidate focusing in ESOL/bilingual education. His research interests include preservice teachers’ ESOL field experience and implementing flipped learning in preservice teachers’ ESOL teacher education.

Tuba Yilmaz is a PhD candidate in ESOL/bilingual education at the University of Florida, Gainesville, where she works as a teaching assistant and field advisor. Her research focuses on translanguaging, boundary crossing, language anxiety, bilingual education, language policy and revitalization, and ELL teacher preparation.

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