Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

First Advisor

Juliet Halladay

Second Advisor

Maeve Eberhardt


This two-year action research project discusses the transitions that English Language Learners (ELLs) experience in moving from remedial second language learning to content-area courses. Two cohorts of twenty-seven ELL students from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East—fifteen students in 2015-16 and twelve in 2016-17— participated in a U.S. History course while attending the pseudonymous West Ackerly High School.

Absent a pedagogical bridge connecting ELL instruction with social studies practice, I created a curriculum that emphasized the democratic principles embedded in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution—concepts that general education students have known almost from birth—as an entry point for ELL students who lacked any knowledge about these documents. I followed this introduction with thematic choices about immigration, imperialism, Westward Expansion, the Civil War, Reconstruction, civil rights, and current events. We examined the social construct of race, and how it weaves through American society.

My combined roles of practitioner and researcher created a unique awareness of the principles of second language instruction, especially best practices and co-teaching strategies that merged language learning and content instruction. I then evaluated students’ critical thinking and teachers’ methods of working with ELL students, experienced the value associated with co-teaching, and developed practical techniques to bring content knowledge into the ELL curriculum as a way to aid students in their transitions.

In two journal articles (Chapters Three and Four), I combine “scholarship and story,” reminiscent of Ladson-Billings’ The Dreamkeepers (2009), in a personal scholarly narrative about co-teaching U.S. History. Both Ladson-Billings’ narrative and the stories about the West Ackerly immigrant students describe the struggle that children of color experience. My reflections about co-teaching revealed innovative ideas that emerged from our practice, helped us better understand the backgrounds of our students, explored best practices for ELL instruction, and showed how an adapted mainstream U.S. History curriculum could work for second language learners.

The second article describes Socratic Seminar techniques that contribute to students’ learning and discourse development, with scaffolded instruction that incorporates the application of Common Core principles based on the work of Zwiers, O’Hara, and Pritchard (2014). I describe a thematic approach to U.S. History instruction that avoids “covering” all the material while highlighting what students need to know in order to function in American society.

Hopefully, this work will bring greater awareness of the struggles experienced by ELL students in their academic and cultural transitions. In the end, I hope secondary teachers and administrators will understand that ELL students require extensive skill development around reading, writing, and research in order to transition into—and then successfully navigate—content-area classes.



Number of Pages

267 p.