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How to Use Evidence-Based Practice in Bilingual Education

How do bilingual education teachers know whether their teaching and intervention methods help improve learning outcomes? In the past, professional learning communities struggled to provide support for English language learners.

Fortunately, the World-class Instruction Design and Assessment, or WIDA, offers a resource for bilingual education called "English Language Development Standards," consisting of five standards. These standards represent how English language learners will learn to communicate and interact with peers, teachers and curriculum in schools.

Language Development Standards for Bilingual Education

WIDA published "The 2012 Amplification of the English Language Development Standards," a companion to the ELD Standards. This guide describes 15 essential actions to help bilingual educators ensure the academic language success of their ELL students. The first 12 actions focus on instruction, while the remaining three promote effective teacher collaborations.

The standards incorporate evidence-based practice to help teachers verify they use effective interventions based on scientific research studies. Each action contains research-based evidence with references to multiple studies, an explanation of how it ties back to the standards framework, and how to put the action into practice.

As a starting point, teachers can use a self-assessment tool to determine the highest priority actions. From there, they select the actions based on their students' areas of greatest need for improvement.

How Evidence-Based Practice Helps Bilingual Learning

The handbook gives each Action its own section with an explanation, research to support it, how it relates to the WIDA standards framework, and examples. By working with the WIDA handbook, teachers can evaluate and improve student outcomes using proven methods. The standards framework facilitates collaboration and promotes mutual understanding across the spectrum of educators working with ELLs.

"Essential Actions: 15 Research-Based Practices to Increase ELL Student Achievement" gives an example of how to use evidence-based practice. It begins with the school setting a goal, such as, "Increase ELLs state reading scores by 5 percent by May 2019." A team of teachers or the Professional Learning Community (PLC) reviews relevant data -- the state reading scores and language proficiency scores.

Next, they complete the "Needs Assessment, Column A" from the Essentials Actions Handbook, rating how important each action is on a scale of 0 to 5. Each team member identifies the top three Actions to help students reach their goals. The team looks for overlapping priorities and selects one or two as the focus of instruction for six to eight weeks.

At the end of the six or eight weeks, the teacher reassesses the students. The team shares their findings and discusses reflection questions from the selected Action. This will show evidence that the Action improved student learning outcomes, thus evidence-based practice. Then other teachers can apply that evidence-based practice as a guideline on what will work for their students.

Since WIDA developed the standard and companion based on research, it is likely ELL students show improved achievement when their teachers apply the research and tools.

Learn more about Texas A&M International University's online Master of Science in Curriculum and Instruction with a Specialization in Bilingual Education program.


Sources:

WIDA: English Language Development Standards

WIDA: 2012 Amplification of the English Language Development Standards

Colorin Colorado: Essential Actions: 15 Research-Based Practices to Increase ELL Student Achievement

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