Blingual school psychologists' experiences consulting with teachers to support English language learners

Elisabeth Cady O'Bryon, University of Rhode Island


The purpose of the present study was to explore the experiences of bilingual school psychologists who consult with teachers who work with English language learners (ELLs). Eleven bilingual school psychologists who are members of the National Association of School Psychologists and who practice across the U.S. participated in the study. Qualitative methods were employed and data obtained through semi-structured interviews were analyzed using manifest and latent content analysis. ^ During the interviews, bilingual school psychologists shared the problems and issues that teachers had educating ELLs; the recommendations they made during consultation; the challenges they experienced when consulting; and the most important thing they learned during their education and training that prepared them to effectively consult. They also discussed what was missing from their education and training; special consultation skills that they believe are important for school psychologists to possess; and what they believe is the most important thing monolingual school psychologists should know to effectively consult with teachers around ELL-related issues or concerns. Participants shed light on the experience of consulting with teachers, provided insight into how to support ELLs through consultation, and provided valuable suggestions for both bi- and monolingual school psychologists who seek to support the educational growth of culturally and linguistically diverse students. ^ The results revealed that bilingual school psychologists were most commonly approached for consultation regarding ELL students' academic concerns, specifically with help parceling out whether difficulties could be attributed to a learning problem or the student's language abilities. The recommendations they made to teachers addressed specific instructional techniques to use with ELL students, as well as a general need to provide ELLs with adequate time to develop English language skills. Participants consistently communicated that there were inadequate school-based resources for ELL students, specifically highlighting the need for improved teacher training related to serving ELLs. Additionally, psychologists cited interpersonal challenges with teachers, including the display of prejudiced and racist attitudes towards diverse students. Participants also reported relevant education and training experiences that contributed to their ability to effectively consult in the area, noting that continuing education opportunities related to serving ELLs were extremely valuable. Most participants reported dissatisfaction with pre-service learning experiences, explaining that professional development and “on-the-job” training filled training gaps. ^ Key consultation skills they identified included an ability to effectively build relationships with teachers, well developed problem identification skills, and a willingness to model interventions. In providing advice for monolingual school psychologists, participants noted how important it is to seek out relevant ELL-related information—be it from school-based resources, colleagues, parents, or experts in the field. ^ Overall, participants communicated a passion for supporting ELL students and a sense of frustration regarding the current state of educational services for ELLs. The experiences of the bilingual school psychologists provide important insights into the unique needs of a heterogeneous ELL population, as well as the needs of teachers educating ELLs, and how school psychologists can advocate for ELL students by helping to promote their academic success. ^ Limitations, as well as qualitative methodological considerations are explored. Numerous implications for ELL students, school psychology, and policy are also discussed. A number of directions for future research arose from the research, including utilizing the results of the present study to inform future mixed method investigations.^

Subject Area

Education, Educational Psychology|Psychology, Counseling

Recommended Citation

Elisabeth Cady O'Bryon, "Blingual school psychologists' experiences consulting with teachers to support English language learners" (2011). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI3488419.