Efficacy of the BELLA Program: ESL and Classroom Teachers Working Together with Students and Families
Purpose: The purpose of this study is to evaluate the impact of the Bridging English Language Learning and Academics (BELLA) professional development program (previously known as Developing Consultation and Collaboration Skills; DCCS). Despite the large number of English learner (EL) students in K–12 classrooms, a majority of classroom teachers have not had specialized training in instruction for these students. Relatedly, school district administrators have indicated a need for teacher professional development on understanding cultural issues, assessing student progress, and developing instructional strategies for ELs. The BELLA program aims to address these issues by 1) providing English as a second language (ESL) and classroom teachers with a framework and skills for collaboration; 2) developing teachers' skills in implementing high-impact instructional strategies in key literacy domains; and 3) facilitating teachers' incorporation of Latino families' cultural wealth into the classroom.
Project Activities: The researchers will evaluate the efficacy of BELLA, a professional development intervention that supports ESL and classroom teachers to develop their skills in collaboration, literacy instruction, and parent outreach and engagement for their Latino students. The study uses a cluster randomized trial design, with randomization at the school level. The research team will evaluate BELLA's impact on teacher practices related to the program's three focus areas, and on a variety of student language and literacy skills including phonics, word recognition, writing, comprehension, and vocabulary.
Products: Products from this project include evidence for the efficacy of the BELLA intervention to improve the practices of classroom teachers and ESL teachers, and language and literacy outcomes for Latino ELs. The researchers will also produce peer-reviewed publications.
Setting: This study will take place in public elementary schools from eight school districts in North Carolina.
Sample: The study will include a total of 70 schools, 350 teachers, and 840 students across four cohorts. Each cohort will include ESL teachers, kindergarten and first grade classroom teachers, and the Latino English Learners (ELs) in their classrooms. ESL teachers and four classroom teachers at one grade level from each school will apply to participate in the BELLA as a school team. Students in participating teachers' classrooms who receive direct instruction from the ESL teacher and speak Spanish as their first language are eligible to participate.
Intervention: The intervention is a year-long teacher professional development program that includes four components: the BELLA Institute; two full day follow-up modules throughout the school year; ongoing instructional coaching; and weekly collaboration meetings between the ESL and classroom teachers. At the BELLA Institute, teachers are introduced to key concepts such as cultural wealth, second language learning, general and specific instructional strategies for EL literacy, and a collaboration model for instructional planning. During the follow-up modules, one or two instructional strategies are highlighted, after which teachers create lesson plans using a cultural wealth approach and books and materials from their own classrooms. Instructional coaching is provided every six weeks using the Implementation Coaching framework. Coaching activities occur in an iterative, step-wise fashion and include reviewing instructional strategies and student proficiency data, creating lesson plans, modeling strategies, observing teachers and providing feedback, incorporating cultural wealth, and supporting parent outreach.
Research Design and Methods: The study design is a cluster randomized trial with four one-year cohorts. In each of the first four study years, researchers will randomly assign schools to either the BELLA intervention or the control group at the beginning of the school year. After random assignment, the team will collect baseline data about teacher practices and student literacy, and conduct classroom observations in all classrooms (treatment and control). Subsequent to this baseline data collection, treatment school teachers will attend the BELLA institute and begin their participation in the intervention. The researchers will conduct three additional classroom observations over the course of each school year to collect information about teacher practices and student engagement. They will also collect two additional waves of student achievement data, at the mid-point and end of the school year. All teachers will also repeat a survey about their practices at the end of the school year. Once all data collection and implementation are complete for the year, control teachers will be offered a one-day BELLA workshop and provided with all the instructional materials and videos from the intervention.
Control Condition: Teachers in the control condition will interact with one another and instruct their EL students as normal. The researchers will collect information about control teachers' prior training in EL instructional strategies, and about the teaching practices and literacy programs these teachers report using in their classrooms. The researchers also will conduct observations in control classrooms and collect information from ESL and literacy coordinators to fully understand the approach and services at the school level.
Key Measures: For classroom observations, the team will use measures such as the BELLA Observation Tool and The Early Language and Literacy Classroom Observation-Dual Language Learners (ELLCO-DLL) and the Mainstream Code for Instructional Structure and Student Academic Response (MS-CISSAR). The research team will measure student language and literacy skills with the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) for Primary Grades. Teachers will provide information about their practices and training via survey.
Data Analytic Strategy: The research team will analyze the data using three-level hierarchical linear and multilevel structural equation modeling with autoregressive repeated measures within students, nested in classroom teachers, nested in schools with district fixed effects. They will also explore student, teacher, and parent mediators and moderators of the relationship between the BELLA intervention and students' language and literacy outcomes.Related IES Projects: Developing Consultation and Collaboration Skills: ESL and Classroom Teachers Working Together with Students and Families (R305A120290); BELLA Online: ESL and Classroom Teachers Working Together with Children and Families (R305A220311)