Culturally responsive pedagogy emerged over the last few decades as a response to address the underachievement of minority students. According to some researchers, teachers can improve ELs’ learning outcomes by using culturally and linguistically responsive teaching practices (Tharp et. al., 2000; Villegas & Lucas, 2002). Culturally responsive teaching practices (a) are based on a socio-constructivist approach to teaching and learning; (b) build on students’ cultural and linguistic resources by accessing prior knowledge and relevant experiences; (c) help students examine curriculum from multiple perspectives; (d) use a variety of assessment practices that promote learning; and (e) make the classroom culturally inclusive of all students (Villegas and Lucas, 2002).
Culturally responsive pedagogy offers a potential solution for addressing the challenges associated with educating ELs. Findings from the 2006 National Literacy Panel’s Report—a comprehensive review of the research on developing literacy among second language learners—suggest that a culturally responsive approach to teaching and learning may be a promising practice for teaching ELs (August and Shanahan, 2006). But the report noted that there is little empirical work to serve as guide for the implementation of effective PD on culturally responsive teaching practices.
The ALD4ALL project inquiry and PL is grounded in sociocultural theory, a social constructivist perspective of teaching and learning. Researchers from this perspective recognize that learning is not only an individual endeavor, it is also socially mediated and context-dependent (Vygotsky, 1978). Individuals are recognized to possess valuable funds of knowledge (Gonzalez, Moll & Amanti, 2005). As a critical component of—and to model a sociocultural approach to —PL, teacher coaching and on-going support are integral components of intervention design (Walqui, 2011). Furthermore, the inquiry takes a generative theoretical approach (Ball, 2009) to designing and delivering professional development.
A generative approach to PL encourages teachers to connect their personal and professional knowledge with what they learn about their students to implement instruction that meets their students’ educational needs, interests, and inquiries (Ball, 2009). The inquiry and the PL is anchored in the research and scholarship pertaining to bilingual education and school improvement including the indicators of effective practices for improving the education of CLD/EL students (Cadiero-Kaplan, 2004). The indicators of effective practices —value of learners, academic language orientation, expectations for learners, instructional goals, resources, and assessment and accountability (Cadiero-Kaplan, 2004)—are the source of inquiry providing a lens and setting the foundation for the ALD4ALL project’s inquiry and PL.
Project Theory of Change
Given the learning from the first year of the project and the feedback of the program officer at the time, the ALD4ALL project worked early in the second year to clarify and document the project’s theory of change. The ALD4ALL project’s theory of change is that by focusing on culturally and linguistically responsive (CLR) pedagogy, collaboration, effective practices, generative learning, and professional growth, at all levels of the school system, we will be able to improve the teaching-learning process for culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students and English Learners (ELs) in our state. The ALD4ALL project began with an inquiry into how effective schools with bilingual multicultural education programs serving CLD and EL students sustain gains in student achievement. The ALD4ALL project aims to sustain the process by providing ongoing resources and support from the PED, and by disseminating information for fostering increased collaboration within each school community.