Fundamental to the hypothesis-driven approach to assessing the special-education (SPED) needs of English learners (ELs) is the awareness that behaviors often exhibited by ELs may mirror indicators of learning disabilities (e.g., difficulty comprehending text, difficulty following directions, lack of appropriate classroom behavior, lack of attention). We surveyed 330 school professionals to examine their perceptions about four mirrored behaviors displayed by ELs during instruction, as indicators of either a second-language difficulty or a learning disability. Only 31% of the respondents correctly indicated that none of the behaviors can distinguish these two possibilities. The probability of correct assessment was positively associated with the level of English-as-a-Second Language (ESL) training for those with less than 15 years of teaching experience and negatively associated for those with more than 20 years of experience. Correct assessment was positively associated with years of teaching experience for those with no ESL training but negatively associated for those with any level of ESL training. Correct assessment was not generally associated with the level of SPED training. From these results, we derive recommendations for improving the training of all pre- and in-service teachers in ESL instruction to better equip them to discriminate ELs’ language difficulties from learning disabilities.
Lopes-Murphy, Solange A. and Murphy, Christopher G.
"English Learning and Learning Disabilities: Has Research Made Its Way into Practice?,"
Mid-Western Educational Researcher: Vol. 32:
4, Article 3.
Available at: https://scholarworks.bgsu.edu/mwer/vol32/iss4/3