Labeling English Learners: Teachers’ Perceptions and Implications

Lavern Byfield


In the U. S., given the growing number of students who are speakers of languages other than English, this article brings attention to a need for a nuanced perspective on the definition of English learners. The study was designed to investigate teachers’ perceptions of English learners and the implications for classroom instruction. Teachers classified English learners as Latinos and conflated race and ethnicity with language proficiency. Although Amish students were included on classroom demographic forms, race/ethnicity and language were confused in teachers’ explanations of their accommodations for linguistically diverse students. In conflating language with race/ethnicity there are several implications for the Latina/o community and likewise for White bilingual communities with mostly deficit frames that are enacted in pedagogy for Latinos.


Teachers’ Perceptions, English Learners, Labeling

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