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Developing Educator Expertise to Work with Adolescent English Learners
Module 1 – Introduction to Key Constructs

By Aída Walqui

OVERVIEW    |    INTRODUCTION    |   PART 1   |     PART 2   |    PART 3   |   REFERENCES

Part 1: What Is Teacher Expertise and How Does It Develop?


Teacher expertise weaves together knowledge (possessed internally by the teacher, who is capable of expressing it) and the ability to translate that knowledge into classroom practice with learners. That is, teacher expertise encompasses both knowing and doing.

Activity 1.1: Capturing current understandings — “What I think …”

Participants will engage in: individual note-taking

Duration: 5 minutes


  • Invite participants to take 5 minutes to jot down on a piece of paper the characteristics that they think a good teacher of English Learners needs to have.

  • Have participants add what they consider to be problems in the development of those features in current and future teachers.

Participants’ ideas will be used in a subsequent activity in this module and will help them track their evolving expertise throughout the module.

The next activity explores the diverse elements that comprise the expertise of accomplished teachers of English Learners.

Activity 1.2: Building our own model of an accomplished teacher of adolescent English Learners

Participants will engage in: individual reflection, group discussion, and gallery walk

Duration: 15–20 minutes

Note: This activity should only be done in face-to-face, in-person settings.


  • Group participants in tables of 4–6. Place sticky notes on each table.

  • Ask participants to think of a wonderful teacher they either had or observed when they were adolescents. Invite them to think about the specific characteristics that defined that teacher and to record each characteristic on a sticky note. (For example, if they said “beautiful smile,” then they should use a sticky note to record that characteristic.) Give participants about 5 minutes for this quiet, individual work.

  • Next, ask participants to talk, taking turns, and share the characteristics they wrote on their sticky notes. As they name each characteristic, they should place the sticky note face up in the center of the table, so that everybody can read it.

  • Once everybody has placed their characteristics in the center of the table, all participants stand up and begin moving the Post-It Notes to cluster the characteristics in meaningful ways, grouping those that seem to belong together.

  • Within their small groups, participants now analyze the clusters of characteristics in order to construct a model of the domains of expertise that an accomplished teacher of English Learners has. Working together, they label the categories, or domains, of the clusters of characteristics.

  • Explain to participants that models serve as organizers that, in this case, map the domains that constitute the knowledge, dispositions, emotions, and abilities of accomplished teachers working with English Learners.

  • Participants construct their model on a big piece of paper, adding connections across elements or pictures to create their conceptual organizer. They name the domains with the labels that the group came up with. They then put their posters on the walls, leaving enough space between them so that all participants can rotate and observe each poster.

  • Give participants 5 minutes to do a gallery walk in which they move around the room to observe the different models of the domains of expertise that an accomplished teacher of English Learners has. Their charge is to notice commonalities and differences in the models produced by the diverse groups of participants and to have their thoughts ready for a group discussion.


Activity 1.3: Reflecting on the development of teacher expertise to work with English Learners

Participants will engage in: individual reading and note-taking (homework) and in-class group discussion

Reading: The Development of Teacher Expertise to Work With Adolescent English Learners: A Model and a Few Priorities (Walqui, 2010)



  • Assign the book chapter as homework reading for participants. Ask them to focus mainly on the model of teacher understanding (found on pp. 117–123).

  • Ask participants to jot down their responses to the following prompts as they read the chapter and to be ready to share their responses in face-to-face discussion:


  1. Understand the domains of teacher expertise that Walqui adapted from Lee Shulman’s model. Be able to define the domains.

  2. Does the model cover the essential elements you had in mind as you constructed your own model of teacher understanding?

  3. Is there anything that surprised you about this model?

  4. How does the adaptation of Shulman’s model compare with the model that you and your colleagues prepared (in Activity 1.2)?


  • Have participants sit in groups of four to discuss their responses (for about 10 minutes).

  • Have them review the diagram of the model

  • Then have each group choose one idea that they discussed to share with the larger group.

  • Have each group share their idea with the whole class (for a total of about 5 minutes).

  • The instructor should then wrap up the discussion with some comments.


Activity 1.4: Expanding our understanding of the model of an accomplished teacher of English Learners

Participants will engage in: video clip viewing and discussion in pairs

Video clip: Domains of Teacher Expertise

Duration: 20 minutes (15 minutes for viewing, 5 minutes for a two-way discussion)

Transcript   |   Audio Track

00:00 / 15:38


  • Have participants watch a clip from a presentation on the adaptation of the Shulman model of teacher understanding.

  • As participants watch the clip, ask them to think about how the presentation has expanded their understanding of the model of an accomplished teacher of English Learners.

  • After watching the clip, group participants in pairs and ask them to discuss how the presentation expanded each of their understandings. Both partners should be sure to share their thoughts and take turns listening to each other.


Activity 1.5: Revisiting and Amplifying the model of an accomplished teacher of English Learners

Participants will engage in: video clip viewing and discussion in pairs

Video clip: Silent Graffiti

Duration: 5 minutes

Transcript   |   Audio Track

00:00 / 03:15


  • Have participants watch a 5-minute video clip from an English language arts / social studies class at Voyages Preparatory in Queens, New York.

  • Participants can read two optional readings for more information on the lesson

Background on the video clip

The teacher, Ms. Glick, is beginning a lesson about the power of protest. This is the third activity in the lesson. In the first activity, which Ms. Glick calls “Silent Graffiti,” students sitting at tables of four or five people have been given a poster with a picture of Colin Kaepernick, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, glued to the center. The lesson was designed to begin the 2016/17 academic year — right after Kaepernick’s protest when he knelt before a game as the national anthem was played on August 14, 2016 — so the incident was fresh in students’ minds. Ms. Glick has asked her students to each choose a different color marker and to silently take three minutes to jot down, using their marker, their reactions to and questions about the incident and the picture. Students also have to sign their names on the poster using their identifying marker.

For the second task, and still asking them to be silent, Ms. Glick invites her students to stand up and rotate, reading their peers’ notes and responding to them by writing their comments or questions on the posters.

Now participants watch the third activity of the class, the Round Robin. Each student takes a turn and expresses their ideas about Kaepernick’s protest.

All the students in Ms. Glick’s class are classified as Long-term English Learners. That is, they have been classified by their district or school as English Learners for six years or more. Students in the clip are from the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Estonia, Namibia, and Mexico.

These three activities constitute the beginning of a lesson that is going to explore the famous protest of two American runners, Tommy Smith and John Carlos, at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City and their unlikely friendship with an Australian runner, Peter Norman.

Optional Reading

The following chapters provide more information on this lesson:

  • Designing the amplified lesson (Walqui, 2019)

  • Affordances in the development of student voice and agency: The case of bureaucratically labelled Long-term English Learners (Glick & Walqui, 2020)


Activity 1.6: Discussion the domains of teacher expertise

Participants will engage in: group discussion

Duration: 10 minutes


After participants have watched the video clip from Activity 1.5, lead them through the following steps:

  • Invite them to think about which domains of teacher expertise the teacher (although she is not seen in the video) appears to have.

  • What is their evidence?

  • Invite them to share their ideas with their tablemates (for approximately 3 minutes) and to agree on a question to share with the whole group if they have one.

  • As a whole group, have them raise any questions that they have.

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