Date of Award



© 2017 Elizabeth Hallett

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Michelle Collay

Second Advisor

Kim Roberts-Morandi

Third Advisor

Paul Abraham


This multiple-case study examines teachers’ self-efficacy, or perceptions of their effectiveness, when differentiating between typical language acquisition difficulties and possible learning disabilities in English Language Learners (ELLs) who are challenged academically. Five mainstream elementary teachers from a mid-sized urban school district in the northeastern United States participated in the study. Data from individual interviews, meeting observations and artifacts were collected from each of the participants. Meeting observations occurred during each participant’s Integrated Learning Team meetings. During interviews, participants described their experiences working with ELLs who struggled more than typical ELLs and presented an artifact representing experiences teaching such students. Across all five cases, key themes emerged, including (1) Character and Personal Experiences, (2) Collaboration with Colleagues/Support from School Administration, (3) Understanding the “Whole Child”, and (4) Professional Development and Training. A cross-case analysis revealed divergence in several sub-themes: Linguistic/Cultural Experiences, Years of Classroom Experience, Reviewing Multiple Types of Data, Comparison between ELL Peers, Using Response to Intervention with ELLs, and Effective Strategies for ELLs. Five findings show that cultural exposure, collaboration among colleagues, reviewing ELL student data, meaningful professional development and teachers’ years of classroom experience contribute to teachers’ self-efficacy when making decisions to investigate possible learning disabilities in ELLs. Implications for educators include the need for consistent communication with colleagues and school leaders and the importance of sharing best practices for teaching struggling ELLs. Implications for administrators and school leaders involve the importance of regular collaboration for educators to review ELL student data and plan targeted modifications for instruction. Implications for school districts focus on the need for meaningful professional development in second language acquisition theory and culturally responsive pedagogy. Further research is needed to explore the self-efficacy of culturally and linguistically diverse teachers and teachers from schools and districts with small numbers of ELLs.


Ed.D. Dissertation