Editor’s note: In this piece Aída Walqui, Director of WestEd’s new Research and Development Center for Improving Education for English Learners in Secondary Schools, shares information about a timely series of conversations with scholars working on schooling for English Learners.

There is an urgent and compelling need to better understand and address the needs of English Learners in American schools—not only because of the size of this population, but also because so many of these students are not being provided quality opportunities to learn, thus wasting their valuable potential.

For example, in secondary schools many students have been designated as “English Learners” throughout their education (and have consequently seen their opportunities to follow a rigorous curriculum diminished since they need to take English language development classes). They have now become “Long Term English Learners.” Along with two other types of English Learners—Newcomers and SIFE (Students with Interrupted Formal Education) students—they face two particularly daunting types of challenges as they simultaneously develop English language proficiency and subject-matter knowledge: barriers to enrollment in challenging courses(e.g., Thompson, 2017; Umansky, 2016) and scarcity of quality learning opportunities (e.g., Kibler et al., 2019; Walqui et al., 2010).

To address these concerns, Dr. Aída Walqui is leading a series of talks online through August 20th. This series of conversations is entitled “Perspectives on English Language Learning: Aída Walqui in Conversation with Leading Scholars.” Dr. Walqui directs the Quality Teaching for English Learners initiative at WestEd. She is joined by nationally and internationally renowned linguists and educators who have made significant contributions to the study of multilingualism and education. Together they explore reconceptualizations needed in order to provide students with educational activity that develops their potential.

All sessions have a different but complementary focus on research advances in the education of English Learners. The sessions are organized thematically and are free for anyone to attend.

Sessions will take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9am Pacific Time. The interviews with Australian scholars will be at 3pm Pacific Time, 8am AEST (in Melbourne, Australia). Each session will run for 60 minutes.

Registration is free but is required for each individual session. Registered participants will receive a list of readings and biographies of the guests. Registered participants will also have an opportunity to submit questions for the interviewee up to one week prior to the day of the session. Click here to learn more.

Here is the list of the remaining presentation dates, the speakers, and their titles:

  • Tuesday, August 4th: Jenny Hammond, University of Technology, Sydney, The role of talk in learning: Implications for recently arrived EAL and refugee background students in mainstream classes.
  • Thursday, August 6th: Beverly Derewianka, University of Wollongong, Australia. A meaning-oriented model of language for the classroom.
  • Tuesday, August 11th: Magaly Lavadenz, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, Salient themes in the education of multilingual students in the United States.
  • Thursday, August 13th: Amanda Kibler, Oregon State University, Reconceptualizing the role of critical dialogue in the education of English Learners.
  • Tuesday, August 18th: Meg Gebhard, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Teaching disciplinary literacies in hard times that just got harder.
  • Thursday, August 20th: Diane Larsen-Freeman, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, From acquisition to development: Reconceptualizing educators work with English Learners.

Please join us for these conversations! However, in case you cannot register and attend, the sessions will be recorded and posted online at this page a few weeks after the events are completed.


Kibler, A., Molloy Elreda, L., Hemmler, V., Arbeit, M., Beeson, R., & Johnson, H. (2019). Building linguistically integrated classroom communities: The role of teacher practices. American Educational Research Journal, 56(3), 676–715.

Thompson, K. D. (2017). What blocks the gate? Exploring current and former English learners’ math course-taking in secondary school. American Educational Research Journal, 54(4), 757-798.

Umansky, I. (2016). To be or not to be EL: An examination of the impact of classifying students as English learners. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 38(4), 714-737.

Walqui, A., Koelsch, N., & Hamburger, L. (2010). What are we doing to middle school English learners? Findings and recommendations for change from a study of California EL programs. (Research report). WestEd.