Date of Award

Spring 2020

Document Type

USM Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Public Policy


Muskie School of Public Service

First Advisor

Andrea Stairs-Davenport, PhD

Second Advisor

Catherine Fallona, PhD

Third Advisor

Francis J. Troyan, PhD


Language, Learning, Academia, Linguistic Diversity


This study examined the experiences of adolescent English learners (ELs) as they described instruction which advanced their academic achievement generally and their academic language development more specifically. Language is an integral part of classroom learning in all subject areas, and to succeed in school, students especially ELs, need opportunities to develop the specialized academic language that is associated with content learning (Bunch, 2013; Gebhard, 2019; Harman, 2018; Short & Echevarria, 2016; Schleppegrell, 2015; Walqui & Bunch, 2018). Previous scholarship on instructional practices that are most effective for the development of academic language and the academic achievement of ELs has largely been driven by theory related to second language acquisition rather than by empirical evidence. This study explored the unique capacity of student voice to reveal first-hand experience of influential instruction in order to help focus what content teachers should know and do to more effectively instruct their linguistically diverse learners. Six ELs from varied language and cultural backgrounds were interviewed in their senior year of high school using Seidman’s three-interview protocol (Seidman, 2015). The Academic Language Learning in Every Subject (ALLIES) Framework (O’Hare & Pritchard, 2017) was adapted to structure both the interview protocols as well as the data analysis. Student perceptions were largely congruent with the literature and one of several conclusions is that EL student voice is potentially a valuable source of professional learning for teachers.