Building Strong Professional Development for Dual Language Educators

Building strong professional development for dual language (DL) educators requires careful planning and a good understanding of the purpose of dual language. Just like in any content area—math, science, social studies, English language arts—teaching English learners and Spanish learners “requires teachers to have specific knowledge, training and skills in English-language acquisition, assessment, differentiation and intervention, along with fluent bilingual abilities in speaking, listening, reading and writing.” (Weyer, p. 5, 2015). Therefore, teachers benefit when professional development is relevant, tailored to their needs and ongoing.

1. Relevant
Teachers benefit from receiving relevant suggestions that support the goals of the dual language program: bilingualism and biliteracy, high academic achievment in both languages and sociocultural competence. It includes principles of second language development and incorporates practical ideas to promote student engagement and relationship building along with useful comprehensible input techniques. These practices can be demonstrated using meaningful contexts with authentic reading resources and activities in both languages to promote biliteracy development. Furthermore, it includes critical consciousness or culturally sustaining pedagogies, “in which we teach state and national standards in relation to real, local contexts” (Palmer, et al, p. 10, 2019).

2. Tailored to Specific Needs
Dual language educators benefit from receiving PD that is tailored to their needs and in the language of instruction in both English and Spanish. Whether Spanish is the dual language teachers’ first or second language, they benefit from its academic practice (orally and in writing), and also from discussing the importance of translanguaging, “which refers to bilinguals’ use of all the linguistic resources available to them with no artificial separation of languages” (Howard, et al, p. 51, 2018).

3. Ongoing
Dual language educators benefit from professional development that is ongoing. Teachers and administrators can collaboratively set expectations for consistent implementation through a coaching model. Instructional coaches/experienced teachers are a great resource to support colleagues with the implementation of best practices during daily lessons. Rubrics of observable and measurable actions can be developed to indicate expected teacher/student behaviors.

Book studies is another way to continue the ongoing support. Professional learning communities or PLCs can be used to cover a section/chapter of a book. Teachers can read and comment or even model how specific strategies are working in their classrooms.


Staff development that is relevant, tailored to their needs, and ongoing is critical in order to support the goals of a well-established dual language education program. It must be led by the principal who is the ultimate instructional leader and decision maker of the school. The principal must be ready to defend the program by standing up to English-only policies, preparing and setting a clear vision for bilingualism and biliteracy instruction, holding true to the values of social justice and equity (Menken 2017). And finally, with this type of support, dual language teachers will have the necessary tools for the implementation of a high quality and rigorous dual language education program.



Howard, E. R., Lindholm-Leary, K. J., Rogers, D., Olague, N., Medina, J., Kennedy, B., Sugarman, J., & Christian, D. (2018). Guiding Principles for Dual Language Education (3rd ed.). Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics.

Menken, K. (2017). Leadership in Dual Language Bilingual Education. A National Dual Language Forum White Paper. Center of Applied Linguistics, CAL. Downloaded from the www, March 20, 2020.

Palmer, D., Cervantes-Soon, C., Dorner. L., & Heiman, D. (2019): Bilingualism, Biliteracy, Biculturalism, and Critical Consciousness for All: Proposing a Fourth Fundamental Goal for Two-Way Dual Language Education, Theory Into Practice, DOI: 10.1080/00405841.2019.1569376. Downloaded from the www, March 18, 2020.

Weyer, M. (2015). Education Young Dual – and English – Language Learners. Downloaded from the www, March 17, 2020.

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