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Development and Validation of the Mathematics Teachers Beliefs About

English Language Learners Survey (MTBELL)

Linda Gann Emily P. Bonner
Boerne ISD University of Texas at San Antonio

Christine Moseley
University of Texas at San Antonio

Given the increasing number of English Language Learners (ELLs) in secondary mathematics classrooms, it is
imperative that mathematics teacher educators develop measures for determining how and why secondary mathematics
teachers (SMTs) understand and respond instructionally to these students. This paper reports on the initial development
and validation of the Mathematics Teachers Beliefs about English Language Learners survey, an instrument that
measures SMTs beliefs, attitudes, knowledge base, and instructional practices in relation to meeting the academic and
language needs of ELLs. Through piloting processes, the instrument was refined for a research study through which
reliability and validity were established. The five constructs identified from exploratory factor analysis illustrate
perceived opportunities and barriers in meeting ELLs academic and language needs among SMTs.

Student populations in the United States are becoming students of limited English proficiency (National Center
more diverse (Contreras, 2011; United States Census for Education Statistics, 2002). Data shared by the
Bureau, 2009, 2013) and the number of early elementary National Center for Education Statistics (Synder & Dillow,
children speaking a language at home other than English 2013) convey an alarming disparity of success with math-
has nearly doubled since 1970 (United States Census ematics assessments and graduation from high school
Bureau, 2013). School structures, however, have mini- based upon parameters of ethnicity, English proficiency,
mally changed to meet the needs of students from cultur- and socioeconomic status. Further, research indicates that
ally and linguistically diverse backgrounds (Goldenberg & ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and the level of English
Coleman, 2010; Muhammad, 2009). The Brown Paradox, proficiency do impact academic achievement (Lubienski,
as described by Contreras (2011), represents this incon- 2002; Tate, 1997). These factors do not necessarily corre-
gruity, particularly between the rising number of school- late with student ability to learn and understand mathemat-
aged Latino children and the significant gap they ics; rather, these factors mediate student access to
experience in educational achievement, access, and inte- mathematical content. Ladson-Billings (2011) has
gration into the social and economic fabric of the United extended this line of thought, expressing concerns for
States (p. 2). The resulting challenges that all English other external factors influencing students academic
language learners (ELLs) face prevent their attainment of achievement, such as teacher quality and effectiveness,
the same level of secondary and post-secondary success as school structures, and availability of needed resources. As
other populations (Menken, 2010; Menken & Kleyn, such, the popular, dominant assumption that all students
2010; Ruiz-de-Velasco, Fix, & Chu Clewell, 2000; United can learn at the same level of mastery and on the same
States Census Bureau, 2009). Consequently, the issue of timetable, regardless of these external factors, perpetuates
preparing teachers for diverse classrooms, especially deficit views of students from diverse backgrounds
working with ELLs, is relevant and imperative (Woodrow, 2003). This presents a challenge for mathemat-
(Echevarris, Frey, & Fisher, 2015). ics teachers, particularly in geographic areas where pre-
Secondary ELLs, particularly those in schools with dominantly white, middle class mathematics teachers are
small ELL populations, typically spend the majority of the teaching students with limited English proficiency. These
school day in mainstream classes and attend ESL classes mathematics teachers need the skills and knowledge to
for one or two class periods. Yet, teachers in those main- bridge the cultural gaps that are inherent in the mathemat-
stream classrooms are largely untrained to work with ics classroom.
ELLs (Reeves, 2006); only 12.5% of U.S. teachers have For teachers to meet the academic and language needs
received eight or more hours of recent training to teach of ELLs, the educational focus must go beyond some
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initial instruction in the students first language or more found that teacher ethnicity, experiences, and education
effective teaching of English (Cummins, 1995, p. 64). influence beliefs, which in turn impact work with ELLs
Rather, the association between teachers beliefs and (Cahnmann & Remillard, 2002; McLeman & Fernandes,
instructional practices related to ELLs must be under- 2012). Sociocultural factors also influence preservice
stood. Because student populations are experiencing lin- teachers evolving beliefs and practices (Flores,
guistic shifts across the nation, numerous researchers have 2001).
explored the perspectives of teachers of ELLs (Cummins, Ultimately, teachers instructional decisions are influ-
2000; Fu, 1995; Harklau, 1994, 1999, 2000; Lucas, 1997; enced by their beliefs, which are framed by their experi-
Lucas, Henze, & Donato, 1990; Mace-Matluck, ences (Gay, 2010). Subsequently, instructional decisions
Alexander-Kasparik, & Queen, 1998; Valdes, 2001; influence the effectiveness of instruction in meeting the
Walqui, 2000) and English-as-a-second-language (ESL) academic and language needs of ELLs. There is limited
students (Creese, 2002; Johnson, 1999; Johnson & research, however, that explicitly investigates secondary
Golombek, 2002). However, there has been limited mathematics teachers (SMTs) attitudes and beliefs about
research regarding mainstream teacher perspectives on ELLs learning secondary-level mathematics content and
ELL inclusion, and the experiences of secondary teachers, how these beliefs translate into practice (Fernandes &
in particular, have received little research attention McLeman, 2012). In order to explore the complex forces
(Reeves, 2006). In contrast, there is abundant research on impacting ELLs success, a baseline understanding of sec-
supporting science and reading teachers in acquisition of ondary mathematics teachers beliefs, attitudes, and
knowledge and instructional strategies for supporting instructional practices regarding the academic and lan-
ELLs (Janzen, 2008; Slavin & Cheung, 2005; Stoddart, guage needs of ELLs is needed. This knowledge would
Pinal, Latzke, & Canaday, 2002). Mathematics is a some- contribute to the improvement of the effectiveness of pro-
what under-researched discipline, perhaps because of a fessional learning opportunities in shifting beliefs and atti-
misguided belief that math is less difficult for ELLs tudes of SMTs, while enhancing their instructional
because it is based on a language of numbers (p. 1017). practices in order to increase the educational achievements
The underlying belief that mathematics is a universal lan- of ELLs. As such, the authors sought to gain a better
guage void of cultural influences can be most readily understanding of SMT beliefs and practices in relation to
addressed through support of mathematics teachers teaching ELLs based on the emerging constructs derived
efforts in understanding and meeting the needs of ELLs. from a literature review. An instrument that focuses spe-
In general, classroom practices among teachers are cifically on measuring SMTs beliefs and attitudes about
impacted by many interrelated factors (i.e., school struc- teaching ELLs was not found in the literature. As such, the
tures, curriculum, time) with teacher beliefs about particu- purpose of this study was to develop such an instrument,
lar groups of students among the most significant of these the Mathematics Teachers Beliefs about English Lan-
factors (Agudelo-Valderrama, 2008; Aguirre & Speer, guage Learners (MTBELL) survey, to measure secondary
1999; Beswick, 2007). Researchers have probed into the mathematics teachers beliefs, attitudes, knowledge base,
many facets of teacher beliefs, how beliefs impact instruc- and instructional practices in relation to meeting the aca-
tional practice, and common challenges in negotiating demic and language needs of ELLs.
teacher beliefs and best practices (Beswick, 2006; Bolden
& Newton, 2008; Cahnmann & Remillard, 2002; Tan, Theoretical Framework
2011). Research studies in these areas have focused on This research study is grounded in the idea that teach-
understanding the power of teachers beliefs on teaching ing behavior cannot be understood apart from the thought
mathematics (Agudelo-Valderrama, 2008; Gregg, 1995; processes of the teacher (Au, 1990, p. 27), and knowl-
Perry, Howard, & Tracey, 1999; Schutz, Cross, Hong, & edge is socially produced, bound up with social values
Osbon, 2007) and teaching ELLs (Dekutoski, 2011; Flores and socially regulated (Pepin, 1999, p. 132). More spe-
& Smith, 2007; Goldstein, 2011; Mantero & McVicker, cifically, mathematics instruction is viewed through a
2006; Reeves, 2006), particularly at the elementary school Vygotskian lens where social construction of knowing
level. Findings indicate that a teachers native language, evolves into actions (Vygotsky, 1986). According to
age, and assigned teaching discipline to be particularly Vygotsky, all learning exists within a social setting, inter-
influential on beliefs about inter-culturalism and second nalized by the individual and transmitted back to society,
language acquisition (Llurda & Lasagabaster, 2010). and requires the use of cultural tools, both physical and
Further, studies of elementary mathematics teachers have abstract, which are inseparable from the individual. This
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sociocultural framework allowed us, as researchers, to culturally responsive mathematics teaching is lacking in
consider cultural, economic, historical, political, and todays schools. Given these frames, this study includes a
social factors, which in turn influence the actions and focus on items that address teacher beliefs relevant to
beliefs of teachers in relation to educational practices. cultural factors. Further, we relied on items that situate
Teachers are situated in the social and cultural context of teachers and students in a sociocultural context based in
resources and events, past and present. Thus, once teachers culture, language, and norms.
understand the social, cultural, and political nature of
schooling ELLs, there are professional knowledge, skills, Methodology
and dispositions that teachers need to know in order to Very limited published research that specifically focuses
optimize the learning of both content and language by on secondary mathematics teachers beliefs, attitudes, and
ELLs (Nilles, lvarez, & Rios, 2006, p. 45). Through knowledge base regarding ELLs was found. Thus, the
social interactions within group practices and surround- proposed MTBELL survey was developed from items on
ings, teachers have learned and internalized thoughts several related, vetted instruments, including the Self-
regarding their beliefs (Lave & Wenger, 1991). A Efficacy Beliefs about Equitable Mathematics Teaching
Vygotskian lens exposes the complexity of teachers (SEBEMT) survey, which addresses language minority
assimilation and internalization of knowledge and students, the Mathematics Education of English Learners
instructional practices and their appropriation of these Scale (MEELS) that addresses mathematics as a cultural
practices. practice, and the English as a Second Language (ESL) in
Socially and culturally defined experiences shape teach- Mainstream Classrooms survey, which focuses on the
ers beliefs, attitudes, and instructional practices (Flores, inclusion of English learners, the impact of inclusion, pro-
Hernndez, Trevio Garca, & Claeys, 2011). Based on fessional development, and teacher support (Reeves,
these experiences, teachers actions and interactions rep- 2006). It is important to note that the development of the
resent the social and cultural practices within their MTBELL was necessary as none of these surveys (or
schools domain. When teachers interact with each other, others found in the literature) focused specifically on sec-
they can either perpetuate the established norms or unite to ondary mathematics teachers and ELLs. Other surveys
change practices. It is important to consider that teachers may have included secondary mathematics teachers, but
develop their craft on a continuum as they progress also spanned K-12 education in general. As such, this
through a complex multidimensional experience instrument was designed with a unique population in
grounded not only in academic, personal, or professional mind. Face and content validity of this survey were estab-
interactions, but also in engaging them as members of a lished through five questions at the end of a pilot survey
community of practice (Flores et al., 2011, p. 368). given to 30 middle school mathematics teachers. Univari-
Teachers derive their dispositions about teaching math- ate analyses of the survey data included percentages, mea-
ematics, instructional practices, and who they are as math- sures of central tendency, and standard deviations.
ematics teachers from their social interactions and The SEBEMT survey (Flores, Claeys, Gist, Clark, &
practices among members of their mathematics colleagues Villarreal, 2015), an adapted version of the Self-Efficacy
(Adler, 1998). This sociocultural influence extends from Beliefs about Equitable Science Teaching (SEBEST)
teachers to a community of educators as they are inducted survey by Ritter, Boone, and Rubba (2001b), contains
into established practices and expectations. Teachers who items that addresses language minority students. The
believe that the study of mathematics is less difficult for Cronbachs alpha reliability coefficient for the overall
ELLs because it is based on a language of numbers SEBEMT was .966 (n = 28). High reliability was observed
ignore their students diversity and language needs on the SEBEMTs two constructs: Personal Mathematics
(Janzen, 2008, p. 1017). Educators one-size-fits-all Teaching Efficacy ( = .95) and Mathematics Teaching
instructional practices, regardless of students academic Outcome Expectancy ( = .954) subscales. The SEBEST
and background differences, maintain the achievement was found to have a reliability coefficient of .87 on the
gap between ELLs and other students (Abedi & Lord, 34-item SEBEST, with reliability coefficients of .83 and
2001). Based on the existing gap in academic achievement .78 on its two subscales (Ritter, Boone, & Rubba, 2001a).
between ELLs and general populations in mathematics, The MEELS by Fernandes and McLeman (2012) con-
and research acknowledging a lack of teacher preparation tains 26 items that addresses teaching, language in school
regarding ELLs (Echevarria, Short, & Powers, 2006), it context, fairness, language and mathematics, and culture.
may be assumed, from a sociocultural perspective, that Face validity of the MEELS was established through three
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questions at the end of the pilot survey that determined the Additionally, two constructs that centered on language
readability and clarity of the survey, content validity was and mathematics and language in the context of school and
established by consulting 10 experts in mathematics edu- classroom were determined to be critical in relevance to
cation, and principal component factor analysis along with teachers meeting the language acquisition needs of ELLs.
varimax rotation was used to determine the construct Survey items from the MEELS by Fernandes and
validity. Cronbachs coefficient alphas were determined McLeman (2012) contains items that addressed Language
for each of the five constructs in the survey: Beliefs about in School Context and Language and Mathematics. Since
teaching (.79), Beliefs about language in the school there is a difference between social language and the lan-
context (.73), Beliefs about fairness (.66), Beliefs about guage of mathematics studies, it was necessary to investi-
the interconnection of language and mathematics (.59), gate both aspects of language.
and Beliefs about culture (.48). The researchers carefully Addressing underpinnings of culturally responsive
looked at each item on the three aforementioned surveys. teaching, the construct of Professional Development and
The items were next clustered by construct and labeled Teaching ELLs, aspects of Culture, and the concept of
accordingly. The first two clusters of items are related to Fairness when teaching ELLs, drawn from the MEELS,
the ideology of Teaching ELLs and ELLs and Mathemat- were also included in the MTBELL survey. Gay (2010)
ics, respectively. The third cluster of items focuses on the stressed the critical importance of teachers knowledge of
construct of Language and Mathematics, asking the SMTs diverse cultures, caring for culturally and linguistically
to reflect upon the ideology of mathematics as a language. diverse students, and the congruency of instruction in
The fourth cluster focuses on Language in School Context, meeting the needs of these students.
and the four final constructs include Inclusion and Impact The instrument development process involved the use of
of Inclusion, Fairness, Culture and Professional Develop- practitioner and content expert feedback with respect to
ment and Teacher Support. content and language of items within the survey and the
These particular constructs were developed using a two- use of appropriate reliability and factor analyses to
pronged approach. First, the researchers created a list of examine the structure of the survey. Following standard
constructs (Nardi, 2006) that was deemed important measurement criteria for developing valid and reliable
regarding secondary mathematics teachers beliefs, atti- measures, the items on the MTBELL were subjected to
tudes, and knowledge base. Second, the researchers gener- multiple cycles of development, expert reviews, pilot
ated a list of vetted instruments with validity and reliability testing, validation, and revision.
aligned with the study. When the two prongs merged, A seven-point Likert scale (Strongly Agree, Agree,
survey items were compiled from published studies. Somewhat Agree, Uncertain, Somewhat Disagree, Dis-
In particular, understanding teachers attitudes toward agree, and Strongly Disagree) was used in the design of
the inclusion of ELLs and the impact teachers felt about the MTBELL survey in order to allow respondents to
meeting the needs of ELLs were believed essential for the express finer differences in judgment and therefore gives a
research. These survey items, listed under the construct better chance of discriminating between groups
title Inclusion and Impact of Inclusion, were taken from (Sapsford, 2007, pp. 22627). Following the 40 Likert-
Reevess (2006) survey, English as a Second Language based survey items, there are two open-ended questions
(ESL) in Mainstream Classrooms. Another construct from for SMTs to list or describe specific aspects regarding
the Reeves survey, Professional Development and teaching secondary mathematics to ELLs.
Teacher Support, was included due to its potential contri- Initially, a panel of three practitioner experts with exper-
bution to understanding secondary mathematics teachers tise in both mathematics and bilingual education pedagogy
attitudes toward effective professional, school, and district reviewed the items on the MTBELL to assess content and
support. Reliability data were not available for Reeves face validity for instrument clarity and offer concrete
survey. suggestions for improving the measure (Rubio,
Another perspective of understanding secondary math- Berg-Weger, Tebb, Lee, & Rauch, 2003, p. 95). The panel
ematics teachers beliefs, attitudes, and knowledge base consisted of a K12 mathematics specialist for a large
regarding ELLs in general was deemed critical. The public school district, a bilingual K5 mathematics cur-
survey, The SEBEMT by Ritter et al. (2001b) addressed riculum and instruction specialist, and a bilingual second-
the construct of ELLs and Mathematics regarding lan- ary instructional support teacher. Each panel expert was
guage minority students specifically in terms of mathemat- asked to review each item for clarity and relevance to the
ics teachers beliefs. research and provide any additional feedback regarding
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how to improve items and the overall instrument. Based Exploratory factor analysis (EFA) was conducted to
upon their comments and suggestions, several minor assess reliability and ensure the validity of the constructs
changes were made. For example, the survey item, I can (Bryant & Yarnold, 1995). The survey items initially
do a great deal as a teacher to increase the math achieve- included items clustered into eight constructs from previ-
ment of children who do not speak English as their first ously vetted surveys: Teaching ELLs; ELLs and Math-
language was modified by excluding the phrase, can do ematics; Language and Mathematics; Language in School
a great deal as a teacher to. The survey item, If there Context; Inclusion and Impact of Inclusion; Fairness;
were ELLs in my classroom, I would focus on language Culture, and Professional Development and Teacher
skills specific to math in addition to the content was also Support.
modified to increase clarity by restating the item as If The researchers used the KaiserMeyerOlkin (KMO)
there were ELLs in my classroom, I would focus on math measure to assess the sample size adequacy. An initial
vocabulary in addition to the content. Once revised, the concern regarding a low KMO measure of .339 was attrib-
survey was then sent to a panel of content experts for uted to a small sample size (n = 51). However, this
review. measure increased significantly with the subsequent
The second panel of mathematics and bilingual educa- research study surveying 283 additional secondary math-
tion content and research experts re-evaluated the revised ematics teachers. The Bartletts Test of Sphericity of .000
items. The five experts included faculty from two univer- indicated the survey items stood alone and contributed to
sities with expertise in the fields of mathematics, math- the constructs and analysis of the responses based on the
ematics education, teacher education, and bicultural pilot data. Using a principal components factor analysis
studies. Based upon comments and suggestions from this with varimax rotation, the factor solution was determined
panel, revisions were made prior to the first administration using a scree plot method. It was first decided that the
of the instrument. These changes established consistency factors extracted would only comprise items with a factor
of syntax and vocabulary. For example, the wording lan- load eigenvalues greater than one. The factor solution
guage minority students and English language learners composed of 40 items initially grouped into 12 factors and
were both initially used across survey items. Following the accounted for 74.884% of the cumulative total sums of
expert feedback, the wording of English Language Learn- squared loadings. When the researchers restricted the
ers was consistently used on all survey items. Another factors to eight, the cumulative total sums of squared load-
change included using only numbers one through seven ings dropped to 54.632%. This result indicated a strong
instead of labeling categories as strongly disagree to explanation of variability in the analysis.
strongly agree. The expert reviewers also carefully Data Collection
checked for verbiage that made a survey item inconsistent Next, the instrument was administered to secondary
with secondary mathematics teachers professional dis- mathematics teachers from a large suburban school district
course and a few changes. in a metropolitan area in southern United States. The
To further determine content, face, and construct valid- research study was based on self-reported survey results of
ity and reliability, a pilot of the MTBELL survey was 283 participating secondary mathematics teachers, utiliz-
administered to 51 secondary mathematics teachers ing the revised MTBELL from the pilot study. The major-
attending an annual mathematics teachers conference. ity of the participating teachers completed the online
The recorded length of time for teachers to complete the survey during work hours with the mode completion time
survey spanned from 15 to 46 minutes. The mean time of of 14 minutes.
24.3 minutes and median time of 23.5 minutes were deter- Participants
mined to be reasonable for future participants to complete The school districts diverse demographics and measur-
the survey. Face validity was established through four able student outcomes mirrored the ethnic diversity and
open-ended questions at the end of the survey that deter- overall student outcomes of the state. The selected school
mined the readability and clarity of the survey. These districts bilingual programs, restricted to Spanish speak-
questions asked teachers for feedback about any aspect of ers, are located only at designated elementary campuses
the instrument, including the clarity of instructions, and none are offered at any middle or high schools.
wording of items, time devoted to completing the inven- Elementary students whose home campus did not offer a
tory, response format, and content. The feedback obtained bilingual program are bused to the nearest bilingual
from this pilot study resulted in additional revisions to the campus. For children who speak languages other than
final version of the instrument. Spanish, the district has designated elementary ESL
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staff at campuses where children are pulled out for ESL were analyzed using a constant comparison method
classes. (Corbin & Strauss, 2008). A compiled list of codes from
Of the 283 responding secondary mathematics teachers an open coding process enabled the researchers to refer-
who completed the entire survey, 53% of these respon- ence and compare subsequent expressions in order to use
dents represented middle school teachers and 47% of the repeated codes or to craft new codes. This open and axial
respondents were high schools teachers. These participat- coding was a complimentary process for an inductive
ing teachers were comprised of 31% males and 69% analysis of data (Corbin & Strauss, 2008). After sorting the
females. Approximately 38% of the participants indicated coded phrases into formulated categories, the researchers
their ethnicity as being Hispanic. Additionally, partici- analyzed the connections among the categories for
pants were asked to indicate their race with the majority overarching themes.
identifying as white (n = 145; 51%). Other categories
included Asian (n = 3; 1%), and Black/African American Results
(n = 1; .4%). Also, five (2%) chose the category of other The mean and standard deviations of the 40 survey
and 21 (7%) indicated diverse backgrounds. items, in the original order of the survey, are located in
All secondary mathematics teachers in this study had a Table 1.
primary teaching assignment that included students in The responses for all but one survey item ranged from
grade 6 through grade 12, enrolled in a grade level math- Strongly Agree (1) to Strongly Disagree (7). The research-
ematics or supplemental mathematics course. Supplemen- ers utilized an EFA process to assess parsimony of factors
tal mathematics courses included classes in State and each factors reliability. Using a principal components
Compensatory Education in middle grades or Advanced factor analysis with varimax rotation, the EFA rotated
Placement Computer Science I as an optional fourth-year component matrix at eight constructs had a total explained
high school mathematics course. variance of 54.632%. The eigenvalues for each component
Data Analysis and corresponding cumulative explained variance are in
The analysis of the survey items includes descriptive Table 2. The Cronbachs alphas of the eight constructs
statistics, exploratory factor analysis, and inductive analy- ranged from .348 to .847 with four of the eight variables
sis using constant comparison of teachers responses. All having a Cronbachs alpha below .600.
data were analyzed using IBM SPSS Statistics for The researchers analyzed the scree plot (Figure 1) and
Windows, Version 21.0 (released 2012). Exploratory determined to further fix the EFA at five constructs.
factor analysis was conducted to assess each construct and
survey reliability. Table 1
The KMO measure was used to assess the sample size Mean and Standard Deviation for Each Survey Item
adequacy for the survey. The Bartletts Test of Sphericity Survey Mean Std Dev Survey Mean Std Dev
was conducted to indicate if the survey items stood alone Item Item
and contributed sufficiently to the constructs. Using a prin-
8 2.15 1.098 28 2.22 1.122
cipal components factor analysis with varimax rotation, 9 3.22 1.227 29 5.12 1.374
the factor solution was visually assessed against its scree 10 2.90 1.164 30 3.28 1.607
plot. Factor solutions extracted with a factor load eigen- 11 2.05 .979 31 4.34 1.723
values greater than one were kept or a fixed factor analysis 12 2.16 1.046 32 3.04 1.381
13 2.13 1.107 33 3.43 1.513
was used dependent upon the scree plot indications. Using 14 3.54 1.514 34 3.62 1.479
the loaded factors, the researcher aimed at having cumu- 15 2.90 1.135 35 4.81 1.385
lative total sums of squared loadings exceeding 60% 16 2.85 1.029 36 2.67 1.177
17 2.68 .974 37 4.16 1.462
for a strong explanation of variability in the analysis. 18 3.88 1.626 38 5.81 1.162
Cronbachs alpha measures of the coefficient of reliability 19 2.80 1.080 39 3.84 1.619
within an exploratory factor analysis were used to 20 6.03 1.136 40 4.01 1.512
access the internal consistency among survey items mea- 21 1.91 1.015 41 2.33 1.291
22 3.22 1.338 42 3.85 1.683
suring the same construct. The researchers sought 23 4.66 1.505 43 4.11 1.603
Cronbachs alpha measures of .70 or higher for each 24 5.86 1.166 44 2.66 1.328
construct. 25 2.67 1.464 45 3.84 1.537
26 4.69 1.793 46 3.63 1.682
The researchers used an inductive analysis to explore 27 4.48 1.585 47 3.81 1.760
the open response comments from survey items. The data
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Table 2 reliability coefficient measure of .649, represented the

Eigenvalues and Cumulative Percent of Explained Variance
underlying beliefs supporting culturally responsive teach-
Component Eigenvalue Cumulative Percent ing of mathematics to ELLs. Teachers beliefs and prac-
1 7.122 19.248 tices regarding mathematics and language as assets toward
2 3.144 27.744 ELLs learning resonated from this third construct. An
3 2.481 34.450 example of a survey item from this construct was reversed
4 1.781 39.263 for the analysis: Allowing beginning ELLs to speak their
5 1.568 43.501
6 1.488 47.523 native language in the mathematics classroom will [not]
7 1.362 51.204 hamper their learning of English.
8 1.268 54.632 The fourth construct, Challenges to ELLs Learning
Mathematics and Language, consisting of eight survey
Adequate sampling with fixed five constructs was assessed items and having a Cronbachs alpha reliability coefficient
based on a KMO at .820. The significance of the Bartletts measure of .633, included the beliefs and practices that
Test of Sphericity of .000 maintained that survey items challenge culturally responsive teaching ideology. From
stood alone and contributed to the constructs of the EFA. this construct, survey item 26 stated English should be
The total explained variance moved to 43.501% with all the only language of instruction in all U.S. schools.
five defined constructs having Cronbachs alphas greater The final construct, Teacher Support, clustered two
than .60. survey items which consistently had a Cronbachs alpha
After reflection upon the survey items within each con- measure of reliability of .796. Although a minimum of
struct, the researchers concluded that the five constructs, three or more items are expected when forming a con-
as identified by data analysis, and respective items, were struct (Suhr & Shay, 2009), Williams, Onsman, and
sound. The original eight constructs were collapsed into Brown (2010) support a minimum of two items if the
the five constructs of Culturally Responsive Teaching construct can be given a meaningful interpretation (p.
(CRT) Beliefs and Practices, Subtractive Affects Against 9). Based on the Cronbachs alpha measure and the con-
Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT), ELLs Learning sistent pairing of these two items with repeated runs of
Mathematics and Language, Challenges to ELLs Learning EFA, the researchers deemed it necessary to keep the
Mathematics and Language, and Teacher Support needed construct. District and campus support of secondary
to integrate CRT practices. Sample items for each con- mathematics teachers represented the teachers needs in
struct are provided in the Appendix. their efforts to meet the needs of ELLs. From the fifth
Consisting of 10 survey items, the first construct, Cul- construct, survey item 45 stated I receive adequate
turally Responsive Teaching Beliefs and Practices, had a support from school administration when ELLs are
Cronbachs alpha measure of reliability of .841. These enrolled in my classes.
items remained consistent in indicating teachers cultur- The five constructs identified from data analysis illus-
ally responsive teaching beliefs and practices aimed at trate the opportunities and perceived barriers in meeting
meeting the academic and language needs of ELLs. A ELLs academic and language needs by secondary math-
sample item from this construct was item 46: I have ematics teachers (Figure 2). On the left side of the model
adequate training to work with ELLs. are the two constructs that represent the barriers against
Using nine of the survey items, the second construct, culturally responsive teaching practices and ideologies
Subtractive Affects Against Culturally Responsive Teach- (Construct II: Subtractive Affects against CRT) along with
ing (CRT), had a Cronbachs alpha reliability measure of beliefs as to why ELLs do not learn language and math-
.732 and represented the believed barriers by secondary ematics (Construct IV: Challenges to ELLs Learning
mathematics teachers in meeting ELLs needs. The sub- Mathematics and Language). On the right side are the
tractive affects against culturally responsive teaching three constructs that indicate the support secondary math-
included issues of time and negative tensions that teachers ematics teachers need (Construct V: Teacher Support) and
believe increased their challenges in an already demand- the culturally responsive beliefs and practices teachers
ing job to educate all students. One example from this need to ensure that ELLs learn mathematics and language
construct is survey item 33: The inclusion of ELLs in my (Construct I: Culturally Responsive Teaching Beliefs and
classes increases my workload. Practices and Construct III: ELLs Learning Mathematics
The third clustering of eight survey items, ELLs Learn- and Language). As opposing forces generate tensions,
ing Mathematics and Language, had a Cronbachs alpha there exists a balancing act for teachers to create a positive
School Science and Mathematics 89
MTBELL Validation

Figure 1. Scree plot for exploratory factor analysis.

English learners in your mathematics classes, produced a

variety of responses regarding several aspects to the ben-
efits of ELLs in math classrooms.
Each statement was analyzed for themes by highlight-
ing key information and summarizing the teachers intent
of their statements. These intended big ideas were com-
pared to other statements until small clusters of state-
ments sharing a defined commonality were formulated.
Continuation with comparing and contrasting the small
clusters, the researchers defined larger clusters of
overarching ideas from the secondary mathematics teach-
ers responses. After repeating the inductive analysis for
both sets of open responses, the results were later used in
a mixed methods approach merging quantitative and
qualitative data. The recurring and consistent teacher
Figure 2. Balancing act of barriers and opportunities based on Secondary
Mathematics Teachers survey item responses.
responses were components that were encapsulated by
the intervening sociocultural factors, such as teachers
misconceptions regarding ELLs and the time necessary
learning environment that meets the diverse needs of all to learn English.
learners. It was determined from survey data analysis that
SMTs in the research study were knowledgeable about
culturally responsive beliefs and practices to meet the Instrument Summary
needs of ELLs but were hindered by perceived barriers Results of the instrument development of the MTBELL
over which they may or may not have control. revealed that the final version of the new instrument con-
Two open response questions were included on the sists of five constructs. The survey items aligned to each
survey. The first survey statement, Please list or describe construct as denoted in Table 3. The letter R represents
what you consider to be the greatest benefits of including survey items reversed for the analysis.
90 Volume 116 (2)
MTBELL Validation

Table 3 survey can be used by district leaders and researchers for

MTBELL Constructs
baseline information of teachers beliefs. This information
Construct Survey Items can then be used to plan and implement effective profes-
CRT Beliefs and Practices 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, sional development around issues of culturally responsive
43 beliefs and practices.
Subtractive Affects Against 18, 31, 32R, 33, 34, 35, 39R, The last tenet refers to the balancing act as indicated in
CRT 40, 41 this research study when implementing all of the prior
ELLs Learning Mathematics 8, 13, 20R, 21, 25, 29R, 30, 36
and Language tenets of culturally responsive teaching. Gay (2009)
Challenges to ELLs Learning 22, 23, 24, 26, 27, 37, 38, 44R states [m]any teachers still struggle with creating a
Mathematics and Language workable balance between cultural diversity and cultural
Teacher Support 45, 46
unity among the diverse learners in classrooms (p. 201).
Secondary mathematics teachers could easily ignore the
language differences among ELLs by using instructional
Discussion practices that require students to compute mathematics in
The five tenets of culturally responsive teaching easily silence. Instead, culturally responsive secondary math-
align to mathematics, not because culturally responsive ematics teachers will implement diverse teaching
teaching ignores the content, but because its principles strategies, such as peer tutoring, think-pair-share, and
embrace learners and teachers in the common goal of small group projects that integrate both learning math-
learning. An initial tenet of culturally responsive teaching ematics and language development (Echevarria, Vogt,
centers on the fact that culture and language cannot be & Short, 2004; Kersaint, Thompson, & Petkova,
separated from teaching and learning (Gay, 2009, 2010). 2013).
This understanding of culture is essential for culturally Given the lack of literature specifically related to the
responsive teaching. A critical starting point for teachers is beliefs and practices of SMTs with ELLs, we believe the
to conduct a self-reflective analysis of their own beliefs development of this instrument adds to the literature in
and understandings of cultures and language of ELLs. The mathematics education and this work supports prior
development of the MTBELL survey allows for this studies that have indicated that sociocultural factors influ-
important first step of self-reflection toward understanding ence preservice teachers evolving beliefs and practices
personal beliefs regarding culturally responsive teaching. (Flores, 2001). Further, we believe this work provides evi-
A second tenet of culturally responsive teaching is that dence that instructional decisions in mathematics class-
all knowledge is socially constructed and that teachers room specifically are influenced by teacher beliefs,
need to understand how math is a cultural construction, experiences, and norms (Gay, 2010). As Frankestein
and how this construction, and its related teacher prefer- (1997) stated: Knowledge is not created and recreated in
ences, privilege some students while disadvantaging and the fragmented forms in which most school subjects are
marginalizing others (Gay, 2009, p. 198). Culturally presented. Mathematics occurs in contexts, integrated with
responsive teachers view the use of native language as a other knowledge of the world (p. 13).
tool for learning, and in particular, for learning mathemat-
ics. Respectful communication, coupled with mutual Conclusions
caring dispositions, is necessary for culturally responsive The goal of the research study was to establish a base-
teaching and learning. line understanding of secondary mathematics teachers
Teachers who purposively change curriculum so that not beliefs and practices regarding meeting the academic and
one group is emphasized over another align to the third language needs of ELLs. An initial review of the literature
tenet of culturally responsive teaching of inclusivity (Gay, did not yield an established survey instrument to
2009). Teaching mathematics that incorporates ELLs adequately address this goal. Our experiences in searching
funds of knowledge leverage[s] familiar cultural contexts the literature were similar to Fernandes and McLeman
and students home and community-based knowledge and (2012) who also did not find a survey that measured
experiences (Celedn-Pattichis & Ramirez, 2012, p. discipline-specific beliefs with respect to the mathematics
213). Another tenet of culturally responsive teaching education of ELLs. This lack of research regarding ELLs
expects teachers to ensure diverse learners are knowledge- in mathematics, as compared to other subjects, might exist
able of school norms and academic expectations that may because secondary teachers may assume that language
be different from those previously learned. The MTBELL plays a minimal role in the teaching and learning of
School Science and Mathematics 91
MTBELL Validation

mathematics, despite evidence to the contrary (e.g., need to meet the needs of ELLs in their classrooms. The
Moschkovich, 2010). Thus, a new instrument, the goal of the research study, utilizing the MTBELL survey,
MTBELL survey, was developed by modifying existing was to better understand secondary mathematics teachers
surveys and piloted prior to the research study. Practitio- dispositions regarding meeting the needs of ELLs and the
ner, content, and research experts in the fields of math- factors that impact teachers decision making and prac-
ematics and bilingual education contributed to the tices. Gradual and lasting change can come from collabo-
development of an effective survey that aligned well with rating with secondary mathematics teachers in an ongoing
secondary mathematics teachers. All of their feedback method so underlying beliefs become visible and align with
merged to create an interdisciplinary perspective for this effective instructional practices. As the ELL population in
research study. the nation continues to grow, there is a definite need to
This study reflects the initial development and valida- explore secondary mathematics teacher attitudes and prac-
tion of the overall MTBELL scale. Further reliability and tices toward the inclusion of ELLs in the mainstream class-
validity research needs to be conducted including statis- room. As stated by Ernst-Slavit and Slavit (2007), the
tical analyses of each subscale. A long-term study is incorporation of language and culture into the teaching of
recommended to establish predictive validity of the mathematics is a complex process, requiring, among other
MTBELL survey. This would require tracking of the sec- things, a self-examination of pedagogical and mathemati-
ondary mathematics teachers over time to establish a cal beliefs, a desire to utilize students backgrounds in
relationship between the secondary mathematics teach- instructional planning and process, and insight into a
ers performance on the MTBELL and their teaching of variety of knowledge sets and dispositions related to spe-
ELLs in their mathematics classes. Additionally, a test cific aspects of language and culture (p. 26).
retest reliability study needs to be done to ensure that the
instrument has stability over time. The MTBELL survey A Research to Practice article based on this paper
should be administered to a group of secondary math- can be found alongside the electronic version at http://
ematics teachers at least twice a few weeks apart to
determine if there is a high correlation between their
scores at each point.
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Appendix: Sample Items
language learners in mainstream classrooms. The Journal of Educational
Research, 99(3), 131142. Construct I: Culturally Responsive Teaching Beliefs and
Ritter, J., Boone, W., & Rubba, P. (2001a). Development of an instrument to Practices
assess prospective elementary teacher self-efficacy beliefs about equitable
science teaching and learning (SEBEST). Journal of Science Teacher Edu- Item 9 I integrate ELLs background and experiences
cation, 12(3), 175198. in mathematics lessons.
Ritter, J., Boone, W., & Rubba, P. (2001b). An extension analysis on self- Item 15 I am able to effectively teach mathematics to
efficacy beliefs about equitable science teaching and learning instrument ELLs.
for prospective elementary teachers. Paper presented at the Annual Construct II: Subtractive Affects against CRT
Meeting of the Association for the Education of Teachers in Science, Costa
Mesa, CA. Item 33 The inclusion of ELLs in my classes increases
Rubio, D. M., Berg-Weger, M., Tebb, S. S., Lee, E. S., & Rauch, S. (2003). my workload.
Objectifying content validity: Conducting a content validity study in social Item 40 Some ELLs home culture negatively impacts
work research. Social Work Research, 27(2), 94104. their mathematics learning.
Ruiz-de-Velasco, J., Fix, M., & Chu Clewell, B. (2000). Overlooked and
underserved immigrant students in U.S. secondary schools: Core findings
Construct III: ELLs Learning Mathematics and Language
and conclusions. Retrieved from Item 13 I accept alternative mathematics algorithms
=310022 learned by ELLs in their home countries.
Sapsford, R. (2007). Survey research (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks. California: Item 21 Students who are ELLs can be successful in
Sage Publications. learning mathematics if the teaching is
Schutz, P. A., Cross, D. I., Hong, J. Y., & Osbon, J. N. (2007). Teacher effective.
identities, beliefs and goals related to emotions in the classroom. In P. A.
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Diego, CA: Elsevier, Inc. Language
Slavin, R. E., & Cheung, A. (2005). A synthesis of research on language of
Item 37 I teach ELLs mathematics in the exact same
reading instruction for English language learners. Review of Educational
way I teach non-ELLs.
Research, 75(2), 247284.
Stoddart, T., Pinal, A., Latzke, M., & Canaday, D. (2002). Integrating inquiry Construct V: Teacher Support
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of the population 25 years and over: 1940 to 2000. Retrieved from http://

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