The purpose of this dissertation in practice was to explore how to bridge the gap between ESOL students and native English speaking students in a collaborative learning environment in a middle school in Tangerine Florida. The gap in performance was highlighted because ESOL students failed to meet the same levels of academic achievement (based on the Florida Standard Assessment Test) as their native English-speaking counter parts. The intent of the dissertation was to design a framework that would meet the pedagogical needs of ESOL students and teachers who teach them. A pilot study was completed that included teachers both ESOL-endorsed and those who were not to determine their needs in terms of professional development that would lead to increased achievement among ESOL students. The study focused on digital schools within one school district. A qualitative research approach was used because it was found to be rigorous, reliable and valid (Morse, Barrett, Mayan, Olson & Spiers (2002). Results of the pilot study were intended to inform teachers and school administrators about how to ultimately improve ESOL student performance. The data used in the pilot study were drawn from focus groups as well as information retrieved from reflective teacher and student tools. The conceptual framework that focused the pilot study included socio-cultural theory (Vygotsky, 1986; Mercer, 2007), self-efficacy theory (Bandura, 1997a; Pajares, 1997) culturally responsive teaching theory (Ladson-Billings, 2006; Freire 2000), situated learning theory (Davin & Heineke, 2016) and second language acquisition theories (Chomsky, 1965; Ellis, 1997). The findings from the teacher focus groups suggested ways to bridge the gap between the ESOL students and native English speakers. A proposed framework to counter the problem and bridge the gap was designed as a pedagogical intervention (professional development) that would provide the information teachers lack about how to teach ESOL students effectively. The framework also served as a platform to connect and collaborate with other ESOL instructors as a resource and support throughout the school year. Additionally, a teacher-proposed idea was a middle school technology transition (MST2) beginner course for students entering a digital school to give them practice and build their self-efficacy on how to use the necessary applications for each core (FSA tested) class. The results also support the idea that concurrent ongoing professional development and a student introductory technology course throughout the school year could produce more favorable achievement scores of ESOL students, and reduce gaps between ESOL students and native English speaking students.


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Graduation Date





Hopp, Carolyn


Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


College of Education and Human Performance


Teaching, Learning, and Leadership

Degree Program

Curriculum and Instruction









Release Date

August 2017

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)