What is it about?

Dual Language Learning preschool children are in the process of learning two languages. Children in the U.S. from homes where Spanish is spoken have different levels of language proficiency or dominance in each language. Among our sample of 330 low-income Spanish-speaking preschool children, 40% were English-dominant, 29% had balanced average skills in both English and Spanish, 17% were Spanish-dominant, and 13% were emerging bilinguals with limited language skills in both languages. We found that teacher professional development for working with this population of children is critical in promoting the best instructional practices and leads to advanced bilingual language development. Additional screening is needed for children with limited language skills in both languages.

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Why is it important?

As the number of Dual Language Learners (DLLS) in US schools continues to increase, it is important we understand that not all DLLs have the same language skills. Teachers need to differentiate instructional practices based on different subgroups of DLLs (English-dominant, Spanish-dominant, Balanced-Average; Emerging Bilingual). The information presented in this paper is a call for educational systems to invest in professional development for teachers working with DLLs and for Colleges of Education nationwide to provide instruction to pre-service teachers on best practices for instructing DLLs.


This study helps us show the importance of assessing DLL children using their full language repertoire (I.e., all the languages they speak and understand). By assessing children in all their languages, we can better understand their full set of skills, which in turn allows us the opportunity to design a curriculum to meet the specific needs of this growing number of children. We strongly believe that teachers need more professional development on this topic.

Lisa Lopez
University of South Florida

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Subgroups within a heterogeneous population: Considering contextual factors that influence the formation of dual language learner profiles in head start., Journal of Educational Psychology, September 2023, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/edu0000825.
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