Students who are new to the United States (and often English) have a wide range of educational experience when they enter the U.S. school system, ranging from ten-plus years of high-quality, formal schooling to very few experiences with formal education. However, according to research conducted last year in the Minneapolis public school system by professors Kendall King and Martha Bigelow of the Department of Curriculum & Instruction, the standard assessment given to students new to the country failed to differentiate between those who had formal schooling and those who did not; they both scored roughly the same. This creates a problem for students, who are often initially placed in classes not appropriate to their skill level, and can slow down their achievement in schools.
The research findings, which were recently accepted for publication in Educational Policy, spurred King and Bigelow to tackle the problem with a more effective assessment tool. They started a collaboration with students, faculty and staff at Wellstone International High School, the New Family Center, and the Multilingual Department of Minneapolis public schools to develop the Native Literacy Learning Assessment (NLLA). This test, which Minneapolis now administers to most newcomer adolescents, provides administrators and teachers with crucial information about students’ reading and writing skills in their first language. It is available in Spanish, Somali, Oromo, Arabic, and Amharic.
King and Bigelow hope that teachers and administrators will find this new, free tool useful in meeting the needs of their multilingual students and ensuring appropriate class placement to better educational outcomes for students new to the U.S. school system.
The University of Minnesota created the Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship (DDF) program to allow the “the University’s most accomplished PhD candidates an opportunity to devote full-time effort to an outstanding research project by providing time to finalize and write a dissertation during the fellowship year.” This academic year, the Department of Curriculum & Instruction was honored to receive the award for four of its outstanding PhD candidates.
What constitutes an outanding research project? We find out more about the four DDF recipients and their dissertation projects, career interests, and how they are planning to create change and promote knowledge for learners of all ages:
Revitalizing language, reframing expertise: An ecological study of language in one teacher-learner’s Ojibwe classroom
When Melissa Engman was a graduate student in applied linguistics, she worked with associate professor Mary Hermes transcribing Ojibwe videos. The work led her to take a class in language revitalization—the process of reviving declining, often indigenous languages—and there she found resonance in the inherent social justice issues that arose with cultures who have seen their native language use dwindle. “I became aware that I’m a white person living here on land that was once Ojibwe and Dakota land. I began to think about assumptions and power that come with speaking a dominant language,” Engman says.
Engman’s work focuses on a classroom in the Lac Courte Oreilles reservation in Northwest Wisconsin where Ojibwe language is part of the curriculum. Due to the fact that Ojibwe language instruction materials are very few and many of the teachers have varying experiences with formal language training, Engman is trying to understand how to model the language revitalization program to be effective.
Engman attributes her research success partially to an atmosphere of collaborative support in her with her peers in Second Language Education. “Our cohort has very different research areas, but critical thinking is what unites our work,” Engman says. “We’re not afraid to challenge and push each other. That’s created a real sense of camaraderie and support. The faculty have done a really good job of fostering those relationships.”
Recuperating heritage languages, becoming transformative educators: Multilingual teachers and students of color transforming schools
After completing a Fulbright Scholarship teaching German to Turkish students in Austria, Cushing-Leubner realized that the non-native language learners in the schools were being left behind. She found a similar situation for Spanish-speaking students in the United States, which led her to focus her dissertation on developing a “heritage language” curriculum for students who speak Spanish at home. These students can use their home language as a springboard to learning more about their history, heritage and be included more effectively in a classroom setting.
“Multilingual kids are not represented in the current curriculum at all. They don’t see school as a space that’s designed for them,” Cushing-Leubner explains the problem with current foreign language classrooms. “Heritage language classes can reverse the trend of excluding home-language speakers.”
Cushing-Leubner is working with new teachers in high schools and middle schools across the Twin Cities metro. They have already successfully implemented heritage language classes in Spanish that use Latino-American history as a way for students to practice reading and writing the language they already speak proficiently. For these students, “keeping ties to their heritage languages is a point of strength and hope, and helps create community with one another,” says Cushing-Leubner.
Enabling Space Cadets: Quality Science Fiction for Children under 12 Years Old
Emily Midkiff got sidetracked while working on a class project to analyze a library’s circulation data. She noticed how little children’s science fiction existed compared to children’s fantasy literature, though the check-out rates were the same. This led Midkiff to create her dissertation to examine science fiction for children under 12, an area that is largely neglected but important to the development of interest in the STEM education fields.
“There are all these interview on how engineers, scientists and people at NASA read sci-fi when they were little. It shaped how they view science; Not a lot of people make that connection,” Midkiff says. She plans to look for strong girl characters and diverse heroines in children’s science fiction to better understand the lack of women and minorities in the STEM fields as part of her research.
Migrant Adult Learners and Digital Literacy: Collaborative Study for Sustainable Change
Jen Vanek has been working in the field of adult literacy and second-language learning for 20 years, the last 10 of which she has focused on digital literacy. Her dissertation is aimed at helping adult ESL teachers integrate online learning into teaching. She is working closely with four community-based organizations to to design digital homerooms stocked with learning resources for adult English-language learners to use in their computer learning labs.
“I hope that what emerges at the end are not only instructional resources that solve local problems, but also observations on how learning happens that can be applied to other learning environments,” says Vanek.
Diane Tedick, professor in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction, received a $2.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to support English learners (ELs) through programs focusing on dual language and immersion teacher education and professional development, as well as parent education. The five-year grant project will be called the “Dual Language and Immersion Pathways to English Learner Success Through Professional Development and Parent Engagement Project (DLI3P).” Tedick received significant contributions from Tara W. Fortune, the immersion project director in the Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA) in both conceptualizing the project and writing the grant proposal.
The need to improve English learner education is imperative as English learners are the fastest growing and lowest achieving group of learners in U.S. schools, according to recent data. Research has consistently shown that dual language and immersion (DLI) programs are the most effective in preparing ELs to achieve academically in English. ELs in well-implemented DLI programs do as well as or better on standardized tests in English than peers schooled only through English.
The project aims to address the issue by improving instruction for English learners through the development and implementation of three programs:
a two-year, elementary education licensure program specifically teachers in DLI contexts. The new program is slated to start its first cohort in January 2017.
a two-year, in-service professional development certificate program for licensed DLI teachers aimed at better serving English learners, which will be offered in the coming year.
multiple DLI, parent-family education and engagement curriculum modules that can be accessed to supplement existing, district-sponsored parent education programs or to inform the creation of programs in participating districts throughout the country. Scholars in the field have found that educators who work to involve parents and families in their children’s education can improve their effectiveness with English learners. This piece of the program, led by Tara Fortune, will be important to ensure student success.
The project will involve a consortium of partners at the University including CARLA and the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement (CAREI). The project is also partnering with six area school districts and a private school in the Twin Cities Metro that have existing two-way bilingual immersion programs. Throughout the project, evaluators will gather high-quality data to assess project efforts with the aim of feeding back into the project for review and improvement on the question of how to prepare and support a diverse cadre of bilingual teachers better prepared to serve English learners and DLI programs effectively.
The grant projects are designed to provide teachers with high quality, DLI-specific preparation and professional development to ensure that programs are well-implemented and to expand the skills, strategies and knowledge of DLI parents and families to improve engagement. The end goal is to make progress toward closing the achievement gap between native English speaking students and English learners and promote equity in the education system.
Dr. Tedick teaches in the Second Language Education program area in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction. Learn more about the second language education programs offered for graduate and undergraduate students.
Bic Ngo, associate professor in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction, and Josephine Lee of the College of Liberal Arts received a five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education to increase services for Asian American students at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities (UMTC) campus. The $1.75 million grant is specifically aimed at providing “assistance to Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-serving institutions to enable such institutions to improve and expand their capacity to serve Asian Americans and Native American Pacific Islanders and low-income individuals,” according to the award letter.
“The project seeks to provide our Asian American students with culturally relevant learning environments and programs in ways that nurture cultural integrity and academic success,” said Ngo.
The implementation of the grant at UMTC will be called the “Asian American College Excellence (AACE) Project.”
Ngo and Lee plan to roll out the AACE Project via several avenues, including a resource center (with computer lab and tutoring space), a teaching and learning library, an increased number of Asian American Studies classes, a speaker series, a youth summit, a teaching pathways program, and a tutoring and mentoring program among others.
One of the major tasks for the first year of the grant is to establish the resource center that will provide a place for many of the project activities as well as a dedicated space for the students to study, hang out, and build community.
Dr. Ngo is committed to analyzing issues relating to educational equity and cultural identity in immigrant students’ education. She teaches in the Ph.D. program for Culture & Teaching.
“I have always been impressed with the quality of art student-teachers that I receive from the U,” says Visual Specialist Hubert. “I tell everyone I know, that I will only take them if they are from the U of M.” Hubert has been working with the Department of Curriculum & Instruction’s Teacher Education program for several years and has had 15 students in the M.Ed. program teach in her classroom.
The co-teaching model is a unique aspect of the graduate teaching program that offers hands-on teaching and classroom experience designed to prepare graduates to hit the ground running once they receive their teaching license. Teacher candidates are paired with experienced, practicing teachers in the Twin Cities metro where they can put their coursework into action.
Well prepared by her classroom experience at Waite Elementary, Greamba has since joined Sky Oaks Elementary in Burnsville as an art teacher.
Reporter Susan Du of City Pages recently reported that after just one year as the science teacher in struggling Hamline Elementary school, Bonnie Laabs raised the science proficiency rate from 17 percent to 61 percent, meeting the statewide average. According to Jodie Wilson, Hamline’s testing coordinator, this tremendous jump is “extremely unheard of” in St. Paul Schools.
Laabs uses a combination of extra-academic advice and mentoring, along with creative explanations of difficult science terminology with the help of classroom pets to help students overcome hurdles in scientific understanding.
She is also open about her own past in which she struggled with abuse at an early age, spent time in foster care, and got thrown out of school. She uses her redemption through education as an example to her students, allowing them to open up about their own fears and problems. Laabs also tells her story to underscore the importance of completing homework and getting a good education.
Bonnie Laabs graduated with a Ph.D. from the Department of Curriculum & Instruction with a focus on family, youth, and community. To read the entire article visit the CityPages website.
The award honors an exceptional college or university professor in the field of reading education and is given annually to a member of ILA who is currently teaching preparation in reading to prospective educators at the undergraduate or graduate level. “An ideal recipient is considered to be a knowledgeable professional, an innovative teacher, a leader in the field of reading, a role model, and a disseminator,” according to the association.
Helman’s work in literacy in reading includes several endeavors. Most recently, she launched PRESS, a website featuring videos and tutorials that supports educators in implementing a framework for schoolwide literacy improvement. Helman also completed a a six-year longitudinal study of immigrant, bilingual students’ language and literacy journeys and co-wrote Inclusive Literacy Teaching on her findings and the implications for education. She is currently working with bilingual and dual immersion schools to implement Spanish word study curriculum and serves as a member of the International Literacy Association’s Standards 2017 Committee revising national standards for reading teachers and literacy professionals.
Helman’s research and teaching at the University centers on topics such as literacy development in the elementary grades, effective instructional practices with multilingual learners, teacher development and leadership, and assessment and instruction to support aspiring readers K-6.
Learn more about the graduate programs and professional development opportunities offered in literacy education in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction.
“One of my main goals coming into college was to gain new perspectives, which the minor in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) has done for me,” says English literature major, Ellie McCabe. “It’s provided me a really good look into what it’s like to be learning a new language, and in doing so gave me a lot more empathy towards those who are trying to learn English.” The 4-course minor (or post-baccalaureate certificate) offered by the Department of Curriculum & Instruction is geared at preparing students to teach English abroad or in community ESL programs to non-native speakers or as a springboard to further graduate study.
Early childhood education student, Chloe Imhoff, became interested in the minor as a way to further her teaching skills and job prospects. “The TESL minor allowed me a different perspective on education and a deeper look into how can I better assist my future ESL students. It gave me some strategies and allowed me experience working with ESL students through service learning opportunities,” she notes.
Erika Diaz, who recently completed her bachelor’s degree in child psychology, was drawn to the program in order to help ESL learners become active members of the community. “I took it for granted knowing English,” Diaz admits. By helping new English-language learners she aims to strengthen diverse communities.
Diaz also appreciated the individualized attention and close ties created during the TESL program. “The small classrooms and knowledgeable instructors have made this experience make me feel like a part of a community. “
Many of the program’s graduates plan to teach abroad, including Virge Klatt, who is completed the TESL program as a post-baccalaureate certificate and plans to go back to her native Estonia one day to teach English. Spanish major, Whitley Lubeck, would like to teach English abroad for a year before teaching at home. “The TESL minor gives me the option to teach here or abroad and goes hand-in-hand with my major,” says Lubeck.
The participants of the program keep coming back to one specific aspect of the program that engaged them, and that’s the ability to create ties and build bridges through language. “The minor is only four courses, and so worth it!” says McCabe. “If you want to build relationships with people from different communities and make a difference while doing so, I can’t recommend it enough.”
To learn more about the TESL minor/certificate visit the program’s webpage or contact Martha Bigelow. Priority deadline for Spring admission is December 15.
The SciGirls Code project, led by co-principal investigator Cassie Scharber, kicked off with a session and advisory board meeting at the Computer Science Teachers Association conference in San Diego, July 11-14. The project, funded by the National Science Foundation’s STEM + Computing Partnerships (STEM + C) program, is a two-year project that uses the principles of connected learning with STEM outreach partners to provide 160+ girls and their educators with computational thinking and coding skills.
Scharber, associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, leads development of curricula centering on three tracks—e-textiles and wearable tech, robotics, and mobile geospatial technologies; role model training for female technology professionals; professional development for STEM educators; and a research component that investigates the ways computational learning experiences impact the development of computational thinking as well as interest and attitudes toward computer science.
For more information, visit the SciGirls website, produced by Twin Cities Public Television.
Cynthia Zwicky, a lecturer in the elementary education program in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction, is presenting an Advanced Circle Keeper’s Training as part of the annual Restorative Practices in Schools trainings. The trainings are a collaboration between the Legal Rights Center and the Minnesota Department of Education School Safety Technical Assistance Center.
A restorative school is centered on relationships, building community and repairing harm. Multiple practices provide multi-tiered levels of support for students, staff and family. The Advanced Circle Keeper training is designed for people who already practice restorative justice, typically in a school setting. ”I have found the practice to be a key component of interrupting the school to prison pipeline and in reducing racial disproportionality in suspension,” says Zwicky.
Zwicky and her co-presenter, Michael Stanefski, were two of the first people in Minnesota (and in the United States) to adopt the circle process in their work as a teacher and a social worker in the schools, respectively. They developed the Advanced Circle Keeper’s Training as an opportunity for circle keepers to observe each other’s practice in repairing harm.
Lesa Clarkson, associate professor of mathematics education in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction, was honored with the INSIGHT into Diversity 2016 Inspiring Women in STEM Award and will be featured in the September issue of INSIGHT into Diversity magazine. The award honors “remarkable women in STEM professions who continue to make a significant difference through mentoring and teaching, research, successful programs and initiatives, and other efforts worthy of national recognition.”
Clarkson’s research agenda focuses on mathematics in the urban classroom, specifically identifying successful strategies that increase student achievement primarily among underrepresented student groups. She focuses on African-American students, specifically, because this group of students historically has the lowest scores on the national and state assessments. Clarkson believes, “The color of a student’s skin is not correlated to their achievement in mathematics.”
Clarkson’s research aims to find best practices that will provide all students with engaging mathematics experiences in addition to the basic “tools” that are essential for students.
The College of Education and Human Development was recently recognized for its leadership in the innovative use of technology to support learning of pre-service teachers by the U.S. Department of Education and ASCD at the Teacher Preparation Innovation Summit in Washington, D.C.
“America’s pre-service teachers must be prepared to use technology effectively in the classroom,” he said. “We are excited by the innovations we’re seeing at CEHD to ensure their pre-service teachers have opportunities to actively use technology to support learning and teaching through creation, collaboration, and problem solving.”
The summit brought together researchers, schools of education, district leaders, accreditors, and support organizations to advance four goals for educational technology in teacher preparation programs outlined in the 2016 National Education Technology Plan, Future Ready Learning: Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education.
“We are excited about the future of educational technology as a tool to enhance student success in a variety of teaching and learning environments,” said Quam. “It’s part of our core mission in CEHD to prepare all of our graduates to develop and use new technologies.”
The summit cosponsor, ASCD, is a global community of 125,000 members— including superintendents, principals, teachers, and advocates from more than 128 countries—dedicated to excellence in learning, teaching, and leading.
Each year, the Institute on Diversity, Equity and Advocacy grants Multicultural Research Awards that “transform the University by enhancing the visibility and advancing the productivity of an interdisciplinary group of faculty and community scholars whose expertise in equity, diversity, and underrepresented populations will lead to innovative scholarship and teaching that addresses urgent social issues.” Associate Professor in Curriculum & Instruction, J.B. Mayo, Jr., received one of the prestigious grants for his proposal to integrate LGBTQ history into the social studies curriculum that covers the Harlem Renaissance.
The research project entitled “Uncovering Queer Spaces During the Harlem Renaissance” is aimed at breaking the silence within social studies education about LGBT people, themes, and histories. Mayo plans to engage intersectional realities that include race, gender, and sexual orientation while helping teachers to be more inclusive of LGBT people, themes, and histories within their social studies classes.
Another goal of Mayo’s research is to allow LGBT students, and particularly queer students of color, to see themselves positively represented. He plans to conduct intensive archival research this summer in Harlem’s Schomburg Center for Black Culture to find the stories of gay artists of color working during the Harlem Renaissance. He will then co-create an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum with local social studies teachers that center on the chosen artists’ work and identities. The finished curriculum will be field tested in area social studies classes. Mayo plans to observe the lessons as they are taught and follow-up with interviews with the participating teachers and selected students to discuss their impressions and to gather their perceptions of the impact of these lessons, which are aimed at not only changing young people’s views of history, but diminishing homophobia within communities of color and in society more generally.
On January 26, Mary Hermes of Curriculum and Instruction gave a lecture to the Linguistics and Cognitive Science program at Dartmouth. The title of the talk: Why Is This So Hard?: Ideologies of endangerment, passive language learning approaches and Ojibwe in the United States.
Congrats to LT Teaching Specialist Daryl Boeckers, who received the 2014 Emma Birkmaier Outstanding World Language Educator Award at the fall conference for the MN Council on the Teaching of Languages and Cultures. Boeckers is pictured with a former student, Anna Oliver, Buffalo HS senior, who wrote a letter supporting Boeckers’ nomination. The Emma Birkmaier Award is given to a teacher credited for a significant impact on the language teaching profession and involvement with the nonprofit organization.
On Friday, November 7th, Stephanie Rollag and Erin Stutelberg, Ph.D. students in Critical Literacy and English Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, presented at this fall’s Interdisciplinary Studies of Writing research colloquium. The title of their talk was Understanding the Collaborative Construction of an Urban High School Writing Center: Sustainability, Interdisciplinarity, and Connected Learning.
With mentorship from their advisor, Dr. Cynthia Lewis, Steph and Erin have been working collaboratively with school staff and administration to develop, coordinate, and research a local urban high school writing center. They were awarded an ISW grant in the Spring of 2014 to support their research, and the funds have allowed them to: work over the summer on visioning and development of the writing center with school staff, create processes in place to get the writing center up and running, train DirecTrack to Teaching students to serve as writing center tutors, and begin working with high school students on their writing in the center.
Steph and Erin approach their research as critical ethnographers, studying power, space, discourse, and writing pedagogies in a racially and linguistically diverse city school.
Mary Hermes, Associate Professor in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction, was recently invited to speak on MPR’s Daily Circuit about her work as lead researcher for the Ojibwe Conversational Archives project, funded by the National Science Foundation through a Documenting Endangered Language Grant. Hermes worked with 30 speakers, transcribers, and others engaged in Ojibwe revitalization to make short videos of native speakers interacting in everyday situations to help language learners find greater occasion to practice the language in their daily lives.