The American Educational Research Association’s (AERA’s) Bilingual Education Research SIG selects the top three dissertations in the field of bilingual education research each year as outstanding dissertations. Assistant professor in Curriculum & Instruction, Blanca Caldas was honored with the second place Outstanding Dissertation Award for her doctoral thesis, “Performing the Advocate Bilingual Teacher: Drama-based Interventions for Future Story Making.”
Caldas’s doctoral dissertation focused on exploring how critical drama-based pedagogical techniques in the development of future bilingual teachers can prepare them to become leaders and advocates inside and outside the classroom. In this yearlong study, the participants—a cohort of pre-service bilingual teachers—engaged in the re-imagining of the oral narratives of experienced bilingual teachers by physically reenacting their stories and providing alternative endings.
“My research aims to study the outcomes of pedagogical practices for the preparation of future bilingual teachers that have the potential to empower themselves to not only think critically about the issues that surround bilingual education, but also to engage in leadership and advocacy inside and outside the classroom,” says Caldas.
Caldas brings her research and pedagogical expertise to the Second Language Education program area in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction, working to advance the field of bilingual education and bilingual teacher preparation.
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.
According to the NFMLTA website, The Paul Pimsleur Award for Research in Foreign is “among the most prestigious awards in language studies, it is awarded to the author(s) of an outstanding research study in foreign or second language education published during the previous calendar year.”
The award recognizes Dr. Tedick and Dr. Fortune’s co-authored paper, “Oral proficiency development of English Proficient K–8 Spanish immersion students” (Modern Language Journal, 2015) as an outstanding contribution to the field of foreign language research.
Dr. Tedick also received the Paul Pimsleur award in 2013 for a co-authored paper along with Laurent Cammarata of the University of Alberta.
“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.
Corinne Mathieu, an MA/Ph.D. student in Second Language Education has been awarded the Graduate School Summer Research Internship Grant for summer 2016.
Congratulations on your Graduate School Summer Research Internship Grant. Tell me a little about what you’ll be doing. I’ll be working with an organization called add.a.lingua, a social impact education organization based in Holland, MI. They work with school districts to develop immersion programs. I’m helping them develop assessments on students’ language proficiency. With the internship grant, I’ll also be doing the study of my own, interviewing middle school immersion teachers to find out more about the materials they use in their classrooms.
How did you become interested in the field of Second Language Education? Spanish was always my favorite class. I became very interested in linguistics and how languages are learned during my undergraduate education. But, I didn’t realize I wanted to be a teacher at that point. I had wanted to be a bilingual librarian, initially. I went to the Peruvian Amazon during a summer break in college. I saw people who spoke indigenous language learning Spanish and English and was very interested in how they learned languages. Then, a job to teach English at a Quaker boarding school in Ohio came up and I decided to take it and put off my graduate studies for awhile. That’s when I became interested in teaching.
What do you hope to do after finishing your Ph.D. in Second Language Education? I’m hoping to work in curriculum development with content-based instruction in immersion and foreign language programs. I don’t know if I want to be an education specialist or consultant with a school district. It’s just my first year in the program. I am very interested in how materials can reinforce positive pedagogy versus. one textbook for all.
How has your experience in the Ph.D. program in Second Language Education shaped your views on teaching? After learning more about teaching in the program, there is definitely a lot I wish I could’ve done differently, but it’s also confirmed that I was on the right track in terms of content-based instruction. It’s very easy to get in one pattern as a teacher, but there are so many more nuances to teaching languages.
Kendall King and Martha Bigelow, faculty in Curriculum and Instruction, Second Languages and Cultures, together with Beverly Dretzke and Kyla Wahlstrom in CAREI, have recently signed an agreement to partner with Minneapolis Public Schools to review, evaluate, and recommend changes in intake, assessment, and instruction for high-school-age English learners. Their initial report will be produced this month, with data collection and analysis starting in the spring and going through fall 2015.
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.
On October 14-15, Diane Tedick was invited to Washington D.C. to participate in a National Research Summit on the Early Care and Education of Dual Language Learners.
The summit was co-sponsored by the Heising-Simons Foundation and the McKnight Foundation and focused on the research of the Center for the Early Care and Education Research for Dual Language Learners and its implications for future research, educational practice, and policy at the federal, state, and local level.
Dr. Tedick brought her expertise in content-based dual language instruction to a day of presentations and discussion and a second day of discourse with select participants on six commissioned papers.
In the plenary, Tedick shared that research has illustrated that immersion programs that are well-designed and well-implemented are those that lead to the most positive student outcomes regarding language proficiency and academic achievement. Drawing on research-based recommendations developed in the U.S. and other countries, she focused on three key points, namely that immersion programs must:
establish clear end goals and grade-level benchmarks for second language proficiency attainment,
institute a program-wide assessment plan to measure students’ achievement of established proficiency goals, and
plan for ongoing, immersion-specific professional development for teachers to learn and implement “high-yield” pedagogical practices that will ensure student success on program-level assessments.
The plenary round table engaged all conference speakers, including Drs. Roy Lyster (Canada), Myriam Met (U.S.), Else Hamayan (Argentina), and Tedick, in addressing current questions about the design and implementation of outstanding English immersion programs in Brazil.
To learn more about Tedick’s research, please see her faculty profile. To learn more about our Second Languages and Cultures Education programs, please visit the SLC program page.
This weekend, the Pioneer Press published an article on English Language Learners (ELL) entering mainstream classrooms to tackle learning English while simultaneously learning other subject matter. The article, “St. Paul English learners sent into mainstream, ready or not,” touches on some of the hopes and concerns for the shift from first developing fluency and then catching up on subject matter to a more integrated approach.
ELL students are co-taught by the classroom teacher and an educator with special skills and training to support English language acquisition. The St. Paul School District was an early adopter of the co-teaching model to integrate subject learning and English learning in elementary schools. The goal of this is strategy is to prevent ELLs from falling behind in other subjects while they are learning English.
C&I Professor in Second Languages and Cultures Education, Kendall King is quoted in the article for suggesting, “While this model has a lot of potential, it will not work for all English learners.” King recommends that districts begin with small scale pilots, and involve guidance counselors, among others to evaluate who might be successful in these classes.
Read the full Pioneer Press story here. To learn more about Kendall King’s research, please visit her profile page, and to learn more about SLC academic programs, please visit the SLC program area page.
After several testimonies at the State Capital education committee hearings, a new bill is moving through the legislature. This bill would encourage multilingualism among all students and foster the maintenance and development of immigrant students’ home languages as a resource for learning academic content throughout their school day. This bill supports an additional year of funding for English learners who need it with a focus on developing multilingualism and ensuring academic success.
Quoted in a report on Minnesota Public Radio, Professor Martha Bigelow states, “What the research shows is that truly being able to use their home language, in a lot of the ways that this legislation is supportive of, will make them better English speakers and able to learn content more quickly.”
On March 13, members of the C&I faculty returned to the state capitol to testify at both Minnesota State House and Senate Education Committee hearings on upcoming bills to support English Language Learners (ELL) in Minnesota.
C&I’s Jill Watson testified on a bill to support English Learner Students with Limited or Interrupted Formal Education (SLIFE). Watson was accompanied by students and a parent. (In the photo accompanying this post, one student is holding the copy of the bill passed right after their testimony.)
Watson says, “When we first began sharing information with legislators about SLIFE, many had never heard of, let alone considered, the unique needs of this group. Yesterday, when I asked for a show of hands in the Senate Education committee indicating who knew what ‘SLIFE’ meant, at least half the hands went up. It was clear to all of us that students with limited formal education are now very much on their radar, and we are delighted to have played a part in bringing that about.”
C&I’s Jenna Cushing-Leubner testified on a different bill to establish bilingual and multilingual seals attached to high school diplomas. “The opportunity of this bill is to recognize, tap into, and build upon the language resources of multilingual students – students from minority language backgrounds and those learning languages through language immersion settings alike.” says Cushing-Leubner. “Minnesota’s highly linguistically and culturally diverse students are an important and powerful asset for local communities and for the state. This bill suggests suggest a commitment on the part of the state to strengthen and support this valuable and growing community of learners.”
C&I Professor Kendall King testified on a bill which seeks to improve services for English language learners in the state and to support students’ native language development and academic English.
Of the day, King reports, “U of M faculty have collaborated on many aspects of the legislation, and yesterday, our goal was to explain to a broader audience both the research behind these bills and the practical need for change.” says King. “We are very excited with the direction the state is heading in supporting multilingualism for all learners.”
On February 18, C&I Faculty from the Second Languages and Cultures Education program area were invited by the chairs of the Education committees in the Minnesota Senate and House of Representatives, Representative Carlos Mariani and Senator Patricia Torres Ray to the state capitol to testify to the Joint Senate/House Education Policy Committees hearing on English Language Learners. They discussed two topics:
U of M language teacher education (ESL, world languages, dual-language and immersion)
Practices and policies related to immigrant adolescents with limited formal schooling
Associate Professor Diane Tedick and Senior Lecturer Susan Ranney presented on the topic of Preparing Teachers for English Learners, while Associate Professor Martha Bigelow and Dr. Jill Watson (adjunct instructor) presented on challenges and solutions for SLIFE students (Students with Limited or Interrupted Formal Education).
“The legislators have previously expressed interest and appreciation for the university’s innovative practices in teacher education in our post-baccalaureate licensure programs through the TERI redesign,” said Ranney. “It was an honor for University of Minnesota faculty to be invited to testify along with school superintendents and administrators.”
Other testifiers included Minnesota Department of Education, St. Paul Public Schools, the Bloomington and Willmar Public School Districts. There were approximately 20 representatives and senators in attendance and 90 people in the audience. Testifiers fielded many questions about English learners in public schools and about preparing teachers and administrators to teach English learners from a wide range of backgrounds.
“Giving a TEDx talk is entirely different from presenting at a conference because speakers are asked to tell their personal story,” says Benegas. “Even though much of my talk focuses on my lacking knowledge as an early teacher, I am proud of my story. I am not uncomfortable about presenting my vulnerability. As a teacher educator, I see similar versions of my story in many of my teacher candidates. I hope that by being forthcoming about my growth as an educator and a person, teacher candidates will more confidently engage in the critical discourses needed to bring more equity to education for marginalized learners.”
In C&I, Benegas researches the preparation of culturally relevant teachers, and cites her early experiences as a new teacher of newcomers as her motivation. “My research seeks to examine how teacher candidates learn to bridge the theory of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy (CRP) with the sociopolitical environments of schools. While we know that CRP is a key to closing the opportunity gap, there is a lack of understanding about what CRP looks like in practice and how teachers can learn to enact it. My research follows student teachers as they learn to teach diverse students in culturally relevant ways, within the parameters of a public school.”
Benegas also serves as the first Vice President of MinneTESOL (Minnesota Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages), and in 2015, she will assume the role of president. She is a former Saint Paul Public School teacher, and the school that she references in her talk is LEAP High School in Saint Paul. It is a high school made up entirely of immigrants and refugees.
The Department of Curriculum and Instruction was well-represented this year at the Minnesota Council on the Teaching of Languages and Cultures (MCTLC) annual conference on October 17 and 18. One of our post-baccalaureate students from last year, Meghan McFadden, won the Outstanding Student Teacher Award. And, PhD student and teacher supervisor, Mary Lynn Montgomery received one of five STAR Awards.
This year’s conference theme, the 21st Century Classroom, highlighted innovation happening across classrooms and their platforms, from fully face-to-face to fully virtual. Workshops and sessions will support three areas in which language educators excel and explore: communication, collaboration, and technology.
Congratulations to Meghan and Mary Lynn.
Please visit our program pages for more information on the initial licensure program or the PhD program in Second Languages and Cultures.
This month, C&I Faculty in Second Languages and Cultures have been tapped for their expertise in English language learning in Minnesota Public Schools. Last week, the Star Tribune ran the story, “Minnesota students learning English face an uphill battle, but innovations are helping.”
In the article, Professor Kendall King suggests, “Many students come to school multilingual, with these rich oral traditions. Yet many don’t have formal schooling, and may not be proficient in English or in academic language. It’s a huge challenge.”
Lecturer Susan Ranney offered additional insights, saying, “People can get fooled by conversational fluency. Academic language is much more complex and takes more time to learn. And it’s much more crucial to pick up.” Additionally, Ranney explains that the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) exams paint an incomplete picture of what is really happening in schools. Often, only struggling students are counted as English language learners; progress and success not represented in those test scores.
To read the full article, please visit the Star Tribune’s website. For additional information on Second Languages and Cultures, please visit the Second Languages and Cultures program area page.
Three Curriculum and Instruction graduate students, Justin Grinage (Culture and Teaching Track), Christopher Kolb (Literacy Education Track), and Sadaf Rauf (Second Languages and Cultures Track), along with C&I department chair, Nina Asher, gave two presentations at the 2013 Bergamo Conference on Curriculum Theory and Classroom Practice, held at the Bergamo Conference Center in Dayton, OH.
Asher and Kolb presented a co-authored paper titled, “Toward Educational Re-vision in a Time of Globalization and Standardization: Looking Deeply as a Means of Breaking the Confines of Capitalism.”
Grinage, Kolb and Rauf each presented a paper in a panel discussion called, “Race, Language, Nation, and Curriculum in a Global Context,” while Asher served as session chair. These presentations emerged out of the work the students did in Asher’s graduate seminar, Postcolonialism, Globalization, and Education last Spring and were very well received.
Justin Grinage (pictured) was selected as the winner of the 2013 Bergamo Graduate Student Paper Award. His paper, “Reterritorializing Locations of Home,” will be published in the Journal of Curriculum Theorizing. This was Justin’s first presentation at a national conference.
For more information about Asher’s research, please see her faculty profile. If you would like to know more about the Ph.D. program tracks mentioned, please visit our Future Student – Ph.D. webpages.
Curriculum and Instruction Associate Professor, Diane Tedick represented the United States at an international expert seminar on language immersion teacher education, held Oct. 15-16 at the University of Vaasa, Finland. In addition to the U.S. and host Finland, other countries represented were Canada, Estonia, Hong Kong, Ireland, New Zealand, Spain, and Wales.
The seminar was covered by the Finnish newspaper, Vasabladet last Thursday, in the article, “Gott språk är ett gott råd” which translates to “Proper language is a good piece of advice.” The article discusses parental roles and attitudes in language immersion.
For more information on Diane Tedick’s research on language immersion, see her faculty profile.