Research Projects

An Investigation into Diverse & Global Literature in the Elementary Classroom

The goal of the study is to engage students with literature, to explore the humanistic goal of literature by allowing students to gain empathy and mirrors into the global world. This study would be the first step in preparation for a national study with teachers and students on diverse and global literature. Reading and pondering the stories in diverse global literature has implications for broadening student knowledge and understanding of others through literature, and for those of us who are teachers.

The research questions will address key questions, “How do students, working in elementary classrooms rich in diverse literature, experience diverse literature?” Additional questions address: What characteristics of diverse books draws the reader to reading? What is their experience of literacy learning with a diverse classroom library? How did their perception of others shift from their exposure to a diverse classroom library? How did teachers experience the use of diverse literature in the literacy curriculum?

To investigate these questions, I plan to use a mixed methods approach to explore the student’s cognitive frame of learning in classrooms with diverse global literature. There are two phases of data collection: quantitative data collection and qualitative data collection (Creswell, 2014). Phase one, data on the number of books of books read and the types of books read will be collected. Phase two, observation of teachers using diverse global books in the curriculum and the collection of student responses about reading books focused on children of color from a variety of groups not just from the United States. The experiences elicited from student writing and interviews assist the researcher in the development of qualitative case studies (Merriam, 1998) which provide greater depth of understanding on the role of cognitive thinking from pedagogical practice in urban classrooms.

 

The Multilingual Perspectives in the Motivation of K-12 Pre-service:
An investigation into effective teacher interventions: Teaching writing to 4th – 6th grade students

My research focus is meaningful and focused on the challenges that non-dominant speakers such as African American and Latino students in the elementary grades face when learning the process of written academic language. I look closely at the intersection between language (spelling, conventions, and grammar) and literacy (reading and writing). I lean on a design-based framework (Brown, 1992; Design-Based Research Collective, 2003) to understand the practice of writing and writing instruction and to isolate and to learn more about the instructional practices the teachers enact. Design-Based research relies on techniques used in other research paradigms, such as thick descriptive datasets, and systematic analysis of data. It triangulates multiple sources and kinds of data to connect intended and unintended outcomes.

Currently, I am researching multilingual versus monolingual students, teachers of written academic language, and African American Language speakers in urban classrooms (see Research Chart in Appendix). In the fall 2014, this work brought two colleagues from Australia here to work with me to engage in conversations, work in classrooms, and finalize writing opportunities. This collaboration supports both past and upcoming work. Our earlier collaboration resulted in a book proposal that is currently being looked at by a publisher. Upcoming projects consist of a proposal for workshop at the International Reading conference and a panel proposal at the Literacy Research Association conference as well as publications. I have reached out to scholars on the Australian continent due to the current implementation of a nationwide grammar curriculum in 2012 and the challenges they face with non-dominant populations (such as aboriginal students) and literacy. The time spent researching and learning alongside colleagues who teach literacy and language in another country has affected my knowledge greatly.

I plan to continue to spend time working with teachers and students in classrooms across various grade levels and in professional development workshops because it provides a platform through which teachers can become informed of challenges between teachers and students when learning academic language. In spring 2014, I received IRB approval for a yearlong qualitative study titled: An investigation into effective teacher interventions: Teaching writing to 4th grade students and a second IRB which is a quantitative study on The Multilingual Perspectives in the Motivation of K-12 Pre-service.

The teaching of writing and language study is expected in K-5 Language Arts classrooms in urban settings. Yet, teachers are faced with the daunting challenge of teaching writing and language study to a growing population of non-dominant language speakers. Many of these students were born in the U.S. but may speak another language at home. Students today come from a variety of cultural backgrounds as a result; classrooms today are often multilingual rather than monolingual. This creates a tension around writing and language study instruction for teachers. Teachers often characterize the teaching of literacy as the teaching of reading and writing. Yet, language (in the sense of usage and other conventions) appears to be a category that is often forgotten as a mode of instruction. Instead, teachers look at language instruction more from the perspective of a list of rules or do’s and don’ts based on prior experience.

This instructional motivation, influenced by a teacher’s own experience and knowledge, sometimes clashes with this new generation of learners. Some research has sought to document the motivational factors of Language Arts teachers regarding their writing and language experiences, and the use of multilingual resources in their instruction. My research questions include: What influences teachers’ understanding of writing pedagogy? What kinds of interventions affect student writing? Answers to these will not only support writing and language learning in elementary classrooms but also lead to a much larger study that will investigate methods of instruction, ways of organizing classrooms, and tools to use in supporting the multilingual learner.

The research projects I am undertaking explores the challenges teachers currently face in multilingual classrooms. The first project, The Multilingual Perspectives in the Motivation of K-12 Pre-service, is a quantitative study that looks at the knowledge base and preparation of pre-service teachers who aim to teach in urban classrooms with all of its language challenges.

The second project is linked to the first, An investigation into effective teacher interventions: Teaching writing to 4th – 6th grade students, is a quasi-ethnographic study that focuses on a multilingual classroom and the interventions teachers embrace to support the written academic language of students.

Purpose of the studies:

The purpose of these two complementary studies is to support writing and language learning in elementary classrooms as well as to develop instructional leaders, instructional methods, and ways of organizing classrooms, and tools to use in supporting the multilingual learner.

Goals of the Project:

  1. The goal of the first project is to gather statistical data on the language learning of pre-service teachers who plan to teach in urban settings. The survey software used will generate percent’s in frequency distribution for my questions.
  2. The second research project looks to develop an understanding of the impact of language interventions that can be shared with teachers during Language Arts Professional Development sessions. It seeks to answer the questions: What is influence on the teachers understanding of writing pedagogy? What kinds of interventions affect student writing?

If you have any questions about the projects above, contact Dr. Bean-Folkes at Jane.Bean-Folkes@Marist.edu

 

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