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Undergraduate Researchers

Casey Gray, English and Secondary Education

"Americanized Pedagogy: Journey to El Salvador"

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Jean Fernandez, Dr. Lucille McCarthy

English as a Second Language and Bilingualism are relatively virgin fields of study to applied linguists, language acquisitionists, and educators alike. Due to the growing emphasis on multicultural education in primary and secondary classrooms in North America, it has become my goal to teach and attain from first-hand experience, contemporary techniques for English language and literacy development in multicultural settings with an emphasis on social justice and solidarity. I am interested in uncovering how and in what ways my teaching pedagogy has become Americanized and the positive and or negative implications that cultural background could have on the language learning of students from the Salvadoran cultural background. It will then be my task to take what I have learned and apply it at home. It is my belief that some of the best works of informative literature as related to teaching are not merely scholastic and technical in form, but are also uniquely written in a free and creative style. Therefore, I will weave together my experience and research with daily Salvadoran life into a travel narrative as I take on the role of volunteer teacher of English at The Melida Anaya Montes Language School of the Centro de Intercambio y Solidaridad (Center for Exchange and Solidarity) for nine weeks. I will also participate in Spanish language classes which will allow me to experience and evaluate the role-reversal that will take place when I become the American student in a Hispanic cultural setting instead of the teacher. This will serve as a great balance of perspectives. In my study and experience, I will take a social constructionist perspective with an emphasis on transformation pedagogies and education as a practice of freedom.

When and how did you find out about the URA program?

I first learned about the URA program through the Shriver Center in the spring of 2010, which marked the first semester of my senior year.

What have you gained from being a URA scholar? What is your most recent (or most interesting) research activity?

Being a URA scholar has grown me as an individual in a few different ways. It was a new experience to conduct broad-scale, intense, or experiential research as did while teaching English as a Foreign Language in El Salvador. Undertaking and successfully completing this task through all the long hours and language barriers has built so much more confidence in me. I have completed a task that a few times I wanted to give up. It has given me a sense of pride, well-roundedness, and tangibility of the future.

How did you find your mentor for this project?

I chose a mentor who I knew to be committed to high achievement, who I respected, and who I already had a relationship with. As I progressed with my research, I asked for the opinions and research expertise of a second professor whom I also valued. Both mentors took the time to review my work repeatedly to help me achieve my best.

How much time do you put into it?

In some respects, this project was like a part time job. If you want to produce quality, you can’t forget the quantity.

What academic background did you have before you started?

 Before beginning the project, I had a few years experience teaching teens and children, but I had never taught English as a Second Language before.

What has been the hardest part about your research? The most unexpected thing?

 The hardest and most unexpected part of my research was accepting and adjusting when things did not go quite as planned.