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July 8, 2011

Christine Mallinson, language, literacy and culture, receives NSF grant to study language in STEM classrooms

Chelsea Haddaway
Communications Manager

Christine Mallinson, assistant professor of language, literacy and culture, has received a grant from the National Science Foundation to study the ways in which language plays a role in the educational challenges that often affect culturally and linguistically diverse students in STEM classrooms.

“Our goal is to work with teachers to figure out what challenges are being faced in terms of language for their math and science students and what resources teachers and students need to be able to face those challenges,” said Mallinson.

The grant, “"Assessing the Results of Sociolinguistic Engagement with K-12 STEM Education in Maryland and Virginia Public and Independent Schools," will provide Mallinson and co-recipient, Anne Charity Hudley, associate professor of English, linguistics, and Africana studies at the College of William and Mary, with $171,928 over a three-year period. Mallinson and Charity Hudley will work with K-12 STEM educators in the Baltimore and Richmond areas to collect data on how these educators learn from professional development workshops on language variation and integrate pedagogy and assessment techniques into their classroom.

“Linguists have usually studied language variation in the classroom with respect to English classrooms, but we also know that linguistically diverse students don’t leave their language patterns at the door when they come to the math and science classrooms,” said Mallinson. For example, students may have trouble deciphering a math word problem because they don’t understand the syntax of the question, or they may face difficulty in producing the academic style and scientific terminology required for writing a lab report.

Beginning this September, Mallinson and Charity Hudley will lead approximately 60 educators in workshops on how to address linguistic variations in the STEM classroom, focusing on linguistically and educationally informed strategies that can help students overcome potential challenges. These educators will then complete follow-up surveys and participate in in-depth interviews to share what they learned. Mallinson and Charity Hudley will also work intensively with 10 teachers for the duration of the three-year period to assist them in implementing and tracking changes in their curriculum designed to help linguistically diverse students.

The grant builds in part on a $20,000 Special Research Assistantship/Initiative Support (SRAIS) grant that Mallinson received from UMBC for the 2010-2011 academic year, which funded a pilot version of the project.

“The fact that we had already begun working on a pilot version of our project and had already established wide networks with educators in our targeted geographic areas was crucial in helping us obtain funding,” said Mallinson.

Mallinson and Charity Hudley are the co-authors of “Understanding English Language Variation in U.S. Schools,” which was published by Teachers College Press in 2010.

Posted by chelseah at July 8, 2011 9:19 AM