Emma Marie Birkmaier Award

Doctoral Dissertation Research Author

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ACTFL-NFMLTA/MLJ Emma Marie Birkmaier Award for Doctoral Dissertation Research in World Language Education

Emma Marie Birkmaier
Emma Marie Birkmaier

The Emma Marie Birkmaier Award honors ACTFL’s first president, a person who worked tirelessly in the creation of the association and its new programs, including the ACTFL Annual Bibliography of Books and Articles on Pedagogy in Foreign Languages and the ACTFL Review of Foreign Language Education (now known as the ACTFL Foreign Language Education Series). She was an outstanding teacher educator at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and her career influenced countless students of foreign language education at that institution and practicing teachers across the nation. Through publications, professional service, and the organization of summer institutes for foreign language professionals, her legacy and impact continue unabated.

The Emma Marie Birkmaier Award was established in 1980 to recognize an author of doctoral dissertation research in world language education that contributes significantly to the advancement of the profession. Royalties from Foreign Language Learning Today, Pergamon Press, Ltd., London, established the award.

Beginning in 1989, the recipient receives a $500 cash award, provided by the National Federation of Modern Language Teachers' Associations (NFMLTA) and The Modern Language Journal. The cash award is evidence of the commitment of ACTFL, NFMLTA and The Modern Language Journal to research in foreign and second language acquisition and to the application of its results to the classroom.

1) Who is eligible?

The competition is open to those who have completed dissertations in the field of world language education during the two calendar years preceding the award ceremony. Candidates are not required to be members of ACTFL. The competition is for those doctoral students who have focused their research on the field of world language education or who have conducted research related to world language education. Studies using any quantitative or qualitative research approach (historical, survey, experimental, ethnographic, etc.) will be considered. Each study will be assessed in the light of its approach, the scholarly qualifications of its report, and the significance of its contributions to knowledge within the world language education field.

2) What are the required components of the submission?

Round 1—Abstract Assessment

Candidate or nominator will submit abstract of dissertation, along with a letter of support from a faculty member, addressed to the Chair of the selection committee. This letter should describe the thesis, situate it in the field, and relate the significance of its contribution to the theory or practice, or both, of second or world language learning. The letter must be submitted along with the dissertation abstract prior to the deadline. Submissions that lack the letter of support will not be considered.

  1. Length of abstract. The main portion of the abstract should be 2‑5 typewritten pages (8 1/2 x 11) in length, double‑spaced. If the applicant requires additional space in which to present details of research instruments, a theoretical point of view, or to elaborate some other vital point, an appendix of up to 3 additional pages may be attached to the abstract. The title page and the bibliography are not included in the page count. The main portion of the abstract (excluding the appendix) should not exceed 5 typewritten pages double‑spaced (plus the 3-page summary, if required). Abstracts that exceed the maximum length will not be considered.
  2. Format of the abstract. The abstract should include a title page, the main report section, bibliography and, if desired, an appendix.
    • Title of the dissertation. This should be the complete title, using no abbreviations.
    • Name and address of the institution from which the degree was obtained.

Round 2—Dissertation Review

The dissertation should have the following components:

  1. a statement of the context in which the research took place and a description of the processes involved;
  2. review of the literature related to the problem, including the contribution to the study being reviewed;
  3. a clear and detailed design of the study;
  4. clear and systematic analysis of the data;
  5. conclusions appropriate to the data;
  6. recognition of the limitations of the study; and
  7. recommendations for further research that are appropriate extensions of the study.

All materials for consideration in both Rounds 1 and 2 are to be submitted in a single dossier as one PDF before the nomination deadline - abstract, letter of support, and dissertation.

No member or officer of the ACTFL Board of Directors may write a letter of support for any award nominee or actively shepherd the nomination of an award candidate. If a dossier packet is resubmitted that contains a support letter written prior to the establishment of these guidelines, that letter will be removed from the packet by the Committee Chair.

The nominations can be made only by ACTFL members. Nominations can be of ACTFL members or non-members. Self-nominations will be accepted only from members of ACTFL.

Criteria for Eligibility (Checklist)

  1. The dissertation deals with language learning or teaching, teacher preparation, curriculum development, assessment, or any field directly related to second or world language education.
  2. The dissertation has been completed during the two calendar years preceding the award ceremony.
  3. The recipient is not required to be a member of ACTFL.
  4. Dossier includes the formatted abstract and a letter of support from a faculty member, as well as the dissertation and accompanying letter of support as described above.

Procedures for Selection Committee

  1. The award selection committee will be co-chaired by a member of the NFMLTA, appointed by the NFMLTA, and a member of ACTFL, appointed by the ACTFL Past President. The co-chairs will serve in a non-voting capacity.
  2. The Committee will review Round 1 abstracts of dissertations and, subsequently, full copies of dissertations will be considered in the competition during Round 2.
  3. The Committee Chair will circulate copies of the nomination dossiers to members of the committee.
  4. Committee members rate and rank the dossiers using the rubric and return their ratings and rankings to the Committee Chairs by the date specified.
  5. At the discretion of the Committee, the award may or may not be presented during a given year.
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