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2015-16 Research Priorities Project Recipients

CONTACT: Marty Abbott
(703) 894-2000

Alexandria, VA—The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) Research Priorities Project is designed to support empirical research on six priority areas that are currently critical to improving language education. Each project either initiates a new research study, supports/expands a study under way, or explores an emerging research area that is connected to one or more Research Priority areas. The research grants are funded by ACTFL and the National Federation of Modern Language Teachers’ Association (NFMLTA) and the Modern Language Journal (MLJ). Each research team receives a $2,500 honorarium to offset the costs associated with the project. Dr. Eileen Glisan, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and Dr. Richard Donato, University of Pittsburgh, are co-directors of ACTFL’s Research Priorities Initiative.

The research priorities areas for the 2015-16 grants are:

  1. Research Priority Area #1: Integration of Language, Culture, and Content
  2. Research Priority Area #2: Foreign Language Teacher Development
  3. Research Priority Area #3: Classroom Discourse
  4. Research Priority Area #4: High-Performing Language Programs
  5. Research Priority Area #5: Language Use in the Community
  6. Research Priority Area #6: Research on Practice in K-16 Settings

The following research projects were selected for the 2015-16 year:

Dr. Beatrice Dupuy (University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ)
Co-researcher: Dr. Kristen Michelson (University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK)
Research Priority Area #2

Project Title: Online Social Reading as Professional Development for Foreign Language Teaching Assistants in the Integrated Teaching of Language and Culture

Responding to calls to expand foreign language teaching assistants’ (FLTAs) professional development beyond the methods course, this study (1) explores the role of digital social reading (DSR) of professional literature as weekly course supplement; DSR affords reader-text interactions, and interactions between groups of readers, through tagging and asynchronous chat; and (2) examines the discursive construction of FLTA’s evolving understandings and appropriation of multiliteracies concepts and pedagogies.

Research Questions: How does DSR of professional literature:

  1. mediate the development of FLTAs’ understandings and appropriation of multiliteracies concepts and pedagogies?
  2. contribute to the development of a professional community of practice?

Dr. Christopher J. Jochum (University of Nebraska at Kearney)
Research Priority Area #5

Project Title: Study Abroad and Self-Efficacy: An Analysis of Pre and In-Service Teachers

This study will examine how the study abroad experience contributes to pre and in-service Spanish teachers’ feelings of self-efficacy, especially as it relates to instructional and linguistic competence. Using a multiple case study design, the researcher will collect multiple data sets and observe and interact with participants before, during and after their time abroad to document and develop a better understanding of their lived experiences.

Research Questions:

  1. How does the study abroad experience contribute to pre-service teachers' feelings of self-efficacy (related to pedagogy and proficiency) as they prepare to enter the profession?
  2. How does the study abroad experience contribute to in-service teachers' feelings of self-efficacy (related to pedagogy and proficiency) as they continue to develop as educators?

Dr. Erin Kearney (State University of New York at Buffalo – Buffalo, NY)
Research Priority Area #2

Project Title: K-12 Foreign Language Educators’ Appropriation of Core Practices in Culture Teaching

This study examines how a six-week professional development course on core practices in culture teaching equips teachers with the vision and skill to execute engaging and effective intercultural instruction. Complementing existing research on novice teachers’ appropriation of core practices for cultivating communicative competence in learners, this study investigates professional growth among more experienced teachers and explores the realm of teaching for intercultural competence.

Research Questions:

  1. What shifts in perspective and what shifts in instructional practice do teachers show (if any) by the end of a professional development course on core practices in intercultural teaching?
  2. Through what processes of learning and professional development do these shifts occur?

Dr. Kelle Keating Marshall (Pepperdine University, Malibu, CA)
Co-researcher: Dr. Wendy Bokhorst-Heng (Crandall University, New Brunswick, Canada)
Research Priority Area #1

Project Title: ‘Why would we want to change them?’ When Intercultural Competence May Not Be the Goal of French Immersion

New Brunswick’s French immersion curriculum focuses on cultural learning and appreciation, but not students’ personal transformation. Using Kramsch’s ‘culture as discourse’ and Byram’s ‘interculturalism’, we analyze this paradox through teachers’ perspectives of their role as agents of socialization.

Research Questions:

  1. What are teachers’ discourses related to French, the purposes of bilingualism, and multiculturalism?
  2. Is intercultural competence an aim of their teaching?

Dr. Kate Paesani (Wayne State University, Detroit, MI)
Co-researcher: Dr. Heather Willis Allen (University of Wisconsin—Madison, WI)
Research Priority Area(s) #2 and #4

Project Title: High-Leverage Teaching Practices Among Experienced Collegiate Teaching Assistants in French

This project investigates high-leverage teaching practices (HLTPs) among experienced graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) at two universities. First we will author a position paper providing a rationale for HLTPs in collegiate FL contexts, the relationship between HLTPs and FL literacy development, and the integration of HLTPs into GTA professional development. Second we will implement a pilot study of perceptions and use of HLTPs among experienced GTAs.

Research questions:

  1. What HLTPs do experienced collegiate French GTAs prioritize?
  2. Are these HLTPs manifested in participants’ classrooms?
  3. Do the HLPTs that participants prioritize and use align with any pedagogical approach(es)?

Dr. Jeannette Sánchez-Naranjo (The University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK)
Research Priority Area #6

Project Title: Pathways to Quality and Value in Second Language Learning: Getting the Best out of Peer Review

Peer review is highly considered in Academia and intensively used in L1 settings. However, in the context of L2 acquisition, specifically in L2 Spanish, its use and impact on developing L2 writing skills are often neglected. By integrating qualitative and quantitative evaluation procedures, this study will examine how learners of Spanish can offer effective feedback and improve their language knowledge from the peer review process.

Research Questions:

  1. How students who receive/provide trained peer feedback improve their writing skills in the L2 language?
  2. What kind of peer feedback do L2 language writers incorporate into their revised texts?
  3. Which writing aspects (both global and local) do L2 writers improve when receiving/giving trained peer feedback?

Dr. Francis J. Troyan
Co-researcher: Dr. Alain Bengochea
Co-researcher: Dr. Mileidis Gort
(The Ohio State University, Columbus)
Research Priority Area #1

Project Title: Investigating the “Responsiveness” of Language Immersion Education

This study will investigate the capacity of language immersion programs in a large Midwestern city to positively support the academic, linguistic, and sociocultural needs of Latino, African American, and African Franocophone EBs, three particularly vulnerable student populations who are placed at risk due to poverty, race, ethnicity, language, and other factors, and who are rarely well served by their schools.

Research Questions:

  1. What ideologies and beliefs inform the organization of the language immersion schools, the hiring practices, the curriculum, and the instructional practices?
  2. In what ways do the language immersion schools enlist and interact with families as part of the school community?
  3. In what ways do teachers enact the stated goals and ideologies of the language immersion program in their classroom practice?

Dr. Pamela M. Wesely (University of Iowa)
Co-researcher: Reuben Vyn (PhD student, University of Iowa)
Research Priority Areas #4 and #6

Project Title: Exploring the Effects of Foreign Language Instructional Approaches on Student Proficiency Development: A Mixed Methods study

This study seeks to identify characteristics of effective language teachers in one urban school system through correlating instructional approaches with student proficiency gains, delineated by modality, on district-wide standardized foreign language tests. A large-scale quantitative analysis will be supplemented by case studies of individual teachers. The role of contextual factors in individual teachers’ instructional approaches and overall effectiveness will also be investigated.

Research Questions:

  1. How do differences in teachers’ instructional approaches relate to students’ proficiency outcomes in speaking, listening, reading, and writing, as measured on a standardized assessment?
  2. Does the relationship between instructional approaches and proficiency outcomes change, based on changing contextual factors (e.g. teacher experience, language, instructional level, school demographics)? How?
Monday, August 31, 2015