Research Agenda

My research is situated at the intersection of education and applied linguistics, exploring how classroom language practices, policies, and ideologies shape language and literacy learning for elementary emergent bilingual students. My work is grounded in a critical sociocultural framework that views language and literacy as dynamic, ideological processes that cannot be separated from their social, historical, and cultural contexts.

As a critical scholar, I am committed to pursuing questions of equity and engaging in researcher-practitioner collaboration aimed at transformative change in our schools and society. My principal research methods are qualitative, ethnographic, and discourse analytic.

Presently, I have three central lines of inquiry:

(1) student identity negotiation and positioning in bilingual classrooms;

(2) the (co)design of translanguaging pedagogies to support students’ biliteracy development and learning; and

(3) the preparation of in-service teachers to serve emergent bilingual students, particularly in/through writing.

Current Projects

I am currently launching a new project that explores how engaging bilingual teachers in professional learning around the key tenets of a critical translanguaging space (Hamman, 2018) shapes their design of language learning experiences and students’ developing bilingualism. Building upon my dissertation study, this project aims to deepen our understanding of the role translanguaging might play in destabilizing language hierarchies and in cultivating students’ bilingual identities. It also is grounded in key learning from my postdoctoral research around the principles that contribute to effective research-practice partnerships.

Dissertation Study

Dissertation: “Becoming bilingual in two-way immersion: A critical lens on language, identity, and ideology” (2016-2017)

My dissertation research examined how the language and literacy practices in a second grade two-way bilingual classroom shaped students’ opportunities for learning and their emerging understandings of bilingualism. Specifically, I interrogated the common practice of language separation and then collaborated with the classroom teacher to design and implement a biliteracy project aimed at opening up a critical translanguaging space. Importantly, in this research, I also centered the perspectives and experiences of students, as student sense-making remains an underdeveloped area of this scholarship.

Findings revealed that (1) language separation impacts students’ ideological sense-making of bilingualism in ways that reinforce false binaries between languages and students (e.g., English-speaker/Anglo, Spanish-speaker/Latino), (2) there are affordances in establishing both focused (separate) and flexible (dynamic) languaging spaces in TWI, and (3) collaborative bilingual identity texts provide an avenue for more dynamic language learning spaces, promoting cross-linguistic transfer and opening up spaces for students to negotiate their emerging (bilingual) identities.

My dissertation was honored with awards from the Bilingual Education Research Special Interest Group at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE). It was funded by Phi Kappa Phi, The International Research Foundation for English Language Education, The National Federation of Modern Language Teachers Associations (NFMLTA) /Modern Language Journal (MLJ), and Language Learning.

These findings make important contributions to the field of language education. First, this study complicates the language separation debate by demonstrating that there are both advantages and disadvantages in enforcing strict language separation; a ‘middle ground’ approach is needed. Second, by demonstrating that students are active sense-makers of their language learning experiences, this study reveals the importance of engaging with student perspectives when making decisions about language allocation in the classroom. Third, this study offers one technique for fostering dynamic bilingual pedagogies in the classroom, demonstrating how the intentional design of flexible language spaces can support student learning, while also acknowledging the importance of maintaining some ‘protected’ spaces for the minoritized language (Cenoz & Gorter, 2017) in the classroom.

Past Projects

“Demystifying the Genres of Schooling with Teachers of Bilingual Learners” (2018-2021

Principal Investigator: Professor Millie Gort, University of Colorado-Boulder

I served as Co-PI I on a study that explored the impact of a genre-based approach to writing instruction in bilingual classrooms. This approach draws upon systemic functional linguistics to consider the affordances of explicitly teaching school-based written genres to emergent bilingual students. This work was funded by several internal awards totaling $40,000 and a Spencer Research Grant ($50,000).

“Immigrant Families’ Literacy & Identity Development Over Time & Space” (2014-2017)

Principal Investigator: Professor Cathy Compton-Lilly, University of Wisconsin-Madison

I served as lead researcher on longitudinal qualitative research study seeking to understand the literacy development and identity enactments of immigrant children. In this role, I collected and analyzed data, including: in-depth, semi-structured interviews with the focal child, family members, and teachers; classroom, home, and community observations; field notes and reflective memos; child-created drawings, maps, and photographs, and literacy assessments. Findings have been presented at LRA and AERA and have been published in the Journal for Literacy Research and SAGE Research Methods Cases.

“Language and Literacy Practices in Mexican Bilingual Classrooms” (2016)

Principal Investigators: Laura Hamman, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Professor Maggie Hawkins, University of Wisconsin-Madison

I designed and conducted a study of the language and literacy practices within two-way classrooms at a Mexican elementary school. The study was conducted over one month and included daily video and audio-recorded classroom observations, interviews with classroom teachers, and student-generated artifacts such as language portraits and collages. Findings from study were presented at NABE and AAAL.

“Languaging & Positioning within Dual Language Immersion” (2015)

Principal Investigators: Laura Hamman, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Professor Maggie Hawkins, University of Wisconsin-Madison

I designed and conducted a study in a dual language immersion classroom in Wisconsin to explore the role of translanguaging practices in a two-way immersion learning context. Data collection included weekly video-recorded observations over the course of four months and bi-monthly video-elicited interviews with the classroom teacher. Findings have been published in Language and Education.