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RESEARCH INNOVATION Research in Georgia State University’s College of Education & Human Development • Spring/Summer 2018

Lost in Translation By 2044, more than half of all Americans are projected to belong to a minority group and by 2060, nearly one in five of the nation’s total population is projected to be foreign-born, according to a 2015 report from the U.S. Census Bureau. These demographic estimates suggest Americans will be fluent in a variety of languages and educators will, in turn, need to be prepared for two different teaching scenarios: Working with a classroom of students who speak a variety of languages, and teaching students to speak – and learn subject-specific content – in more than one language.

Faculty and students in Georgia State University’s College of Education & Human Development have conducted research, developed degree programs and endorsements, and received grant funding for projects specifically designed to prepare teachers for multilingual classrooms. Teaching and learning in multiple languages In dual immersion classrooms, students spend half of their school day learning in a target language and the other half of the day learning in English. During the 2017-2018 school year, there were 38 schools with dual

immersion programs in the state of Georgia teaching in Spanish, French, German and Chinese, according to Cathy Amanti, clinical assistant professor in early childhood education. Early estimates suggest that number will increase to 53 in the 2018-2019 school year. In these programs, students spend half the day in one classroom and then move to a second classroom – and a different teacher – when it’s time to switch to the other language. “The benefits of kids learning in another language are numerous,” Amanti explained. “Not only are they learning an additional language, but they’re learning content through two languages.”

There aren’t any full degree programs in Georgia solely focused on preparing teachers to work in dual language immersion classrooms, but CEHD faculty are working to change that. In 2017, Georgia State became the first university in the state to offer a dual immersion early childhood education endorsement for students. Teachers already certified in a foreign language and students working toward a foreign language teaching degree are eligible for the endorsement, which consists of five courses focused on culturally- and linguistically-diverse students in

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What’s the difference between dual language immersion and English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)? Educators in dual language immersion classrooms are prepared to present subjects like math, science and language arts in a new language. ESOL teachers teach their lessons in English and are trained to work with students whose first language is not English.

{ LOST IN TRANSLATION continued } multilingual settings and field experiences in an elementary dual language classroom. In addition, students enrolled in the college’s master of education in elementary education program may choose a dual language concentration as part of their program. “This is a great first step in addressing the urgency to fill positions in dual immersion schools in Georgia,” said Associate Professor Laura May. “What we’re trying to do is offer teachers some new ways of thinking that can help them teach in those settings.” May is principal investigator on a federally-funded project that will lay the foundation for a teacher preparation program dedicated to dual language immersion. The Equipping Schools, Communities, and Universities for Excellence in Language Acquisition project is designed to recruit, develop and support teachers for those settings. In the future, May and Amanti hope to expand dual immersion teacher training beyond the elementary level

to include all K-12 educators. In the meantime, students in the CEHD’s elementary education teacher preparation programs can take coursework leading to an ESOL endorsement along with their other courses. English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) In the college’s Department of Middle and Secondary Education, those who want to learn how to best teach students who speak other languages can earn a master of arts in teaching degree in English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) or take classes to obtain an endorsement in ESOL. Students enrolled in either the ESOL degree program or endorsement learn how languages are learned and developed, explore cultural issues that may arise in the classroom, and practice their teaching skills in refugee families’ homes in Clarkston, Ga. – a city east of Atlanta with a large refugee population – as part of their student teaching practicum.


“We take a strengths-based approach that builds on the cultural, linguistic and cognitive abilities children do have, rather than focusing on what they don’t have,” said Gertrude Tinker Sachs, Middle and Secondary Education department chair and coordinator of the ESOL endorsement. “We ask our teachers what they’re doing to consider children’s home languages and how they welcome other cultural traditions and ideologies in their teaching practices and classrooms.” Anyone who has ever tried learning a new language knows there are stumbling blocks along the way – mispronouncing words, searching for the right words, worrying about being misunderstood – and Tinker Sachs suggests teachers remember how those mistakes can feel when they work with ESOL students every day. “It’s important to talk about this because teachers are the lifelines for students who speak different languages,” she said.

“In the end, isn’t that what education is about?” Dual language immersion teacher highlights her students’ growth this year One of the shyest students in Sarah Brownlow’s second grade class always did her best to speak Spanish with her peers in their dual language classroom. When the girl’s family decided to temporarily foster a young boy from South America, she was the one member of the family who could speak Spanish – and perhaps, the one best equipped to make him feel comfortable in a strange new place. “My student was able to reach out to this new boy because of her education. In the end, isn’t that what education is about – equipping our students with the skills they need in order to take advantage of the opportunities in life?” she said. “This is why I teach.” Brownlow, who teaches at Beulah Elementary School in Douglasville, Ga., has been teaching in dual language immersion settings her entire career and will graduate this December with a master’s degree

from Georgia State University’s College of Education & Human Development. Her master’s concentration in dual language immersion offers insight into how children can become both bilingual and biliterate in English and Spanish while mastering grade level content. As they reach specific language benchmarks, students become proficient in the target language they’re learning and gain insight into a culture different from their own. Add that new knowledge to the experience she’s had teaching in a dual language classroom, and Brownlow can see how learning subjects in another language makes a big difference in her second grade students’ lives. “Academically, my students have proven more successful on reading, math, social studies and science assessments when compared to their monolingual peers. Their brains are

able to make connections between concepts, which helps them store and retain information,” she explained. “Socially, they are able to engage in conversations with people that they might not normally be able to due to a language barrier. They are more culturally aware of the world and the differences and similarities people across the globe share.”

CEHD’s new research center focused on multilingual education Georgia State University’s College of Education & Human Development established a new research center in 2017 dedicated to better understanding transnational and multilingual education. The Center for Transnational and Multilingual Education focuses on providing research and evidencebased policies and procedures for

educational professionals, and helping all students become multiple language learners who embrace global languages. The center’s director, Assistant Professor Sue Kasun, was named a Fulbright-García Robles U.S. Scholar and spent the 2017-2018 academic year conducting research and teaching at the State University of


Hidalgo in Pachuca, Mexico. Her Fulbright work created a partnership between the center and the Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Hidalgo and will lay the foundations for building bridges of understanding between Mexican and U.S. cultures, allowing the voices of marginalized people to be linked across borders.

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{ MULTILINGUAL continued } Her Fulbright project focused on ways teachers can use culturallyrelevant teaching practices to not only engage students in learning English, but also to create a respectful classroom that honors alternate ways of knowing for all students.

English – such as the consumption and production of social media, music and film, as well as powerful emotional connections with family spanning borders – toward students’ improved acquisition of English,” she explained.

directors for the center, which also aims to help schools “become accessible, inviting and easily navigated by everyone, and acknowledge the important role families and communities play in the intellectual development of children.”

“This approach deeply engages the usually overlooked transnational practices of Mexican learners of

Clinical Assistant Professor Cathy Amanti and Associate Professor Laura May serve as associate

To learn more about the center, visit

Recent grant funding to bolster CEHD’s dual language work

CEHD faculty members Laura May, Cathy Amanti, Sue Kasun and Gary Bingham received a five-year, $2.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education for the Equipping Schools, Communities, and Universities for Excellence in Language Acquisition (ESCUELA) project, which will recruit, train and support teachers for dual language immersion classroom settings.

Faculty members Laura May, Nancy Schafer and Diane Truscott received a five-year, $2.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition for Todos Juntos: Uniting Communities to Improve Practice for English Learners (Juntos), which supports teachers in the field and helps early childhood education students improve English language learners’ academic achievement.

The five-year grant funding will allow May, Amanti, Kasun and Bingham to design family- and communityfocused recruitment and professional development activities for dual language immersion teachers.

This funding will allow May, Schafer and Truscott to extend the work they’ve done over the last five years providing professional development opportunities focused on children learning English as an additional language. They also hope to better incorporate families and communities in the work, expand professional development opportunities to partner elementary schools’ pre-kindergarten teachers and support dual language immersion programs.

The research team plans to offer career support for area high schoolers and their families, tuition support for college applicants interested in becoming dual language immersion teachers and a newly-designed master of arts concentration in family and community engagement.


Research & Innovation - Spring/Summer 2018  

Demographic estimates suggest Americans will soon be fluent in a variety of languages and educators will, in turn, need to be prepared for t...

Research & Innovation - Spring/Summer 2018  

Demographic estimates suggest Americans will soon be fluent in a variety of languages and educators will, in turn, need to be prepared for t...