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Professional Development

Dr. Anne H. Charity Hudley and I co-lead the professional development series, “Language Variation in the Classroom,” which brings researchers and K-12+ educators together to communicate knowledge about English language variation. Our material is relevant for anyone interested in the practical implications of language variation in educational settings, and we have developed our professional development series as a direct response to educators who have expressed a critical need to learn more about how language variation relates to academic achievement.

Watch these two short videos to learn more about our research and our professional development for teachers.  In the first video clip, we explain the context for our professional development in relation to our research and our book, Understanding English Language Variation in U.S. SchoolsThe second short video showcases teachers from one organization who attended our language variation professional development week-long workshop. Listen to what these teachers–from a range of grade levels and content areas–say about the impact of our professional development on their pedagogy!

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And here’s a story about two of these teachers, who report on their realizations from participating in our language variation professional development workshop. As one of the teachers puts it, the workshop was “an eye-opening” revelation. “Those five days were the best professional development I ever had in 10 years of teaching. It was awesome.”

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Details about Our Professional Development

All participants attending our professional development receive linguistically- and educationally-informed assessment tools needed to recognize language variation and distinguish language diversity from student error in listening, reading, and writing in students of all ages. Participants also develop their own toolkit of praxis-based strategies, exercises, and project plans designed to break down communication barriers for non-standardized English-speaking students, support them in achieving greater educational success, and foster positive language attitudes in classrooms and beyond.

Our professional development opportunities for educators include:

To date, we have led professional development with educators throughout the U.S., concentrating in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast. Through our dynamic, conversational teaching style, we use multifaceted presentations, group discussion, small group work, and hands-on learning exercises to help educators master comprehensive, relevant material in a short amount of time.

Educators who have attended our professional development have found information about language variation to be critically important to their teaching, and they have seen excellent results when directly applying information they learned in our workshops to their own classrooms. As is evident from their feedback, educators who have participated in our professional development find that information about language variation has significantly shaped their pedagogical approaches to teaching linguistically and culturally diverse students. Participants in our professional development workshops and courses have stated:

“Transformative!”

“You changed my life!”

“I really loved the whole PD.  Fascinating material, truly!”

“To say that Christine Mallinson and Anne Charity Hudley are effective working with teachers is an understatement!”

“This linguistic educational duo has not only informed, explained and clarified my concerns about what I am observing in the classroom, but they have also expanded my mind.”

“The training was thought provoking — particularly because I know that if our efforts are to be successful, students must be able to produce what they learn, and I have always believed that literacy is the key to this.  Reading is a way for us to help our students unlock their own speech.  I know that this professional development has put me even more firmly on the literacy bandwagon.”

“As a high school English teacher, the whole area of language usage is fascinating to me, so I came to the training with enthusiasm and anticipation. I was not disappointed. The sessions were the right combination of scholarly research and practical application. I was somewhat familiar with the ideas, but had never heard them explained so clearly before. I was immediately able to put them into action in my teaching.”

“I’m very pleased with the wealth of information provided in this 5 day workshop. I spent some time last evening planning (actually changing/adapting my plans) for my 7th and 9th graders this summer.  I’m looking forward to implementing many of the strategies into my classroom during the school year.”

“I hadn’t realized that so many common ‘errors’ were predictable and patterned variations. I hope by being more transparent and culturally aware, students will be more willing to be receptive to my literacy instruction with regard to standard English. I’m re-planning my first week of school and will redesign/tweak rubrics for writing assignments.”

“I’m not in the classroom but I plan to pass this information to my Language Arts teachers first, then share with ALL staff.”

“What I will do differently in my classroom now, after this workshop, is to: Validate students’ identity by respecting their language, Create a bridge between their home language and academic language by using models and explicit teaching. I’ve learned to be respectful of their language so that I can do a better job of having children develop spoken and written academic language. I love the strategies that were suggested and the openness of the conversations.”

“This workshop was transformative for me in terms of how I view my English curriculum, my work in the counseling field, and my understanding of educational reform. I feel empowered on a number of levels, including my ability to communicate more effectively both within the classroom and in other contexts in which I work with students.”

“This was the best workshop-seminar-conference-professional development-multicultural education-learning experience I have ever had the privilege of attending.  …You all tore it up!”

In a recent week-long professional development workshop in Maryland, 19 K-12 educators from public and independent schools filled out a survey about our workshop.  On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest, participants rated our workshop an average score of 9.8 out of 10 for the question, “How likely are you to recommend this workshop to other teachers?”  We also received an average score of 9.1 out of 10 for the question, “How would you rate the effectiveness of this workshop?” and an average score of 8.8 out of 10 for the question, “Has this workshop changed your understanding of language variation?”  (We thank all our participants for this excellent feedback!)

Our professional development draws upon our co-authored a book for educators:  Understanding English Language Variation in U.S. Schoolsclick here to buy it on Amazon and click here to see reviews of the book written by readers, educators, and scholars. Proceeding from a model of linguistic and cultural awareness, we draw upon research from sociology, psychology, linguistics, and education to discuss the role of language variation within increasingly diverse U.S. classrooms. Participants in our professional development workshops and courses understand the academic, social, and cultural factors related to language differences for English speaking students, and they learn how the educational, personal, and social development of students is positively affected by linguistically informed teaching.  Our materials are accessible, clearly presented, and directly relevant, as they address issues that are of everyday concern to those who are educating and assessing linguistically and culturally diverse students.  Our work has also been featured in the news.

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Key topics for our professional development include:

  • Communication in U.S. Classrooms: New Diversity, New Challenges
  • School English: Language Standards and Where They Come From
  • Variation in the Classroom: Students’ English and School English
  • Putting Knowledge into Action: Language, Curriculum, and Assessment

In each of these sessions, we discuss how to assist students in learning the academic style of English that is valued at school while also valuing and building upon the language patterns that students bring with them from home. We provide educators with readily accessible, specific examples of language variation that they may encounter in the their students’ spoken, oral reading, and written communication, since this specific knowledge allows educators to use linguistic information to best serve students from non-standardized English-speaking backgrounds and help them achieve in school. Other aspects of communication that may affect learners in the classroom, such as word choice, slang, tone, silence, and loudness, are also explored.

Clear explanations of what is meant by non-standardized varieties of English, as well as what is meant by School English, are provided and discussed. We cover two main non-standardized varieties of English in our book, Southern English and African-American English, though our information on language variation is relevant to all educators and school support personnel, regardless of the linguistic and cultural backgrounds of the students they serve. To hear directly from educators who have worked with us, you can also listen to our podcast, “‘It’s a Language Variation, and It Has Its Own Structure,” in which 14 pre- and in-service teachers talk about what they have learned about language variation in the classroom and how it has positively impacted their teaching and helped them better communicate with their students.

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Please contact me at <mallinson AT umbc DOT edu> for more information and/or to schedule a professional development workshop with your school or organization.

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