Christine Mallinson, PhD
University of Maryland, Baltimore County
"Language Variation in the Classroom":
A Model for Promoting Linguistic Awareness through Collaborative Research,
Teaching, and Community and Educational Engagement
Christine Mallinson, PhD is Associate Professor in the Language, Literacy, and Culture Program and Affiliate Associate Professor in the Gender and Women's Studies Program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). Her scholarship focuses on the social contexts of English language variation and addresses some of the most chronic issues that contribute to opportunity gaps in U.S. education, including the acquisition of literacy skills and student-teacher communication and miscommunication. Mallinson is the co-author of Understanding English Language Variation in U.S. Schools (2011, Teachers College Press) and We Do Language: English Language Variation in the Secondary English Classroom(forthcoming, Teachers College Press), and she is the co-editor of Data Collection in Sociolinguistics: Methods and Applications (forthcoming, Routledge). She is the associate editor of American Speech, responsible for coordinating the annual "Teaching American Speech" pedagogical section, and is on the editorial board of Language and Linguistics Compass. Her current research, funded by the National Science Foundation, investigates linguistic and educational challenges that may affect culturally and linguistically diverse students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) classrooms.
As linguists and educators have thoroughly documented, students whose language differs from the variety of English they are expected to use at school often face educational challenges. For this reason, it is necessary for linguists and educators to combine their knowledge about language, culture, communication, and education in order to effectively help culturally and linguistically diverse students achieve in K-12 classrooms and beyond.
In this plenary, I address the SECOL LXXX themes of linguistic pedagogy and language variation in education and society by reporting on a five-year ongoing research and outreach endeavor, "Language Variation in the Classroom," This multifaceted project combines sociolinguistic research, professional development, service learning, and community-centered initiatives. Collaborative partnerships were forged among hundreds of K-16 educators, linguists, and undergraduate and graduate students, primarily in Maryland and Virginia. These partnerships have taken various forms, including: 1) Workshops with K-12 educators that explore language, culture, communication, and education; 2) Internships between graduate students and high school teachers that develop needs-based, interdisciplinary curricular models; and 3) Individual tutoring programs in which undergraduate and graduate students work one on one with middle and high school students to address challenges related to writing and assessment. These collaborations resulted in a diverse range of projects and outreach activities. Together, the educators, linguists, and students developed linguistically and educationally informed materials. Practical and easy-to-implement classroom strategies helped foster middle and high school students' writing skills, particularly through the use of creative assignments such as skits and poems. Websites and wikis encouraged interaction and sharing by educators from different content areas and grade levels. Videos and podcasts on the topics of language attitudes, language variation, multilingualism, and the role of language in classroom pedagogy reached a wide audience and promoted linguistic awareness.
Through these endeavors, K-16 educators and linguists co-developed tools to meet the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse students, while undergraduate and graduate students were provided with the opportunity to connect academic learning and research with the needs of local schools and communities. These examples illustrate the merits of integrating research, teaching, and outreach to address issues of language variation and educational achievement. The final step is sharing these models so that other educators and linguists can develop, adapt, and apply their own models and thereby invest in disseminating critical insights about language, culture, and education.