Thursday, April 10, 2014

Vocabulary Again

Whew,  I think things are beginning to settle down around here and I can get back to blogging!  I don't think I can ever catch up on all of the thoughts, ideas, and reflections that have been swirling around without an outlet over the last few weeks.  Oh, well, that's the way it goes ...

I have been promising for, like, forever to report on the conclusions of the vocabulary project I was involved with not too long ago.  About a year ago, two fellow teachers and I collaborated with a researcher at the University of Minnesota, Duluth to try an intervention in our classes.  Many studies have shown positive effects from special attention to vocabulary teaching to K-12 ELLs.  While it's logical to assume that the same would hold true for adults, we thought it would be nice to confirm that notion.  So, we developed a 12-week vocabulary-focused curriculum, did a pilot run, and then followed with another pass while two other teachers used the same civics and history materials in their classes but taught vocabulary however they would have taught it.  We don't have the final version of our report yet, but I can say that statistically significant benefits were demonstrated. (Surprise!)  As soon as I get a copy of the final report, I will post.

We submitted proposals to present our report at both TESOL and AERA and were accepted at both!  Funny story: due to a snafu that we don't quite understand yet, not one of us got word that we were accepted to present at TESOL. We learned about it on the day before we were scheduled to talk when a friend called to comment on seeing our names in the catalog!!  Of course, we were not prepared to leap onto a plane and fly across the continent overnight so we had to cancel.  That was very disappointing because I would love to have gone to TESOL, especially on someone else's dime!  But we did get ample notice of our acceptance at AERA, which was held right here at Philly's Convention Center.  I hesitate to even call our event a presentation ... we shared our preliminary results at a round table session last Friday afternoon.

At our roundtable!
Since the university covered my registration, I attended as many other sessions as I could. AERA is a bunch of education researchers, so a lot of what went on was well over my head.  But I especially enjoyed two sessions.  One was research related to teachers as leaders.  The other was research on how noncognitive factors might affect student success.  Both very promising!

After being reminded of the details of our project, I've come to realize how much I've changed my own teaching since then.  More on that to come ...

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