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English Education Research

Faculty Research

Thinking About Literature: Exploring Intersections of Cognitive Science and Literary Study in the Secondary School

Faculty Member: Janet Alsup

This book project explores the relationship between cognitive science and reader response, particularly as they relate to the teaching of young adult literature at the secondary level. Issues related to literary reading and teaching such as empathy, critical thinking, social action, and identification will be addressed and contextualized with research and theories related to narrative, neuroscience, theory of mind, adolescent development, and evolutionary literary theory. Practical suggestions for secondary teachers will be highlighted.

Becoming a Rural Educator: Teaching and Learning English in Rural Spaces

Faculty Member: Janet Alsup, co-edited with Prof. Lisa Schade Eckert of Northern Michigan University

This project explores secondary ELA teaching in rural schools by contesting the constructed reality of “rural” as framed by educational policy and popular culture and examining ways in which we, as teacher educators, may be complicit in perpetuating this narrative. The overall goal of this book is to problematize the dominant narrative of rural as lacking by presenting authentic, alternative narratives of rural teacher voices who depict rural teachers and students as richly diverse and unique.

The Common Core in an Uncommon Era of Standards and Assessments

Faculty Member:  Tara Star Johnson

This project investigates Tippecanoe School Corporation (TSC) English teachers’ transition to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), begun in collaboration with Ms. Kathy Nimmer of Harrison High School during the 2012-13 school year. Preliminary data analysis suggests that the next two years will prove to be pivotal for the six-teacher committee tasked with educating their colleagues about the CCSS and revising their curriculum to be consistent with the CCSS’s increased demand for rigor in reading and writing.  Expansion of the study to participants beyond TSC teachers will include Educator Leader Cadre members and associated personnel from the IDOE in order to illuminate the larger policy context determining the future of the CCSS and its assessment, which now hangs in the balance in Indiana, thanks to the passage of HEA 1427 in May 2013.  Rich dialogue on a number of CCSS-related issues during a Maymester course taught in 2013, Common Core State Standards and Assessment in English Language Arts, will serve as another perspective to further elucidate and complicate what the CCSS will mean for various stakeholders.  These sources should provide a robust data set representing multiple perspectives on what may be one of the largest education reform initiatives of the 21st century.  This study was initiated with the support of a College of Education Synergy Grant.

Tackling Tough Conversations Through Young Adult Literature

Faculty Member: Shea N. Kerkhoff

This research study in collaboration with Dr. Michelle Falter at North Carolina State University aims to gain a better understanding of teaching students about political and social issues through young adult literature. Specifically, the purpose of this qualitative study is to twofold: (a) to explore how preservice and inservice teachers perceive teaching about police and community relations through reading the young adult novel All American Boys in the classrooms, and (b) to describe the relationship between discussing social issues and reading fiction.  This study is timely as stories of police and community relations are frequent in mainstream and social media. However, not much research exists on tackling this tough topic in the classroom yet. The implications of this study will benefit teacher training in handling the topic of police and community relations in ELA classrooms.

Teacher as Sojourner: Student Teaching and Professional Development Abroad

Faculty Member: Shea N. Kerkhoff

Through teaching abroad experiences, preservice and inservice teachers can gain the knowledge, skills, and dispositions needed to teach globally integrated curricula in culturally responsive ways. A critical research synthesis of the teaching abroad literature found that teaching abroad experiences positively impact teachers’ cultural knowledge, language proficiency, and personal development. Furthermore, teaching abroad experiences positively impacted teachers’ professional development. Specifically, teachers perceived (a) improved relationships with students and parents from culturally diverse backgrounds, (b) a shift away from deficit mindset, (c) increased flexibility and reflexivity, and (d) deeper learning experiences for themselves and their students upon their return. On the other hand, teaching abroad also produced some frustrations when trying to match beliefs to practice upon return home. Future research will explore the impact of teaching abroad on teachers’ classroom practices using both qualitative and quantitative methods.

Teaching for Global Readiness in a Rural Middle School: Integrating Critical Literacy Instruction and Global Learning with Project-Based Inquiry

Faculty Member: Shea N. Kerkhoff

Today’s students need to be both globally and technologically competent as they use technology to work and interact with culturally and geographically diverse people. Utilizing the Teaching for Global Readiness conceptual framework, this study follows a middle school team of teachers and students as they conduct project-based inquiry on a global issue.  The teaching for global readiness model comprises four dimensions: situated practice, integrated global learning, critical framing, and transactional experiences. In other words, teaching for global readiness is situated, integrated, critical, and transactional. Relating teaching for global readiness to inquiry-based learning, the researcher utilized a specific approach, called project-based inquiry (PBI) Global. Essential aspects of PBI Global include student-directed learning, deep content learning, socially significant questions, cross-cultural collaboration, and communicating products to a global audience. The researcher’s focus will be how teachers integrate global learning and critical literacy instruction with the inquiry cycle and how students take up multiliterate and cosmopolitan identities.