MA Students in Bilingual/Bicultural Education Program Participate in IP Presentation ☆

On February 17, 2014, students of the Bilingual/Bicultural Education (BBE) program presented their master’s thesis research work at the Integrative Project (IP) conference. IP presentation is an annual event in which BBE students discuss the research work they have conducted for their master’s thesis.

“The big goal of the project in addition to meeting the graduation requirement,” said Carmen Martinez-Roldan, professor in the BBE program, “is that we believe that by becoming teachers and researchers and examining closely how learning happens, they will be able to make better sense of what they have learned here in the program and become better teachers.”

From the very beginning of their two-year master’s program, BBE students are asked to start thinking about a possible topic of research for their master’s thesis. When they have chosen a topic of interest and have written a literature review, they take a semester-long course specifically on the integrative project and focus on conducting their resesarch and producing their master’s thesis.

“I feel that the students have really strong theoretical frameworks,” said Patricia Martinez-Alvarez, professor in the BBE program. “Through literature review, they know about bilingual education. And they all know what it is to be researchers, and they’re putting that together with being teachers. So I can see the voice of the teacher and also the voice of the researcher where they’re talking about implications and contributions to the field.”

This year, 27 students presented their work in front of their professors and classmates on various topics such as language, culture, and identity; curriculum, teaching, and instructions; bilingual students’ learning experiences; policy, school, and parents; and special education and disability.

Emily Cruz, MA student in BBE program

Emily Cruz, one of the presenters, conducted research on the influence of music on language acquisition.  “I began working on my research project before I began the master’s program,” said Cruz. “I had previously been focusing on the Performing Arts at Tischschool of the Arts, New York University and had therefore been exploring the artistic realm of my project since undergrad. This artistic knowledge was a driving force in my ultimate research topic decision. The linguistic component of it began about a year ago and was solidified during last semester’s thesis class.”

In her presentation, Cruz discussed the various benefits to using music in language classrooms and said that there are specific linguistic skills that are strengthened through the use of more specific musical disciplines. “The use of these interdisciplinary strategies, music to learn language, result in a deeper and more dimensional understanding of the curriculum,” she said. “This exemplifies the importance of supporting these sorts of approaches in the classroom and exposing teachers to the professional development resources that can support these attempts. Schools need to embrace the different facets that both teachers and students bring to the classroom in order to create the most conducive environment for both teaching and learning. “

Elizabeth Ma, MA student in BBE program

Another presenter Elizabeth Ma discussed teacher talk and its influence on the students’ learning. “Teacher talk, unlike curriculum and lesson planning, is a space where we teachers can hold the authority and exercise complete control,” said Ma. “We do not need to be limited by common core standards nor school’s curriculum. We can pull all our creativity and flexibility and shape it in a way that we find most efficient in faciilitating stundents’ learning. Thus, I was interested in looking into how much awareness teachers have put on their ‘talk’ and how it actually functions in a bilinugal classroom.”

Ma collected data from her non-participant observations in a bilingual classroom and formal interviews with a bilingual teacher. She said that the data were interesting and inspring but were overwhelming at a certain point in terms of analyzing and organizing them. “During the process of data collection and analysis, it is always vital to revisit the literature,” she said. “Becasue in the sea of data, it can be easy to get lost. Always remember the objective of the research so as to know which are the real answers for the research questions.”

“It is always exciting to see how they own what they are talking about,” said Martinez-Roldan. “And of course in one semester, there are lots of things that you cannot do because of lack of time, but at least they have identified something that they learned through their own research. Then they can continue that through their lives. So that’s what we want, this inquiry set of mind.”

The IP presentation was formally called the Isaura Santiago Integrative Project, named after former BBE professor, Isaura Santiago, who obtained the first grant to start the Bilingual/Bicultural Childhood Education program with dual certification, and it has existed since the beginning of the program.

By Jamie Kim
Arts & Humanities Staff Writer