Husker-led project supports teachers of bilingual learners


Ashley Washburn, February 27, 2017 | View original publication

Husker-led project supports teachers of bilingual learners

A University of Nebraska-Lincoln researcher is leading a U.S. Department of Education-funded initiative to help 2,000 teachers in 11 states better serve bilingual students through the use, design and research of e-workshops.

The International Consortium for Multilingual Excellence in Education project is funded by a $2.7 million grant from the department’s Office of English Language Acquisition and is being led by Kara Viesca, assistant professor of teaching, learning and teacher education at Nebraska.

The program, known as ICMEE, extends from a previously funded program that Viesca helped develop when she was a faculty member at the University of Colorado-Denver. Viesca said the new project will build upon the previous work expanding online e-workshops that are used by professional learning communities of teachers to learn more about working with bilingual students.

The new project also will expand the use of the e-workshops from serving teachers in Colorado to serving teachers in 11 states including Nebraska. Viesca’s team will design additional e-workshops and research the impact and outcomes of participation.

More than 30 available e-workshops use a common format incorporating an essential question and five guiding questions across six units of learning.

“We definitely take a bilingual approach to English-language acquisition,” Viesca said. “Our focus is not only on English but also on supporting the ongoing bilingual development of students. After participating in the e-workshops, a lot of teachers report they’ve changed their perspective to focus not only on English development but on supporting the whole bilingual child.

“That’s something we find really positive.”

ICMEE will help teachers, particularly in general education content classrooms, overcome feelings of being unprepared to work with bilingual learners.

Principles of the program include being sensitive to teachers’ busy and demanding professional lives, making it simple to embed activities into classroom practice and encouraging opportunities for teachers to engage with others online, in their buildings and across their districts.