My research focuses on high school literacy instruction, predominantly in urban schools, with the goal of making high school English classrooms more equitable and rigorous learning spaces. My lines of research center on dialect diversity and grammar instruction, classroom discourse, and writing instruction. One line of my research explores the design and implementation of grammar and language instruction in English Language Arts classes. I use research from the field of sociolinguistics to study how language and grammar can be taught in accurate, useful, and critical ways. I have worked with multiple teachers to design what we call Critical Language Pedagogy, study its enactment, and study students’ responses. This line of research has focused on how teachers and African American students perceive dialect diversity, linguistic prejudices, and their own language use, including code-switching and code-meshing. This line of research has been funded by the American Educational Research Association (AERA), a National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, and a Spencer Foundation Small Grant. In 2018, Dr. Jeff Reaser and I will publish Critical Languge Pedagogy: Interrogating Language, Dialects and Power in Teacher Education (Peter Lang Publishers), a book on how preservice English teachers develop useful sociolinguistic knowledge that can inform their literacy instruction.
My second line of research centers on writing instruction in high schools, specifically, how well-designed peer review and revision can help the development of high school and college students’ academic writing across disciplines. Through collaborations with Dr. Rebecca Hwa, Dr. Chris Schunn, and Dr. Diane Litman, I have worked on the development of “intelligent scaffolding” tools for an online peer review system (funded by the Institute for Education Sciences) and for an online revision tool (funded by the National Science Foundation [NSF]). I have also worked on the development of an online “ecosystem” for high school science teachers designed to help them support students’ science writing using peer review (funded by NSF).
My most recent line of research builds from my Spencer Mid-Career Grant (2016-17), entitled Using Natural Language Processing to Study Equitable and Robust Classroom Talk and is currently funded by NSF and an internal LRDC grant. Together with Dr. Diane Litman, Dr. Sean Kelly, Dr. Sidney D’Mello, and Dr. Patrick Donnelly, we are drawing upon recent advances in Natural Language Processing and Machine Learning to develop computer-based methods for analyzing large datasets of classroom discourse accurately and efficiently. Our goals are to pinpoint the features of teacher and student talk that lead to student literacy learning and to develop online tools to help teachers increase the quality of discussions in their classrooms.