Campus News

$2.9 million grant will help English language learners

UGA education researchers have received a $2.9 million grant from the Institute of Education Sciences to examine the effectiveness of a teaching method based on small-group dialogue in improving the academic achievement of English language learners in upper elementary grades.

Positive results could have huge implications for educational policy and practice in Georgia and across the nation, researchers said.

“Current instruction often fails to connect with immigrant children’s learning potential and does not make the most of the cultural capital these children bring to our educational system,” said Pedro Portes, The Goizueta Foundation Distinguished Chair of Latino Teacher Education and executive director of the College of Education’s Center for Latino Achievement and Success in Education. “The Instructional Conversation pedagogy that is the focus of this research makes those connections and in doing so provides a richer learning environment for all students.”

The IC model is a regularly-scheduled, teacher-led event with small groups of students with a clear instructional goal. In previous quasi-experimental studies, IC has been found to improve the academic achievement of both ELLs and native-English speaking students but has never been evaluated using a randomized controlled trial, said Karen Samuelsen, an assistant professor in the department of educational psychology and instructional technology and co-principal investigator of the study.

The four-year UGA study will involve some 1,152 predominantly Latino third- and fifth-grade students, 144 teachers and 12 coaches from several high-poverty elementary schools in northeast Georgia. Teachers from participating schools who commit to the project will be randomly assigned to either the treatment or control condition. Teachers in the treatment condition will receive training during the summer in the IC model and weekly coaching and support for a full year to master this pedagogy.

Researchers will assess students’ English language proficiency, affective skills, reasoning and problem solving and reading.