New National Science Foundation Research Starter Grant

I just got word that I have been awarded a National Science Foundation Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences Minority Post-Doctoral Fellowship Starter Grant. The grant will fund the launch of a project designed to examine effective methods of communicating issues about language variation to K-12 educators. The award also provides funds for the student research support and for students to travel with me to research sites and academic conferences.

My colleague Christine Mallinson of the University of Maryland Baltimore County’s Language, Literacy and Culture Program and I will conduct collaborative workshops with 100 educators in four K-12 schools in Richmond and Baltimore to disseminate accurate and foundational linguistic knowledge to educators of dialectally diverse students. A set of 40 educator-consultants will work jointly with us to develop pedagogically sound and linguistically informed strategies for addressing variation in the speech and writing of their students using methods that have been developed by linguists but that are largely not known among most educators. Strategies include best practices for promoting awareness about language variation, for teaching about the systematic nature of language variation, and for using knowledge about the systematic nature of language variation to help students acquire Standardized English. We will collect from a range of surveys, participant-observations, short reflection responses, and in-depth interviews designed to reveal what knowledge was gained from the workshops and how it informs educators’ language-related teaching strategies. Our findings will add to a small but critical body of literature that addresses not only what educators know about language variation but also how educators process this information and envision its use in their classrooms.

Results from this project will help us to refine and implement future workshops to similarly connect with educators on the topic of language variation. The study lays the groundwork for sociolinguists and educators to work together in a more collaborative fashion to promote the educational attainment of students from diverse language backgrounds, especially Southern and African-American students.

Undergraduate and graduate students will be incorporated in many aspects of the production of the workshop series. Students will be supported in conducting further research, assisting with the preparation of instructional materials, serving as teaching assistants during the workshops, and gathering feedback from participants to make appropriate revisions to the workshop curriculum. Students will also benefit from the opportunity to travel to and attend professional conferences and workshops related to language and education.

If you are an educator or student interested in working with the project, please contact me at

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