Shifting to Research

My blog is now shifting to focus on my latest research project.

My topic area is looking at how English Language Learners are influenced linguistically and behaviorally by their peers and associates, and how they thrive academically (or not) depending on who they choose to identify with and emulate. One aspect of this is their understanding of code-switching, or the ability to switch registers of language use depending on the requirements of a context, such as “hanging with your buds” versus discussing subjects with your teachers. I speculate that having an understanding of different registers makes easier for ELLs to learn social language and still understand the need for academic language for more formal tasks. I don’t really know for sure how that works (and what I might do about it as a teacher), hence the research.

So far, I have been perusing myriad articles through Meredith’s library website, and journal collections such as World Cat. I barely have to go to the library in person, bless the internet! Actually, I do plan to check out a few books and articles that interest me. For the moment, I have read or skimmed a few articles, and had the rest of them emailed to me through EBSCO Publishing as PDFs for future reading. I’ve collected about twenty articles so far, and a thesis paper by Sherry Poole that looks at long-term ESL students. Most of the research I am finding thus far looks at the behavioral angle more than the linguistic angle, though.

In my preliminary search, I’ve used a few different search term combinations such as ESL, peer groups, and Academic English. It’s tricky to find the right search terms to yield the kind of articles I am looking for. I can sometimes find additional search terms by noticing terms used in the articles. I am also hoping to find more sources by looking through the citations from the articles.

Some of my current article titles include:

Callahan: School Context and the Effect of ESL Placement on Mexican-Origin Adolescents Achievement

Mashburn: Peer Effects on Children’s Language Achievement During Pre-K

Sáenz: Peer Assisted Learning Strategies for ELLs with LD

Määttä: Achievement strategies in peer groups and adolescents’ school adjustment and norm-breaking behavior

One of my favorite sources so far is a collection of articles called <Kids Talk: Strategic Language Use in Later Childhood, also available as an ebook. I’ve downloaded the maximum number of chapters and pages, and read several other chapters, for instance, Chapter 9: The Effect of Role and Footing on Students Oral Academic Language, which sounds exactly like the kind of research I am looking for.

I will also need to design some kind of hands-on project to inform my reading. I suspect I will interview teachers and students about addressing some of these concerns.  I’m still drafting my proposal. I’ll share that later this weekend when it looks mostly done.

So this week, I have made some progress, but have much to do.