Three Foci of Scholarship

My scholarship has three interrelated foci: teacher education and teacher instructional practices for EBs in the US; multilingual family engagement; and languaging practices of EBs, particularly among Spanish-English bilinguals. Although these are separated and delineated below, these foci overlap and inform each other in synergistic ways to deepen and extend my work to various audiences.  


Focus Area One: Teacher Education for Emergent Bilingual Students

My first line of research examines the education of teachers for EB students. Two national grants from the US Department of Education, Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA) anchor this work. In the first grant, I was co-Principal Investigator and the only Spanish-English bilingual to work on the project. This mattered because in Florida, like across the US, about 85% of our EL students are Spanish-speakers. The first grant was Project DELTA (Developing English Language and literacy through Teacher Achievement, 2007-2012, $1.2 million). In this study, colleagues and I examined the relationship between preparing teacher candidates (TCs) and EL students’ academic achievement. That study asked, What is the relationship between a teacher preparation program and subsequent EL student learning? and How do UF graduates from a teacher preparation program appropriate practices on behalf of their ELs?


We used qualitative and quantitative methods to identify how graduates who became teachers subsequently impacted EB student learning outcomes on state standardized tests. I conducted extensive observations of teachers who graduated from UF and used two languages (English and Spanish) to examine bilingual interactions with EBs across five school districts in Florida. Analyzing data from the Florida Department of Education data warehouse, we found that UF’s teacher-graduates were more effective overall in facilitating the academic achievement of their EB students than were graduates from other state preservice programs, on average. However, when observing graduates in classrooms, we found that teachers did not consistently employ linguistically-responsive instructional practices that built upon their EB students’ home languages and literacies. Teacher interviews indicated that their pedagogical choices were predicated upon their beliefs about the language that EL students needed to learn; navigating school and district education policies, especially state standardized testing; and negotiating national narratives about ELs. Some of the scholarship that derived from that study includes Coady, Harper, and de Jong (2011) and de Jong, Harper, and Coady (2013). One article published in TESOL Quarterly demonstrated the microscaffolding and in situ instruction that teachers used with their EB students (Coady, Harper, & de Jong, 2016).


That work illuminated context as a complex factor in the teacher preparation-to-teacher instruction relationship. The local educational context, such as classrooms with low incidence (Bérubé, 2000) numbers of EBs, appeared to influence how teachers appropriated instructional practices. A second finding was the commitment and action of invested educational leaders of EB students in schools. These findings lead to a second federal OELA grant, Project STELLAR.


Focusing in on rurality as context, Project STELLAR (Supporting Teachers and Educators of English Language Learners Across Rural Settings, 2016-21, $2.4 million), uses a lens of “critical pedagogy of place” (Gruenewald, 2003). As PI and Project Director I oversee the research and manage a staff of about 15 total doctoral students, support staff, community partners, and consultant filmmakers. This study asks, How can a professional development program for rural educators affect the academic learning of EB students? The work examines how place and space intersect with the work of educators and interrogates metro-centric norms in teacher education that assume place is a neutral construct in educational policies and practices. This study employs a quasi-experimental intervention design and addresses teacher education, language teacher ideology, and rurality. Currently in year 3 of 5 in this study, we will obtain EB student achievement data subsequent to teachers’ completed PD program. Those findings are forthcoming in 2020, but early findings on rural teacher PD have been published this year (Coady, Lopez, Marichal, & Heffington, 2019). An important product of this work has been a modified Framework for Teaching observation protocol for teachers of EB students, based on the Danielson model of teacher evaluation (Coady et al., 2019). Although I resist restrictive protocols that evaluate teachers for punitive purposes, as a formative and validated tool, the protocol can provide feedback to teachers of EL students and leaders to improve instruction for ELs. Several scholars nationally have asked to use this tool in their current research.


Focus Area Two: Multilingual Family Engagement

My second focus area of research examines the relationship between schools and homes of EB students. This work asks, How can educators engage multilingual families in culturally and linguistically responsive ways?  I have received financial support for this work from the Ford Foundation and the US Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA) (Project STELLAR, above) as a competitive preference priority area for funding. Over the past 25 years, one of the main problems that educators of EB students face is the monolingual, monocultural norms expected of students and families from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. We know that teachers’ work is embedded in larger sociocultural and institutional norms. This line of research interrogates those expectations and norms and reframes teachers’ work with multilingual families as reflective, active, and built upon relational trust (Freire, 1970).


My work with immigrant Spanish-speaking families predates my time at UF, and I have worked directly with multilingual families since about 1990 as a bilingual interpreter, tutor, teacher, and in family refugee resettlement in Denver, CO. In 2007 and 2008 I spent 18 months with an immigrant, Spanish and Otomí-speaking family in north Florida. While I studied their home literacy practices in relation to school literacies and norms (Coady, 2009), we built trust for each other through interacting and advocating for them surrounding issues of parent-school communication, immigration, and community development. 


That work continued to evolve as my relationships with families in rural communities deepened and expanded. My recent book, Connecting School and the Multilingual Home: Theory and Practice for Rural Educators (Coady, 2019b), is the result of more than a decade of work with rural multilingual families, e.g., Coady, Coady, & Nelson, 2015; Coady, Cruz-Davis, & Flores, 2009). In this book I use theoretical and empirical literature to examine home-school connections with multilingual families, then translate that work into useful practices for teachers of EB students in rural settings. This book argues that traditional family engagement practices fail to meet the needs of multilingual families. Rather, an approach deriving from Freirean praxis enables teachers and educators to form relational, trusting relationships. The theoretical grounding from this work on multilingual family engagement has been published in The Rural Educator (Coady, 2019c).


Many of the families I work with are Spanish-speaking, and I have interacted with parents, caregivers, abuelos and tíos (grandparents and aunts/uncles) families for over a decade in the context of education and learning, family engagement, and health disparities and service. I attend annual harvest fairs in a nearby rural community and have taught English to adults and children in church settings under a Ford Foundation funded initiative that sought safe spaces and sanctuary for undocumented families. This work reflects an inclusive orientation to community partnerships and community-based participatory research (CBPR). I have published some of this interdisciplinary work with healthcare providers and with members of the local community (Stacciarini, Shattel, Coady & Wiens, 2010). This work not only disrupts traditional concepts of language, culture, and parent involvement in schools, but following my commitment to translational research, I offer ways for educators to reconceptualize their work with multilingual families. My 2019 documentary film, Small Town, Big Dreams (trailer), in production with Timothy Sorel (UF College of Journalism), depicts how rural educators of EB students can enact practices with rural multilingual families that build on family and community demonstrate strengths.


Focus Area Three: Languaging Practices of Emergent Bilingual Students

Teaching today is a complex and technical craft, and teaching EB students requires teachers to have a deep knowledge-base of how language works and how EB students use their multilingual repertoire both to learn and to demonstrate what they know (García, Johnson, & Seltzer, 2016; Wong Fillmore & Snow, 2000). As I shift back to the micro level practices that teachers of EB students enact in classroom settings, I illuminate the complexity of pedagogies for bilingual and multilingual students. This focus area of research addresses the research question, How do multilingual students’ languages and literacies demonstrate their learning and reveal their identities as multilinguals?  Like teachers whose work matures over time, my work in the focus area of language transfer and languaging practices has deepened.


My early research on cross language transfer emerged with the work of Kathy Escamilla (University of Colorado, Boulder), biliteracy development, and assessment practices for Spanish speakers. We examined how immigrant Spanish-speaking students demonstrated sophistication in their writing, and knowledge of themselves and the world. This work appeared in a book chapter in 2002 and was published in the refereed journal Language Arts (Coady & Escamilla, 2005). In Florida I continued to examine how EB students’ knowledge of languages, cultures, and ‘self’ were neither captured in traditional assessments of writing (Coady & Ariza, 2010) nor in tests of intelligence used widely across the US (Kranzler, Flores & Coady, 2010). I have subsequently built upon this work using a construct of multilingual students metaliteracy knowledge. The construct of metaliteracy involves how multilingual students position themselves, their languages, and cultural backgrounds in order to communicate meaning for imagined (and often monolingual) audiences. This work uses a post-colonial lens that challenges linguistic boxes that separate languages and reframes multilingual students’ linguistic repertoires as a unitary system. This work emerged as a result of two years of collaboration with my colleague, Leketi Makalela from South Africa, a country with 11 official languages. The work is in print in the International Journal of Multilingualism (Coady, Makalela, & Lopez, 2019), and findings have directly application to teachers’ instructional practices for EBs.


Ultimately, I see my three areas of scholarship as interrelated, moving in and across EB students, families and educators in their socio-political and historical contexts. As I illuminate deficit ideologies and educational practices, I also work to transform those into policies and practices that affirm EB students and families, teachers and leaders.