Faculty Research and Outreach
At a time of continual demographic change in America’s schools, English-language learning (ELL) education, policy, and practice are pressing national concerns. The Lynch School of Education at Boston College, which recognized the emerging need for quality ELL instruction some 15 years ago, has been building its ELL program intentionally since.
The standout work of four Lynch School faculty featured below have helped make ours one of the leading ELL programs in the nation. Each of these stories demonstrates and illustrates the Lynch School of Education’s commitment to reshaping the theory and practice of English-language learning as we train the linguistically responsive teachers and policymakers the United States sorely needs.
These are just a few of the highlights of the superb work our faculty scholars are now pursuing. More examples can be found on the left navigation bar. It is our hope that the outcomes of this research, in the spirit of our school’s strategic vision, will both expand the human imagination and make the world more just.
When Professor María Estela Brisk arrived at the William E. Russell Elementary School in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood six years ago, teachers there were struggling to teach students to write. Fifty-eight percent of the K-5 children were English-language learners, and the school’s literacy test scores fell well below other schools in Boston. Brisk, as part of Step UP, a five-university collaboration with the city of Boston and Boston Public Schools to help underperforming schools receive additional resources and support, met with the principal and teachers. She decided what their writing instruction was missing was “a theory-based approach with concrete ideas.”
Associate Professor C. Patrick Proctor counts himself among a small group of researchers exploring the intersection of bilingualism and literacy. Those areas are not often linked in research or practice, but their complex relationship, he believes, can benefit the nearly five million English-language learners in U.S. public schools. As he explains, “I try to bridge two worlds that don’t talk to each other as much as they should.”
Assistant Professor of the Practice Anne Homza focuses on a single goal at the Lynch School of Education: making sure each student gains some experience teaching English-language learners before graduation. “It’s about making our students aware of the language demands for English-language learners—how their needs should affect the way a teacher writes a lesson plan or teaches a particular subject,” she says.
Associate Professor Mariela Páez has identified an overlooked resource in early bilingual education: parents. After her research uncovered that Spanish-speaking parents often feel powerless to help their children learn English, she designed and implemented an intervention program in 16 kindergartens in four Boston public schools to involve Latino parents in developing their children’s English-language skills. Many of the families were not fluent or literate in English and had little knowledge of the school curriculum, but it didn’t matter. Páez wanted to find out if the parents could help build English vocabulary through reading to their children in Spanish.