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WSU instructor honored for her dissertation on second language research

By C. Brandon Chapman, College of Education

An instructor at WSU Vancouver, who earned her Ph.D. from WSU in English Language Learners (ELL), has been given an outstanding dissertation award by the American Educational Research Association (AERA).

Kristen Pratt

The AERA Second Language Research Special Interest Group wrote in its award email that Kristen Pratt’s dissertation “reports on an extensive four-year study of a dual language program; a context where there is currently a dearth of research.”

That specific dearth of research is in a process called “translanguaging,” where speakers of more than one language utilize all their linguistic resources, regardless of the language, to enhance communication.

Pratt’s research explored language interaction in a third-grade Spanish-English classroom, as students, teachers and community members negotiated their bilingual, biliterate and bicultural identities.

Gisela Ernst-Slavit, an ELL professor at WSU Vancouver who was also Pratt’s dissertation committee chair, said Pratt’s dissertation not only shared great research, but that it will yield tangible results.

“Her dissertation is poised to advance our understanding of how translanguaging actually manifests in the classrooms, whether authorized or not,” she said. “Few are able to conduct a study that spans years of data collection. While her focus centered on one school, her research extends to different policy and societal levels that hinder or enhance the events that transpire in one school.”

Per the AERA email, one dissertation reviewer wrote: “The implications of this research are important in helping us better understand how to create spaces for emergent bilinguals to use their full linguistic repertoires.”

Pratt will receive the award at AERA’s annual meeting in New York in April.

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