My Research-able Question

My research project this semester is pretty open-ended: basically, research something using a specific research model, reflect on the process and report out. The results of the research are not as important as the process for once!

I found myself narrowing my topic into something that intrigues me (the notion of competency-based education) and that I could bury myself into reading and researching… however, the process of coming up with the Research-able Question made me think about where the research could potentially lead me (like a final product, if we actually were to write “the research paper” at the end). My conclusion–this topic would likely lead me to a persuasive/evaluative paper, which sounds good, especially since that’s a nice high level with Bloom’s Taxonomy. BUT… it’s probably not what I need right now!

What I need right now is a SOLUTION to a PROBLEM! Isn’t that the ideal information-seeking-need?! (Plus, problem-solution information needs can also involve higher-level thinking, so I am not going to consider this chain of thought inferior to my other idea.) Here’s my problem: I am team-teaching this high school Spanish for Heritage-Speakers course and it’s absolute chaos. We are in a “pilot year” and we are our own curricular and methodology leaders. We don’t have specialized materials or a set curriculum or even extensive training. We have each other’s strengths, prior knowledge of/relationships with the students, a daily prep period and a section of 18 kids. We are not being told or coached from above on how to do this and while we have formed some theories, this is truly trail-blazing for us. Did I mention it’s absolute chaos?!

Because this problem directly affects my daily work, stress level, overall happiness and self-actualization, this is the most motivating and in-depth information need I have right now… so here are my questions:

  • What do heritage learners need from a language course that foreign language learners do not need?
  • How can we motivate heritage learners to be invested in their biliteracy skills? What is the best use of class time for heritage language learners?
  • What course materials are appropriate for a multi-age, multi-ability classroom that could be used over two non-sequential years of a heritage course?
  • How can non-native-speaker teachers command authority and respect in a class of heritage speakers?
  • What is the best way to grade/assess heritage learners, especially within an institutional system of standards-based reporting?

Ultimately, the big question is, “What’s a girl to do in my situation?” Or, what do non-native-speaker teachers need to have for and know about teaching heritage learners in order to improve biliteracy skills?

The good news is that I’ve already identified a few leads on paper and human resources that should probably help me in this quest, I just have to get cracking on the actual DOING!

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