Effective teaching means effective communication. However, with students emerging from a variety of cultures, backgrounds and abilities in today’s classrooms, the language used in teaching can often stifle students’ progress. Subjects such as math and science use jargon which can be confusing, especially when the students speak differently and may use a different language at home.
Christine Mallinson is an associate professor of language, literacy and culture at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Together with Anne Charity Hudley, an associate professor of education, English and linguistics at the College of William and Mary, Mallinson has been studying the role of language and culture in education and working with educators to help them understand these dynamics in different subject areas.
Mallinson writes, studies have shown educators often favour students who sound like themselves and show bias against those who don’t. This results in teachers forming negative assumptions about a student’s intelligence and lowering expectations.
Mallinson and Hudley have worked with educators over the past decade with workshops which explore how language can affect teaching and student learning. They have even developed a free iOS app, Valuable Voices, for educators which provides a year of monthly classroom-ready exercises and activities which can be adapted to any grade level.
North Carolina State University also hosts a number of videos and podcasts about language in their Language and Life Project. The webinars teach about the role of language in teaching across all subjects. The podcasts help teachers learn how to respond to students who speak differently, avoid cultural biases and design a curriculum which supports diversity.
Language is important in making sure every student has an equal chance to succeed.
For more information about The Sound of Inclusion, click here.