This fall semester I’m launching a new research project, “Multilingual and Multidialectal Approaches in the Arabic Classroom.” Thanks to funding from the Qatar Foundation International, I also have a research team, including undergraduate and graduate students. This means that I’ve spent the bulk of my semester so far setting up this project, so I thought I’d describe that experience here. Hopefully I’ll be able to give more updates throughout the semester!
Scope of the Project
In keeping with my interest in a strong research-practice cycle and translanguaging pedagogies, this is a multi-year project that focuses on developing teaching materials following a multilingual and multidialectal approach, using these materials in the classroom, examining the outcomes through interviews, classroom observations, and analysis of student work, and then revising the materials accordingly. We also hope to follow students for multiple years, since language learning is a long term process.
Revising the We Can Learn Arabic website
When I first started teaching, I remember thinking that once I had my materials set up for each semester of Arabic, I’d only need to make small tweaks for the rest of my teaching career. Now, with a decade of experience teaching the same classes in the same institution, I know this will never happen 😀. Each year, we revise something. This year, after two years of using the We Can Learn Arabic website, my colleagues Heather Sweetser and Abdullah Serag and I met in the summer to plan updates to it. These include:
- Switching hosting services (this turned out to me a major summer project, but check out the new look!)
- Review each text on the website, and deciding whether we should keep it, rerecord it (if it’s one we made), or replace it.
- Increasing the diversity of Arabic varieties included on the site
- Revising the activities to be more individualized for each text
Setting up the research team
Given the scope of the project, I’m very excited to have a research team! As this is also my first experience coordinating multiple teachers and research assistants, and everyone has varying levels of experience with educational research, it’s also taken quite a bit of thought on my part to set it up. I started with an onboarding checklist, including background reading, research ethics training, administrative training (such as submitting timesheets to get paid), and training in putting texts on the We Can Learn Arabic website (when despite years of putting these texts up myself I was shocked to discover that there are 60+ steps as you go from identifying a video to putting it on the site).
To organize all of this for everyone, we’ve been using Microsoft Teams. This is not my favorite product, but it is what UNM provides, so everyone has access. We can use it to share files, and also track tasks.
While setting up a team is a new and complicated experience, it’s exciting to have six people working on this project, and I’m interested to see where we will go!
Starting the research
Once I got everyone started with their onboarding tasks, I was able to turn my attention to larger scale planning, such as laying out a timeline for recruitment and the various research tasks, and matching this with the actual calendars of our research sites for the Fall semester. We’ll start recruiting participants in a few weeks, and hope to have some initial data analysis to share by the Spring semester. Stay tuned for updates!