Contact

KU News Service
785-864-8860

Researcher calls for inclusion of heritage language in teacher preparation

Mon, 05/05/2014

LAWRENCE — Heritage language education is growing, but it is still not recognized by students, parents, teachers and teacher educators as a benefit for people who have language background other than English. A University of Kansas researcher argues that by more carefully considering the cultural identities of heritage language learners and reaching out to teachers in training, both teachers and students could benefit.

Hyesun Cho, assistant professor of curriculum and teaching, recently published the findings of a study she conducted with heritage language teachers over three semesters in Hawaii in the journal Language and Education. She also presented the work at the American Educational Research Association annual meeting in April. Heritage language is a growing area of education and research, yet it lacks a strict definition. Generally speaking, a heritage language learner is someone who has knowledge of a language other than English, often through family or community.

Heritage language schools are growing in popularity across the nation, but research into how these teachers are educated is scarce. The classes are often taught by volunteers in churches or community centers. For example, in Lawrence, there is a Korean language school held at a local church on Saturdays. Like students who are often labeled “English language learners,” the teachers who educate students about a language and culture are too often disregarded and not drawn on for their cultural insights, Cho said.

“Heritage language education is a rapidly growing area, and there is a need for more research,” Cho said. “We can better understand how to conceptualize heritage language education, especially from a teacher’s perspective. We need to move beyond a shallow view of multiculturalism, such as ‘food and festival’ approach to addressing diversity.”

Cho detailed her findings from working with five bilingual undergraduate students studying to become teachers in Hawaii. The students, who took part in a program called Careers in Language Education and Academic Renewal, shared how they often feel viewed as minorities, as inferior and how their cultural insights could yield benefits in language education. They reported that by sharing their experiences as community-based school teachers, they transformed their own views on heritage language learners that could not be categorized simply as part of one culture, for example Korean, instead of Korean-American. When given a space to share personal and professional experiences — both face-to-face and online — they not only were more comfortable, but they also made a notable connection between teaching theory and practice, Cho said.

Drawing on the cultural capital for heritage language teachers, especially during their education, will help produce better teachers who can better teach their diverse students, Cho said, and it is increasingly important as immigration to the United States remains frequent. Research has shown that as recently as 2010, one in eight students in the United States are non-native speakers of English.

Cho, who recently received the Michael B. Salwen Scholar Award from the Korean American Educational Researchers Association, said education for heritage language students is improving, but there is still plenty of room for further improvement. Instead of viewing heritage language students as “deficient” or in need of special help, teachers can draw on them for their cultural and linguistic expertise. By including curriculum and classes for heritage language teachers before they are in the classroom full-time, education for all students can benefit, she said.

“We need curriculum and instruction for these teachers who have the knowledge of a heritage language,” Cho said. “That’s a missing link in helping for the people who want to teach for diversity and view language as a resource, not a deficit.”



KU in the news
The Daily MailSat, 04/25/2015
CNNMon, 04/13/2015
Wanna Skype? Chancellor gets creative to surprise Truman winner. See it here: http://bit.ly/1awodaa
Rock Chalk! Junior Ashlie Koehn named KU's 18th Truman Scholar
Ashlie Koehn, a University of Kansas junior from Burns studying in Kyrgyzstan, interrupted helping her host family prepare dinner to make a Skype call on Monday evening.

.@NYTimes columnist @WCRhoden will speak at a symposium about race and sports April 23. http://t.co/UiKA9MYNv0 http://t.co/PHwCOHqcfD
Wanna Skype? Chancellor gets creative to surprise Truman winner From KU News Service: http://bit.ly/1awodaa Ashlie Koehn, a University of Kansas junior from Burns studying in Kyrgyzstan, interrupted helping her host family prepare dinner to make a Skype call on Monday evening. To her surprise, Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little was on the other end of the call letting Koehn know she had been named a 2015 Harry S. Truman Scholar. Koehn is the 18th KU student to be named a Truman Scholar and the only 2015 recipient from the state of Kansas. Earlier this month, she was also named a 2015 Udall Scholar. And in spite of a distance of more than 10,800 kilometers and 11 time zones, Koehn’s thrill from hearing the news from the chancellor came through loud and clear. “Ashlie’s experience at KU epitomizes a quality undergraduate experience. She challenged herself in her coursework, exposed herself to different research opportunities, studied abroad in Germany, Switzerland and Kyrgyzstan, and participated in both student government and community service projects,” Gray-Little said. “This is quite a year for Ashlie. Her hard work is a wonderful reflection on her and also a great reflection on the university, and we all congratulate her.” Each new Truman Scholar receives up to $30,000 for graduate study. Scholars also receive priority admission and supplemental financial aid at some premier graduate institutions, leadership training, career and graduate school counseling, and special internship opportunities within the federal government. Koehn, a member of KU’s nationally recognized University Honors Program, is majoring in environmental studies, economics and international studies. Her goal after earning her KU degree is to pursue a master’s degree in economics at either the London School of Economics or the University of Reading, with a focus on the economics of climate change. In 2014, she received KU’s Newman Civic Engagement Award for her work establishing the Coalition against Slavery and Trafficking. Her involvement with the issue was sparked by Hannah Britton, associate professor of political science and women, gender, and sexuality studies, who hosted national conference on contemporary slavery at KU three years ago. “Ashlie and I met several times to think about what KU students could contribute to the issue of slavery and human trafficking, and the result was her founding of KU CAST,” Britton said. “After a year as president, Ashlie successfully handed the organization over to the next student leader. She demonstrated her strong leadership qualities by setting a unique goal and then pursuing it with her sense of passion, engagement and dedication. No matter the country or context, her leadership strength is evident in her coursework, her public service and her work experiences.” The University Honors Program works with a campus committee to select KU’s nominees for the Truman Scholarship and supports them during the application process. Anne Wallen, assistant director of national fellowships and scholarships, noted it was an amazing ruse to pull off the surprise. Originally, the call was set up to be between Wallen and Koehn. “I was totally not prepared to be greeted by Chancellor Gray-Little, but it was an amazing surprise for sure,” Koehn said. “As a first-generation student, it took time to learn the collegiate system, but my parents taught me to be resourceful and independent from a young age and KU and the Kansas Air National Guard have provided me with the opportunities to drive me into the future, both at graduate school and in my career. I plan to use the Truman Scholarship to pursue a career as an environmental economist helping to shape future trade agreements and leverage action on important international environmental issues, particularly concerning climate change.” Koehn also had a surprise of her own for the chancellor — the meal she was helping to prepare was not exactly typical Kansas dinner fare. On the menu with her host family in Kyrgyzstan on Monday was a traditional Kyrgyz meal called Beshbarmak, or “five fingers,” because you eat it with your hands. The dish is made of horse and sheep and was being prepared as a birthday celebration for Koehn’s host mom. Chancellor Gray-Little, as she signed off from Skype, made sure to encourage Koehn to enjoy her Beshbarmak. Koehn is the daughter of Rodney and Carolyn Koehn of Burns. She graduated from Fredric Remington High School in Moundridge. She is an active member of the Kansas Air National Guard and currently on leave while studying abroad in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. She is a member of the KU Global Scholars Program and a past member of the Student Senate. In addition to being named a 2015 Truman and Udall scholar, she was named a 2014 Boren Scholar and Gilman Scholar and in 2013 was named the Kansas Air National Guard Airman of the Year.


One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
26 prestigious Rhodes Scholars — more than all other Kansas colleges combined
Nearly $290 million in financial aid annually
46 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
—ALA
23rd nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets," Military Times