Three professors at the Faculty of Education have been awarded grants by the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). Associate Professor John Ippolito and Assistant Professor Gillian Parekh have been awarded Insight Grants, and Assistant Professor Gail Prasad has been awarded an Insight Development Grant, collectively totalling approximately $450,000.
John Ippolito will receive $95,414 for his project Adult Language Learning in a Transnational Context: Towards a Migrant-Centric View of Translingual Agency and Social Integration. This project addresses the policy and programming challenges of language education through a migrant-centric approach. The objective is to articulate evidence-based recommendations for how language learning opportunities can better enable the social integration of adult migrants into a host country. To do so, Ippolito will carry out a comparative analysis of the formal and informal language learning experiences of adult migrants in transit or destination countries in three research sites characterized by an influx of newcomers: York Region, Ontario, Canada; Erie County, Pennsylvania, United States; and Agrigento, Sicily, Italy.
The potential contribution of the project to the advancement of knowledge is twofold: in an applied sense, it impacts policy and programming by offering evidence-based recommendations for how language learning opportunities can better enable the social integration of adult migrants into a host country; and, in the theoretical domain it enables new understandings at the nexus of migration patterns and language use.
“My project reassesses a longstanding narrative informing government policy and programming around adult language education for migrants, namely, that proficiency in a dominant language is central to social integration. Privileging migrants’ perspectives on the relationship between dominant and minority languages, the aim of the project is to generate recommendations for aligning language-learning opportunities more closely with the experiences and priorities of migrants themselves.”
Gillian Parekh will receive $292,162 for her project Critical Transitions: Identifying key factors shaping students' elementary, secondary, and post-secondary pathways. Her research seeks to explore how students and their families come to understand and pursue different academic pathways from kindergarten to post-secondary education. This project will explore students’ and their families’ interactions with their schools and schooling processes, examining how these interactions shape their pursuit of particular academic opportunities. Complementing both institutional ethnographic and qualitative studies, Parekh’s research team will also conduct trend analyses that map students' academic trajectories, achievement and outcomes from early elementary until post-secondary education. Mapping, qualitative and trend analyses will pay particular attention to points of transition, students' experiences with ability grouping, and their pursuit of secondary and post-secondary programming.
“I’m really excited to launch this research project,” says Parekh. “I believe it will reveal how students’ interactions with schooling can ultimately shape their sense of capacity and determine which educational pathways they pursue. If we have a better understanding of how these pathways are structured for students, we can intervene in ways that foster more equitable academic opportunities and outcomes.”
Results from this analysis will provide clear policy directives in establishing more equitable school structures as well as inform successful pedagogical and programmatic strategies.
Gail Prasad will receive $71,246 for her project Awareness Matters: Fostering Critical Multilingual Language Awareness for All. In this research, Prasad proposes to collaborate with local English and French language schools and school boards in the Greater Toronto Area in order to empirically examine the impact on all students of a pedagogical orientation that conceptualizes linguistic and cultural diversity as being at the heart of learning and developing both academic knowledge and social understanding across the curriculum.
This research will contribute: to advance knowledge of the academic and social effects of fostering critical multilingual language awareness in English and French schools; to examine how educators, policymakers and school boards might benefit from the establishment of a linguistically and culturally expansive and equitable praxis through training adapted to multilingual school contexts; to cultivate openness to diversity on the part of students and teachers in the classroom and schools, particularly in contexts of superdiversity.
“Classrooms today are language-rich,” says Prasad. “Students, families and educators bring a wealth of communicative resources with them to school – and this collaborative research examines creative approaches to leveraging this richness to build all students’ and teachers’ critical multilingual language awareness and to appreciate diversity in its many forms.”
“We have excellent researchers in the Faculty of Education, and I am thrilled to see these studies funded in tight SSHRC competitions,” says Heather Lotherington, Associate Dean of Research at York University’s Faculty of Education. “All three studies express social justice and equity goals: Canada Research Chair Gillian Parekh’s and Assistant Professor Gail Prasad’s studies work will directly affect opportunities for children in Toronto schools; Professor Ippolito’s study will assist refugee populations not only to Canada, but also, through associated research partnerships, to the U.S. and southern Italy. I wish them the best conducting these topflight studies in these challenging times, and look forward to following their progress.”