Terriers Take MATSOL 2018: Conference Recap & Reflections

The following is a recap of the 2018 MATSOL Conference. For our Conference preview article, please click here.

Over the course of three days in Spring, the Massachusetts Association of Teachers of Speakers of Other Languages (MATSOL) Conference invited educators of English language learners (ELLs) from across the state to come together for the opportunity to learn, converse, and collaborate with one another on a variety of topics related to the study of teaching English as a second language (ESL).

Wheelock was well represented by current students and professors to alumni, adjunct faculty members, and several supervising practitioners from the Bilingual Education and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) Licensure programs. In addition to the many familiar faces, this year was Wheelock faculty members Christine Leider and Mary Hughes first as Conference Board Directors.

Below, we’ve gathered thoughts and reflections from Wheelock community attendees about the research they’ve been conducting to benefit their field:

Esther Jeong presented her work on Thursday, May 31st, which was funded through a Linda Schulman Innovation Grant.

Esther Jeong (EdM in Curriculum and Instruction, with a specialization in ESL, ’17):

“My MATSOL session was about defining a teacher advocate and explaining the importance of being a teacher advocate as an ESL educator. We did a deep dive into Jeff Duncan-Andrade’s study “Note to Educators: Hope Required When Growing Roses in Concrete” and explored enemies of hope and critical hope. Observing the current xenophobia and anti-immigration rhetoric, I realized how imperative it was for teachers who work with non-English speakers or immigrant students to be an advocate for their students and communities. However, before going into the strategies, I wanted to address biases and mindsets for teachers that could manifest in the classroom and negatively impact students.

Overall, it was an incredible experience to be in a session with other educators passionate about learning more and growing as allies and advocates for their students. The conference was an amazing experience to meet educators who are doing great work in their communities. Oftentimes, I feel isolated in what I’m doing in my classroom, but being at MATSOL, I was able to be inspired by other educators who are doing amazing things in their classrooms, organizations or institutions.”

Winki Chan (BS in Early Childhood Education, ’18):

Winki Chan presented her research on how districts support bilingual and immigrant families during the student research poster session.

“My presentation mainly focuses on refugee and (im)migrant education, specifically the distinct needs that are displayed by refugees and SLIFEs. Their schooling experience often differ from US-born ELs due to various pre- and post-(im)migration challenges present in their lives. I am interested in whether school districts in Massachusetts are successful in supporting these students’ growth and development, which led to interviews with four EL administrators from various school districts in Massachusetts. I would like to see if there are any effective strategies in place to support (im)migrant ELs and found that such programs are lacking.

MATSOL was my first-ever academic conference and I felt honored to be there, both as a poster presenter and also a participant! It was very exciting to share my research with like-minded educators. I also got to meet the EL administrators whom I interviewed for my study in person. The conference this year has a focus on refugee students which resonated with my research. The keynote speakers’ Suitcase Stories shared personal stories from refugee camps and their transition to the United States. The presentation, in the form of storytelling, showed that advocacy can be in different forms. I learnt a lot from my day at MATSOL and I look forward to attending other conferences!

Nicholas Davis and Kuang Li (Doctoral students in Language Education):

Nicholas David & Kuang Li presented their research on English Learners in Community Colleges on Friday, June 1st.

“We presented together at the MATSOL conference on June 1st, 2018. The focus of our presentation was twofold. First, it highlighted challenges community college ESL programs face in improving student outcomes. This section overviewed recent research on placement testing procedures, how to help students effectively transition to college-level coursework, innovations in program organization, and a transfer-oriented curriculum.

Second, our presentation overviewed factors impacting long-term student success and transfer to universities. Some areas discussed include the current transfer rate, and factors impacting student transfer, such as advising systems, financial issues, helping students understand admission and transfer requirements, and the actual transfer application process.

It was a great experience attending the MATSOL conference. We were very glad to see that our presentation served as a catalyst for conversation and advanced understanding in the topic of community college EL populations, which is a relatively under-researched area. Many community college ESL instructors attended our presentation and shared their insights in terms of educating ELs at the community college level. Their comments and questions based on their firsthand experiences working with ELs offered us some fresh, valuable ideas for our doctoral dissertation preparation.”

Megan Schantz (BS in Bilingual Education & Linguistics, ’16; EdM in Language & Literacy Education, ’20):

Megan Schantz (right) & Professor Leider co-presented on anti-racist ESL pedagogy.

“I co-presented with my former advisor & professor, Dr. Christine Leider. Our session title was “Utilizing Teaching Tolerance Social Justice Standards to Develop Social Justice Objectives.” Teaching is inextricably linked to social justice and as such, an antibias framework should guide teachers’ unit and lesson planning. There is no question that educators of emergent bilinguals must have a deep repertoire of research-based, culturally relevant instructional tools for teaching bilingual students (Valdes, Kibler, & Walqui, 2013), as well as the critical perspectives for guiding instructional and pedagogical decisions (Motha, 2014).

In this standards-driven era, negotiating the balance of antiracist pedagogy with state mandated content, while also developing language and literacy skills, however, can be challenging. Education is never neutral and should empower students to engage in and change society for better (Freire, 1968), which means teachers must be intentional in their decisions around curriculum and instruction, especially when working with emergent bilinguals.

It’s funny because I speak publicly all day every day, yet this rarely occurs in a room full of adults, let alone experts in my field. Needless to say, I was quite nervous, but truly had a tremendous experience. It was incredible being surrounded by like-minded professionals and being able to share our experiences, problems, and possible solutions.”

Marnie Reed (Wheelock Clinical Professor of Language Education):

“MATSOL is the Massachusetts affiliate of the 13,000+-member International TESOL Association. MATSOL offers annual conferences, which I have attended for decades. However, in recent years, the focus had narrowed to K-12 settings, and the number and quality of presentations discouraged members like me, who work in higher education. There were years when I was hard-pressed to find sessions relevant to my work. I believe the dramatic turnaround evident in this year’s conference is due in large measure to the year-long hard work and dedication of our two faculty colleagues [Drs. Leider and Hughes].

This year’s conference boasted three Pre-Conference Institutes, expanded into three full days of concurrent sessions of superb quality, and hosted nationally and internationally recognized keynote and guest speakers. Mary and Chris seemed to be everywhere during the event, which has expanded in attendance to maximize the capacity of the conference venue.”