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Dr. Maneka Brooks selected as NAEd/Spencer Doctoral Fellow

Dr. Maneka Brooks selected as NaEd/Spencer Doctoral Fellow

by Emma Carberry
Outreach Coordinator, College of Education

June 7, 2018

Dr. Maneka Brooks, assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, has been selected as a 2018 National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow. This two-year, $70,000 fellowship was awarded to just 30 scholars nationwide in 2017.

Brooks distinctly remembers the day when she was teaching high school and one of her students threw his English proficiency evaluation on the floor in frustration, asserting that he knew English. Brooks recalls how her education on English Learners (ELs) had focused on the “language façade,” or the idea that students don’t know English as well as they think they do and how this event sparked her interest in thinking about this concept differently.

Dr. Maneka Brooks
Dr. Maneka Brooks

The more Brooks thought about it, the more she realized that students deemed long-term English Learners are the most experienced with the English Learner assessment process and that researchers could gain new insights on how they view language proficiency if they focused their efforts on the experiences of the students. This idea led to the research project that will be supported by this prestigious fellowship: Always an “English Learner”: Learning From the Veterans of EL Educational Systems.

Currently, Brooks is in the process of recruiting schools to participate in the study, which will involve qualitative interviews with students who have been labeled ELs since early on in their educational experiences. By focusing on the student perspective, Brooks hopes to uncover the nuances of English language proficiency, such as situations in which education systems may be conflating comprehension with language, such that differences in learning styles are being overlooked due to students’ EL classifications. While previous research has looked at English proficiency examination from the perspective of those who develop the assessments, scholars have yet to investigate the students’ perspectives and analyze if students understand how to progress beyond the EL classification.

Brooks hopes that her study will raise awareness in school districts that their goals need to be better communicated to students. Ideally, the study will reveal practices that are working successfully in certain school districts that Brooks can then publicize so that they can be adopted in other districts. At the end of the day, Brooks’ student-centric goal is to gain valuable insight about how students see these testing experiences so that educators can support them through the process.

Read the university's news release about Dr. Brooks' fellowship here.