UAH’s Project HAPPENS helps local teachers better educate English language learners

projecthappens

Project HAPPENS provides funding for professional development workshops and scholarships to enhance teachers’ ability to educate K-12 English learners across northern Alabama.

Michael Mercier | UAH

Students whose native language is other than English, known in P-12 as English learners (ELs), are the fastest growing subpopulation in the nation's classrooms, making up more than 10% of public school students in the U.S. As a result, it has become increasingly important for educators to understand the challenges that ELs face in the classroom to ensure they are able to learn as effectively as their native English-speaking counterparts.

Enter Project HAPPENS, a professional development grant funded by the U.S. Department of Education and administered by Drs. Jason O'Brien and Andrea Word-Allbritton, professors in the College of Education at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH). The project's goal is to enhance teachers' ability to educate students whose native language is not English, but who are still expected to succeed in schools.

We are working with elementary and secondary teachers to help them learn to modify their instructional language and to improve their readiness to work with ELs in content-area classrooms.

Dr. Andrea Word-Allbritton
Clinical Assistant Professor
College of Education

"We are working with elementary and secondary teachers to help them learn to modify their instructional language and to improve their readiness to work with ELs in content-area classrooms," says Dr. Word-Albritton. "The training focuses on increasing 'comprehensible input,' which simply means adding context and simplifying the language of instruction so that ELs can access it. Not surprisingly, we are finding that attending to the language of instruction helps all learners."

Their research-based techniques are imparted to administrators and in-service teachers through a series of one-day workshops held on the UAH campus. "About 40 people attend each one, and once they do, they are eligible for state-certified Professional Learning Units and Continuing Education Units," says Dr. O'Brien, adding that the grant also covers the cost of substitutes during the school year and stipends for teachers who attend during off-contract periods.

"For the last two years of the grant cycle," says Dr. Word-Allbritton, "we've expanded our outreach to the Decatur City and Madison County School Districts." Already two sets of workshops have taken place, with upcoming workshops scheduled for November and December of this year as well as February and March of 2016. Those interested in learning more about the workshop series can complete the Project HAPPENS interest form.

jason obrien andrea word

Drs. Jason O’Brien and Andrea Word-Allbritton, professors in the College of Education, administer Project HAPPENS, a professional development grant funded by the U.S. Department of Education.

Michael Mercier | UAH

In addition to the workshops, the Project HAPPENS grant also provides scholarships for pre- and in-service teachers interested in pursuing Alabama licensure in English for Speakers of Other Languages, covering tuition for up to six classes at either the undergraduate or graduate level. Those interested in applying for a tuition scholarship can complete the undergraduate scholarship application or graduate scholarship application online.

"Naturally, a comprehensive teacher education curriculum like the one offered by UAH's College of Education is the long-term solution to enabling educators to meet the needs of students in heterogeneous classrooms, but as with any major change to a curriculum, it takes time to implement," says Dr. O'Brien. "In the interim, Project HAPPENS allows us not only to respond more quickly but also to reach teachers who are already facing these challenges and need the tools to address them sooner rather than later."

 

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