six individuals behind a blue UAH table
(L-R) UAH Associate Dean of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences and Co-PI and Research Director for Project DIAL, Christina Steidl; UAH Provost Dave Puleo; Superintendent of Madison City Schools, Dr. Ed Nichols, UAH President, Dr. Charles L. Karr; Superintendent of Huntsville City Schools, Christie Finley; Superintendent of Madison County Schools, Ken Kubik, Dr. Andrea Word-Allbritton.
Michael Mercier / UAH

Dr. Andrea Word-Allbritton, a clinical assistant professor in the College of Education’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), a part of The University of Alabama System, has received a five-year, $2.8 million National Professional Development (NPD) grant through the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA).

The grant officially launched today as UAH President Charles L. Karr and UAH Provost Dave Puleo met with superintendents of the three partner districts to sign MOUs formalizing university-school district partnerships that are essential for the success of NPD projects. The funding comes just in time to help meet the rapid growth of English Learners (ELs) in the state – a student population that has nearly doubled since 2015.

“We applaud Dr. Word-Allbritton and her team for their dedicated efforts to win this grant, which will benefit a significant and growing student demographic,” says Provost Puleo. “This is a great mechanism to grow partnerships between UAH and three outstanding school districts.”

Project DIAL, which stands for Designing Instruction for Academic Literacies, provides a range of opportunities for local educators across three partner districts as they acquire new instructional skills to support the 3,000-plus English Learners in Huntsville City Schools, Madison City Schools and Madison County Schools.

"One of the most gratifying aspects of a project like this is that it leverages ongoing research and long-standing relationships,” notes President Karr. “I know Dr. Word-Allbritton and her team are very appreciative of the enthusiastic support they have received from our current partners and are poised to submit future proposals that can expand the reach of their work to other districts across North Alabama."

The project is the second NPD grant awarded at UAH in the past decade and builds on earlier successes in preparing educators to deliver instruction for students who are nonnative speakers of English and for whom learning includes not only core content but also the English language itself. Through a competitive application process, the current grant will provide tuition support for local educators to enroll in the UAH’s ESOL master’s program. The project will also deliver a suite of on-demand professional training opportunities for teachers who want to hone their skills in delivering instruction to ELs.

“ELs face the challenge of completing double the work in school – striving not only to learn content, but also the very medium through which knowledge and skills are conveyed in our classrooms,” Dr. Word-Allbritton explains. “Being able to offer support to the educators who stand at the intersection of content and language instruction with these amazing students is truly a privilege.”

Dr. Christina Steidl, Co-PI and associate professor of sociology in UAH’s College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, agrees. “Collaborating with educators in our partner districts presents a remarkable opportunity to make further strides in how we understand the design of instructional language itself. One issue we will be looking at closely is the extent to which that design impacts student comprehension and overall access to the curriculum.”

Teachers interested in learning more about Project DIAL should contact their local school district or reach out to Project DIAL at