13:50 PM

UST Makes News with Study to Benefit Future Teachers of K-12 Bilingual Immersion

Bilingual or dual immersion programs for K-12 have increased in all 50 states, with students who desire to be Spanish-English bilingual making up the fastest-growing student population.

An ongoing research study at University of St. Thomas at Houston is designed to support bilingual future teachers in their academic Spanish, so they will better prepare their K-12 Spanish-English bilingual students. The study and its creator, UST Professor Ginny Torres-Rimbau, were featured on Univision.

The Challenge Addressed in Dr. Rimbau’s Study

In K-12 dual immersion programs students learn various school subjects, from mathematics to reading, in both languages. The challenge is that many teachers, though fluent in both languages, are not equal in both when it comes to teaching. They don’t have the academic linguistic competence. Dr. Rimbau is working to change that.

Rimbau offers an example of the issue using the subject of mathematics. She said, “There is a classroom-specific language — you could call it an ‘academic way’ — to talk about and teach mathematics in English and an academic way to teach it in Spanish. But many teachers learned math in English, so they prefer the English academic terms and phrasing. They are reluctant to learn to teach it in Spanish, because they don’t feel comfortable and are concerned they won’t appear fluent. The outcome for the students is that they don’t learn to speak about math correctly in Spanish.”

Kalyn Vasquez, B.A. ’21 in Bilingual Education, participated in the study and said, “The gap I experienced between my academic English and my academic Spanish was a big one. Growing up in school, I was taught academic English. But I was taught social Spanish—the kind you use at home or with friends outside of the classroom. So I was hesitant to become a bilingual educator for that reason.”

The goal at UST is for teachers and students to be bilingual and biliterate, so they are perceived as equally capable.

What Is the “Con Cariño” Technique

UST’s study examines the effectiveness of encouraging the development and adoption of academic Spanish by future teachers through a method known as “Con Cariño (with caring).”

Rimbau said, “As our professors apply the ‘Con Cariño’ translanguaging techniques for adopting academic Spanish, they combat reluctance by highlighting progress, avoiding negative references and aiming to increase the academic language confidence of these future teachers.”

“The program is amazing,” Vasquez said. “Now that I’m about to begin my journey as an educator, I am confident I can teach using both academic English and Spanish.”

States like Texas, California and New York report a significant shortage of qualified teachers to meet the needs of the country’s bilingual immersion programs. Not only is UST’s School of Education helping to fill the gap, Professor Rimbau’s study also aims to strengthen the teachers’ use of academic Spanish and raise their confidence in the skill.

To hear more from Dr. Rimbau on Univision, watch here.