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Second Language Education

The Second Language Education Emphasis is concerned with issues of theory and practice in the teaching and learning of languages beyond the first or native language. Faculty and graduate students have interests in both widely taught languages, such as English, Spanish, French, Mandarin, and German, as well as in those that are less commonly taught. An area of particular engagement involves the education of English-as-an-additional language students in the U.S. and abroad. Second Language Education faculty also engage in close collaboration with the Department of Applied Linguistics, with students in both programs benefiting from the collective theoretical and research expertise of scholars from both departments. Faculty and students approach second language education through sociocultural and critical theoretical frameworks and employ qualitative and discourse analytic approaches in their work. Specific lines of research include analysis of classroom interaction, technology-supported second language learning, classroom-based second language assessment, dialogic learning and teaching, language and identity, teacher preparation for the instruction of emergent bilingual learners, and the development of teacher interculturality and global competence.

Prospective graduate students (M.Ed., M.S., and Ph.D.) and others interested in our program are encouraged to survey the faculty’s work and make direct contact with the member who most closely addresses your interests.


Uju Anya

I’m working on a project examining American college student experiences in foreign language classrooms and study abroad programs to show that translanguaging persists despite mandates for monolingual immersion. I will use this project to propose ways translanguaging can be leveraged for more effective foreign language pedagogy, and I hope to bridge the traditional monolingually oriented approach to foreign language study with new approaches of multilingualism and multiplicity as fundamental principles in language learning. I’m also working on a project on racial inequity and underrepresentation of African American students in foreign language and study abroad programs. I analyze enrollment, degree attainment, study abroad participation, conduct case studies of institutions identified as potential exemplars of inclusive practices in postsecondary foreign language education, and do evaluations and evidence-based action research in collaboration with foreign language programs to change their curricula in ways that would be more culturally inclusive to successfully engage and retain black students.

Crosson Amy 72Amy Crosson

My research focuses on classroom-based interventions to support the academic language development of children and adolescents in under-resourced communities, with special attention to academic vocabulary learning, discussion quality, and argument writing.  In particular, I focus on language and literacy development of English Language Learners. I draw on quantitative and qualitative techniques to understand mechanisms that influence language learning and effects of instruction. My current project, English Learners’ Robust Academic Vocabulary Encounters (funded by the Institute for Education Sciences), actively welcomes graduate students to gain firsthand with data collection and analysis in classroom-based research.

Mari HanedaMari Haneda

As an interdisciplinary-trained TESOL/Applied Linguistics scholar, my research has developed along two intertwining strands. One involves my study of classroom teaching, which has broadened over my career.  From my initial focus on equitable teacher-student and student-student interaction that benefits English Learner (EL) students, I have recently started to explore teacher learning as well as their strategies for negotiating institutional constraints in order to advocate for ELs. The second strand, grounded in the first, critically interrogates theoretical issues, evolving over time from early concerns with concepts such as ‘community of practice,’ ‘dialogic inquiry,’ and ‘academic language,’ to more recent work on ESL teachers’ ‘job-crafting.’ Drawing on critical sociocultural and post-structural theories, my research has focused on equitable dialogic learning and teaching in K-16 instructional settings, critical literacy, teacher identity and advocacy, academic communication, and the professional development of those who teach ELs, both mainstream and ESL teachers. I am currently engaged in research projects that examine: (a) ways in which elementary school teachers enact linguistically and culturally responsive pedagogy in urban schools that have a large EL population; and (b) ways in which pre-service teachers might transform their perspectives on teaching ELs after taking social-justice oriented course work. My co-edited volume, Perspectives on Language in Action, will be available in February 2019.


Matt Poehner

A former teacher of French as a world language and English as a second language, my scholarly preparation was in the field of applied linguistics, where I encountered Cultural Historical Activity Theory, as developed by Russian psychologist L. S. Vygotsky and his colleagues. As Vygotsky’s work has become one of the major theoretical approaches to understanding teaching and learning, my research has sought to bring these ideas into the domain of students learning other languages. Building upon critical theory and praxis, my work has entailed partnering with teachers and learners to investigate processes of classroom instruction and assessment and to reorient them to provide access and opportunity to all individuals. Collaborating with practitioners and other researchers, I have conducted these projects in K-16 settings in the U.S. as well as in educational settings in countries around the world, including most recently in Finland, Australia, China, and Israel. My graduate teaching is closely aligned to this work and includes courses devoted to Vygotskian research in education, theoretical approaches to language, and philosophical foundations of educational research.

Smolcic Elizabeth 72Elizabeth Smolcic

My research investigates teacher development in preparing to work with emergent bilingual English learners, particularly the development of teachers’ interculturality and sociopolitical consciousness and the instructional practices that support the learning of bilingual students in U.S. public schools.  Currently, I am working on a mixed method longitudinal study that explores teacher learning and teacher education practices within a short-term field teaching experience and cultural/linguistic immersion in Ecuador.  Secondly, I am co-editing a book entitled, Redefining Competence Through Cultural Immersion:  Teacher Preparation for Linguistic and Culturally Diverse Classrooms.  I welcome graduate student participation in these and future projects as well as participation on the instructional team in our immersion program in Ecuador.

General Contact

Matt Poehner

Professor in Charge, Second Language Education
159 Chambers Building
University Park, PA 16802

Staff Contact

Bonnie Richardson

Administrative Assistant
270 Chambers Building
University Park, PA 16802