Holland Banse Awarded Fellowship to Study Effective Learning Environments for ELL Students


Holland Banse, a doctoral student in the Educational Psychology-Applied Development Science program at UVA's Curry School of Education, has been awarded a $20,000 stipend as part of the American Educational Research Association's (AERA) MET Dissertation Fellowship Program. The award will allow Banse to conduct additional research in the field of education using the AERA's Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) longitudinal database

Working with her mentor Natalia Palacios, assistant professor in the educational psychology and applied developmental sciences program, Banse has focused her dissertation research on better understanding what constitutes an effective and supportive classroom environment for Latino English language learner (ELL) students at the upper elementary level. To answer this question, Banse is analyzing data from the MET Longitudinal Database, which has collected multiple measures of teacher performance from more than 3,000 teachers nationwide.

The MET database is designed to help researchers like Banse identify what teacher skills are most essential for creating effective learning environment. It consists of extensive quantitative and qualitative information about teachers and their teaching, students' academic achievement, video-recorded lessons, and assessments of a teacher's pedagogical and content knowledge.

In her initial work with the MET data, Banse found that when Latino ELL students perceived their teachers to be warm and supportive, it helped to leverage other personal characteristics of those students, such as grit and persistence — characteristics that can be a positive influence on a Latino ELL student's classroom learning and achievement.

Banse then went back to the MET data set and used a qualitative approach to look at how teachers in classrooms with high-performing Latino ELL students were showing care. Although the findings are still preliminary, she found that effective teachers do not only praise these students for their work, but show care in a variety of ways.

"What we see these teachers doing is really working on relationship building with their students and making an effort to talk about the relevance of the content students are learning," says Banse. She speculates that using these strategies helps make the learning process come alive for ELL students. "I think it helps these students realize that what they're learning is not just information they're going to see on a standardized test, but ideas that are important for their lives," Banse says. "It really humanizes the learning process."

Now, using funding from the AERA-MET Dissertation Fellowship award, Banse will go back to the MET project's video-based data to complete the final portion of her dissertation research. She hopes to learn whether effective teachers are merging warm and supportive interactions within their teaching of specific content areas, such as mathematics instruction.

"I'm going to look at math instruction specifically because we know that math has a language all of its own, which can be challenging for Latino ELLs to learn," she explains. "I'm looking to see if teachers express care in similar ways within the context of math instruction. Will they talk about the relevance of math with Latino ELL student, while also balancing the instructional piece itself?"

This final study will round out Banse's dissertation program, which she hopes will provide some concrete recommendations for teachers who have high concentrations of Latino ELL students. "My overall goal from this series of studies is to provide recommendations that will help teachers structure a good classroom environment for Latino ELL students," Banse says.

Long term, Banse hopes to continue working in the field of educational research and engage in teaching within higher education. As part of the AERA award, Banse will have the opportunity to participate in several AERA sponsored doctoral research conferences. The AREA award also provides young researchers like Banse with professional development support to build a research agenda, search for faculty positions, and publish their early work in journals relevant to their field of study.

Banse is a pre-doctoral fellow in the Virginia Education Science Training (VEST) program supported by the Institute of Educational Sciences.  She is also part of the Social Development Lab at the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education.