MU breaks down barriers

Melanie Todd, Staff writer

Research presented by a Mercyhurst team is looking to break down language barriers for students.

“Creative Tutoring with Language Learners,” a paper presented by the Mercyhurst team of Janelle Newman, Ph.D., Justin Ross, Ph.D., Kerrie Findlay and Cole Lowe, details the use of tutors to help engage and work one-on-one with the students.

“Our main goal was to show that a language barrier is not an excuse to excluding diverse students from the classroom. It is our responsibility as teachers to reach everyone in our classroom, and here was an idea to do so. With language, the main purpose of learning it is to communicate,” Cole Lowe, a junior Spanish Education major, said.

The team’s research was presented at “Languages: The Flagship to Opportunities,” the annual Pennsylvania State Modern Language Association conference in October.

“I became involved because I was the first student to really be fully immersed in the English as a Second Language Certification Program we have on campus. Janelle Newman is a personal mentor of mine, and we have worked very close together on other projects, and this was a good fit to show some of Mercyhurst’s success,” Lowe said.

Lowe was pivotal to this research project because of his personal experience.

“My role was to provide personal anecdotes and experiential research of being a tutor and successful ways to reach students. I have worked as a tutor extensively, and being a world language major and specifically an ESL minor, I had the education to have success with our students of other languages,” said Lowe. “I told our audience of stories that I had experienced within the tutoring environment (Spanish and ESL) and how it was relevant to teaching strategies and cultural or linguistic awareness.”

The topic of this research project explored the use of tutors but specifically using unique techniques to help students learn languages.

“The research we had done was based on our successes with having a tutor in a language setting. This included foreign languages and learning a second language. We wanted to show secondary teachers and post-secondary teachers the methods of having a supplementary source (a tutor) such as one-to-one or group environments and embedded tutoring. Mercyhurst has a substantial tutoring program with modern and cutting-edge methods,” Lowe said.

Lowe also was able to earn credit for his involvement.

“Also, the presentation was connected to the Honors Program, for I had used the research as a way to honorize a class to fulfill the eight-class honors class requirement,” Lowe said.

The team will continue to share the findings in conferences. The goal is to spread their research so that others can benefit, especially the students.

“Janelle Newman and I re-presented the topic at the conference for Western Pennsylvania ESL Teachers (Three-Rivers TESOL Conference). We continue to work with and enrich the tutoring opportunities for our university ESL students,” Lowe said