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Professor receives NSF grant to study language patterns in STEM classrooms

William & Mary Associate Professor Anne Charity Hudley has been awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study how cultural and social language patterns affect learning and student assessment in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) classrooms.

Charity Hudley, an associate professor of education, English and linguistics, received the grant with co-investigator Christine Mallinson, an assistant professor of language at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Anne Charity Hudley“William and Mary and UMBC make a great partnership for the grant thanks to the two schools' dedicated focus on undergraduate teaching and interdisciplinarity across programs,” said Charity Hudley.

Charity Hudley and Mallinson will receive $171,928 over a three-year period to work with 60 K-12 educators in Baltimore, Hampton Roads and Richmond. The two will assess the educators’ knowledge of and their responses to language variation, particularly among African-American students. The two researchers will also work with participants to create “linguistically informed” materials for classroom use.

“There has been some strong research on the implication of language and culture in language arts classroom but more information is needed about the intersections in STEM classrooms,” said Charity Hudley. “I am currently working with (William & Mary faculty) Margaret Saha, Dan Cristol, and John Swaddle and Jerome Carter '11 thanks to a William & Mary interdisciplinary research grant on how cultural insights will help minority retention in the introductory biology courses. We hope to recruit students from the classrooms that participate in the grant right into William and Mary.”

The new grant builds on a research starter grant that Charity Hudley received from the NSF in 2009 to “examine effective ways to communicate to educators about language variation,” she said. Charity Hudley was able to pursue that research with support from the William & Mary Office of the Provost, her community studies professorship, the William & Mary School of Education, the Charles Center and the Virginia Commonwealth University’s office of community engagement.

“Language, culture, and science have always gone hand in hand for me,” said Charity Hudley, noting that her parents, Drs. Renard and Cynthia Charity, are both physicians and STEM scientists. The two have spent their careers working in medically underserved areas in Richmond.

“My mother was one of the earliest physicians to participate in the CHIP (Comprehensive Health Investment Project) program in Virginia, and my father served on the Virginia Special Advisory Commission on Mandated Health Insurance Benefits,” said Charity Hudley. “I co-wrote this grant in honor of them so that we can all work together to produce the next generation of STEM thinkers who understand the role of language and culture in their work and research so that they can best serve diverse populations.”