KSOE Professor Dr. Joy Broughton Wins Dissertation Award for Her Research on Cultivating Critical Consciousness in English Language Educators

Joy Broughton, PhD, has been recognized as the 2020 recipient of the National Award for Outstanding Dissertation for her dissertation titled, “Cultivating Educators’ Critical Consciousness of Learning and Language Needs in Emergent Bilinguals.”

Dr. Broughton is an Assistant Professor of Special Education in the Kalmanovitz School of Education’s Teacher Education department, where she teaches courses on teaching, learning methods, and a one-of-a-kind course on bilingualism and disability. She has presented and published works addressing issues of teacher preparation for serving students at the intersections of race, language, and disability; leadership in special education; and disproportionate identification of emergent bilinguals in peer-reviewed national and international journals. Dr. Broughton’s scholarly work is informed by over a decade of working in K–12 schools, where she taught special education and led schoolwide literacy initiatives in Oregon, Florida, Brazil, and Honduras. As a chosen trilingual in Spanish, Portuguese, and English, Dr. Broughton personally understands the challenges of learning languages and seeks to demystify this process for educators.

This award recognizes Dr. Broughton for her superior research design and relevancy of the topic to the field of special education teacher preparation. In her study, she was embedded within a school as an instructional coach. Working with two kindergarten and two first grade teachers serving students predominantly whose families were from Central America. She studied how these teachers developed their understanding of second language learning and disabilities. Over the course of 16 weeks, these teachers learned to embed linguistically-responsive pedagogical practices into their reading lessons.

Dr. Broughton led her coaching with her own innovative, conceptual model, “Cultivating Critical Consciousness in Educators,” that integrates theories on:

  • The Freirean concept of critical consciousness
  • The relationship of knowledge and practice in teacher education
  • Culturally and linguistically sustaining pedagogies

The results compiled by Dr. Broughton showed that the teachers increased their use of instructional supports for English learners as a result of her instructional coaching. However, even more profound was how understanding intersectionality influenced each teacher’s ability to make sound instructional decisions and meet the unique needs of emergent bilingual readers in their classrooms. 

For example, a teacher might provide quality instruction to the whole class of English learners, but might be unable to recognize signs of a reading disability in a struggling student. Or, a teacher may have the conceptual understanding of inequitable access to educational opportunities and discuss the needs for educational reform, while their own instructional practices do not serve the needs of English learners in their classroom.

This close examination of teaching practices with English learners in the early grades revealed the importance of designing professional learning opportunities embedded in the job, which support teachers to engage in self-reflective practice, examine the sociolinguistic implications of the hegemony of English language over students’ home languages in the classroom, and become critically conscious of the intersectionality of language and learning disabilities.

Currently, Dr. Broughton is expanding on this work through a grant funded by CalEPIC out of Chapman University. In collaboration with Drs. Laura Alvarez, Raina Léon, and Executive Director of Special Education Wendi Aghily, the KSOE Teacher Education department is designing a pre-service preparation and professional development for general and special education teachers in dual language immersion schools in the Mount Diablo Unified School District.

Read more about Dr. Broughton's dissertation.