Adeola Agoke and Katrina Daly Thompson of the African Cultural Studies department were recently awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Education International Research and Studies Program. Together they will receive $304,331 to support three years of research in self-instruction in less commonly taught languages (LCTL).
The grant will allow Agoke and Thompson to conduct their proposed study, which uses data from their Multilanguage Seminar course to document the strategies and outcomes of fully self-instructional learning of less commonly taught languages (LCTLs) and respond to the national need for increased access to effective learning opportunities for studying LCTLs, especially at high proficiency levels. The study also addresses international calls for empirical research on language learner autonomy, self-directed learning, self-assessment, and resource management strategies.
The Multilanguage Seminar course from which data has been collected for the study was created by Thompson when they first joined the faculty at UW-Madison as Director of the African Languages Program and were tasked with creating a mechanism to offer more African languages.
“Now regularly taught by Dr. Agoke, the course has become an important way for many UW-Madison graduate students and a few highly motivated undergraduates to learn languages we can’t offer in a traditional classroom because of low enrollments or inadequate instructional materials,” Thompson said.
Agoke began teaching the Multilanguage Seminar course in 2019 and has since been provided with the platform to expand instructions to Southeast Asian languages through the Wisconsin Summer Language Institute, allowing students at UW-Madison and other Universities across the United States to enroll in the Multilanguage Seminar course.
“I am ecstatic that my teaching endeavor has not only provided avenues for instructions in languages such as Sousou, Tunisian Arabic, Bahasa Melayu, Lingala, Nepali, Vietnamese, etc. but has also attracted the US federal grant to conduct research in autonomy in self-instructional learning,” Agoke said. “I am excited to take the research ride with Dr. Thompson, my dissertation supervisor, now a colleague, who continues to support my scholarship in applied linguistics. We will analyze the data from the many years of teaching the course and more importantly contribute to research in less commonly taught language instructions.”
Thompson said the data will be analyzed through a workshop co-hosted with Howard University in year two of the grant and in a book Thompson and Agoke will write together in year three.
“I’m really pleased to do this work with one of my former graduate students, Dr. Agoke, who has now become a friend and valued colleague,” Thompson said. “And I’m delighted to finally have the opportunity to analyze the data we have been collecting for all these years and to share what we and our students have learned with others.”