Research Spotlight: Powerful Partnerships

In collaboration with Emmanuel graduate Kierstin Giunco ’17, Associate Professor of Education Christine Leighton and current student Kayla Balthazar '20 are working with local students to deepen reading engagement.

As an Emmanuel student, Kierstin Giunco ’17 worked with Associate Professor of Education Christine Leighton to study the intersection of language and literacy learning, even earning co-author credits on an article in the New England Research Association Journal. Now, as a graduate and full-time literacy teacher at OLPH Mission Grammar School, she still collaborates with her mentor and literacy coach Dr. Leighton, as well as current Emmanuel student, Kayla Balthazar ’20, on an award-winning proposal to deepen students’ reading engagement.

Much of Dr. Leighton’s work is centered on working with students and teachers in multilingual and multicultural classrooms to ensure meaningful and equitable learning opportunities. “I collaborate with practicing teachers to explore areas they identify as critical to their development as literacy instructors and to their students’ academic growth,” she said.

Propelled by a scholarship from the Massachusetts Reading Association, their teacher action research project increases the accessibility of representative texts in a fifth-grade classroom at an urban private, Catholic school. Kierstin strategically paired students as “literacy partners,” who then collaborated through meetings and dialogue journals. Students were provided with a wide selection of books, with a special focus on realistic fiction in hopes that it would foster more personal connections.

Kayla was given a firsthand look at the application of real-world research through her role in the data preparation and analysis phase of the project. Kierstin collected data on engagement and social interactions through recordings, anecdotes and scales. Their hope is this study will increase equitable research-based practices, as engagement is also linked with other essential reading skills.

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