With Fulbright to Spain, Wassell to study classroom experiences of immigrant children

With Fulbright to Spain, Wassell to study classroom experiences of immigrant children


Rowan University Education Professor Beth Wassell has been named a 2018-’19 Fulbright Scholar to Spain.

Chair of the Department of Language, Literacy and Sociocultural Education in the College of Education, Wassell will spend four months in Burgos, Spain next spring and summer researching the educational experiences of immigrant children.

Wassell will work with colleagues in the School of Education at the University of Burgos to study how an influx of immigrant children has affected teaching and learning in Colegio Apóstol San Pablo, a school north of Madrid that has welcomed immigrant students and families.

“Few in-depth educational research studies have explored the school experience for children of recent immigrants or have examined how educators are responding to seismic demographic shifts that have transformed their classrooms,” says Wassell, who is looking to examine the classroom experiences of immigrant youth and the classroom practices that help them to feel included and engaged in their learning.

According to Wassell, the academic performance of immigrant students in Spain has been consistently lower than native-born Spanish students. She adds that Spain has seen radical growth in its population of immigrants, particularly from Romania and Bulgaria.

Wassell’s work will contribute significantly to an area of educational research that is critically needed throughout the United States and in Western Europe.

“The study seeks to address the gap in the research literature by investigating the experiences of immigrant students in a school that has a clearly articulated mission of inclusion, intercultural understanding and support for immigrant students and their families,” Wassell says.

Colegio Apostol San Pablo serves children ages three to 12. Its educational programming is centered on inclusivity, intercultural collaboration with the family and social and educational transformation, according to Wassell.

Among the questions she hopes to answer with her study are: How are educators in the school responding to the increase in immigrant students and families within the current climate of migration across Europe? And, what are the structures within the school community that support students’ and families’ success?

Wassell expects her study will yield research-based recommendations for teacher education curriculum and professional development standards in Spain and other countries that are seeing an increase in immigration.

Furthermore, the study will “provide stronger international insights about the ways to better prepare future teachers to create inclusive schooling contexts for immigrant students and families,” Wassell notes.

“I’m curious to find out to what extent the classroom teachers feel prepared to teach immigrant students,” says Wassell, who is excited to share her research with Rowan students who will be classroom teachers. “I’m interested in learning about practices teachers are using that help build inclusivity more broadly in schools. I want learn more about what an inclusive learning community looks like in Spain.”

A former public school Spanish teacher, Wassell’s research most recently has focused on the classroom and schooling experiences of students in urban schools, particularly bilingual students, and on access to world language education for diverse students in the United States.

She’s hopeful that her Fulbright will open up opportunities for collaboration among Rowan students and faculty and teachers and administrators in Burgos.

“As I build relationships with colleagues at the University of Burgos, I can establish networks for future international programming and partnerships,” says Wassell, who has spent time in Spain for two decades and has collaborated for 12 years with María Fernández Hawrylak, a professor of humanities and education at the University of Burgos.

A prestigious academic exchange program, the Core Fulbright Scholar Program offers nearly 470 teaching, research or combination teaching/research awards in more than 125 countries.