Plenary Descriptions

The Urgent Need for Authentic Communication in Every Lesson

Presenter: Jeff Zwiers, Ph.D., Stanford Graduate School of Education

Friday – February 8th @ 8:30 am

How do three-year olds learn vocabulary and grammar without being motivated by points or grades? Authentic communication. If what they say doesn’t work to communicate something (often a desire), then they try something else. And they keep trying. And trying. The same is true with a college student studying abroad who falls for someone who speaks a different language. The student has a lot of motivation to communicate well and quickly improve his or her language. But language teaching in many schools has shoved communication aside in search of more neat and clean activities that break language down into many pieces. This happens even in immersion and bilingual settings. This session helps educators to further think about how to restructure language instruction and its assessment in ways that reduce “pseudo-communication” and strengthen authentic communication, with a special emphasis on conversational discourse. We will look at four features of authentic communication as we engage in sample activities and analyze classroom videos.

The 21st Century School:  How and Why Dual Language Works for Everyone, PK-12

Presenters: Virginia P. Collier, Ph.D., George Mason University and Wayne P. Thomas, Ph.D., George Mason University, Panel of Practitioners and Researchers

Friday – February 8th @ 1:45 pm

Following a video introduction by Drs. Collier and Thomas the panelists will provide insights into research and classroom practice that expound on the following:

Dual language schooling through the full curriculum leads to dramatically increased academic achievement and graduation rates.

Dual language students of all ethnic and SES backgrounds, including English learners, experience greater cognitive development and higher student engagement, and they develop proficient bilingualism, biliteracy, and cross-cultural competence.

Dual language schooling is a vehicle for innovative teaching and administrative practices.


  • Wilma Valero, former Director of English Learner Programs for U-46 Community School District, IL
  • Dr. Jennifer Steele, American University
  • Dr. Joan Lachance, University of North Carolina Charlotte
  • Michael Rodríguez, Director of Operations for Dual Language Education of New Mexico, founding Director for the Cien Aguas International School

Mom, They Do Know We’re (American) Indian, Right?

Presenter: Susan C. Faircloth, Ph.D., Colorado State University

Saturday – February 9th @ 8:30 am

As an American Indian mother, educator, and researcher, I seek to understand the ways in which Indigenous languages and cultures can and should be infused into the teaching and learning process to ensure a more culturally relevant and responsive education for Indigenous children and youth. The importance of this line of inquiry is underscored by a question my young daughter recently posed, “They do know we’re (American) Indian, right, Mom?” Unfortunately, her question is not unique, as the majority of American Indian children attend schools in which they are in the minority and where few, if any, of their teachers and school leaders are Indigenous. Drawing on a review of literature, coupled with data from the National Indian Education Study, the nation’s most comprehensive study of American Indian and Alaska Native students and the schools they attend, this session will highlight ways in which the educational system can and should work to improve the educational experiences and subsequent life outcomes of American Indian children and youth by acknowledging, respecting, and incorporating their Indigenous languages and cultures into the teaching and learning process. This topic is particularly relevant given the wide range of cultural and linguistic diversity represented among this nation’s more than 600 state and federally recognized tribes, each with their culture, and many with their own language(s) still intact. Research will be presented that demonstrates failure to provide opportunities for Indigenous languages to be spoken and taught within the context of schools has potentially negative impacts for American Indian students, and their communities, particularly those who are striving to maintain, and/or revitalize their Indigenous languages and cultures. This session will present findings from the research and will share strategies and opportunities that positively impact American Indian students.

Education Policy at the International, National, State, and Local District Level

Presenters: Bill Rivers, Ph.D., Joint National Committee for Languages - National Council for Languages and International Studies and Cristina Banfi, Minister of Education - Argentina

Saturday – February 9th @ 4:15 pm

How do policies at different levels impact the growth of immersion and dual language programs? Why are policy-makers at different levels interested in our programs? How do they engage with the grass-roots - that is, parents, communities, and business leaders? What would you ask national leaders? This plenary brings together policy makers and experts from Argentina, the U.S. Department of Education, ACTFL, NABE, and JNCL, to interact with participants in a town hall, question-and-answer format.