Kim Gomez: Haytin Award Winner Works for Access and Equity Through Literacy

Gomez is focused on researching ways to make STEM learning with in-school, afterschool, community, and online supports.

Associate Professor of Education Kim Gomez has been selected as the 2013 recipient of the Harold A. and Lois Haytin Faculty Award, for her work to improve the quality of student writing in Grades 3-6 through the “Disciplinary Literacy Work Circle” project at UCLA Lab School. The $2,500 cash award is given in recognition of a GSE&IS faculty member or faculty members whose research promises to positively impact classroom practice not only at UCLA Lab School but at other elementary schools as well.

Gomez, who teaches in GSE&IS’s Urban Schooling Division, oversees a project to build teacher capacity individually and collectively, and to support classroom disciplinary literacy in reading, writing, and discussion. The study aims to provide insight into how embedded and extended professional development models like work circles can help teachers more effectively teach disciplinary literacy writing. Gomez, her doctoral student, Nicole Mancevice, and UCLA Lab School teachers meet in work circles twice a month to collaboratively plan and implement classroom lessons and activities that help students recognize, make claims, and provide evidence to support theses in their writing and in-classroom discussion.

“I am humbled, and grateful,” says Gomez, “to have been singled out for this honor, especially to be recognized alongside faculty who have done such important work with teachers and students at UCLA’s Lab School. Our work circle collaborative activities are providing teachers and researchers with an opportunity to design writing and assessment of writing tasks, across the disciplines, that have great potential, as we extend the work to other schools, to bring ELL and low-literacy students up to their best skill level.”

Before joining UCLA, Gomez was a senior fellow and lead facilitator for Literacy and Language at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. As such, she worked to ensure that two mathematics curricular strands that had been developed by the Foundation were accessible to non-English-background community college students and to students with low-literacy skills.

Statway, a statistics curriculum, and Quantway, which addresses quantitative reasoning, are both developmental mathematics curricula. Working with Katherine Rodela, a graduate student at Stanford, and again with Mancevice and GSE&IS doctoral student Maritza Lozano, Gomez analyzed each of the curricular lessons to identify where they are linguistically over-complex and can undermine mathematics learning. Each of the team’s recommendations were sent to the curriculum writers in order for the writers to make revisions to lessons in Statway and Quantway.

“Over time, we realized that we were making the same kinds of recommendations again and again and again,” says Gomez. “So then we [did] a broader analysis to document what these changes are and categorized them relative to the theoretical literature around the problems of mathematics and English language learners or students with low literacy skills.”

Gomez says that this further analysis resulted in a guidebook for curriculum writers that is an open source document on the Carnegie Foundation’s website. However, she and her team recognized that their findings did not necessarily provide guidance for instructors in supporting students on a day-to-day basis. They began to develop instructional routines for reading comprehension, writing in mathematics, discussion routines, and analysis of visual displays like charts, graphs, and tables, and started to integrate the routines into the Quantway curriculum.

“We felt that if you could get a quantitative reasoning curriculum [to be] really accessible for students, and instructors had routines for supporting the prevalent language and literacy issues among students who test into that curriculum, then we could have an impact,” says Gomez.

Gomez and her team interviewed faculty from across the country who have taught using Statway and Quantway, asking them to look at the instructional routines as embedded in the materials and to give them feedback. The results of these interviews laid the groundwork for an article “Designing Embedded Language and Literacy Supports for Developmental Mathematics Teaching and Learning,” which will soon be published in MathAmatyc Educator, the definitive journal for mathematics instructors in community colleges.  The article describes the team’s systematic approach to documenting and creating a taxonomy of important literacy revisions and recommendations, and also discusses examples of instructional routines and the rationale for the design of the routines to support strategic language and literacy learning for non-English background students and those with low literacy skills.

To date, the instructional routines have been used in community colleges in New York City and upstate New York. Gomez hopes to achieve funding to test the instructional routines in mathematics and statistics classrooms in Los Angeles community colleges.

“These instructional practices address critical elements of language and literacy within mathematics classrooms: vocabulary teaching and learning, supporting students learning to read and interpret problem situations, and mathematics examples, and charts and graphs, as well as participation in classroom discussions,” says Gomez.  “The literacy instructional support effort builds on design and intervention efforts in science learning in which my doctoral students, my colleague, Louis Gomez, and I have engaged.”

Dr. Gomez earned her Ph.D. and her Master of Arts degree in educational psychology at the University of Chicago. She earned a master of science degree in speech pathology at Florida State University, and her bachelor’s degree in speech pathology and audiology at the University of Florida.

Before entering doctoral study at the University of Chicago, Gomez was an assistant professor of general studies for three years at Florida Memorial College in Miami.  While teaching Introductory English courses at the college, Gomez worked with first generation college students, many of whom were from educationally underserved communities, and discovered that challenges in reading comprehension were preventing them from being successful learners.

In hopes of addressing this issue, Gomez conducted research in her doctoral program at the intersection of language development, linguistics, and social class.  Her dissertation research focused on the presence of narratives about literacy experiences in second-generation black middle class families.  As a post-doctoral fellow, she began to explore students’ language and literacy challenges in middle school science curricula as part of the NSF-sponsored Center for Learning Technologies in Urban Schools at Northwestern University.

Gomez’s research broadly focuses on supporting students’ access to mathematics and science learning in middle, high school, and community college curricula. Within these aspects of teaching and learning, she explores instructional approaches to supporting underserved students through language and literacy-infused mathematics and science teaching.  She has worked extensively with science and mathematics teachers of students with low literacy skills and non-English background learners. In much of Gomez’s research, she makes use of digital and Web 2.0 technologies to support in-school, afterschool, community, and online learning.

“The development of literacy is intimately connected to the development of an equitable society because of its legal and social gatekeeper functions; its promise-keeper opportunities for social and economic mobility; and its ability to enable individuals to exercise independence, authority, and influence,” says Gomez. “To fully explore the relationship between literacy and its role in developing an equitable society as it relates to schools and schooling, there must be a real dialogue between research and practice.  For over ten years, my research efforts have been focused on helping children experience more equitable opportunities to learn in K-12 urban public schools through the design and support of rigorous, state-of-the-art literacy and language-focused curricular materials, tools, and professional development experiences which support students’ access to academic knowledge.”

The Haytin Faculty Award was established in 1985 thanks to a generous gift from Lois Haytin and the late Harold (Hal) Haytin, longtime UCLA donors and grandparents of former UCLA Lab School students. Professor Gomez will be honored at a luncheon with Lois Haytin later this fall.