Ph.D. in Education, 2015
School of Education
April 1, 2012
“My research explores instructional methodologies to support language learning across all four domains: reading, speaking, writing, and listening.”
Jin Kyoung (Anny) Hwang is a Ph.D. in Education student specializing in Language, Literacy, and Technology. Her research focuses on the second language and literacy development of language minority learners. Believing that those skills are critical to every aspect of an individual’s life, she conducts research that allows her to contribute to this specific population.
Her interests in languages began as a child, when she moved with her family to Ecuador knowing only Korean. Living in a foreign country where she did not speak the language was socially and culturally challenging. However, through this experience, she learned to speak different languages and enjoyed the process of learning foreign languages. When she came back to Korea, she discovered that her peers did not enjoy learning a second language nearly as much. She realized that the problem stemmed from the English language education system in Korea.
Many Koreans dedicated substantial time, effort, and money into studying the language but could hardly converse with foreigner. Good grades in English class depended on a student’s memorization of idioms and vocabulary words rather than on building communication skills. I wondered what an ideal English language education in Korea would look like so I decided to study English language and Literature at Sookmyung Women’s University.
As an undergraduate, the more Jin Kwoung learned about English linguistics, the more mesmerized she became. She found the internal structures of words and rules of sentence formation fascinating, which led her to assume leadership in many projects assigned in her classes since she was intent on squeezing every ounce of knowledge out of her education. Outside of school, she taught fifth graders in English Sunday school at Sarang Community Church.
English Sunday school was meant for English speakers who had difficulty understanding Korean.
Wanting to bridge the gap between the theoretical and practical fields, she furthered her academic career at Harvard Graduate School of Education. As she explored the reading, writing, and language development of children with linguistically and culturally diverse backgrounds, she realized that the context of learning a second language is very different in the United States compared to that in Korea. She wanted to know more about what processes and difficulties the language minority students in the United States go through in their school years and whether what we know about this specific population could be applied to English learners in Korea. Participating in hands-on research studies as a research assistant with Dr. Paola Uccelli imbued her further with a desire to pursue her career in the field of education.
To extend her passion for language education, she volunteered for Newport Beach Public Library Literacy Services as an assessor. While assessing adult English learners’ levels of English proficiency, she found that many of them have difficult time expressing themselves in an “American way” even when they have lived in the U.S. for quite a while and had sufficient English vocabulary and syntactic skills. “Most of the times, they followed the rules of their native language when translating into English, which led to awkward writing and speaking styles.” This was a familiar phenomenon to her as many of her peers in Korea had hard time producing native-like extended discourse even after ten years of English instruction. This made her think once again that acquiring language in all four domains—reading, speaking, writing, and listening—is critical as she continued to explore which instructional methodologies could support such language learning.
Now in her second year of the doctoral program, Jin Kyoung is currently involved in three research projects. First, she is working with Drs. Mark Warschauer, Penelope Collins, and George Farkas to investigate whether a one-to-one laptop program enhances the academic writing of students, including those who are language minority learners. She will be presenting initial findings at the Society for the Scientific Study of Reading meeting in Montreal, Canada this summer. Second, she is involved in a collaborative project to evaluate the effects of state legislation and curricular standards of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs education on teacher instruction and student behavior on substance use. Finally, she is working with Dr. Joshua Lawrence to investigate whether a systematic academic vocabulary development program, Word Generation, impacts on language minority students and whether such effect is heterogeneous for students who were classified as Redesignated Fluent English Proficient at different time points.
As she progresses through the graduate program, Jin Kyoung hopes to make contributions to the field by developing her research skills and deepening her knowledge around language minority learners and their language and literacy development. As a mother of a 19-month-old toddler, Jin Kyoung enjoys spending time with her son and watching him grow up way too quickly.