Introduction to Special Issue – Linguistics in High School

Nicoleta Bateman, Mary Hudgens Henderson


There is a considerable amount of overlap in the interests and aims of the AP Linguistics committee (APLC) and the freshly-renamed Linguistics in the School Curriculum committee (LiSC), which includes introducing linguistics to young learners and incorporating linguistically-informed knowledge into instruction. At the Linguistic Society of America virtual conference in January 2021, these two committees had the unique opportunity to co-host a panel in which teachers and researchers discussed different initiatives and projects in developing linguistics courses, connecting with schools, and training teachers. We are pleased to present in this Special Issue three papers that illustrate the burgeoning interest and need for linguistics at the high school level.

In their paper “The Columbus Linguistics in High School experience: Fits and starts as a prelude to success”, Victora Paxton, Carly Dickerson, and Brian D. Joseph discuss a university-based initiative to incorporate linguistics into the high school curriculum. The authors discuss the history of the Linguistics in High School (LxHS) program at The Ohio State University and their decision to target non-public schools. By outlining the challenges, strategies, failures, and successes, this project serves as an example for university-school partnerships that can make a difference in the local community.

In “Using Science Standards to Guide the Development of High School Linguistics”, Stephanie Joy Gamble Morse outlines how she created a framework around the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for her linguistics course in a Colorado high school. Beyond memorizing facts, the NGSS requires students to apply or demonstrate their knowledge in a higher-order thinking skill using eight practices that align with effective linguistic analysis. Using the methodology of conducting scientific investigations, which builds on students’ existing science competencies, helps students and teachers see linguistics as the systematic study of language and reinforce scientific reasoning skills. The student-led investigations guided students to notice language in their own lives and make connections to bigger issues around them. This approach can facilitate conversations with school administrators when proposing a new high school linguistics course.

In “Taking the first step: How to create a high-school linguistics course”, L’Meese Greaney illustrates how teachers do not need to be linguistics content experts to propose and teach a course. At a Michigan high school, Greaney encouraged students to take the lead on selecting linguistic topics, finding sources, and directing discussions on what interested them. This process was highly empowering for students; the non-competitive environment made everyone both learners and experts at the same time. As Greaney rightly notes, removing linguistic judgement makes students question and challenge other prejudices in society. As a result, this course fostered both independence and interdependence in which students of different abilities helped each other learn about linguistics.

We hope this collection of papers inspires teachers and researchers to reach out to each other for ideas and encouragement, to allow students to take the lead, and to consider how the teaching of linguistics at the high school level can do so much more for students beyond being more linguistically-aware members of society.

Copyright (c) 2021 Nicoleta Bateman, Mary Hudgens Henderson

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