Mary Alice Barksdale, associate professor in Virginia Tech's College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences' Department of Teaching and Learning, has been awarded a Fulbright Scholar grant for educational research in South Africa.
During the 2009 spring semester, Barksdale will conduct research in a primary school in Port Elizabeth while affiliated with Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. Barksdale will implement a literacy program in which children will write, illustrate, and informally publish their own stories. The resulting publications will serve as texts to provide reading practice and to support literacy achievement. Since most schools in Sub-Saharan Africa lack sufficient quantities of culturally relevant text materials for reading practice and instruction, this project has been designed as a model of how schools can create some of their own texts to support literacy learning.
Barksdale, who was also involved in the University Partnership for Institutional Capacity project at Virginia Tech, taught several courses in Malawi for Virginia Tech over the last several years. She has also worked with all of the Malawian master's and doctoral students who were served by that program.
According to Barksdale, this Fulbright project was inspired by “Students as Authors,” a project she helped to develop in West Virginia. It is also an outgrowth of collaborative work with Virginia Tech professor Patricia Kelly whereby they engaged Malawian master’s degree students in writing culturally relevant texts for Malawian classrooms. To further promote cultural exchange, Barksdale has collected pen pal letters from students at Hurt Park Elementary in Roanoke, Va., to be distributed to South African children upon her arrival there.
A repeat Fulbright recipient, Barksdale partnered with the Hertzen Pedagogical Institute in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1995, where she participated in a lecturing Fulbright (rather than a research Fulbright), and her work centered on teacher education reform and improvement.
Recipients of Fulbright awards are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement and because they have demonstrated extraordinary leadership potential in their fields.
Established in 1946, the Fulbright program is America's flagship international education exchange activity and is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs. Since the program was established, thousands of United States faculty and professionals have studied, taught, or conducted research abroad, and thousands of their counterparts from other countries have engaged in similar activities in the United States.