Below is the original independent study proposal I submitted to my school to have this project approved. It may be subject to change over time, but I’m hoping that I can accomplish the listed goals and develop a stronger understanding of my leading questions!

Supporting English Language Learners (ELL) during Online Schooling

Content Advisor: Profe Simón


to understand how COVID-19 is affecting the learning outcomes of students who don’t speak English at home or whose second language is English and to take actionable steps towards improving their learning.


This independent study will be focused on ELL (English language learner) students in public schools and how they’re coping with online learning. It will start with structured research (using journal articles, books, videos, etc.) to learn about the intersection between the COVID-19 pandemic, Spanish speaking home environments, and online learning. I’ll also go into the virtual classroom to learn how the patterns I’ve researched apply in a real life setting (and to actively work on my colloquial Spanish). By observing how the school environment is functioning during COVID as well as working directly with students to explain concepts, provide resources, and strengthen learning habits, I will develop a stronger understanding of COVID’s effect on these students’ learning. I will also compare my own observations with research I’ve read to evaluate its gaps and/or corroborate its findings and document this analysis (as well as my experiences with students) on my blog. Then, I’ll work to develop methods that can better support these students, implement these methods in my work with students, and determine how schools can integrate these methods into their classes in the long term. I’m hoping that this study will strengthen the learning outcomes of ELL students and provide schools with long term strategies for continuing to combat this problem!

Driving Questions: 

Is online learning making it harder for students to stay engaged in class?

Are there sufficient resources accessible for students who don’t speak English at home?

How can educators take advantage of bilingual education methods to provide a better educational experience?

What gaps are currently present in the learning outcomes of ELL (English language learner) students?

How can teachers leverage existing Spanish language resources to better support their students?

What systems could be put into place to strengthen the environment for ELL students in the long term? 

List of Resources and Activities:

Research (scientific papers):

COVID and General learning:

COVID and Hispanic Population:

Hispanic Population and education:

Research (videos, other multimedia):

COVID and Hispanic population: 

Education and Spanish speakers:

Online learning and general student outcomes:

Final product help:

Literature Review:

Tutoring tips:

People to interview:

  • Spanish speaking students and parents (in Spanish)
  • Teachers
    • What struggles have they noticed for ELL students in their classrooms?
    • What strategies have they used to close these gaps?
  • Administrators
    • What programs are in place to help ELL students succeed?
    • What are the strengths and weaknesses of these programs?
    • What type of help is needed?
  • Professors/Researchers who study:
    • Education
      • Role of technology in learning outcomes
    • Sociology
    • Linguistics
    • COVID-19
  • Leaders of nonprofits/organizations working to tackle these problems
  • Social workers
  • Bilingual students in higher education (older) 
    • Talk about their past experiences


Ongoing Tasks (all months):

  • Research (literature)
  • Research (in classroom)
  • Work with students
  • Actively search for ways to expand work
  • Work on spanish
    • communicating with people (colloquial Spanish)
    • Watching Spanish media
    • Learning colloquial phrases + education-based vocabulary
  • Updating blog weekly


  • Research (broken into categories as listed in Resources section)
  • Observe Ms. Fensholt’s (social studies teacher at Maureen Joy Charter School) classroom
  • Begin to work with ELL (English Language Learners) students on reinforcing concepts in class
    • Either during class in breakout rooms or
    • Afterschool in small groups
  • Seek opportunities to support student learning


  • Work with Ms. Fensholt to develop a plan/curriculum
  • Take notes on what strategies are and aren’t working
  • Develop a system to reach parents
    • Potentially provide written/spoken reports to parents about how students are doing?
  • Interviews:
    • Educators working in ELL classes
    • Professors that study technology/sociology/linguistics
    • Social workers
    • Teachers
  • Check in weekly with teacher, student, parents??


  • Expand work in some way
    • Reach out to parents more often?
    • Work with more students?
    • Create a mechanism for other students to get involved? 
      • (ex: set up a volunteering system through Spanish class similar to Spanish lab?)
      • Partner with LEAP club?
    • Partner with organizations?
    • Reach out to more schools?
  • More interviews
  • Begin putting research together & synthesizing
    • What patterns are emerging?
    • Where does research align with what I’ve seen in the schools?
    • Where do the experiences I’ve read about seem to clash with the ones I’ve seen?
  • Continue taking notes on what I’m observing in the classroom
    • See if I can access general data from the school as well!
  • Check in on any goals set/patterns I noticed in January
    • Modify the plan accordingly


  • Continue finding ways to expand work, especially in more structural ways
    • Set up a system for teachers to continue some of the work I’m doing?
    • Creating resources that students can use in the long term?
      • Ex: resources in Spanish on a unit that the school teaches every year?
    • Working with administrators to see which programs could be implemented?
  • Continuing time with students + parents
  • Seeing if I can connect to other organizations, nonprofits, resources
    • Finding a way to expand access for students beyond a one time thing
  • Begin preparing for final product: start putting together my notes from research online with my notes from my own experiences
    • Begin putting together a literature review/ethnographic study from notes online
    • Figure out the gap in current research and determine how I can learn more about that
  • Continue gathering data (either qualitative from working with the kids and/or quantitative from school if possible)


  • Check in on goals and see where we are
    • Modify the plan accordingly
  • planning for final product
    • Determine what kind of presentation or workshop could benefit the community (ideas listed below!)
    • Determine whether/how I can organize what I’ve learned in a paper format (ideas listed below)
  • Continue working with the kids
  • Finding ways to continue this work beyond the Independent Study

Expected form of Final Product: 

Main product:

  • Research focused: Paper compiling research from before as well as what I learned during experience
    • Share with teachers/administrators
    • Literature review/ethnographic study from previous research + identification of gaps in the existing literature?
    • Combining this literature with my own observations/data?
    • Modify and add to the literature review and then compare to what I’ve learned?

Other potential ideas:

  • Student focused: Final report for students about how to strengthen their learning
  • Parent focused: presentation showing how parents can strengthen their kids’ learning outcomes even in an English learning environment + how kids improved (in Spanish)
    • Also, potentially a final presentation to parents about how their kids improved over time
  • School program focused: Presentation for teachers/admin at the school for strategies they can implement moving forward (in English)
  • Outreach focused: articles/videos/website showing other DA and local students how they can get involved in supporting this cause (in English)
    • Dissemination of research findings to teachers, students etc?
    • Develop a community?
    • Videos for Volunteer organization?
    • Videos for students to show how they can help?
    • Website?
    • Article in a local newspaper?