Category Archives: About our lab

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A vision of excellence through equity, diversity, and inclusion

In recent years, I have been making more explicit links between my research, social justice, and action based research.  With a background in linguistics and anthropology, I moved to the field of communication sciences and disorders in my master’s, PhD, and then as a professor.  My work has been motivated by both the search for a better understanding of how language is learned by bilingual children, and the importance of supporting vulnerable members of our communities.  Specifically, my goal has been to better understand bilingual development and speech development to support children and their families. As a junior academic with an expanding family, I found it challenging to keep my head above water. Now that I am a stronger swimmer, I am working on articulating the vision I hold for the lab: to create a framework that values excellence through equality, diversity and inclusion.  I have found the work of Dr. Liboiron and the CLEAR Lab inspiring in thinking through these perspectives.

eEDI in our Lab

I am a novice and appreciate your kindness and patience as I work through the awkward first drafts.  Here goes…

First, as you might have guessed, we take a Multilingual perspective to our work from start to finish. A key component of valuing the diverse perspectives within the lab and in our communities is using the language of the communities.  As a lab, we are multilingual.  When we don’t speak the language(s) needed for our research, we look to community members, often bright youth, to contribute their knowledge of the language and their community, and we aim to provide them a rich research experience.

From a Feminist perspective, the MFL builds a collaborative and non-exploitive relationships between students, between students and mentors, between researchers and community collaborators and participants.  We will be actively engaged in building a cooperative and collaborative approach to managing processes from data collection to publication.  As the Director of MFL, my goals it to develop a Lab Book that outlines our processes and protocols.

From a Social Justice perspective, the MFL conducts research that is meaningful to members of our communities and that has the potential to bring about change.  We know that knowledge is not neutral and that it reflects power and social relationships. We need to decenter our field’s focus on white, middle-class, monolingual-English through systematic inquiry.  To do this, our research actively collaborates with community members –  often from the very beginning of projects.  We also include measures to mobilize the knowledge we’ve created in the lab through workshops, meetings, and infographics.  We aim to use research methods that support these goals such as Integrated Knowledge Mobilization, and Community Participatory Action Research.

Lastly, I aim to build a kind lab of generous scholars.

In June 2020, the Multilingual Families Lab discussed our values and what we wanted to bring forward.  We illustrated our vision and spoke about it a bit earlier – check it out here.

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Helping children communicate their emotions is a particular challenge for parents during COVID-19, especially when we are lock down. We pulled together resources online and found that we can help children practice naming, responding, and expressing their feelings. That we can help our kids by staying calm and showing empathy. Experts also point to the importance of regular schedules and routines – even when everything else is upside down.

These tips grew out of the survey we launched early in May 2020 to understand how COVID-19 was impacting children’s communication.  We shared the general findings here. We also developed tips for keeping children talking. Parents expressed that more information about helping their kids communicate would be helpful. During our July lab meetings, we brainstormed what should go into the tip sheet. Carolina and Maryam wrote the text and prepared the “mise en page” and we are ready to share!

  • Tips for helping kids communicate their emotions.

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Excellence through Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

In June 2020, the Multilingual Families Lab discussed our values and what we wanted to bring forward.  We have been inspired by the work of Dr. Katta and Dr. Liboiron. We believe in excellence through equity, diversity, and inclusion.

  • We educate ourselves about racism, discrimination, and prejudice.
  • We are inclusive in our research to build a broader knowledge base.
  • We listen, even if it makes us uncomfortable, we speak out in the face of discrimination and prejudice, and we support one another in building our superpowers.

Our research aims to build knowledge, provide rich and diverse perspectives, and to help children meet their full potential. Lab members come from Edmonton, Canada, and the world.  We collaborate with communities locally, nationally and also internationally. Sometimes we need to take a moment to learn more about our expectations and experiences to come to a common understanding.  Within this framework, we value differences in experiences, in knowledge, and in languages.

Some resources we have found interesting and helpful:

Collective mentoring (and sometimes network mentoring)

Disability rights in Canada.

Indigenization, decolonization and reconciliation

Black Lives in Canada

Feminism and Science

LBGTQ+

New to Edmonton (and maybe to English-speaking Canada?): what’s up with the hugs?!?

So… We are all working from home now (aka: expanding our virtual lab)

So… We are all working from home now (aka: expanding our virtual lab)

As a lab, we’ve occupied a virtual space for a number of years.  Some students are co-directed with colleagues in France, others have had a mat-leave (including me), and others have stayed in Montreal following my move to Edmonton.  For the first time, we are all working from home. This new arrangement is providing more flexibility (e.g., being able to return home to family) but also greater isolation.  After about a month, here are some things that we have found helpful to explore.

(1) Be kind to yourself.  

These changes in the way we work and live due to Covid-19 are enormous.  I think it helps if you can allow yourself time to adapt to this new context and not to expect the same levels of productivity.  If you can remember when you started graduate school, it took time to adjust to the new environment and to find your way of working.  And now, you still know what you know but the way of working might need some adjustments. This learning will serve you well in the future as being flexible is helpful when we move to new jobs or change positions. 

(2) Set up virtual lab meetings. 

I began by setting up a weekly virtual lab meeting: same time, same place. I’ve encouraged everyone to make time to drop in.  In this meeting we’ve discussed themes for future meetings and current questions. So far, we’ve begun drafting a questionnaire to ask about the COVID-19 experience of families who have children with communication disorders.  We have also decided to include a virtual journal club in our meeting.

(3) Set up a virtual space for less formal check-ins. 

I tried to set up a Google Chat Room, but it seemed to only be available to lab members with from my institution.  To be able to include students co-supervised elsewhere, I set up a Trello board to allow for less formal check-ins and questions.  My goal is to imitate what happens when we are in the lab together – you lean over, and ask “Hey, do you know how to get the formatting to work in this table?” The kind of small problem that can suck up time, and which also seems to minor to email someone about.  

(4) Encourage student driven initiatives.

The awesome students in my lab have set up their own Pomodoro writing sessions online to provide some of that social writing space that we are missing out. 

(5) Maintain regular meetings.

I have also continued our regular individual or project meetings.  Through these meetings, we have time to talk about how we are coping, new questions, and identify roadblocks. We’re still making progress, even if the pace has changed.  

AM

Reflections during Covid-19

While I’ve been meaning to get this blog going for years, I found finding the time challenging.  During Covid-19, I am working from home and homeschooling with my partner and I miss the regular interactions with my lab members and the department.

Our lab has gotten used to having meetings with me via Skype during my mat leaves.  I also commuted quite far for my old job, and so worked from home about 6 days a month. These tended to be good days to catch up on research progress with everyone  – but remotely.   Although we have used remote meetings quite a bit, we are each struggling with the physical distance from a shared work space. We are feeling pressure to be more productive, or fit productivity around our family commitments, or to be productive during moments of existential angst. It’s hard.

I’ve set up weekly virtual lab meetings and we are working an a common project. We  will keep checking in and find a new path through these difficult times.

AM