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Research Areas

During my doctoral studies, I pursued interests that arose from my earlier experience as a teacher in San Juan, Puerto Rico and my encounter with the problem of official misclassification of students as Learning Disabled.  The students were, in fact, merely exemplifying Latino culture and language but trying to function in English at school. At the University of Toronto, I worked with a number of professors who specialized in issues of culture, bilingualism and education, especially Jim Cummins, Esther Geva, Rina Cohen and Linda Siegel.  

For output on these topics please see Toward a 21st Century Developmental Theory
https://eric.ed.gov/?q=Judith+bernhard&id=EJ663894, external link

For Out-of-home Care for Infants and Toddlers: A Call for Cultural and Linguistic Continuity please see…
https://digital.library.ryerson.ca/islandora/object/RULA%3A384

Our interventions with families have been aimed at supporting migrant families in understanding how to navigate the educational system in the host country by becoming actively engaged in their children’s education. Based on the critical theories of Freire, Bourdieu, Cummins, Moll and Flor Ada, the interventions have been designed to help migrant groups of parents understand their position of marginality, to help empower them, and to provide them with a means for supporting their children’s education in the new country.

For the theoretical basis of our work with families, please see From Theory to Practice, Engaging Immigrant Parents in their Children’s Education…  
https://eric.ed.gov/?q=Judith+bernhard&id=EJ906424, external link

For more on the Perspectives of Parents, Teachers and Children in a Canadian School please see…
https://digital.library.ryerson.ca/islandora/object/RULA%3A274

After my doctorate, I resumed teaching at Ryerson University, conducting research projects on immigrant and refugee educational issues. The social concepts of diversity and inclusion have been the foundation of my research on early childhood education and care. I was a collaborator and consultant on the Federal Aboriginal Head Start program to help develop assessment instruments that are locally valid. Stages of child development described in standard text-books are often presented as applying universally.  Issues of styles of parenting, degree of child dependence on the parents, methods of discipline are often treated as if Western norms are everywhere applicable. Thus, families may be assessed as dysfunctional and children labelled “delayed” or “in need of remediation.”  With Dr. Arlene Stairs of Queen’s University, I have been a co-author of several reports on revisions of standard assessment measures for Aboriginal children.

For more on evaluation in Aboriginal early childhood settings, please see…
PDF filehttp://www.yorku.ca/cohesion/LARG/PDF/Bernhard_02_considerations.pdf, external link  

To read more on Cultural Bias in Standard Tests of Mental Abilities please see…https://digital.library.ryerson.ca/islandora/object/RULA%3A348

For more on Assessment of Culturally Diverse Students please see…
https://digital.library.ryerson.ca/islandora/object/RULA%3A386

To read a critical reflection on Developmentally Appropriate Practice please see…https://digital.library.ryerson.ca/islandora/object/RULA%3A3

To read about Essential Elements of Valid Research please see…http://digital.library.ryerson.ca/islandora/object/RULA%3A373/datastream/OBJ/view

To read about Essential Elements of Valid Research in French please see…https://digital.library.ryerson.ca/islandora/object/RULA%3A23

Based on the Paulo Freire’s (1994) conscientization theory, and the work of Alma Flor Ada and Isabel Campoy (2003), The Early Authors Program, in which I participated as a Principal Investigator, was developed, implemented and evaluated in Miami-Dade County with pre-school emergent bilingual children who participated in identity-text construction. The 3- to 5-year-old children who received the 12-month early literacy intervention (82 children in 32 schools), made significantly greater gains than the control group on language measures.  The quality of the classroom literacy environment and teachers’ literacy promoting practices improved considerably in centres receiving the intervention. Teachers further reported high satisfaction and sustainability for the program.

Inclusion here has been seen as both a fundamental basis of all forms of instruction and a strategy to incorporate the ideas, knowledge and skills from children of diverse backgrounds. As a process that fosters a sense of belonging for all children, inclusion involves engaging non-dominant perspectives in order to make decisions about education and care. We concluded that placing emphasis on inclusion also requires recognizing and addressing the systemic biases and discrimination in the educational system, countering the treatment of some children as outsiders. To illustrate the international prominence our work has received, one may refer to the National Academy of Sciences in Washington DC (February 2017) publication of a comprehensive report on the academic achievement of English language learners entitled Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures and featured our Early Authors Program.           

To Read more about The Early Authors Program please see …https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10824660701860458, external link

In another study, I led one component of the SSHRC ‘Multiliteracies’ project that operated from 2002 through 2006 in OISE and UBC with Drs. Jim Cummins (University of Toronto) and Lisa Taylor (Bishop’s University). The project involved working in a Kindergarten classroom where most students were encountering an English-only environment for the first time. Working collaboratively with their teachers and parents, the children produced individual self-authored books written in both English and their first languages. Results indicated that as family and teacher conceptions of literacy were extended beyond traditional, monolingual print-based literacy, home literacies associated with complex transnational and transgenerational communities of practice were legitimated through their inclusion with the school curriculum.  

For a report based on the Multiliteracies project please see…www.multiliteracies.ca/index.php/folio/viewDocument/23/3722, external link

To read the full article Affirming Plural Belonging, please see…http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1468798408096481, external link

With Dr. Cummins, I was co-author of a refereed journal article for Teachers College Quarterly that reviewed and interpreted some of the findings from a large-scale project under my leadership in the Miami-Dade school district in light of some of the theoretical constructs in Dr. Cummins’ writings.  

To read the full paper Identity Texts and Literacy Development among English Language Learners please see….
https://www.tcrecord.org/content.asp?contentid=12809, external link

Using the Early Authors Program approach, I worked with a team of teachers from Canada and the Dominican Republic to guide local children in authoring texts about themselves and their families.  The multilayered texts have been analyzed in terms of the children’s understanding of their social situation. The teachers later shared these texts with a group of Grade 8 students, had them produce their own texts and analyzed the range of responses toward action for social justice.  

For more on Teachers’ Volunteer Experiences in the Dominican Republic please see…https://scholarworks.iu.edu/journals/index.php/ried/article/view/161, external link

A great deal of my research has focused on refugee children in childcare and the assessments made by caregivers.  My research with Spanish-speaking families with Dr. Marlinda Freire (University of Toronto) involved working directly with the children’s teachers and families and on African-Canadians with Professor Carl James (York University).  We authored a number of reports, especially focusing on children and families of Somali and Spanish speaking backgrounds. Being uprooted myself several times in my life, I understand the issues from the inside. The research reports highlighted both the challenges teachers and families frequently face as well as the resilience they demonstrate and the contributions to school and society that they make. In these cases, it was clear that issues of development were confounded by students’ present reactions to dramatic events.

For more please see Behaviour and Misbehaviour in a Time of Zero Tolerance: Mothers’ Views…
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0957514032000179052, external link

To read the article Struggling to Preserve Home Language, please see…
https://doi.org/10.1080/15235882.2001.10162787, external link

Most recently, I have focused on the effects of migrant status on family functioning.  Our project, with Dr. Luin Goldring (York University) and Patricia Landolt (University of Toronto), involved a relatively invisible type of migrant experience of thousands of families where at least one member lives without full legal status or what is termed “precarious status”. The global patterns of immigration and settlement have changed drastically over the past two decades.  Families become split and sometimes only one or two family members have relocated while other important members stay behind. In many cases, those persons may lack proper documentation or legal status. In the early stages, families may face deportation of one or both parents. Settlement, while possibly extended for years, may not involve either integration into the mainstream or family reunification. Yet, the absent members may, through telecommunication, be in daily communication with the immigrant family. In other cases, links disappear.   

To read more about precarious immigration and its effects on family functioning please see…
https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2435.2008.00479.x, external link

To read the article Institutionalizing Precarious Immigration Status in Canada please see…https://yorkspace.library.yorku.ca/xmlui/handle/10315/10022, external link

To read the article Ethical Issues in Researching Precarious Legal Status please see…https://digital.library.ryerson.ca/islandora/object/RULA%3A76

To read more about Transnational Multi-Local Motherhood please see…https://digital.library.ryerson.ca/islandora/object/RULA%3A267

To read more about Living with Precarious Legal Status in Canada: Implications for the Well-being of Children and Families please see…https://digital.library.ryerson.ca/islandora/object/RULA%3A168

To read about Linguistic Match between Teachers and Children please see…https://digital.library.ryerson.ca/islandora/object/RULA%3A294

To read about Troubled Relations: Parent Teacher Interactions in Ethnoculturally Diverse Childcare Centres please see…https://digital.library.ryerson.ca/islandora/object/RULA%3A191

The Canadian Parenting Workshops, funded by the Government of Canada (HRDC) are a set of 10 research-based workshops, field tested and evaluated.  In the workshop, the parents use an alternative form of parental participation that acknowledges the particular historical context in which families live and bases itself in parents’ understanding of mainstream institutional processes. Ultimately, the project has been about involving conscious, active parents in a liberating pedagogy.

To read more about the Latin American parent groups please see…https://digital.library.ryerson.ca/islandora/object/RULA%3A372

To read more about the Latin American parent groups in Spanish please see…https://digital.library.ryerson.ca/islandora/object/RULA%3A370

To read more about the Canadian Parenting Groups please see…https://digital.library.ryerson.ca/islandora/object/RULA%3A461

For more on Culturally Contested Issues between Teachers and Latin American Families please see…
https://digital.library.ryerson.ca/islandora/object/RULA%3A398