Over the last seventeen years, TIRF has been supporting junior researchers and their work via its Doctoral Dissertation Grants (DDG) program. During this period of time, TIRF has made DDG awards to 130 individuals from many As of August 2018, the DDG program has resulted in 130 grantees from many regions of the world, including Australia, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, England, Iran, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Nepal, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, Scotland, Sudan, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, the United States, and Vietnam.

In terms of the resources required to run such a far-reaching program, we would be remiss to not mention the wonderful support of our individual donors and our partnering organizations. We extend our sincere thanks to the many supporters our grant-making efforts to deserving junior scholars, including those individuals who have contributed to TIRF’s Russell N. Campbell fund, which is awarded to the highest-rated DDG applicant each year.

Furthermore, we would like to recognize the sponsorship of the following organizations, who have contributed significantly to TIRF’s DDG program in recent years: Cambridge Assessment English, the British Council, and Educational Testing Service. We remain ever grateful for the important contributions these organizations have made to the mission of TIRF, as well as to the broader landscape of language education through TIRF’s DDG program.

We are very pleased to announce the 2018 class of TIRF DDG recipients and to share a brief bio data statement for each of this year’s grantees, as well as information about their studies and the particular TIRF Research Priority each of their proposals addresses. Please use the links below to learn more about our grantees and their exciting doctoral work.

Chaoran Wang (Digital Technology in Language Education) is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Literacy, Culture, and Language Education at Indiana University Bloomington. Previously, she also worked as an Associate Instructor for the Multilingual Writing Program in the English Department at Indiana University. Chaoran’s dissertation project is about English e-learning among ethnic minority children in rural China.


Chris Bacon (Language Policy & Planning) is a doctoral candidate at the Boston College Lynch School of Education. As a former high school English and ESL teacher, his research explores bilingualism, language policy, and critical literacies. His dissertation analyzes the language ideological implications of a statewide training mandate for teachers of bilingual learners in Massachusetts.


Jenna A. Altherr Flores (Language Assessment) is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Second Language Acquisition and Teaching program at the University of Arizona. Her research is centered on English language and literacy, and the integration of refugee-background adults into both American society and their local communities. Taking a critical approach to language and literacy testing and teaching, she investigates (1) how this population makes meaning from printed texts, and (2) issues of power and ideology.


Kevin Wong (Digital Technology in Language Education) is a Ph.D. candidate in Literacy Education at New York University. In his dissertation, he examines the potential of educational media to equip preschool-aged dual-language learners (DLLs) with English vocabulary knowledge to prepare them for the demands of school. More specifically, he investigates how instructional supports on screen and  children’s language proficiency influence L2 vocabulary learning in DLLs.


Lara Bryfonski (Language Teacher Education) is a doctoral candidate in Applied Linguistics at Georgetown University, where she conducts research on interaction and corrective feedback in second language acquisition and task-based language teaching and learning. Her dissertation research examines the implementation of a task-based teacher training program for a cohort of pre-service language teachers preparing to teach English at a network of bilingual schools in Honduras.


Leanne Cameron (Teacher Education) is a Ph.D. student at the University of Bristol, focusing on teacher professionalism within an English language teacher association in Rwanda. Originally from California, her work seeks to amplify the voices of teachers, so their professional capabilities may be appreciated by powerful decision-makers. She previously worked as an English teacher and trainer throughout the US, Europe, and Africa.


Meichan Huang (Teacher Education) is a Ph.D. candidate at the Applied Linguistics Laboratory, Texas A&M University – Commerce. Her research interests include second-language speech perception and production, prosody, and World Englishes. Her dissertation project involves the role of prosodic features in the assessment of the intelligibility, comprehensibility, and accentedness judgments of speakers of “three circles” of English by listeners of similar and different English backgrounds.


Mingxia Zhi (Language Assessment) is a Ph.D. candidate in Culture, Literacy, and Language at The University of Texas at San Antonio. She has extensive research experience in language assessment, second language acquisition, and under-represented populations in higher education, using quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods. Her dissertation project investigates the authenticity of paper- and computer-based ESL writing tests.


Minkyung Kim (Language Assessment) is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Applied Linguistics and ESL at Georgia State University. Her primary research interests are L2 reading and writing. Minkyung’s dissertation investigates the longitudinal development of L2 writing in relation to language skills (vocabulary and reading), cognitive skills (attention, working memory, and general knowledge), and language production features (lexical sophistication and language bursts).


Panjanit Chaipuapae (Russell N. Campbell Awardee; Language Assessment & Plurilingualism in Business, Industry, the Professions, and Educational Contexts) is a doctoral candidate in the Applied Linguistics program at Northern Arizona University. Panjanit has had extensive English teaching experience with Thai students. Her dissertation study investigates the effects of accented speech on workplace listening comprehension of Thai undergraduates.


Parisa Safaei (Language Assessment) is a doctoral student in the Applied Linguistics program at Laval University. She is experienced in language teaching, student placement, in-house test design, and teacher supervision. Her doctoral research focuses on the validity of the academic writing module of the IELTS test and its washback on teacher instruction. Her current research interests include washback and validity of high-stakes tests, writing instruction and assessment, and teacher factors in washback.


Randi F. Freeman (Language Policy & Planning) has been a TESOL professional since 1988. She currently works primarily with English learners and their teachers in K-12 settings and is completing her EdD in TESOL from Anaheim University in California. Her dissertation examines the appropriateness of using a generic teacher evaluation rubric to measure quality instruction for English learners in Washington State.


Rui Li (Digital Technology) is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, specializing in language and literacy education. Her dissertation research considers how emergent plurilingual youth engage multimodally in digitally mediated transnational encounters. It explores how the multimodal design and production process and the online global interactions enable negotiation of learning, identities, and global relations.


Salomé Villa Larenas (Language Assessment) is a Chilean Ph.D. candidate in the Applied Linguistics program at Lancaster University, UK. Her doctoral research investigates the language assessment literacy of teacher educators in Chile. The study explores teacher educators’ theoretical knowledge, skills, and practices in language assessment, and the extent and nature of the language assessment literacy training they conduct with pre-service EFL teachers.


Sonca Vo (Language Assessment) is a doctoral student in Applied Linguistics and Technology at Iowa State University. She is interested in development and validation of language assessments and quantitative research methods. She has published her work in CALICO, International Journal of Applied Linguistics, Language Assessment Quarterly, and TESL-EJ.


Yoo Young Ahn (Teacher Education) is a doctoral candidate in the Literacy, Culture and Language Education Department at Indiana University Bloomington. Her research interests include second/foreign language teacher education, teaching pronunciation, critical approaches to English language teaching, language policy, L2 writing, and academic literacy.


We wish to add that for the second time in its DDG program history, TIRF is including in its adjudication process a category of “Honorable Mention.” Although this distinction does not involve a monetary award, we would like to recognize the outstanding work of the following individuals:

  • Khanh Bui (University of Georgia): “Key words are not enough”: Multiple Representations to Foster English Learners’ Thinking and Reasoning to Solve Word Problems
  • Rachel Bowden (University of Southampton): Language Use and Learning in a Lower-secondary Mathematics Class in Rwanda
  • Susie Kim (Michigan State University): Assessing Grammatical Features in Second Language Writing: A Corpus-based Analysis of CEFR Features across Score Levels

Asked to comment on this year’s DDG competition, Dr. MaryAnn Christison, TIRF’s Research Advisory Committee Chair, had the following to say: “Overseeing the TIRF DDG competition each year is such a rewarding professional activity. We are so appreciative of the TIRF donors and supporters who make the DDGs competition a reality. We have a process for determining the top-ranked proposals that relies on the expertise of a set of experienced external evaluators, so we are confident that the best proposals rise to the top and receive funding and recognition.” She added, “Ryan Damerow [TIRF’s Chief Operating Officer] and I are fortunate to interact frequently with the young scholars about their research in the form of interim and final reports, and we also get to join them in celebrating when their research is completed and they defend their dissertations.”

We at TIRF look forward to working with the 2018 DDG recipients for years to come. Please join us in congratulating all of this year’s awardees and Honorable Mentionees!