Alohalani Housman, indigenous education: Research supports Hawaiian language revitalization

Associate Prof. Housman developed Hawaiian language assessment instrument and rubric to evaluate the proficiency levels of elementary immersion students.

Published Oct. 8, 2013; latest update April 20, 2018.  Note: April Housman is no longer at UH Hilo.

Alohalani Housman
Alohalani Housman

April R. “Alohalani” Housman is an associate professor of indigenous education at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. She currently serves as division chair and director of Hale Kuamo‘o Hawaiian Language Curriculum Center, a division of UH Hilo’s Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani College of Hawaiian Language. She specializes in language arts and her research focuses primarily on the literacy curriculum used in Hawaiian language immersion schools statewide.

“My research activities support the goal and efforts of the Hawaiian language revitalization movement,” says Housman, who has the distinction of being the first Hawaiian immersion teacher on O‘ahu in 1987. (Immersion schools use Hawaiian language for instruction and administration. For context, see the 2007-2011 Progress Report produced by ‘Aha Pūnana Leo, the non-profit that spearheaded and provides leadership for the Hawaiian language revitalization and immersion school movement.)

Housman has been affiliated with Hale Kuamoʻo and UH Hilo in various roles since her work in the late 1990s as a Department of Education teacher, when she was a curriculum developer and coordinator, and project director of the Nā Maka O Kana Hawaiian Language Newspaper. She then served as a Hawaiian immersion teacher for grades K-3 at Nāwahīokalani‘ōpu‘u Iki, a laboratory school of UH Hilo’s College of Hawaiian Language located in Keaʻau. Her specialty areas at Nāwahī were Hawaiian language arts and literacy.

Since 2003, she has received over $5 million in extramural funding at UH Hilo, where she has been principal investigator of three grants and project director of one grant. The grants have focused on literacy development, language acquisition, and evaluation in the Hawaiian language.

One notable accomplishment of her work was the development of a Hawaiian language assessment instrument and rubric to evaluate the proficiency levels of 270 elementary immersion students at seven different schools located on four different islands. Housman says the pre- and post-test data gathered during 20-30 minute sessions with each individual student provided a wealth of information on language acquisition.

“It was also the impetus that guided the development of literacy and language materials, teacher training, and family workshops,” she says. Since 2003, a total of 168 new books in Hawaiian have been published by Hale Kuamoʻo and in the past five years over 132,850 books were sent out to Hawaiian language medium/immersion schools, families, and community organizations throughout the state. Housman has directed 16 teacher training workshops with a total of 347 participants over the last 10 years and 15 family workshops with over 600 participants since 2010.

Between 2005 and 2008, Housman served as principal investigator in development of 91 children’s books published with grant money under the He Aupuni Palapala Literacy Program. During the expansive project, she led team meetings, gave feedback to contracted authors, mentored university students in story writing, composed short picture descriptions of stories for illustrators, edited stories, and read galleys before final printing.

Currently, Housman is principal investigator of the Ka ‘Ōlelo ‘Ōiwi project, the Pū‘ā i ke ‘Ōlelo grant, and the Ka ‘Ōlelo Ola grant:

  • The Ka ‘Ōlelo ‘Ōiwi: Hawaiian Oral Language Development Project (ANA) is funded by the Administration for Native Americans ($900,000 for three years). This grant targets three domains of oral proficiency growth: grammar, fluency, and Hawaiian perspective. Workshops are provided for Hawaiian Language Immersion Program (HLIP) teachers and families. Curriculum materials and books are developed and distributed to 15 HLIP schools. Housman is co-writer, principal investigator, and project director.
  • The Pū‘ā I Ka ‘Ōlelo (PIKO) grant is funded by the Kellogg Foundation ($800,000 for four years). This P-3 grant supports the development of early childhood literacy books, curriculum, and materials that are used in Hawaiian language immersion schools statewide. Workshops are provided to train teachers as a means to advance the reading proficiency level of students. Housman serves as principal investigator, project coordinator, and teacher trainer for the project.
  • The Ka ‘Ōlelo Ola (KOO) grant is funded by the U.S. Department of Education ($1 million for three years). This K-3 Oral Language Proficiency Project supports the development of oral language acquisition skill curriculum and assessments for the Hawaiian language immersion program. Housman is principal investigator, project coordinator, and co-writer of the grant.

About her accomplishments, Housman says it’s important to give credit to the small staff at Hale Kuamoʻo: Kaulana Dameg, Māhealani Kobashigawa, Kekaianiani Irwin, Hiʻilei Vuta, and student workers Lepeka Aiko and Kaʻiu Carvalho.

“All of our work is a collaborative team effort,” she says. “Together we have been able to provide invaluable services to the Hawaiian community, especially to the Hawaiian language medium (and) immersion community who are still in dire need of resources in the classroom and home.”

Housman serves as faculty at the Kahuawaiola Indigenous Teacher Preparation Program and is teacher training coordinator for the He Aupuni Palapala Literacy Program, the Hawaiian medium literacy curriculum model. She holds a Hawai‘i State Department of Education License and Basic Elementary Teacherʼs Certification.  She received her master of arts in education from UH Hilo.


Housman won honorable mention for Excellence in Illustrative or Photographic Books at the 2014 Ka Palapala Poʻokela Awards for Ke Ao Nani: He Puke Huaʻōlelo 1000.


By Susan Enright, public information specialist, Office of the Chancellor.