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Transformative Language Pedagogy

  • Julie Baker
  • Michael Marsh-Soloway

World and Classical language courses require students and instructors to step outside their delineated comfort zones, to venture into unfamiliar socio-cultural norms, and to consider new perspectives that often oppose widely-held stereotypes and prior expectations, beliefs or understandings. Along with the opportunity to compare and reflect upon their own communities, values, traditions, and modes of communication, students are simultaneously introduced to different modes of expression that encourage the skills and attitudes necessary to connect with and truly comprehend another culture. As instructors, we strive to form truly “global” citizens who leave UR with a broader outlook and respect for diversity and “otherness”. In a sense, we are constantly looking at our content areas from multiple cross-cultural perspectives. However, what we also aim to do is to enhance our teaching to insist upon inclusion of all members of our student population, and to more effectively reach our learners who come from diverse and unique backgrounds themselves.

The need exists, consequently, for language instructors to think “outside the box” to reach a new generation of students, capitalize on new technological resources to deepen learning outcomes, and foster an atmosphere in which all different personalities and backgrounds come together for shared growth and reflection. Following the official position of the American Council of Teachers of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), learning a second language comprises an activity that should be accessible to all students. ACTFL promotes “the awareness and differentiation of language instruction to accommodate students’ diverse learning styles; exceptional learning needs; cultural, ethnic, and linguistic backgrounds; and personal interests and goals.” The envisioned FLC endeavors to reaffirm the merits of this official ACTFL position, and to endorse the overarching idea of inclusive pedagogy.

Thus, we will consider three larger concepts within our exploration: (1) diversity, (2) inclusivity, (3) reciprocity [the processes by which students learn from each other, and also how instructors learn from students]. These concepts will be introduced in relation to our syllabi and language teaching methodologies during a year-long series of open dialogue and debate, readings, guest lectures, instructional demonstrations, focus groups, and periodic testimonials delivered by students, staff, and faculty.