Since I’ll be starting a new job on Monday and am in a particularly retrospective mood, I’m going to repurpose the crux of a Natalie Houston ProfHacker article from Hallowe’en and look back at the last few months. (I’m also shamelessly reusing the impetus from Barbara’s post of early November.)
If you’re as lazy as I am, you might not go and read the Houston piece, so I’ll make it easy and include her framework questions inline. Since I’m not a classroom teacher, I’m being liberal with my use of the questions.
What reading or assignment was most successful so far this semester? Why?
(What’s the best thing I’ve read recently that ties into my work?)
- Not even close. The best thing I’ve read in a long time (and extremely accessible, in a specialist way) is Claire Kramsch’s The Multilingual Subject. So good I’ve put it on my Amazon wish list and will likely buy it for myself if nobody else does. Opened a hundred new doors to possibilities about thinking about language teaching, learning, and acquisition; turned me on to a number of people whose work I now want to research; and gave me hours of reading pleasure to boot. It took me forever to get through because I had to stop so often to ruminate on what Kramsch (or her sources) wrote. Similarly, in scores of places, I got lost noodling through my own language learning experiences that echoed or (rarely) differed from her analyses. Further, as with so much good language learning research, it’s mosty applicable to other disciplines. Good thing, since I’ll be working with those other disciplines in about 72 hours.
Which unit, lecture, or topic did you really enjoy teaching this term? Which one did you least enjoy? How might you use those insights to rearrange or revise the course contents next time?
- Looking back over the presentations and teaching sessions I’ve done recently, I think I most enjoyed the short one I did on place-based learning in the spring. As so many things move into the virtual world, I think that there’s a opportunity to create some powerful hybrids of the physical environment and a virtual one. Equally, I think there’s a lot of neglect of language students’ lived environment as a source for language learning rather than a distraction from it.
- Following that one pretty closely was one that appealed to my inner structure-freak, a discussion of using WordPress for student writing in which I used a WordPress site (open only to Yale community members, unfortunately) as the presentation visual support. It was a little awkward, being my first time doing it, but I enjoyed the public dogfooding and got a surprising thrill from putting something out there that wasn’t fully realized, seeing as how I got the idea to do the preso that way at 11pm the night before.
What has surprised you the most this term?
- The bloom is still on the rose for me, so I am pleasantly surprised quite often. One trend I’ll pick up on that I will likely miss when not working with language instructors is their general willingness to try new things. Even at my institution, where tradition rules the roost, language instructors seem to be feeling increasingly able to experiment with their activities and their own mental models of pedagogy. I had a wonderful discussion with an instructor about turning a theater-based course she teaches into an OER. I’m secretly hopeful that she will want to do it but my soon-to-be-former department won’t be able to support her so that I can convince my new department to take it on. The more I have gotten to know this instructor, the more I am motivated by her interest in augmenting and amplifying her teaching and her students’ learning.
What do you hope your students are taking away from the course this term?
(What do I hope I have helped instructors to understand?)
- When I was co-leading a session on working with a new media hosting space inside our LMS, I came up with a phrasing that described how I was hoping the participants would approach the process. I said to them that I hoped they would be persistent and resilient, but not foolishly so. That is, I wanted them to try on their own, fail, and try again, but at some point (and not even a very far point) I wanted them to realize that they had us for support.
What one piece of advice do you want to offer yourself for the next time you teach this course?
(How am I going to take these reflections and apply them in my new situation?)
- This is a little difficult to answer, since I don’t know exactly what my personal interactions are going to look like. However, I can speak to how much I want to bring to instructors in other disciplines the need to view all learners as distinct and bringing their own identity struggles and successes to the discipline, whether or not the learner is a major in the discipline. Similarly, I’m working on internalizing an “all roads are good” philosophy when it comes to accommodating and even valorizing those struggles and successes within a discipline. And though I haven’t written elsewhere in this post about it, I was strongly affected by a presentation on heritage language learning by Maria Carrera in which (inter alia) she elucidated the practice of Differentiated Instruction; many disciplines at my institution could benefit from implementing this in a gradual manner and I hope to be able to discuss where steps can be taken to enrich the teaching and learning experiences.