LTS faculty and staff really care about their students! We want you to know that we are here to encourage and support and celebrate what you are doing. We are also reflecting on what we are learning from this term, from you our students, and from the situation itself of suddenly teaching and administrating online. Below are some quotes from us about our reflections so far.
I’ve learned a lot this term, and I’ve genuinely been really encouraged by my experiences with remote teaching. I have designed and delivered quite a few asynchronous courses, but the real-time Zoom sessions have been new to me. As much as I value the face-to-face classroom experience, I’ve enjoyed this term largely because it has been so experimental. I feel like both faculty and students have been very creative this term. Sometimes good things can come from trying times!
— Andy Halvorsen
I sure miss the classroom and interacting with everyone f2f, but I have enjoyed experimenting with various Zoom and Canvas tools (and look forward to using some of these in future courses). I admire the flexibility, effort, and responsibility students bring to class despite the challenges. I learn so much from them as well as from communicating with colleagues about their remote teaching experiences—what a great community! The LTS social hour (I go to the Friday afternoon one) has been a relaxing and fun way to get to know students and faculty better—I discover things I never would have if it weren’t for these Zoom sessions!
— Trish Pashby
I have learned how truly creative and resilient our students and faculty are under less than ideal circumstances. It has been inspiring to watch how quickly they adapt, how hard they work, and how engaged they remain. It is an honor to work with them.
— Julie Sykes
Although it may take a few emails back and forth (which can be tiring) in place of someone dropping by my desk for a quick chat, it’s been a relatively painless transition to remote work. Implementing and guiding students through new electronic processes which were previously done on paper has been fun and insightful. I truly hope what we’ve learned from this experience will have a positive impact on our procedures, making them easier for students when we’re back on campus. While my ability to assist students hasn’t changed working from home, I sure do miss seeing them and can’t wait for the day our main office is bustling again!
— Kayla Robinson, Graduate Coordinator
This has been the most unusual term I’ve ever seen. One thing I’ve enjoyed is the weekly informal meetings with the students where we catch up and sometimes play games together. I actually feel I know my students better through these informal meetings, and its been a blast laughing together.
— Robert Elliott
What I have learned from teaching remotely this term: Notes to self:
I can do “the impossible” and I’m not in this alone; collaborate!
Don’t waste time and precious energy resisting what can’t be changed; rather, spend that energy on what I can still do and what I can adapt and learning new tools.
I am having to do what I ask my students to do every day–to be brave and take the risks necessary for genuine learning; I always say that teachers need to try something hard and new every year or so to remember what it feels like to “be on the other side of the desk.”
I am still me and that is what I bring to the classroom, no matter the platform. Inability to complete an activity one way opens possibilities for new ways to explore the material.
Creating learning experiences is key.
— Laura Holland
This term I have learned that the LTS students are flexible and resilient! I have also learned that using partially “flipped” classes can be a helpful resource (whether we are engaging remotely or not).
— Kris Kyle
Sometimes timing is everything, and much of the time you have no control over what coincides with it. When we rolled out the latest version of ANVILL in the Fall (you were the first users) we had no idea that hundreds of teachers would be looking for a streaming media platform that works inside of their LMS. It’s been humbling and challenging these past 3 months to support language teachers on campus and afar as they try to find many different ways of showing and telling and connecting.
— Jeff Magoto
I have learned from this that while I regret not seeing everyone in person, I still get great energy from our interactions online. Granted, this term my interactions are the fun ones – the microteaching workshops, our social hours, and office hours – but the energy I get from staying connected with students and colleagues reinforces for me that teaching, or learning and collaborating together, is the right profession for me. I have also learned that we are adaptable, and that we are resilient indeed. I think we will look back on this period and be amazed at what we can accomplish even when we are caught off guard, distracted, or spending extra time under our covers to escape the world’s challenges. I love the expression ‘expand the pie‘, which is a term in business negotiations that refers to actively exploring new paths to common interests rather than defaulting to zero-sum compromises. Faced with remote learning, we don’t need to get stuck in a deficit mindset of how we are compromised; we can work in collaboration with technology to notice what we didn’t have before, like being able to meet up with everyone we want with just a click. Of course, I’m still really looking forward to having the choice again…
Finals week was not just a time for wrapping up classes for Keli Yerian (LTS Director) and Judith Fernandes (curriculum developer at the Northwest Indian Language Institute, or NILI). It was also a unique chance to spend seven days strengthening ties and developing common projects with colleagues in Lyon, France.
Some of the UO – Lyon 2 team in a work meeting, December 2019. From left, Alejandra Vergara, Michel Bert, Bénédicte Pivot, Colette Grinevald, Judith Fernandes
The Université de Lyon 2 and the University of Oregon in fact have a long history through Dr. Colette Grinevald, who was a pivotal figure in the founding of the UO’s Department of Linguistics in the 1970s and is now emeritus professor at Lyon 2. Colette’s groundbreaking work on the endangered language Rama in Nicaragua has had natural ties with NILI’s efforts to support documentation and revitalization over the past 20+ years. In recent years, faculty from both sides of the Atlantic have met up at conferences or at UO or Lyon 2 to discuss and better understand various dynamics across endangered language contexts. Dr. Michel Bert from the Université de Lyon 2 and Dr. Bénédicte Pivot from the Université de Montpellier visited the UO and participated in NILI events in 2017 and 2019 to learn about endangered language contexts in North America. Likewise NILI Director Dr. Janne Underinner and Associate Director Robert Elliott visited France in 2018 to learn more about the case of the endangered language Franco-Provençal.
Judith Fernandes presenting about NILI
This December, the focus turned primarily to questions of how “third parties” such as institutional programs or their resources may be best used for the needs of revitalization, with Keli Yerian and Judith Fernandes representing efforts by LTS and NILI to address these needs. Events in the trip included public presentations about NILI and LTS at the Dynamic du Language (DDL) lab, work group meetings, meetings with faculty from the ICAR lab (Interactions, Corpus, Apprentissage, Représentations) who are also working on plurilingual language learning contexts that involve minoritized and majoritized languages, the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Lyon 2 and UO by Dr. James Walker, Vice-President of Lyon 2, and even a trip to a nearby village where a community play was performed that included both Franco-Provençal and French.
Scene from a community play in Franco-Provençal and French
One example topic of discussion was to what degree popular approaches to second language learning, such as immersion or the use of proficiency-based benchmarks, are appropriate or useful for revitalization contexts, where goals regarding “proficiency” and “communicative competence” might be very specific and context-dependent. What different models might better capture the varied practices and achievements of revitalization efforts, and how can programs and institutes like LTS and NILI help facilitate efforts to develop these models? These are questions that LTS and doctoral students of endangered languages have been tackling with ever-increasing momentum at UO, and we look forward to seeing how these efforts play out in the coming years. We’ll keep you posted!
Signing of the UO-Lyon 2 MOU. From left, James Walker, Judith Fernandes, Michel Bert, Keli Yerian
p.s. To provide additional excitement to the trip, we were witness to the historic strikes happening in France now over retirement and benefits. Here is a scene from a day trip to Aix en Provence.
Strike demonstration in Aix en Provence, December 2019
LTS faculty member Trish Pashby spent the winter holidays conducting English teacher training workshops in Lahore, Pakistan.
Tell us about your trip to Pakistan. What exactly were you doing there?
I received a grant from the American Institute of Pakistan Studies (AIPS) http://www.pakistanstudies-aips.org/ to present a series of workshops for faculty at a university in Pakistan over a period of three weeks. They sent me to University of Education (UE) http://ue.edu.pk/ in Lahore to work with the English Department at their Township campus, which turned out to be fantastic. The administrators and faculty there were incredibly kind and really fun. They gave me an office, made sure I had everything I needed, and fed me delicious lunches every day. I met with some faculty one-on-one to discuss their professional development ideas and classroom practices—which were all very interesting and impressive. The workshops were attended by faculty (and some students) from Township campus as well as instructors from other UE campuses in Lahore and as far away as Vehari and Multan. Sessions included “Professional Development for Very Busy Instructors” “Multimodal Learning” and “Creating Balanced Lessons” and were designed to be as interactive as possible. The participants were lively, experienced, and full of great ideas. I loved the way they were willing to engage in all kinds of activities and admired their dedication to their students and academic careers. I learned a tremendous amount from all of them.
Workshop Participants University of Education Lahore
While I was there, the university hosted their International Conference on English Literature, Linguistics and Teaching (ICELLT 2018), which featured speakers from all over Pakistan and the world. It was a very exciting three days of amazing sessions and plenty of socializing. I was happy to give a keynote talk (“Revisiting Motivation in Language Learning”), attend dozens of presentations, and get to know attendees during the tea breaks, lunches and the lovely “Culture Night” event, where a number of UE English teachers stepped up to the microphone to sing beautiful songs from their provinces.
Surprise Christmas Party at UE
Out to lunch with UE faculty (Ayesha, Dr. Humaira, Farzana)
AIPS also sent me on a quick trip to Islamabad to participate in the International Student Conference and Expo at a session titled “Student-Centric Learning.” What a treat to meet this group of students from universities all over Pakistan and hear about their classroom experiences and preferences.
You were in Pakistan before, right?
Yes, I traveled to Pakistan three times before as part of a U.S. State Department partnership grant University of Oregon had with Karakoram International University up in Gilgit, all really wonderful adventures. But this was my first trip to Lahore, which was very different from the cities of Islamabad and Gilgit. Lahore was bursting at the seams with energy: The streets were packed with cars, motorcycles, donkeys (pulling carts), pedestrians. The city has a great vibe, friendly people, and fabulous food.
Badshahi Mosque Lahore Pakistan
Walled City Lahore Pakistan
Were you able to do much sightseeing on this trip?
Some! I spent a magical Sunday wandering through the Walled City (eating a traditional brunch at the fantastic Faqir Museum hosted by the owner, searching music shops for small instrument to use in my workshops), visited the incredible Badshahi Mosque, and then strolled around the historic Lahore Fort at sunset. I also took a lovely walk in Shalimar Gardens one afternoon and went to a really fun Rahat Fateh Ali Khan concert. Otherwise, I enjoyed exploring the little neighborhood where I stayed, with its parks and shops. I feel I’ve just started to get to know Lahore and will definitely have to return.
LTS faculty often travel internationally as part of their work, since language teaching and learning is often very connected to international interactions. This week’s blog feature’s LTS Director Keli Yerian’s unusually far-reaching travel this past week in early July – to the southern tip of Africa in Capetown.
A sculpture of Mandela made of beads
Why were you visiting Capetown?
My research interests are in language and gesture, particularly in how language teachers learn to use their bodies as an integral part of language teaching when the learning context is face-to-face. There is an association called the International Society for Gesture Studies that holds a conference every two years, and this year it was held in South Africa.
Marion and Keli
Did you present at the conference?
This time I presented with my colleague from France, Marion Tellier, which whom I am co-authoring some comparative research studies with data from our program in LTS, and the MA teacher education program she directs in France. We are noticing some similar patterns of gesture development in both programs, as well as some contrasts that may be related to differing educational and cultural contexts. We are both very interested in how typical co-speech gesture becomes more stylized and conventionalized in specific ways when used in pedagogical situations for depicting content and for serving pragmatic purposes in interaction. Unfortunately we forgot to ask someone to take a photo of us presenting, so I can’t show one here!
Sitting at the top of Lion’s Head – what a climb!
Did you do anything else in Capetown?
For most of the conference, we were always in the same conference hotel. Breakfasts and lunches were all provided there. Unfortunately, exploring around the city after dark was not safe in the heart of the city, so we only went out to dinner in groups to nearby places. The legacy of apartheid was very apparent all around us, and safety issues were just one aspect of this. It was only about 25 years ago that explicit discrimination was ended in South Africa (people of color were denied equal rights in most imaginable ways), and one generation is not enough to change the effects of racism and unequal access to resources and opportunities. We were lucky to meet a few South Africans who talked to us quite frankly about this legacy, which we appreciated.
This is what it looked like climbing up Lion’s Head
vigilant birds of paradise
We did spend the last days combining work with fun trips. Some of us hiked to the top of Lion’s Head, which involved literally climbing up ladders built into the cliffs and pulling yourself up chains, and we visited an animal reserve where we saw lions, cheetahs, giraffes, and elephants. We also went to the very end of the cape – the tip of the continent of Africa – that was impressive! Finally, we visited the famous botanical gardens. The birds of paradise flowers looked like a flock of cranes peering out of the bushes.
It was the middle of winter there, so the weather was cool. Luckily the country had recently had some good rain; there was a water crisis before we arrived that was better by the time we were there, but we still took 30 second showers and didn’t let faucets run. It made me really appreciate the delicious water here in Eugene.
Did I mention the penguins? Yes, penguins in Africa.
I doubt I’ll ever return there, but if any of you get the chance, I recommend it!
A post from the LTS ‘Directors’ 2017-18, Keli Yerian and Trish Pashby
From Keli: As all LTS students this year know, I am on sabbatical for 7 months Fall and Winter terms. I am spending Fall in Aix en Provence, France, and Winter back in Eugene.
One of the streets I often walk down in Aix.
After seven years of being LTS Director year-round, I must admit I am happy to get a breather from administration to focus on research and writing (not to mention the wine and food). I’m also happy to be in the L2 (second language speaker) seat again. It’s important for language teachers and teacher educators to remember what it is like to live in a second language; it’s exciting but definitely frustrating and discouraging at times. It’s all part of the language learning cycle.
I have been fortunate that a scholar I met last year at a gesture conference in Paris, Marion Tellier,
The view out my window of the famous cathedral St. Sauveur and behind it, the St. Victoire mountain, painted often by Cézanne.
has welcomed me to the University of Aix-Marseille/Laboratoire Parole et Langage as a visiting scholar to look at data together and start a collaborative project. Both of us are interested in gesture and language pedagogy, specifically in how to think about the use of gesture and the body in language teacher education. She is in fact the co-author of an edited book on the topic already (the only such book I know of). She also co-directs and teaches in the MA program in teaching French as a Foreign/Second Language at the university, so we have many experiences in common.
My goals while I am here are:
My abstract in French – no google translation involved, but a bit of editing from Marion certainly helped. LTS alumni certainly know about editing…
To get a project started with Marion using our similar data from our respective programs. We are presenting a poster at a local professional gathering later this month, and planning to collect more teaching data in her program over the next few months.
To make significant progress on writing up another gesture manuscript (which I’ll be presenting this month at a colloquium at LPL).
To work towards professional-level fluency in French. I am getting plenty of practice towards this!
My biggest challenge here is that I miss my family. I will not see them in person for three months. But the end of the year will arrive soon, I know. Have a wonderful Fall and Winter terms, LTS! You are in excellent hands with Trish Pashby as Acting Director.
From Trish: I am thrilled for Keli that she is able to take advantage of this exciting professional opportunity in France and am also excited that I get a chance to serve again as director of the LTS program while Keli is away. I was director of the program once before (2007-2010) and since then have been teaching at least two courses per year in the program and participating as an MA project advisor, among other faculty duties. I look forward to additional contact with current students (teaching the orientation course; meeting to discussing course schedules, internships and other opportunities; facilitating various stages of MA projects) as well as interacting with future ones. This term, I will have open office hours in Straub 167 every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 12:00-2:00 and will be available other days/times by appointment.
Trish Pashby is a Senior Instructor II in the American English Institute and has been a teacher educator in LTS since the program began in 2004. She has taught many of the LTS courses over this time, and currently teaches her favorites, LT 541 Teaching Pronunciation and LT 528 Teaching Culture and Literature.
For me, pronunciation lessons are the most fun possible in the classroom. I love the whole process:
finding out who my students are, what they want, what they need;
creating opportunities for them to unveil simple yet hidden patterns of the English sound system;
observing as they compare how they had been previously producing a word (or phrase or text) to a variation that improves their intelligibility and confidence;
setting up practice drills followed by more communicative activities that allow them to work with the new pronunciation in various ways;
checking in with them about their progress and providing encouragement and guidance to keep going.
Sadly, only a handful of my colleagues share this passion. In fact, many English language teachers lack confidence in how to teach it at all (Baker, 2014; Murphy, 2014). This may be partly explained by the fact that “relatively few teacher education programs provide courses on how to teach L2 pronunciation” (Baker, 2014), which experts in the field (Derwing, 2010; Murphy, 2014) deem essential. The LTS program requires LT 541 (Teaching English Pronunciation) for students focusing on English. In this post, I will share some of the key areas we cover in the course. If you are a current or future language instructor who feels nervous about teaching pronunciation, I strongly encourage you to dabble and play with the following. Parts may lead to ways for you to build your confidence, and maybe even fall in love.
Intelligibility vs Comprehensibility vs Accent—and other “Big Picture” Issues
Munro and Derwing (1999) define intelligibility as how much a listener actually understands, comprehensibility as how difficult it is for the listener to understand, and accent as how the speech varies from the dialect of the listener. For example, substituting a “th” with /s/ in “think” or /d/ in “the” will probably fall under “accent” if the listener notices the substitution but has no trouble understanding. In diagnosing the pronunciation of their learners, teachers need to distinguish among the three, and prioritize the former.
Several key questions interact with this to create the “big picture.” What are the learners’ goals? Who will they be interacting with? What is possible? Reasonable? Desirable? (Don’t assume all of your learners want to acquire your particular pronunciation. Some may prefer another dialect of English. Or want to maintain a connection to their native language.) What about those seeking to sound native-like? What progress can they make and what role can you play in that? Can non-native speakers be good pronunciation teachers?
My answer to this last question: Yes, of course non-native speakers can be excellent pronunciation teachers as long as they understand the sound system of the target language and have the skills to communicate this to learners through effective practice activities. They can use their own voice to model the language but should also present a variety of models to their students, just as native speaker teachers should.
Advice: Keep your assumptions to a minimum and instead rely on (1) much communication with your learners and (2) current research in the field.
Suprasegmentals (Stress, Rhythm, Intonation)
For many teachers, especially those who are native speakers of English, suprasegmentals may present the most challenging aspect of pronunciation teaching and require considerable training of the ear. I clearly remember sitting in a phonology class years ago as a student unable to distinguish one syllable from another—to my ear, none sounded longer, clearer, higher. However, suprasegmentals can play a huge role in the intelligibility and comprehensibility of your learners and will thus need your attention.
Rising vs falling intonation might be a reasonable place to begin—for example, exploring American English patterns for differentiating wh-questions from yes/no questions. I tend to start off my pronunciation courses with a lesson on “tonic stress” (the main stress in a thought group), which is essential for the international graduate students and scholars I work with. This is then followed with a session on word stress, also key to their intelligibility and comprehensibility. Rhythm (stressing content words and reducing function words) is covered in many pronunciation texts for students, yet not all experts agree on how accurate/effective this is. Dickerson (2014) argues this approach should be replaced with finding the “anchor” among the content words to complement the tonic stress.
To consider: How does intonation affect meaning in English? Where does tonic stress usually occur? Why might it vary from this position? What are typical word stress patterns in English? Which of these might be most useful for students?
Advice: Teach yourself–with patience and kindness–to hear/notice stress, intonation, and rhythm (most of which may lurk below your consciousness, especially if you acquired English as a child) and become familiar with the fascinating role they play in English communication. I recommend getting your hands on one or more pronunciation textbooks for students and carefully studying the exercises. In my case, I finally learned to hear stress via the first edition of Marsha Chan’s (1987) Phrase by Phrase.
LT 541: Students George Minchillo (center) and Yan Deng (right) teaching pronunciation to an international visitor (March 8, 2017)
Segmentals (Consonants and Vowels)
Set a goal for yourself to learn the phonetic symbols and details of articulation for all the sounds of the target language. You probably won’t be creating lessons for all of them, but you’ll want to be ready in case a student needs some feedback or instruction. If IPA symbols intimidate you, look into alternative systems such as “the color vowel chart,” which provides a very accessible way to for teachers and students to understand and manage North American English vowels: https://elts.solutions/color-vowel-chart/.
To consider: Which sounds most strongly affect intelligibility and comprehensibility? How do sounds change depending on their place in a word and the sounds surrounding them? What is the best way to convey this information to learners? What kind of practice is most effective?
Advice: If mastering all of the vowels and consonants feels overwhelming, pace yourself and start with a few at a time. Consider which sounds are most connected to your learners’ intelligibility and comprehensibility issues. You can also explore information on “functional load”: the frequency of a sound’s occurrence and in how many instances this sound distinguishes one word from another.
As with any subject you teach, you will need a framework/approach for designing effective lessons. Learners will require access to information and opportunities for practice. In the LT 541 course, we use Celce-Murcia et al.’s (2010) “communicative framework.” Lessons begin with clear explanations and demonstrations in which students can experience the sound or pattern, often with visual, tactile, or kinesthetic accompaniment. Tools like the following can play a role:
mirrors to observe lip, teeth and jaw movements
feathers to test aspiration of of /p/, /t/, /k/ at the beginning of words
plastic teeth with puppet tongue to show articulation
coins or other small object to illustrate stressed and unstressed syllables
kazoos to focus on intonation (humming will work too)
Tools from Trish’s pronunciation “toy box”
Students will need plenty of production practice, moving from very controlled exercises (with limited focus on meaning to keep the attention on the new sounds) to gradually more meaningful contexts. They will also need strategies to continue building skills outside of the classroom.
Integrating Pronunciation across the Curriculum
English classes focusing primarily on pronunciation are rare. Thus teachers must find ways to bring pronunciation instruction into courses that focus on other skills. These lessons may be less elaborate than those in a pronunciation course but can certainly cover both segmental and suprasegmental aspects affecting intelligibility and comprehensibility. Char Heitman, a guest lecturer in LT 541, presents a variety of such activities to use in a reading/writing course including having students search texts for specific spelling/sound correspondence examples, chart new vocabulary according to word stress patterns, and practice thought groups and intonation before discussing key ideas [http://eflteachingresources.blogspot.com/2015/02/shaping-way-we-teach-english-webinar_15.html]. Additional ways for integrating pronunciation across the curriculum can be found in several chapters of Tamara Jones’ (2016) Pronunciation in the Classroom: The Overlooked Essential.
Form a group with colleagues or classmates (or go solo, if you prefer) to tackle areas of pronunciation instruction most important and interesting for your teaching context. Resources might include the following.
Celce-Murcia, M. et al (2010). Teaching Pronunciation: A Course Book and Reference Guide (2nd edition)
Grant, L. (2014). Pronunciation Myths: Applying Second Language Research to Classroom Teaching. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press
Jones, T. (2016). Pronunciation in the Classroom: The Overlooked Essential. Alexandria, VA: TESOL Press.
Meyers, C. & Holt, S. (1998). Pronunciation for Success. Aspen.
Dale, P. (2004). Pronunciation Made Simple. Pearson.
Lane, L. (2012). Focus on Pronunciation 3. Pearson.
Grant, L. (2016). Well Said. Cengage.
Miller, S. (2005) Targeting Pronunciation. Cengage.
Journals in the field, such as TESOL Quarterly, regularly publish research related to pronunciation teaching. TESOL’s “Speech, Pronunciation, Listening” interest section publishes a newsletter with practical ideas for teachers [http://www.tesol.org/connect/interest-sections/speech-pronunciation-and-listening/as-we-speak]. Conferences are an especially enjoyable way to build your pronunciation expertise. The annual TESOL conference always features a number of excellent pronunciation workshops and demonstrations, from which I have learned many of my favorite techniques and activities for pronunciation fun.
Baker, A. (2014). Exploring teachers’ knowledge of second language pronunciation techniques: Teacher cognitions, observed classroom practices, and student perceptions. TESOL Quarterly, 48, 136–163.
Derwing, T. (2010). Utopian goals for pronunciation teaching. In J. Levis & K. LeVelle (Eds.), Proceedings of the 1st Pronunciation in Second Language Learning and Teaching Conference, Iowa State University, Sept. 2009. (pp. 24-37).
Dickerson, W. (2014). A NAIL in the coffin of stress-timed rhythm. Proceedings of the 6th annual pronunciation in second language learning and teaching conference, UC Santa Barbara, Sept. 2014. ( pp 184-196).
Munro, M. & Derwing, T. (1999) Foreign Accent, Comprehensibility, and Intelligibility in the Speech of Second Language Learners. Language Learning, Vol. 49, Supplement 1, 285–310.
Murphy, J. (2014). Myth 7: Teacher training programs provide adequate preparation in how to teach pronunciation. In L. Grant (ed) Pronunciation Myths: Applying Second Language Research to Classroom Teaching.pp188-224 Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.
InterCom is a weekly customizable newsletter provided free to Language Educators through CASLS. LTS students, alumni, and faculty often contribute to it. This week LTS Director Keli Yerian has contributed to InterCom, and it is reposted here. Subscribe to InterCom here! http://caslsintercom.uoregon.edu/
Connecting Input and Output through Interaction
Keli Yerian directs the Language Teaching Specialization program at the University of Oregon. Her research interests are in language and interaction, most specifically in the use of gesture in both L1 and L2 speakers, as well as language teacher education, including the goals and experiences of L2 speakers in language teacher education programs.
Peek inside one language classroom. Here we see students using actions and brief responses to show they are following the teacher’s story. Peek inside another. Here we see students repeating after the teacher to show they can accurately (re)produce the target sounds and structures.
In the first classroom, the teacher is using comprehension-based instruction, with a focus on helping students acquire language through carefully structured input. In the second classroom, the teacher is using production-based instruction, with a focus on helping students acquire language through repeated spoken practice.
What do these classrooms have in common?
If these two classrooms always look like this, every day, all year, we might say the common point is that they both tip dangerously to only one side of the spectrum of teacher beliefs and practices regarding instructed language learning. On one end of the spectrum is the belief that language acquisition requires the exclusive ingredient of comprehensible input. Indeed, comprehension-based instruction is strongly supported by some research (e.g. following Van Patten, 2007) that shows that structured input (input that compels learners to focus on form in order to access meaning) can lead to improved proficiency not only in comprehension but in production as well.
On the other end of the spectrum is the claim that a skill will only be acquired if it is directly practiced multiple times (see DeKeyser, 2007). While the direct practice claim has been less supported by research, studies do show that language acquisition may remain incomplete without the opportunity to ‘notice the gap’ between one’s own production and the target forms. Importantly, this benefit appears only when production involves meaningful exchanges that allow for the noticing and mediation of forms (e.g. see Swain, 2000).
From this perspective, what both classrooms may be missing is the key element of meaningful interaction. Many current scholars argue that interaction connects the dots between the essential benefits of comprehensible input and the visible advantages of “pushed output.”
However, it is never a good idea to judge a language classroom from just a moment of peeking in. A good language classroom will reveal, over time, a rich range of coherent practices, and include varied opportunities for learners to process authentic and structured input, meet the challenge of crafting output, and negotiate meaning with peers, texts, the teacher, and the wider community.
Maybe, if we peeked into these same classrooms some minutes later, or on another day, we would see something else entirely. A peek into the first may reveal students producing posters to present to their peers, and a peek into the second may show students immersed in extensive reading groups. In this case, our answer to the question above is turned on its head: what both classrooms have in common is the commitment to providing students with a full range of input, interaction, and output – all key ingredients for a ‘balanced meal’ in instructed language learning.
DeKeyser, R. (2007). Practice in a Second Language: Perspectives from Applied Linguistics and Cognitive Psychology. New York, Cambridge University Press.
Swain M. (2000). The output hypothesis and beyond: mediating acquisition through collaborative learning. In H. Byrnes (ed.) Advanced Language Learning: The Contributions of Halliday and Vygotsky. London: Continuum.
Van Patten, B. (2007). Input processing in adult second language acquisition. In B. VanPatten and J. Williams (eds.) Theories in Second Language Acquisition (pp. 115-35). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
What are the skills our students need to successfully participate in life and work in the 21st century? How can we, as teachers, help support our students in developing these skills? All teachers today are hopefully asking themselves these essential questions.
Andy working on 21st century skills with teachers in Bolivia
The Four Cs for 21st Century Learning
Beginning in 2002, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills identified communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity as the four key skill areas most necessary for success in the 21st century (P21, 2016). You’re probably familiar with these terms already, but let’s consider each one briefly. Communication of course is the ability to interact with others. Importantly, we have to remember that communication can happen in many ways and across many formats. For example, communication can happen both in body language and spoken interaction, and it can also be face-to-face or digitally mediated in some way. Collaboration means working effectively or productively in groups or teams to accomplish a task or goal. Critical thinking happens when we analyze a problem from diverse perspectives and evaluate different solutions. Finally, creativity involves producing innovate and original ideas in ways that would not be expected.
If these are the skill areas valued most by employers and by society in general, then educators of course need to consider how to incorporate these skills into the classroom. When we think about language education in particular, we have to think about the unique challenges faced by students trying to learn to communicate and think critically in a second, third, or even fourth language.
Digital Skills and New Media Literacies
Another key for 21st century students is digital literacy. Students in the 21st century need the digital literacy skills to not only find and critically analyze information, but also to create, edit, and publish information of their own. This shift toward a new emphasis on creating and sharing information has been called participatory culture (Jenkins, 2008). Aside from the four Cs, full involvement in a participatory culture also requires skills such as transmedia navigation, social networking, and multitasking.
Taken together, we can see a range of digital and new media literacy skills that young people today need to possess. The challenge for language teachers of course is how best to support the development of these skills in the classroom.
Into the language classroom
One easy way to encourage students to make use of 21st century skills is to combine elements of Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) and Project-Based Learning (PBL). Thinking specifically about the four Cs for example, it is not hard to imagine a range of interesting projects that could help students target these skills. And if teachers ask students to produce and share videos as one project outcome, we can also have students working on new media literacies as well. Learning in this way is valuable because classroom language use becomes the means rather than the end. When students are collaboratively working on projects, they are not only gaining valued 21st century skills, but they are also utilizing language for an authentic purpose.
P21 (2016). P21 Partnership for 21st Century Learning: The 4 Cs research series.
Jenkins, H. (2008). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century (John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Reports on Digital Media and Learning). Chicago, IL: MacArthur Foundation.
Click here to see Andy Halvorsen’s LTS blog faculty profile.
In today’s post, LTS faculty Deborah Healey discusses the opportunities and benefits of taking the lead in professional organizations in the field. You can read more about Deborah Healey on a past blog post here.
Professional organizations like ORTESOL, ACTFL, and TESOL International Association are successful because they offer a variety of activities, networking, and support for their members. Volunteers with the organization provide the bulk of the support. They guide the organization and its activities. Volunteers are the backbone of annual conventions, for example, and most organization newsletters and websites have content provided by volunteers. These volunteers are both necessary and very visible parts of the organization. Organization leadership comes from the volunteers who have been active in the organization and the profession.
What does this mean for graduate students and other professionals in language teaching? It means that you can give to your profession and add to your resume by volunteering. This will help you move forward on a leadership path.
I’ve been part of the leadership of ORTESOL and TESOL at different times and in different ways. I’ve been the ORTESOL Newsletter editor, part of several TESOL Task Forces and a TESOL Interest Section Chair, and a member of the CALL Interest Section Steering Committee.
Deborah when she was ORTESOL newsletter editor in the 1980s
I am now on the Board of Directors of TESOL, making decisions about policy and governance for the association.
2016 TESOL Board of Directors
Being on the Board was not on my mind when I agreed to be ORTESOL Newsletter Editor, nor when I was on different Task Forces and involved in the Interest Section. Like most volunteers, I took part in those activities because they sounded interesting. They gave me great connections and good friends. My involvement has made me a better teacher and, overall, a more competent professional in the language teaching field. This involvement has also given me the opportunity to travel to international conferences as an invited speaker.
2014 HUPE (EFL) Conference in Croatia
You can start on a path to leadership by doing many of the same things that you may be doing now. Write for your local affiliate/section of a professional organization (the ORTESOL Newsletter Editor would love to hear from you!). Present at a local and national conference (poster sessions are usually easiest to propose and have accepted). Volunteer to help with the local conference if it is nearby or with the national conference if you are planning to attend. People in the organization will notice your work. As you take on more responsibilities – because they seem interesting, of course – you will be on a leadership pathway that may take you to new and exciting places.
In this LTS blog post, LTS and Linguistics faculty member Melissa Baese-Berk writes about the importance of valuing and integrating multiple varieties of dialects and accents in the language classroom.
The reality of language and power
Each fall, I teach a general education course called “Language and Power” here at the University of Oregon. One of the textbooks we use is Rosina Lippi-Green’s English with an Accent. In this text, Lippi-Green introduces students to the idea of Standard Language Ideology: “a bias toward an abstract, idealized homogenous language, which is imposed and maintained by dominant institutions and which has as it’s model written language, but which is primarily drawn from the spoken language of the upper middle class.” Lippi-Green argues that by defining some “standard” all other languages, dialects, and accents are defined in contrast as “non-standard.”
During our term, we spend a lot of time examining our ideas about “standard language,” and the impact that these ideas have had on our thoughts about language more generally speaking. We begin the term discussing the remarkable structure throughout language, even in unexpected places (e.g., non-standard dialects). We also spend several weeks discussing the substantial variability found at every level of language both within and across speakers.
Shifts in student thinking
As students begin to examine linguistic facts about structure and variability, they frequently begin to question many of their own beliefs about language. Many of my students are heritage language students who have been exposed to one dialect at home and then learn a different dialect in their language classroom. They’ve received different messages about the prestige of their home and school dialects and languages throughout their lives. When they realize that a many of the judgments about languages and dialects are social, rather than linguistic in origin, students begin to see value and prestige in all the forms of language they use.
What this means for language teachers
Language teachers hold remarkable power in helping students form ideas about language, dialects, and accents. The language and dialects students are exposed to in the classroom are held in high prestige because they are the targets for learning. However, when the language varieties used in the classroom are limited to those typically seen as prestigious by the broader community, students may view other varieties as “non-standard.” Students from heritage backgrounds may feel as though their home varieties are being marginalized. Students being exposed to the language for the first time may learn to reinforce the typical societal views about prestige of certain language varieties. If, however, students are exposed to multiple dialects and accents during the course of their learning, they may learn to value all these varieties. Exposure to these varieties may have the added side effect that students may also able to communicate with more individuals outside of the classroom, rather than only individuals who speak a “standard” or prestige variety.