There are two articles of particular interest to me in the latest issue of Foreign Language Annals (Volume 43, No. 4, Winter 2010):
- Grim, Frédérique. "Giving Authentic Opportunities to Second Language Learners: A Look at a French Service-Learning Project." pp. 605-23. This article describes a French service-learning course in which university students taught French to youth (not to Francophones). The lit review goes up to 2008 (perhaps it took a long time for the manuscript to be published). Interviews with the SL students focused on learning motivation, professional aspirations, role of civic commitment. The article ends by stating the challenges inherent in planning and executing a service learning course. I would like to see the students involved with native speakers of the target language (through technology, if necessary), but this is an interesting alternative.
- Armstrong, Kimberly M. "Fluency, Accuracy and Complexity in Graded and Ungraded Writing." pp. 690-702. This article asks the question, "Do students write better when their essays are graded, and what implications might this have for foreign language instruction." It's answer? "Findings suggested that grades had little effect on student writing, and therefore more frequent and more varied ungraded writing assignments may be a productive pedagogical tool for improving the form and content of student writing." Yes! I am particularly interested in this because I coordinate our Spanish Composition course, but also because reflective essays are an integral part of our community service learning courses. Too often, writing in a foreign-language course is approached in a "gotcha!" way--baroque coding systems, lots of red ink and burned-out TAs and instructors who feel it is their job to mark every error on every essay. Unfortunately, most textbooks reinforce this; they all say they use a process-oriented approach, but they do not. Instead, I ask my TAs to make sure that each and every lesson plan includes a lot of writing--more time writing than reading about and talking about writing! This is also the same way we should approach reflective writing in a CSL course.