Sunday, March 20, 2011

Foreign Language Annals, Spring 2011

by Ann Abbott

Although there are no articles dealing with community service learning in the latest issue of Foreign Language Annals, three articles did strike me as important for what we do.

  1. Carreira, Maria and Olga Kagan. "The Results of the National Heritage Language Survey: Implications for Teaching, Curriculum Design, and Professional Development." In addition to the very important facts and general profile that emerges within the article, the abstract states: "We argue that a community-based curriculum represents an effective way to harness the wealth of knowledge and experiences that [heritage language learners] bring to the classroom and to responde to their goals for their [heritage language]," 40. While a community-based curriculum could be interpreted in many different ways, community service learning (CSL) is obviously an important part of that curricular response. In the "Implications for Teaching" section, the authors make the following suggestions for administrators and instructors interested in improving heritage language programs:
    • "Know the community," (59). You can gather information about the community in many ways, but a good CSL program will give you deeper, richer insights into the community from community members themselves. Furthermore, your students will have that same knowledge based on their own interactions in the community and the information you provide to them in class.
    • "Know the learner," (60). A group of my "Spanish & Entrepreneurship" students spoke last week at the Scholarship of Engagement Seminar.  Two of the students were heritage speakers and the other two weren't. Listening to the heritage speakers talk about their learning experiences with CSL was enlightening. A lot of their learning had to do with issues of identity, reclaiming their language and culture in an academic setting, and helping younger students go through the same experiences they had as kids. There is a lot of research waiting to happen on the connections between CSL and heritage learners.
    • "Connect the learner and the community," (60). The authors mention community-based oral history projects that are available through the NHLRC. That can also be embedded within a CSL course, and I have a lesson on oral histories in Comunidades.
  2. Miao, Pei and Audrey L. Heining-Boynton. "Initiation/Response/Follow-Up, and Response to Intervention: Combining Two Models to Improve Teacher and Student Performance." I was mostly interested in this article because I saw Audrey's name. She is another Pearson/Prentice Hall author, so I have gotten to know her fairly well.  I like her, admire her work and respect her advocacy for languages on several fronts. IRF and RTI were completely new terms to me. The authors state that, "RTI formalizes what good teachers in all subject areas have always done: to reflect and asses their practice in order to modify and improve their instructional delivery" (66). I firmly believe in the importance of reflection in our teaching, not just in students' CSL work. I reflect on my teaching through this blog, my conversations with friends/colleagues (mostly Darcy Lear) and with my students themselves.
  3. Ben Youseef Zayzafoo, Lamia. "Teaching About Women and Islam in North Africa: Integrating Postcolonial Feminist Theory in the Classroom." I was pleasantly surprised to see an article that was not based on a quantitative or qualitative study! And I learned a lot about the content matter and related issues just by reading the article. In the abstract, the author lists many "conceptual limitations" in the teaching of Islam and North African women to undergraduate students: "inadequate knowledge of the geography and history of North Africa; the discursive dichotomy between East and West; the production of the Muslim woman as a single category; the tendency to de-historicize Islam and Eastern cultures in general into unchanging and closed systems of religious practices and beliefs; the uncritical adoption of Islamic exegesis as an explanatory prism to understand all the woes of the Islamic world; and the cultural essentialism underlying the discourse of multiculturalism in American textbooks" (181). Not only is this very important information about the teaching of Islam and North Africa, many of the issues transfer to discussions of immigration and specifically of Latino immigrants to the US.

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