Monday, March 9, 2015

Spanish Community Service Learning and ACTFL's Can-Do Statements

by Ann Abbott

It was such a pleasure to got to the Ohio State University last week. I had the opportunity to meet faculty and graduate students from the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. I learned about the wonderful community-based projects they are doing, and I shared some things with them, too.

In particular, I'd like to note the wonderful contributions to the areas of community-based learning, public engagement, heritage language speakers, and US Latinos done by the following faculty members there:

  • Glenn Martínez
  • Terrell Morgan
  • Elena Foulis
  • Anna Babel
Of course I also have to rave about my friend and co-author Holly Nibert who is their new Language Program Director.

But quickly, before I start this week by tackling my email (which I know is the opposite of what the productivity experts say you should do, but...), I just wanted to jot down the take-aways that I hoped to provide to the graduate students with my talk. Not everyone will do community service learning (CSL) in every course, but it's good to be aware of the following.
  • Pedagogy isn't just for basic language courses. Yes, you have your methods course when you first start as a graduate student and are teaching basic language courses. But it's important to both apply those same pedagogical concepts in courses throughout the curriculum and to continue developing your pedagogical philosophy and toolkit.
  • The nature of Spanish programs is changing. I won't go into detail here, but suffice it say that as the presence of Spanish and Spanish-speakers continues to increase throughout the United States in ways that we haven't experienced before (e.g., Latino communities in the rural Midwest, for example), teaching Spanish exclusively as a foreign language makes less and less sense.
  • The nature of student learning is changing. Students come to our classrooms with different experiences and expectations about learning than they did even just a few short years ago. I see this mostly in terms of technology and pacing. That doesn't mean that they want us to change everything! No, I think my students still long for "old-school" professor-experts who challenge and change the way they think. But I don't think we can deny that they want a more participatory experience that reduces their sense of "busy-work."
  • CSL can be for any part of Hispanic Studies. I presented to students about my course "Spanish in the Community" (and others). At OSU they have a long-standing, wonderful course called "Spanish in Ohio." Those are great. But CSL can be integrated into existing courses and in all disciplines (literature and linguistics). CSL isn't "a course." CSL is a pedagogy, an approach, a method that enhances student learning.
I hope you'll also take away some of those messages from the slide show above. What's missing, of course, are the stories and examples that I provide with each slide. But if you click on the image of most of the slides, they'll take you to another resource.

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