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Saturday, October 29, 2016

Amid Falling Enrollments It Is Imperative to Advertise Your Spanish Courses

by Ann Abbott

I'm our department's Director of Undergraduate Studies. I work hard with our advisor, Tasha Robles, to try to increase the number of students in our courses and our major/minor.

It's not easy. And yesterday I was sad to see that our numbers are low compared to the Spanish programs in most other universities in the Big Ten. (By the way, Indiana University is doing something right!)

And it's even harder when students don't have enough information to get excited about our courses.

As of right now, with just a couple of days before students begin registering for spring 2017 courses, this is our situation:

  • Several sections of "generic" courses don't have a title or description in the online course catalog.
  • The advisor has received no flyers about any courses.
  • I haven't seen any promotional materials for any courses except for Basque.
I'll share the checklist below with our faculty.


How do you advertise your courses to increase enrollments?

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Service Learning Workshop for Liberal Arts and Sciences



by Ann Abbott

Next week I´ll give a workshop on Service Learning. My goal will be to help people from many disciplines envision how service learning can work for their courses and within our local community.


Workshop Description

Research shows that service learning helps students better understand "messy problems"--the kinds of complex, interconnected issues that challenge our communities and that lie at the heart of our disciplines. In this workshop we will start with the basics of service learning to understand what it is, why the AACU lists it as a "high-impact educational practice," and what it looks like in a variety of disciplines. Then we will turn to our local community. As we identify strengths and challenges within our cities and nearby areas, we will sketch out specific ways we can connect our courses and disciplines to community-identified needs. Service learning students are often eager, yet nervous to step outside the campus to learn and serve – so are many professors. After this workshop you will have a concrete idea for a service learning course or project and know the steps for its design and implementation.

Workshop Steps

  • Explaining how my courses are structured.
  • Giving examples from multiple disciplines.
  • Exploring strengths and challenges of our local community.
  • Connecting academic goals to those community-identified needs.
  • Detailing how to create partnerships.
  • Showing how to weave the community and the classroom together through classroom transitions, activities, homework and assessments.
  • Wrapping it all up with a one-month calendar that takes you from beginning to end. (This is something I created years ago and just ran into it the other day. It was like finding a $20 bill in your pocket--a gift.)

Monday, October 24, 2016

Student Reflection

Alicia uses this alphabet book as she helps students learn their letters in the bilingual kindergarten class where she does her Spanish community service learning work
by Alicia Barbas

Durante los días más recientes de mi trabajo en la clase de Kindergarten en el International Prep Academy, he empezado a notar varios elementos que me ayudan a conectar con cada estudiante. Por la mayoría del tiempo, les ayudo a los estudiantes a aprender, a reconocer, y a escribir las diferentes palabras y letras del alfabeto en un libro. La dificultad de este trabajo es que el libro consiste en el alfabeto en inglés y también en español, y la forma en que lo enseño depende del idioma materno del estudiante y de cuánto conoce en este idioma.

Para los estudiantes que hablan inglés, simplemente les tengo que ayudar a reconocer como se llama la letra específica y cómo escribirla. Muchos estudiantes practican las letras de su nombre, y entonces no tienen tantos problemas pronunciando, reconociendo, o escribiendo letras como “a” o “b” en mayúscula y minúscula. Cuando terminan con la letra, identifican una palabra que empieza con esta letra que está en la misma página del libro, como “angel” o “baby”. Algunos estudiantes se confunden con letras como “t” y “f” en los dos idiomas porque son similares, pero lo reconocen después de un poco de ayuda. También es importante reconocer que hay letras en el libro que sólo pertenecen al español, y los estudiantes que practican en inglés automáticamente saben que no van a practicar estas letras, como la “ñ”, la “ch”, o la “ll”. Sin embargo, los estudiantes que practican el alfabeto en español tienen que reconocer estas letras y el sonido de cada letra (aunque muchos también conocen el nombre de la letra). Después de intentar escribirla, identifican la palabra en español que está conectada con la letra, como “ñandú” para la “ñ”.  La mayoría de los estudiantes tiene que practicar el libro entero del alfabeto, mientras otros solamente practican su nombre, que es algo muy importante de saber para el futuro. Con esta actividad, normalmente les ayudo a los estudiantes que tienen más dificultades con las letras o que no las conocen muy bien, pero he empezado a ver la diferencia y cómo mejoran sus habilidades con la escritura poco a poco. Pienso que es importante que los estudiantes puedan reconocer el alfabeto en su lengua materna, y el próximo paso es que puedan reconocer el alfabeto en los dos idiomas.

Personalmente, fue un poco difícil cambiar la forma en que enseñaba el alfabeto al principio, pero cada día que lo hago, se me hace más fácil. Voy aprendiendo no solamente cómo diferenciar entre los estudiantes que hablan español y los que hablan ingles, pero también la forma en que los estudiantes individuales aprenden. Esta forma de enseñanza es algo nuevo para mí, pero estoy aprendiendo aspectos importantes sobre el uso del español, cuánto aprenden los estudiantes en sus casas y en la escuela, y cómo conectar con cada estudiante. Al final de mi trabajo cada día, me siento muy cumplida y muy segura de que me gustaría enseñar el español en el futuro.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Insights from the 2016 Conference from the Consortium on Useful Assessment in Language and Humanities Education

by Ann Abbott


This is just one example of the wonderful information that can be found at Rice University's CLIC website, Bridging Research and Practice.

Last weekend I was very happy to attend the Annual conference of  the Consortium on Useful Assessment in Language and Humanities Education (CUALHE) at Notre Dame.

I wanted to attend the conference because in my role as Director of Undergraduate Studies in our department, I will need to lead the assessment efforts when our university goes through its accreditation process in a few years. (My awareness and interest in this level of assessment comes from presentations and conversations with Dr. Staci Provezis in the Provost's Office.) Indeed, I picked up many good ideas about assessment, and I hope that our department can follow through on some of them.

For me and my interests for our department, the highlights were these sessions:
  • "Teaching and Testing Interaction Competence" by Maryam Emami, Kevin García, Katharina Kley / Hélade Scutti-Santos from Rice University. They provided very good examples of how they explicitly teach pragmatics and intercultural communicative competence in their Spanish basic language program. (I loved seeing Helade again! She presented their model of assessment that included the stages of practice --> awareness --> classroom instruction --> practice --> awareness/homework --> assessment, in which they video record their final conversation practice and receive a grade --> practice.)
  • Keynote: ¨Proficiency and Pragmatics: Expanding our Repertoire of Language Assessment.¨ by Julie Sykes, University of Oregon. Julie gave a very inspiring talk with wonderful examples of pragmatics and with a very intriguing look at what they are working on in her program in order to create simulations of pragmatics. I'm looking forward to learning more as her work progresses!
  • "The Evolution of One Foreign Language Department's Electronic Portfolio Assessment Program." by Jessamine Cooke-Plagwitz and Katherine Barbe at Northern Illinois University. It was very interesting to hear how they have their language majors create a portfolio throughout their coursework in the major, an idea that could work for us. They offer three one-credit courses each semester, so that counts as "one" course for a faculty member's teaching load.
  • "Improving the Student Experience through Program-wide Assessment and Articulation." This was a very impressive study of the proficiency levels of students in their basic language program. We have never had a broad assessment like this, as far as I know. This is what I wrote to myself after seeing their results: "What are our goal posts? (It feels funny to use that term while here at Notre Dame at a conference that is held int heir athletic facilities.) We gather data, students create portfolios, we see what students can/cannot do in linguistic and cultural terms, ... but where does all this information sit in relation to what, developmentally, student can actually be expected to do? In other words, I think that we sometimes overestimate where students can arrive without immersion. Other times we underestimate what they can do intellectually and socially."
  • "Assessing the Impact of Community-Based Learning on Student Learning Outcomes in a Spanish Program." by Rachel Parroquin, Connie Mick and Shauna Williams from Notre Dame. Of course I was interested in this! I know all three women and respect them greatly. They have a wonderful CBL program, and their results showed that.
  • "Improving Equal Access in Lower-Division Language Courses: A Collaboration Between the Language Program Director and Accessibility Services" by Muriel Gallego, Ohio University. I am very interested in issues of accessibility for people with disabilities, so this session was inspiring and important.
And here are some of my overall thoughts about this question: What can I bring back to our department?
  • Other programs have an emphasis on intercultural competence and pragmatics that we don't have at any level. Kevin Garcia presented a five-step process that they follow with students: 1) Reflection on how language works; 2) Contrast that between L1 and L2; 3) Analysis of L2 structures; 4) practice in speaking and writing; 5) translingual/transcultural discussion and reflection (at home). I wrote to myself, "This is a good response to the MLA special report that calls for translingual competence, not native-like proficiency. So in the end, what are our goals for the basic language program (BLP)? What do we want to achieve? (It seems like right now we are only focused on language acquisition.) What does the university want tot achieve? Why do they require foreign languages? What do students actually want to achieve in these required courses? Lastly, what does our society need us to achieve to further our civic society?"
  • Conversation partners. Rice and Carnegie Mellon both have "conversation partners" for their language students. The partners are advanced undergraduates (at Carnegie Mellon, anyway), and they are paid for that work. Could we use Mi Pueblo in a more systemic way like this? Or should we implement the conversation partners model?
  • Our department excels at linguistics and second language acquisition research. However, there is a broader body of literature and research out there that people draw upon for their language programs. We should widen our perspective.
  • I like the idea of a required 1-credit portfolio course during students' senior year, like they have done at Northern Illinois University. I wonder if we could do that at a School level, not just the department level.
  • Robert Davis showed the organization chart of their Spanish basic language program at the University of Oregon; he is the director of the program geared toward L2 learners, and Claudia Holguin is in charge of the program geared toward heritage learners. That brought to my mind other ways to organize a language program. At Rice, like Stanford, the language courses are their own program; the linguistics and languages are a separate department. What other ways could we logically organize ourselves? When's the last time we thought about this? How do our new online courses fit in? Could experiential learning have its own channel?
  • How can we make our courses more inclusive for students with disabilities, from a social justice perspective? I was very inspired by Muriel Gallego's talk, but I'd like to know more about how we can do that. We need to do that.
  • Finally, how does the emphasis on pragmatics and intercultural communicative competence fit in with the cultural competence sections I wrote for Día a día: de lo personal a lo profesional? I mean, the perspective of the presenters was still very language based, whereas my sections in the textbook have a more conceptual framework and tackle social issues. How can these two approaches fit together?

Monday, October 10, 2016

How to Prepare to Be a Facilitator in Business Spanish Class

by Ann Abbott

As I've written here before, I like to have my Business Spanish students practice being facilitators. I think it's a very important skill to have in business, and I think they already have enough practice giving presentations.

But the fact that it is not a common academic assignment can create confusion. So here is one student's explanation to other students about how to prepare.

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Tensions in Spanish Programs Cannot Hold

Picture of a wave representing the forces of change coming towards Spanish programs
by Ann Abbott

One of the hats I wear in my job is Director of Undergraduate Studies. I work closely with our advisor, I speak directly with potential students and their parents, and I am on our department's curriculum committee.


On the one hand, I am passionate about Spanish and how it can help students understand our world differently, better. Studying Spanish, studying abroad in Barcelona for one year, and doing the PhD in Spanish literature gave me many wonderful experiences and tools. That was back in the 80s and 90s. On the other hand, I see some very important tensions that make me wonder about the long-term growth of Spanish as a serious, engaged, intellectual program on US college campuses.


1. Spain-centric programs

Spain has central role in both the typical curriculum and in students' imagination of "Spanish," yet Spain is a small piece of the Spanish-speaking world and of Spanish-language cultural production.


2. Spanish as a tool

Many students want to study the Spanish language to add it their their resumes, whereas faculty and courses are aimed at the discipline of "Hispanic Studies," not (or not just) learning Spanish.


3. Heritage speakers 

With few but notable exceptions, Spanish programs are structured to teach Spanish as a foreign language, even though the number of heritage speakers in the US will continue to grow--and second-language learners need to learn about and with the Spanish speakers of this country.


These issues have been clear to me for a while now, but recently, in a one-week span, I saw them play out before my eyes in three different occasions.

Business Spanish Students' Social Media Posts

Students in my Business Spanish course are learning about bilingual social media marketing and creating posts for the Spanish-Advising UIUC Facebook page. The first week, almost all the posts were about Spain, except for the posts prepared by heritage learners that featured information about Latin America and US Latinos.

They were given free reign. They could post about anything. My only directive was that they post something that they believed would be of interest to our Illinois students of Spanish.

And that was Spain. 

Their posts were good. Their intentions were good. You could see as they were working together to create the posts that they were passionate and interested in the topic and in sharing their interest in Spanish. But the idea of "Spain"--as a study abroad destination, as a place to visit, as a historical place--predominated.


Dying to Get In! Documentary Screening and Student Panel

I attended a screening of this documentary a couple of days after my students turned in their Facebook posts. (By the way, it was a very good documentary that you can watch on YouTube.) After the film, there was a panel of three Latino student activists speaking about the documentary. They spoke about why they are activists and how other students can get involved.

I raised my hand and said, “I’m from the Spanish department, and we teach students how to speak Spanish, but how can we get them to be interested in Spanish speakers? (We know from reports on campus microaggressions that many students demean Spanish-speakers.)

Interestingly, the students mentioned my “Spanish in the Community” course (they did not know me or know that it was my course) as one way to do that. They said that not many students know about the course, and one student said she is a Spanish minor and she didn’t take the course herself, though she wanted to, because she was trying to just finish up her requirements. Then a Latina/o Studies grad student said that she had met many LLS students who were minoring in Spanish—and she was surprised by that—who want to learn more about their cultures in our classes. She suggested that our departments collaborate more.

So our Spanish program is not seen as integrated with Latino/a Studies, the courses that interest our heritage learners aren’t required (don’t check off a box, yet), and the issues and activism related to Spanish and Spanish-speakers in the US is not featured prominently in the required courses.


Major/Minor Fair

The Division of General Studies hosts a Majors/Minors Fair each year, and our advisor, a current student and I attended last week. In less than two hours we spoke to over 50 students who visited our table.
All were interested in the Spanish minor. None were interested in the major.

Our minor consists of six courses. Students who scored a 4 or 5 on the AP test receive credit for two of those courses, leaving them with only four courses to complete the minor. Very do-able!

The students who had taken the AP test were almost all white. They were already two courses ahead in our curriculum.

Of the heritage speakers who came to the table, almost none of them had taken the AP test. So they have to go through the entire curriculum, despite the fact that they probably have as much or more knowledge of “Spanish” as they second-language learners who took the AP test.

That makes me pretty uncomfortable. White students, it seems from my non-scientific assessment, are more likely to take the AP test in high school which is probably geared mostly toward second language learners anyway. Then they come to college and the second language learners have another leg up on the heritage speakers because they automatically already have credit for two required Spanish courses.

[Update: A colleague informed me that almost two-thirds of students who take the Spanish AP exam are heritage speakers. So perhaps this experience reflects the make-up of the student body at my university more than anything else. This is an interesting question that deserves follow-up.]

Finally, I encouraged students to consider studying abroad to complete the minor, and almost everyone—including heritage learners—were interested in going to Spain.

Conclusion

I don't have a nice, neat conclusion for this post. 

These things worry me, and they do have solutions. But the solutions aren't palatable to the people who would need to make the changes. 

But if we don't change our Spanish programs, eventually, we will be changed...

The Tensions in Spanish Programs Cannot Hold

Picture of a wave representing the forces of change coming towards Spanish programs
by Ann Abbott


One of the hats I wear in my job is Director of Undergraduate Studies. I work closely with our advisor, I speak directly with potential students and their parents, and I am on our department's curriculum committee.

On the one hand, I am passionate about Spanish and how it can help students understand our world differently, better. Studying Spanish, studying abroad in Barcelona for one year, and doing the PhD in Spanish literature gave me many wonderful experiences and tools. That was back in the 80s and 90s. On the other hand, I see some very important tensions that make me wonder about the long-term growth of Spanish as a serious, engaged, intellectual program on US college campuses.

1. Spain-centric programs

Spain has central role in both the typical curriculum and in students' imagination of "Spanish," yet Spain is a small piece of the Spanish-speaking world and of Spanish-language cultural production.

2. Spanish as a tool

Many students want to study the Spanish language to add it their their resumes, whereas faculty and courses are aimed at the discipline of "Hispanic Studies," not (or not just) learning Spanish.

3. Heritage speakers 

With few but notable exceptions, Spanish programs are structured to teach Spanish as a foreign language, even though the number of heritage speakers in the US will continue to grow--and second-language learners need to learn about and with the Spanish speakers of this country.

These issues have been clear to me for a while now, but recently, in a one-week span, I saw them play out before my eyes in three different occasions.

Business Spanish Students' Social Media Posts

Students in my Business Spanish course are learning about bilingual social media marketing and creating posts for the Spanish-Advising UIUC Facebook page. The first week, almost all the posts were about Spain, except for the posts prepared by heritage learners that featured information about Latin America and US Latinos.

They were given free reign. They could post about anything. My only directive was that they post something that they believed would be of interest to our Illinois students of Spanish.

And that was Spain. 

Their posts were good. Their intentions were good. You could see as they were working together to create the posts that they were passionate and interested in the topic and in sharing their interest in Spanish. But the idea of "Spain"--as a study abroad destination, as a place to visit, as a historical place--predominated.


Documentary Screening and Student Panel

I attended a screening of Dying to Get In! a couple of days after my students turned in their Facebook posts. (By the way, it was a very good documentary that you can watch on YouTube.) After the film, there was a panel of three Latino student activists speaking about the documentary. They spoke about why they are activists and how other students can get involved.

I raised my hand and said, “I’m from the Spanish department, and we teach students how to speak Spanish, but how can we get them to be interested in Spanish speakers? (We know from reports on campus microaggressions that many students demean Spanish-speakers.)

Interestingly, the students mentioned my “Spanish in the Community” course (they did not know me or know that it was my course) as one way to do that. They said that not many students know about the course, and one student said she is a Spanish minor and she didn’t take the course herself, though she wanted to, because she was trying to just finish up her requirements. Then a Latina/o Studies grad student said that she had met many LLS students who were minoring in Spanish—and she was surprised by that—who want to learn more about their cultures in our classes. She suggested that our departments collaborate more.

So our Spanish program is not seen as integrated with Latino/a Studies, the courses that interest our heritage learners aren’t required (don’t check off a box, yet), and the issues and activism related to Spanish and Spanish-speakers in the US is not featured prominently in the required courses.

Major/Minor Fair

The Division of General Studies hosts a Majors/Minors Fair each year, and our advisor, a current student and I attended last week. In less than two hours we spoke to over 50 students who visited our table.
All were interested in the Spanish minor. None were interested in the major.

Our minor consists of six courses. Students who scored a 4 or 5 on the AP test receive credit for two of those courses, leaving them with only four courses to complete the minor. Very do-able!

The students who had taken the AP test were almost all white. They were already two courses ahead in our curriculum.

Of the heritage speakers who came to the table, almost none of them had taken the AP test. So they have to go through the entire curriculum, despite the fact that they probably have as much or more knowledge of “Spanish” as they second-language learners who took the AP test.

That makes me pretty uncomfortable. White students, it seems from my non-scientific assessment, are more likely to take the AP test in high school which is probably geared mostly toward second language learners anyway. Then they come to college and the second language learners have another leg up on the heritage speakers because they automatically already have credit for two required Spanish courses.

Finally, I encouraged students to consider studying abroad to complete the minor, and almost everyone—including heritage learners—were interested in going to Spain.

Conclusion

I don't have a nice, neat conclusion for this post. 

These things worry me, and they do have solutions. But the solutions aren't palatable to the people who would need to make the changes. 

But if we don't change our Spanish programs, eventually, we will be changed...

Student Reflection

Alicia Barbas reflects on what she does during her Spanish community service learning work in a bilingual kindergarten classroom.
by Alicia Barbas

Durante mis primeras semanas aquí en la universidad, busqué un lugar para trabajar como voluntaria en el que podría expresar mi pasión por el español, prepararme para ser profesora en el futuro, aprender a apoyar a la gente en la comunidad, y ser inspirada por estas experiencias. Decidí que quería trabajar en el International Prep Academy en una clase bilingüe de kindergarten. Este lugar tiene un ambiente diferente del que estoy acostumbrada, y me está ayudando poco a poco a abrir los ojos a las vidas y la educación de los niños bilingües en esta comunidad.

En el International Prep Academy, las clases de niveles primarios están formadas en un sistema de educación bilingüe de dos vías. Esto significa que el tiempo está dividido igualmente entre los dos idiomas para que los niños reciban instrucciones, lecciones, y práctica en inglés y en español. Durante cada semana, también aprenden sobre la música o la comida de un país hispanohablante para involucrar el aprendizaje de la cultura que está vinculada al español a la educación básica de los dos idiomas. La comunidad en Champaign está compuesta de personas de muchas clases sociales diferentes, pero también de culturas diferentes. En estas clases, hay niños de muchos patrimonios culturales diferentes, y hay niños que hablan predominantemente en inglés, pero también hay otros que hablan el español en casa. Esta mezcla de lenguas, costumbres, y culturas, combinada con la educación bilingüe, ayuda a formar una educación única e importante que puede enriquecer a las vidas de estos niños.

Con este trabajo vienen muchas responsabilidades durante mi tiempo en la clase. Les voy a tener que ayudar a los niños a escribir letras y palabras en español y también en inglés para que puedan avanzar sus habilidades de leer y escribir, para que puedan reconocer la diferencia entre los dos idiomas, pero también para que puedan realmente valorar a las culturas y los idiomas que les rodean. Similarmente, le tendré que ayudar a la profesora a explicar y hacer actividades en los dos idiomas. Este tipo de trabajo requiere paciencia, una habilidad de enseñanza en los dos idiomas, y respeto para todas formas de vida para que les pueda apoyar a los niños en cualquier situación. Este es un trabajo diferente a cualquier trabajo voluntario que he hecho antes, pero tengo muchas ganas de adquirir habilidades nuevas, ayudar a estos niños de varias formas, y cambiar mi perspectiva sobre el mundo durante mi tiempo en el International Prep Academy.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Spanish Community Service Learning Course: Here Is Everything You Need

by Ann Abbott

Starting a Spanish community service learning course is challenging but very doable.

This semester I have talked to two faculty members who are either starting or planning to start a Spanish CSL course, and I have shared everything I have with them.

So I thought I'd share it with all of you, too. You might think of this post as "Spanish CSL in a box."
  1. Course description for "Spanish in the Community." (Scroll down to SPAN 232.)
  2. TextbookComunidades: Más allá del aula. (I am not trying to hawk my book--I barely make any money on it anyway. Ask your Pearson sales rep for a review copy.)
  3. Syllabus
  4. Course calendar. This calendar for Fall 2016 includes a visit to our Krannert Art Museum to visit a pertinent exhibit, so you would simply change the dates around a bit. In previous semesters, I will use that week to schedule a documentary, film or piece of fiction that is appropriate to the course, such as Quién es Dayani Cristal?
  5. Comunidades Companion Website. You can find the audios and videos mentioned in the textbook here. I think the videos are especially valuable. The site isn't very intuitive, so do the following: Go to "Select chapter" --> Select any chapter --> Click the "Go" button --> Navigate using the categories on the left (Audio, Video, etc.). 
  6. Instructor's resource manual. I think you'll find the instructions for setting up a community partnership and a course very helpful, and it's at the very beginning of the document. I also use this document to read the scripts for the listening comprehension activities that I do in class.
  7. Topics for ensayos de reflexión. This is an updated list of the topics and instructions that I give to students for their reflective writing.
  8. Readings that I use with students: 1) "Sociolinguistic Dimensions of Immigration to the United States" by Kim Potowski; 2) "Introduction: Heartland North, Heartland South" by Allegro and Grant Wood; 3) "Civic Engagement and Community Service Learning" by Ann Abbott (this is an abridged version of a chapter that is forthcoming).  
  9. Course wiki, where students sign up for the place where they will work and log their work hours weekly (here's an example). If I had to do it all over again, I would use Google docs. But back many years ago when I set this up, Google docs had a limit of 200 people, and that caused problems for me.
  10. Course director task list. There are lots of little tasks involved in getting ready for each semester, and this checklist lays it all out in minute detail. Your systems might be slightly different, but you can take this document and personalize it to your needs.
I hope this helps you! Of course, I'm always available to talk by email (arabbott@illinois.edu), and my office phone number is 217-333-6714.