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Monday, June 29, 2015

Pedagogical Innovations Reading Group (PIRG) Report

The Pedagogical Innovations Reading Group met on Wednesday, June 24, 2015 to discuss listening strategies in a second language course through Michael Yeldham and Paul Gruba’s article “The development of individual learners in an L2 listening strategies course” (Language Teaching Research, 2014).

Yeldham and Gruba followed four low-proficiency English learners at a Taiwanese university who voluntarily enrolled in a lunch-hour course to improve their listening comprehension. During the first week, the listening strategies course introduced students to a “menu” of listening strategies. Subsequent meetings were used to practice the strategies, which were embedded in the class listening texts (“embedded” approach). During the listening practices, students could choose the strategy they felt was most beneficial for them. This embedded approach fostered a more student-centered environment that encouraged students to self-monitor their learning process.

The study measured the students’ listening proficiency before, during, and after the course, using quantitative (e.g., vocabulary level tests, listening tests, etc.) and qualitative (e.g., journal entries, verbal reports, questionnaires, etc.) measures to gather data. Results showed that by the end of the course, students had improved overall in their use of listening strategies and in their motivation towards language learning. The researchers noted that students were using a variety of listening strategies in a more balanced fashion, were using more metacognitive strategies, and were more persistent regarding challenging listening tasks and extracurricular activities (e.g., watching difficult English movies, etc.). Also notable was one student’s improvement in her comprehension monitoring to identify and correct her faulty hypothesis about a text’s content.

The question remains whether or not other factors such as concurrent English courses and previous knowledge base of listening strategies could have influenced the students’ test scores. The reading group also noted that, unfortunately, the article did not cover the teaching methods utilized by the instructor during the listening strategies course.

However, through our discussion, different instructors were able to share from their own curriculum regarding how they have used the direct and/or embedded approach to teach listening skills at lower levels. An instructor shared about her experience with peer-to-peer discussions based on a listening text, which was followed by a discussion about having students create transcriptions of their own self-recorded speeches to raise self-awareness of areas of improvement and strength.

To learn more about what we do at our PIRG meetings, please contact Caroline Vang at cevang@umn.edu.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Pedagogical Innovations Reading Group (PIRG): a forum for language instructors

Wednesday, June 24, 2015
11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Jones 35

The next Pedagogical Innovations Reading Group (PIRG) meeting will be Wednesday, June 24 from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. in Jones 35. A detailed description of this reading group is available in a previous posting about our first meeting, held at the beginning of June. Next week’s PIRG discussion will be on Michael Yeldham’s article on developing listening strategies and motivation among lower-level language learners in a foreign language setting.

To learn more about what we do at our PIRG meetings, please contact Caroline Vang at cevang@umn.edu.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Multimedia Lab is open for business

The Multimedia Lab in 135 Jones Hall is open for summer session. It offers many amenities to users, such as Apple and Windows desktop computers, a laser printer, two scanners, and helpful attendants available to answer questions. These services and products are available at many computer labs on campus. However, the Lab in Jones Hall also offers the following niceties which make it ideal for language-related learning.

  • A reservable small room for individual or group work with Apple and Windows desktop computers, a large-screen TV with DVD player, and a collapsible table. 
  • International satellite TV in a variety of languages. (See schedule.)
  • Headsets and microphones on all computers, to assist with language learning (and homework completion). 
  • Laptop conveniences including a “bar” where users can work on and charge their own laptop computers, and also wireless printing from laptops to the Lab’s laser printer. 
  • A sectional couch and many soft chairs for studying, working on a personal device, reading the Lab’s multilingual periodicals, or relaxing. 

As an added bonus, the spacious Lab also offers lots of natural light and a great view of the East Bank Knoll area. It is open from 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. Friday.

TandemPlus Summer Information

Summer registration for TandemPlus opens on Monday, June 15, 2015. The summer program is diverse and energetic, and anyone interested in having a language conversation partner for the summer is encouraged to join. Participants can sign up at the TandemPlus registration site: tandem.umn.edu.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Launching of Inaugural Pedagogical Innovations Reading Group (PIRG)

On June 3, 2015, the Language Center kicked off its first Pedagogical Innovations Reading Group in Jones Hall. The Reading Group meets every three weeks to discuss a current journal article related to language teaching and/or learning. For this first meeting, 11 instructors representing seven different language programs (Spanish, French, Italian, Korean, Japanese, ESL, German) gathered for an hour to discuss the topic of formative and summative assessments in language courses through the article “The Impact of Assessment Method on Foreign Language Proficiency Growth” (Applied Linguistics, 2005). The author conducted a quantitative longitudinal study to compare how formative assessment procedures and summative assessment procedures affect the development of students’ language proficiency.

Here, “formative assessment” refers to any on-going assessment of effort and contribution by the learner, which can manifest in portfolios, peer-assessments, projects, and cooperative learning tasks. “Summative assessment” refers to any objective mastery testing of course content (e.g., midterms, quizzes, finals). In the study, students’ language proficiency was determined by TOEFL scores measured three times within two academic years (pre-entry, at the end of the first year, and exit); the students’ language achievement was assessed by their GPAs at the end of each term.

The author found the following correlations between proficiency and achievement in listening and reading comprehension:

  • The formative cohort achieved smaller gains in reading proficiency level when compared to the summative cohort. 
  • For listening comprehension, positive changes in GPA were more directly related to TOEFL score for the formative cohort than for the summative cohort. 

The author connected formative assessments to student motivation, suggesting that formative assessments, which are more student-centered,— could produce greater motivation in regard to listening activities. Introducing more formative assessments into a curriculum could lead to greater listening comprehension improvement as students share more direct control over the definition of “achievement.”

Our next meeting will be on Wednesday, June 24 in Jones 35 from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. If you have articles or journal topics you would like to discuss at future sessions, please e-mail your ideas to Caroline Vang at cevang@umn.edu.

CARLA Going “Green” Institute-- Funding Available!

Capitalize on your students’ interest in being “green” by using environmental themes in your language classroom! In this exciting new institute, you will get the latest on key sustainability issues and inspirational tools from Design Thinking and core content-based instruction technologies.

This institute is being offered for a special registration rate of $150-- for a full week of extraordinary professional development!

Find out more at http://www.carla.umn.edu/institutes/2015/goinggreen.html

The PACE Project will provide funding for up to 5 foreign language instructors at the University of Minnesota to attend the CARLA Going “Green” institute. The one-week session runs from July 13 to 17. Funding will be awarded to up to 5 instructors on a first-come, first-served basis.

Inquiries about this special funding can be directed to Stephanie Treat at treat002@umn.edu. Questions about the Going “Green” institute should be sent to Karin Larson at larso205@umn.edu.

The PACE Project is funded by a grant from The Language Flagship.

Seeking Summer Student Staff in the Multimedia Lab!

Students: If you love languages and are taking classes on campus this summer, consider working at the Language Center’s Multimedia Lab. We currently have one opening for a student with work study who is registered for at least 6 May and/or summer session credits. Please visit the university’s new employment site and search for Job ID 301334.

Instructors: If you know of a language student taking summer classes who would be a great candidate for a position in the Language Center’s Multimedia Lab, please encourage them to apply online for Job ID 301334.

TandemPlus Summer Information; Welcome Salma

Summer registration for TandemPlus will open on Monday, June 15, 2015. The summer program is diverse and energetic; anyone interested in having a language conversation partner for summer is encouraged to join. During the summer session, TandemPlus will host one or two events during July and August, and all TandemPlus participants are invited to participate. Stay tuned for more information about the events.

This summer, Salma Bile joins the TandemPlus staff as the Tandem assistant. Salma, who previously has worked in the Language Center both in the Multimedia Lab and the Main Office, says, “I am from San Diego, California, but I currently live in Apple Valley, Minnesota. I am a Senior here at the University of Minnesota in the College of Biological Sciences, majoring in Biology. I am fluent in both English and Somali. I have also studied Arabic for a little over three years now. I’ve been a participant in Tandem since my freshman year, and now I am very excited to start my work with the program that has played an instrumental role in shaping my language skills!” Welcome, Salma!