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Monday, July 27, 2015

Report from the Pedagogical Innovations Reading Group (PIRG)

We had a smaller group for the latest PIRG meeting, held on July 22, 2015. But despite the small group, we had a lively conversation around Timothy O’Connell et al.’s article, “Students’ Appropriation, Rejection, and Perceptions of Creativity in Reflective Journals” (International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 2015).

After assessing 42 reflective journals from undergraduate students at an Australian university, O’Connell et al. concluded that promoting creativity through these reflective journal assignments led students to a “deep approach” to learning. Within this “deep approach,” students engage meaningfully with the subject matter as they use their critical thinking skills. O’Connell et al. listed four conditions that they believe are necessary ingredients for creativity to be fostered in an individual: relevance, ownership of knowledge, having control of the learning process, and innovation. In this study, the students who demonstrated creativity submitted reflective journals that were high in these four factors as compared to those who resorted to a simple “word processing assignment.”

The necessity for “creativity” to be included in an assignment’s rubric evoked varied responses from PIRG members during our discussion. The authors’ definition of creativity was questioned, and each member chimed in with their own observations of students’ creativity in an assignment and how they would assess creativity. Some members also questioned if creativity was necessary for learning. Would it still be possible for students to be critical thinkers in a standard notebook journal assignment with meaningful guiding questions? Or would it make a difference to add “creativity” to the rubric? PIRG members described various assignments in their courses that required creativity in language learning (e.g., having students create their own story following the traditional storytelling style of the target culture, weekly audio journals, etc.).

If you’re interested in joining our PIRG meetings, we will be meeting again on Thursday, August 13 from 12:00 - 1:00 p.m. in Jones 35. This will be our last PIRG meeting for the summer! To learn more about what we do at our PIRG meetings, please contact Caroline Vang at cevang@umn.edu.

TandemPlus Summer Events

The summer TandemPlus program is in full swing, we are hosting many events to allow participants to meet each other and use their language skills in a fun, relaxing way.

On July 20, 2015 TandemPlus and the Arabic program co-sponsored an Eid Lunch to celebrate Eid al-Fitr and the end of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting. Approximately 14 Arabic learners and 14 native Arabic speakers, along with staff from the Arabic Department, TandemPlus, and MELP, enjoyed a lunch of falafel, chicken shawirma, tabouli, hummus and other treats from Wally’s Falfel in Dinkytown. Beautiful Arabic music played, students learned about the new Arabic Language & Literature Club (UALLC), and many new conversation partnerships were made.

The next TandemPlus event is next Tuesday, August 4 at Punch Pizza in Stadium Village, from 3:30-5:30 p.m. Stop by for some pizza and meet new and old friends. This event is open to all TandemPlus participants, paired or unpaired. It’s a great way to wrap up the semester. See you there!

Summer registration will close on Friday, July 31. If you are looking for a foreign language conversation partner, register today at tandem.umn.edu.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Center for Writing: Commenting and Grading on Student Writing for New TAs

Wednesday, September 2, 2015
12:30-4:30 p.m.
Bruininks Hall 114 (Formerly STSS Building)
Register Online

Are you new to grading student writing? Wondering how to respond effectively, efficiently, and fairly? This half-day orientation is intended for new or returning Teaching Assistants (TAs) and Graduate Instructors who will be responding to and grading student writing for the first time in Fall 2015. Over the course of the afternoon, we’ll discuss general approaches to responding to, commenting on, and grading student writing.

You’ll have the opportunity to practice with writing samples from actual students in various disciplines, and to work with writing specialists to develop specific grading and commenting strategies for your course. You’ll also learn about the resources available through the Center for Writing, and you’ll have the chance to talk with a panel of veteran TAs about their experiences working with student writing.

Graduate Position Available: Assistant Coordinator

The Language Center is now hiring a 50% (9351) Administrative Fellow to serve in the position of Assistant Coordinator. This person will be responsible for supervising the day-to-day Language Center operations in the main office, including room scheduling, and material and equipment reservation and checkout and serving as primary supervisor for student staff.

You can apply online through the University’s employment site. Search for ID number 302522.

Please forward this information to any graduate student who may be interested in this opportunity.

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

Wednesday, July 22, 2015
12:00-1:00 p.m.
Jones 35

The next Pedagogical Innovations Reading Group (PIRG) meeting will be Wednesday, July 22 from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 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 Timothy S. O’Connell, et al.’s article about academic reflective journals. To learn more about what we do at our PIRG meetings, please contact Caroline Vang at cevang@umn.edu.

TandemPlus Arabic Event

Monday, July 20, 2015
12:00-1:30 p.m.
Nicholson 115

On Monday July 20, 2015 the Arabic Language Program and TandemPlus are co-sponsoring an Eid Lunch! For those of you who aren't familiar with the Muslim holiday, it is a widely celebrated day marking the end of the month of fasting, Ramadan. We will have music, a henna artist and most importantly traditional Arab food catered from Wally’s Falafel and Hummus in Dinkytown. Everyone is invited to this event - you do not need to be an Arabic speaker or learner.