Third Annual WashU Language Teaching Fair Inspires, Builds Community During COVID-19
The Third Annual WashU Language Teaching Fair recently took place virtually via Zoom. The event drew a diverse group of instructors from different language departments together on August 26 for discussion on topics related to language instruction. Dr. Meg Gregory, Senior Assistant Director of Educational Development at the Center for Teaching and Learning; Iva Youkilis, Teaching Professor of Italian; and Mijeong Mimi Kim, Teaching Professor of Korean Language, co-organized the event.
The Language Teaching Fair is “a critical opportunity for the CTL’s Educational Development team to fulfill its twin missions of fostering a culture of reflective teaching practice and of sustaining cross-departmental collegial conversations about teaching and learning at WashU,” Dr. Gregory said.
Dr. Gregory, Professor Youkilis, and Professor Kim have spearheaded the event since its inception in Fall 2019. The discussions inform instructors about innovations in language instruction and inspire them to apply new methods in their own teaching.
“When we started the event three years ago, we didn’t know if it would take off or not, but we thought there was a need for it. It was very well received,” Professor Kim said. “It’s wonderful to hear about what others do in language teaching, and share concerns and successes.”
Professor Youkilis feels similarly. She echoed Professor Kim’s sentiment that the event allows language instructors to build community at WashU.
“Since the first Language Teaching Fair, Meg, Mimi and I realized how rewarding it is to convene with our colleagues from the entire Danforth campus and learn from each other through fascinating discussions. Personally, it energizes me to see so many innovations and pedagogical efforts language teaching faculty are putting forth as well as it inspires me to continue to grow professionally so that I can contribute meaningfully to this conversation every year,” Professor Youkilis said.
Dr. Gregory kicked off this year’s event with a discussion, “Are We Ready for This: Addressing Anxieties Related to Language Teaching in the New Normal.” During the 30-minute session, Dr. Gregory used Padlet technology that allowed participants to vote for what they viewed as their greatest concerns for language teaching this fall, which for many will be in person. Concerns ranged from teaching while masked to supporting students who are sick and quarantined.
Participants then broke into special interest groups divided by topic. The second session offered two broad topics that instructors could choose from: “Language Teaching for Special Purposes” and “Transitioning Back to Face-to-Face Instruction.” The first subsection included talks such as “Teaching Chinese from Multiple Perspectives-Observing, Exploring, and Reappropriating,” by Xia Liang, Teaching Professor of Chinese Language; “What does ‘Good’ Language Use Look Like Here? Specialized Language Development through Facilitated Exploration,” by Haley Dolosic, Program Manager and Instructor for English Language (ESL) Programs in University College; and “Creating a ‘French for the Medical Professions’ Track: Perspectives and Challenges,” by Lionel Cuillé, Teaching Professor in French, and Julie Singer, Professor of French and Chair of the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures.
The second subsection included a joint presentation, “Should it Stay or Should it Go? Considering What to Keep from Online Teaching,” by Iva Youkilis, Teaching Professor of Italian; Jody Doran, Senior Lecturer in Spanish; and Housni Bennis, Senior Lecturer in Arabic Language. The presentation was inspired by Professor Youkilis’s experience taking several classes and conferences over the summer, her favorites of which focused on how technology could transform pedagogy, especially in light of the pandemic.
“These classes helped me identify what exactly pandemic teaching taught me and how it transformed my classes, and how my teaching could benefit from experimenting with and implementing different modes of instruction,” Professor Youkilis said. “I decided that posing similar questions during the panel could inspire others to reflect on the past unexpected positive outcomes and best practices of online teaching, and to muse in advance of the upcoming semester about the challenges it might bring.”
Session Three included two main topics: “Addressing Cultural Competencies in the Language Classroom,” and “Using Educational Technologies in Language Teaching.” The first subsection featured talks including, “Transitioning from Literature-Based to Culture-Based Contents in Advanced Language Courses: The Example of FREN321, ‘Sports and Society,” by Vincent Jouane, Senior Lecturer in French; “Cultural Competency in Email Etiquette for Academic and Professional Communication,” by Karen Schwelle, Senior Lecturer in Engineering; and “Shifting Paradigms of the Language Curriculum for Gen Z,” by Mimi Kim, Teaching Professor of Korean Language.
Professor Kim’s presentation was inspired by her observations over the past years while teaching Korean language. As members of Gen Z, students today are digital natives who get most of their information online. Language teaching should address these changes, Professor Kim said.
“This is a highly intelligent, experienced group of students who are globally connected and eager to connect with other cultures. Their primary source of information is YouTube. Their world view is totally different than mine,” Professor Kim said. “We as instructors can’t criticize them for looking for information on YouTube; we have to join them by staying on the cutting edge of educational technology and apps.”
The second subsection of session three had talks including, “Using Vlogs as a Language Learning Tool During the Pandemic,” by Taewoong Kim, Lecturer in Korean Language; “What Can Data Do for Us?” by Erik Nesse, Lecturer in French; “Integrating Hypothes.is into Second Language Literacy Courses: Building Community Through Reading Together,” by Juanma Ramírez Velázquez, a Ph.D. Candidate in Hispanic Studies; and “Building an Online Translator as a Teaching Tool,” by Stève Levillain, Lecturer in French.
The event culminated with a virtual happy hour where instructors could bring a beverage of choice and toast to a safe and healthy fall semester.
For many instructors, the event marked a milestone in pandemic teaching and an opportunity to reflect on the past year.
“I think most of us first approached the idea of online learning with a great deal of trepidation. Luckily, both the Romance Languages & Literatures Department and the Center for Teaching and Learning were extremely supportive and informative. What many of us discovered is that online teaching doesn’t have to stymie learning but, when approached the right way, can enhance it. I believe we have all incorporated new tools and approaches that in many ways have spiced up the classroom experience for us and for our students,” Professor Doran said.