The SoTL Advocate

Supporting efforts to make public the reflection and study of teaching and learning at Illinois State University and beyond…


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Application of SoTL: Sharing Results with Students

Written by Susan Hildebrandt, Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics/Spanish, Department of Languages, Literatures, & Cultures at Illinois State University 

“Understanding World Language edTPA,” a two-hour workshop I presented at the annual meeting of the Illinois Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ICTFL) in Tinley Park, focused on the content-specific student teacher performance assessment purported to measure beginning teacher readiness. edTPA became consequential for every individual seeking teacher licensure in the state of Illinois in September 2015. Student learning was central to this workshop as it explored how ISU world language teacher candidates performed on edTPA. This systematic study of ISU student learning is timely for world language teacher education programs throughout the state. By examining and sharing my students’ performance on the standardized edTPA, a state-wide audience learned from their triumphs and challenges. The workshop also served as an opportunity for a variety of audiences to get a wider view of edTPA, its origin, and its use.

The intended audience for this presentation was world language teacher education coordinators or world language pedagogy instructors and faculty, but a much more diverse audience attended the session. Five of the nine attendees were world language teacher candidates from across the state, who were taking pedagogy classes this semester and intended to student teach during the spring of 2107. The purpose of this workshop was originally to help world language teacher education programs get their students ready for edTPA. Instead, I got to go straight to the intended audience. The edTPA outcomes of my students were able to communicated to teacher candidates directly and I was able offer practical suggestions about how be more successful at demonstrating effective K-12 teaching practices. I was able to point out the areas in which my candidates were successful and those in which they struggled. I was able to share resources that were of particular value to my teacher candidates here at ISU.

The workshop deconstructed edTPA with an exploratory quantitative study, in which I examined edTPA scores of world language teacher candidates (N = 34) and compared their scores to the known cut scores for states in which edTPA is a requirement for licensure. Results indicated that participants performed best in the planning section of the assessment and were most challenged by the assessment section. All participants earned scores above the current minimal cut score for Washington state, and all but two would pass in New York state. The workshop also highlighted ways of encountering the three required tasks, along with logistical guidance for videotaping and writing the extensive commentaries for each task.

The teacher candidate attendees expressed great interest in these results, as more than one intended on teaching in another state. As a result of their interest, I decided to bring my findings back to my own class. I had intended to talk with them about edTPA that day, but I hadn’t intended to give them a research presentation. And yet, I did. And I think they enjoyed it. It’s not often they get to peak behind the curtain of a teacher education program and see how we use data to improve practice. I hope, too, that my teacher candidates can use this experience to learn to analyze their own classroom-based data, one of the skills assessed in edTPA.

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It all started with a SoTL small grant: National recognition for global engagement

Written by Susan A. Hildebrandt, Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics & Spanish, Illinois State University

hild awardThe teacher education program in the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures (LAN) at Illinois State University was one of 11 language programs from across the nation recently recognized by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages’ (ACTFL) inaugural Global Engagement Initiative. ACTFL is the flagship organization for K-16 language teachers in the United States, and the recognition is good for four years.

 

LAN teacher candidates, as part of their clinical experiences for LAN 320 World Language Teaching in K-12 Settings, spend 25 hours at Unity Community Center getting to know Unity youth the first half of the semester and teach them beginning language the second half. As the area has few local public elementary schools with language programs, teacher candidates in the class may have little experience teaching younger learners a language other than English. Unity Community Center is located two miles north of Illinois State and serves as multicultural “Out of School Time site” for 5- to 18-year olds from “families with limited resources” (Unity website).

hild1The goals for the language program at Unity are multifaceted. The first is to teach language and cultures to K-5th graders, allowing ISU teacher candidates to put into practice what they learn in their teacher education classes. The second goal is to give teacher candidates experiences interacting with younger learners and their families, which they wouldn’t otherwise get. The third is to provide high quality programming for Unity. And the fourth goal is to assist the monolingual Unity directors in communicating with parents whose first language is French or Spanish. Teacher candidates work at Unity throughout the semester and get to know the Unity youth before teaching seven weeks of language lessons the second half of the semester. At times, they also interpret meetings between native speaking parents of Spanish or French and the monolingual Unity personnel. Valuable experiences with Unity youth, parents, and classmates open teacher candidates’ eyes to a variety of perspectives that they wouldn’t otherwise get in their educational preparation. Unity youth, families, and personnel gain quality early language instruction that they would not have without the program.

hild 2Teaching language to K-5th grade Unity youth allows teacher candidates to learn how to co-teach with each other, construct standards-based and learner-centered lessons, create meaningful performance assessments, and learn how to use 90+ percent of the target language in their instruction in a real world setting. They learn how to integrate cultural perspectives into each lesson, to manage a classroom of wiggly, young learners, and to communicate with parents. Teacher candidates expand their linguistic and cultural competence when they interact with parents of Unity youth, while Unity youth’s linguistic and cultural competence grows with each lesson. Finally, teacher candidates immediately debrief with classmates after lessons at Unity and alone in writing for the next week, which helps teacher candidates learn how to offer colleagues constructive criticism and to help everyone do better the next week.

The program began in the spring of 2012 and has occurred nearly every semester since, for at least 7 weeks a semester. It was initially funded by a SoTL small grant in 2011 and further supported by an American Democracy Project course redesign in 2014. Unity has expressed its appreciation for the program by recognizing it with Distinguished Program Awards the last three years. This multiyear collaboration with Unity has transformed the LAN teacher education program.

A new group of teacher candidates will continue teaching languages to Unity youth each fall for the foreseeable future. An exciting development in the program is that it is now expanding to spring semesters, with the help of the ISU language clubs, including the Spanish Club, Sigma Delta Pi (Spanish Honor Society), and Pi Delta Phi (French Honor Society). We were recently awarded a grant from the ISU Senior Professionals and the American Democracy Project to complement the language teaching done in the fall by the LAN 320 class. “ISU Language Clubs and Unity Youth Read Spanish and French” will feature members of the language clubs reading Spanish- and French-language children’s books to Unity youth and their parents, as well as working one-on-one with Unity youth on bilingual puzzles and games.

The original SoTL grant investigated the benefits and challenges to language teacher candidates as they volunteered at a community center. Using data gathered from existing class assignments and recursive qualitative data analysis, a clearer picture of ISU students’ language teaching beliefs emerged, along with Unity youth and personnel’s characteristics, strengths, and needs. That feedback allowed me to create a better learning environment for both ISU students and Unity youth, as the content of the practicum course evolved to support ISU students in their new teaching role at the center. That work at Unity features as a prominent aspect of my own ongoing scholarship, with a 2014 article entitled “Mutually beneficial service learning: Language teacher candidates in a local community center” published in a regional language teaching journal. The initial project begun with the 2011 SoTL small grant enabled the program to develop into a nationally recognized program, and I anticipate continuing this research in the upcoming months and years, as my students continue working with Unity youth.