On October 30, 2014, the PACE Professional Development (PD) Peer Team held its inaugural Swap Shop event. Swap Shops are short, informal opportunities for language instructors from all departments to share activities learn from one another. In keeping with the Halloween season, the theme was "Bring Out Your Dead."
Sean Killackey, French, Ph.D. candidate, and Beth Kautz, German 1003 Coordinator, each brought out "one of their dead": an activity which had great potential, yet did not work out the way they had hoped in their class. Instructors from Arabic, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, and Spanish brainstormed ideas that might bring new life into these activities.
Sean showed excerpts from a film dealing with stereotypes between two francophone cultures on the border between Belgium and France. His film choice focused on cultural differences and tendency to stereotype. Students watched the entire film during two class sessions and completed a homework assignment in response to the film. The activity seemed to go awry when the follow-up class discussion turned into a teacher-centered session and did not lead to engaged student conversation or insights into cultural differences. Swap Shop participants were then given a few minutes to discuss what could have been done to make this activity more meaningful and engaging for the students that would allow for deeper critical thinking and focused attention on cultural stereotypes mentioned in the film.
Beth followed with a jigsaw activity on sustainability and tourism. Students first read a text outlining criteria for determining the degree of sustainability of a project. Then they were given descriptions of four different "green" vacation packages. They were asked to describe two packages for homework, talk and compare them in groups in class, and then analyze and rate how sustainable each vacation package would be. While students were able to identify particulars of each package, they could not easily apply the criteria successfully. Students had a variety of interpretations of "sustainable," and also tended to rate the vacations more according to the degree of "fun" than of "sustainability". The Swap Shop participants made suggestions for scaffolding this activity by adding a pre-discussion of the criteria for "sustainability," modeling the task with one example, and asking for separate rating systems for "fun" or "sustainable" vacations to provide opportunities to apply learned concepts to new material.
Participants shared ideas and experiences and generated options for approaching tasks to increase both student engagement and application of critical thinking. Many thanks to those who participated in the Swap Shop and made these good ideas even better!
The next Swap Shop is scheduled for Monday, December 1, 2014. Stay tuned!