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02 August 2012

Service Learning in ESL

This summer one of my colleagues had a brilliant idea (as many of our colleagues do, right?) She created an assignment for her intermediate-level speaking and listening students to volunteer through the CMU Volunteer Center. By participating in a few hours of community service of their choice, they got to practice their language skills in a new setting in context. They then discussed their volunteer experiences in class, which was yet another opportunity to use speaking and listening skills.

I think you could also incorportate writing a follow-up piece (length depending on the level of students), as well as pre- and post-experience disucssions readings about volunteering. It would be very interesting to learn about what (if any) volunteering students have done in their own countries.

This idea of service learning got me thinking. I will be teaching Advanced Speaking and Listening again in the fall, and I think this course (students are enrolled in both language and academic courses) would be perfect for an assignment in which students volunteer. I am not sure about the scope of the assignmnet yet (especially for the first time I try it), but I plan to incorporate this wonderful resource into this course. I think service learning can be a valuable tool for English language learning.

I am also excited to say that I will have the opportunity to attend (and hopefully assist!) a service learning conference this fall. I will be attending the 2nd Annual Intercultural Horizons Conference, which focuses on intercultural strategies in civic engagement,  in New York City in October. As you can see from the conference details (below), this is going to be a great opportunity for me to learn about civic engagement, service learning, and how to implement these into my teaching practice. Fortunately, I will be able to implement what I learn immediately in my listening speaking class. And as a bonus, my brilliant mother, a professor at Alma College, is also presenting! I can't wait to learn from (and help with) her presentation and implement her ideas into my own teaching practice!

Intercultural Exchange Conference Details:
The State University of New York at Geneseo, Siena Italian Studies, and the Associazione Culturale Ulisse at the International Center for Intercultural Exchange are hosting "Intercultural Horizons 2012: Intercultural Strategies in Civic Engagement," a conference dedicated to exchanging ideas, practices, and experiences in the development of intercultural competence. The conference will be held at the SUNY Global Center at 116 East 55th Street in New York City.
This conference is intended to engage educators and experts from a variety of perspectives in examining the challenges and achievements of civic engagement in a global context, and the evolving definitions of civic engagement in service learning and general education, with an emphasis on turning theory into practice. It will be of interest to those interested or involved in intercultural education or exchange, from faculty and administrators to coordinators and counselors, as well as those active in the fields of service learning, language instruction, intercultural or cross-cultural communication, and international education.
The conference plenary sessions include Anthony Appiah as the kenote speaker on October 3, as well as plenary sessions by Larry Braskamp and Richard Kiely, and concurrent panel sessions. Presentations and panels will address the following themes:
  • Service Learning
  • Intercultural Competence
  • General Education
  • Technology
  • Changing Definitions of Civic Engagement