I Do and I Understand: Professional Learning Communities to Engage Learners in Authentic Practice

I Do and I Understand: Professional Learning Communities to Engage Learners in Authentic Practice

Claire Mitchell
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8543-5.ch002
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As a result of globalization, World Language Education has experienced considerable changes within recent decades. With these changes, there is a need for new approaches to teaching and learning a world language, as there is a growing mismatch between language use in the real world and the approach to teaching a world language in the classroom. This chapter, then, presents a pedagogical model that was implemented in an Introduction to Second Language Acquisition course in order to adequately prepare teacher candidates for their future careers as educators in a globalized society. In particular, the model in this chapter discusses authentic experiences grounded in inquiry-based learning that provide opportunities for teacher candidates to collaboratively research current trends in the field of World Language Education and put them into practice through undergraduate research projects.
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Globalization, which can be described as increased communication and heightened global connectivity and interaction (Blommaert, 2010; Kramsch, 2014; Mitchell, 2016), has changed the landscape of education—in particular, World Language Education—and has created a need for new approaches to teaching and learning. Because of all of the moving, mixing, blending, and shifting, the global has become local, and the world is now a global village (Drewelow & Mitchell, 2015; Schenker, 2013). As a result of this shift, there is often a mismatch between language use in the real world and the approach to teaching a world language inside the classroom. For example, the contact between cultures and peoples creates new forms, meanings, and new ways of saying and doing things (i.e. a postmodern, globalized era). However, traditional teaching methods inside the classroom continue to relegate language and culture to specific recognizable national borders and reflect a more modernist era (Kramsch, 2014).

Due to the shift in language learning in a globalized society, it is also vital that educators today reflect on ways in which they can utilize different approaches inside the classroom in order to prepare students for the 21st century, as Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) no longer meets the needs of 21st century language learners (Garrett-Rucks, 2016). Instead of focusing on how to say what and when to say it, as CLT supports, educators must prepare their students to adapt and evolve to the changing dynamics of interactions in the 21st century. That is, “FL instruction must take into account the discourse skills necessary to navigate this new global world” (Kramsch, 2014, p. 308). This understanding has implications for World Language Teacher Education programs, as teacher candidates need to learn to become lifelong learners as educators so that they can reflect on ways in which they need to adapt their own teaching to utilize current best practices in the field of World Language Education. Such adaptability is necessary to be a successful educator in today’s world that is inundated with instant access to information and a rapid pace of change.

Study Context

While there are numerous approaches to developing and encouraging lifelong learning in World Language Teacher Education programs (Shrum & Glisan, 2017), this chapter looks at the use of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) and undergraduate research within the classroom context to provide authentic learning experiences for teacher candidates. By implementing PLCs through undergraduate research projects in World Language Teacher Education courses, teacher candidates are afforded the opportunity to have meaningful experiences inside the classroom that will prepare them to be successful in the field during and after their teacher education program. That is, they not only gain experience researching best practices in the field of language learning and teaching, but they also are afforded opportunities to work as a part of a collaborative unit and develop skills necessary for participating in PLCs in their future professions. Such an approach relies heavily on teacher candidates understanding how to bridge current theory to practice and on ongoing reflection as a practitioner. Furthermore, this skill set that teacher candidates develop as a result of participating in this type of active, collaborative learning prepares them to meet the demands of a globalized society because they learn to be adaptive in their teaching, collaborative with their colleagues, and how to implement best practices into their own classrooms—best practices that meet the needs of their own students.

In light of this discussion, this chapter outlines an instructional model utilized in an Introduction to Second Language Acquisition (SLA) course taught by the author and seeks to answer the following question:

How can educators adequately prepare teacher candidates to be reflective practitioners who are equipped to meet the demands of 21st century world language learners?

Key Terms in this Chapter

Undergraduate Research: Research that is carried out by students and supervised by a professor.

Teacher Education: The preparation of teacher candidates prior to student teaching experiences.

Globalization: A global change characterized by a rapid pace of change, mixing and blending of cultures and peoples, and the dispersing of goods on a global level.

Galileo Educational Network: An organization dedicated to ongoing teacher education.

Inquiry-Based Learning: An approach to learning that is student-centered. Students utilize investigative techniques to uncover and discover new knowledge.

World Language Learning: The process of learning a language different than one’s native tongue.

Second Language Acquisition: The study of how languages other than one’s native tongue are acquired and learned.

Reflective Learning: A process in which students take part in a cyclical learning experience of practice, reflection, and implementation of best practices.

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