Two women of different backgrounds chat together in class.
Program Insights

Language and Culture in the Classroom: Concordia Course Spotlight

By The Room 241 Team April 18, 2018

Thinking of enrolling in Concordia University-Portland’s MEd in Curriculum & Instruction: English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program? This blog post is for you. For a closer look at one of the concentration courses in this program—offered 100% online—we talked to Juliana Smith, ESOL specialist and an associate professor with Concordia’s College of Education. Here’s the 411 on course EDEL 533: Language and Culture in the Classroom.

What are the goals of this course?

The goal of this course is to better prepare our educators to work with the different cultures and languages that are present in classrooms in the U.S. and abroad. They’re asked to read and reflect about different ways to incorporate the cultures of their students in their classes, and to better understand their cultures so they are sensitive to their students’ needs.

The idea is that if teachers understand more about the diverse cultures of their students, they can make their students feel more at ease and more comfortable in class. Students will then lower their affective filters so they can acquire language easier. Also, when their cultures are celebrated, there is a chance these students will feel stronger about their ethnic identities—this helps with language acquisition since self-esteem is also a factor.

What kind of students would really enjoy this course?

This class is exceptionally great for international MEd students and U.S. MEd students in big cities, but it’s really good for any teacher who embraces inclusion and works with diverse groups. They use everything they learn directly in their classrooms, especially those who teach in areas with high diversity. They can literally apply what they have learned the very next day.

Tell us about the homework assignments. What might they entail?

In one of the assignments, our educators watch a TED Talk on diversity and create a plan on how to help students from different backgrounds and with potential history of being enemies due to religious differences and nationalities. Their plan must include specific steps to break down the walls and how the educator will keep animosity from rising. It’s done in the form of a presentation, and they are encouraged to use a new technology to complete the presentation. Another assignment is a multicultural project that could be used with their own students and it should focus on celebrating and learning about different cultures.

What is an example of the reading material?

“OK, I Get It! Now Tell Me How to Do It!”: Why We Can’t Just Tell You How to Do Critical Multicultural Education. This is a great paper that discusses the how-to’s of multicultural education.

What’s your favorite aspect of this course?

The fact that students get the chance to reflect upon the cultural differences between themselves and their own students and among their students. And even with our online cohorts, each person gets to know their peers’ backgrounds too; they have several discussion posts throughout the course where they share more about themselves. They also get the opportunity to try out some biases tests so that they can be more aware of their own biases.

Explore Concordia’s MEd in Curriculum & Instruction: ESOL program now

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