Statement of Teaching Philosophy
Whether I am teaching introductory Spanish or an advanced content course, I encourage my students to discover a variety of cultural and literary products: films, television, music, the plastic arts, print-media, critical works, and especially the narratives that inform the target culture. I believe that students, through examining texts, considering how they work, critiquing them, and creating their own, will gain invaluable translingual and transcultural competence. My pedagogy is enhanced by a content-forward, multiliteracies approach to language learning and the principles of universal design for learning (UDL) to build on the diverse needs, interests, and backgrounds of my students.
I prioritize writing learning objectives that align with the ACTFL World Readiness Standards so that proficiency and authentic content inform every course I teach. To make intercultural communication a goal, I scaffold the material through preview activities and graphic organizers that build vocabulary and review grammar in context. For the first-semester Spanish course at Albright, my colleague and I created a content-forward open textbook, Nuestra comunidad latina, that builds novice proficiency through the study of US Latino history and culture. Students use simple structures through scaffolded activities to engage in higher-order thinking about the art, music, poetry, and practices we examine. After three semesters of teaching this way, we noticed that our students mastered the skill of making comparisons in several ways: more/less than, like/unlike, and also/neither because intercultural communication was an explicit goal.
In my upper-level courses, I require students to use discourse-level communication by providing sentence starters, transitional phrases, and deeper questions that elicit thoughtful responses. To foster a student-centered classroom of motivated learners, I create detailed lesson and unit plans that incorporate choice—how they can engage with the material and how they can express themselves. Additionally, I make a point of providing content that celebrates the diversity of the Spanish-speaking world, and I encourage students to compare products and practices from their own cultures. Learning takes place when students build on previous experiences, and they benefit from engaging in imaginative storytelling, role-play, and creative writing as long as these activities are carefully planned, and the expectations are clear. Often, advanced language learners reach a plateau in acquiring the target language. Writing and reading are key components for the development of critical thinking, but I also prioritize experiential learning where students are using their language skills in the local community. I also integrate process-based activities that allow them to improve their work—brainstorming, outlining, drafting, revising, and editing, so they can build advanced Spanish writing proficiency. I believe when students consider themselves creators rather than reproducers within the structures of language, they become more confident interlocutors.
As an avid user of instructional technology, I incorporate several online resources to engage students, provide and receive quick feedback to make appropriate instructional decisions and learning interventions, and to foster sustainable practices among a community of language learners. Overall, my teaching blends the best practices for student engagement, proficiency in the four skills, and critical thinking needed for intercultural communication.