As an instructional designer we’re always asking faculty to think beyond “topics” and determine what the true “learning objectives” are. That is, what skills should a student have when they exit the course. This can be particularly tricky for Gen Ed courses because we know that most students won’t continue on in future courses to perfect the skills of a linguist. The goal is to help students understand some basic principles and maybe whet their appetites for more courses. But how are these principles defined?
Well, I had the same dilemma for intro LING 100. Most instructors do divide the course into topics like phonetics, sociolinguistics, syntax and so on. Reading the Dirksen book helped me reflect on what my goals were and I finally realized my true goal was to help students observe language use more closely. This included understanding pronunciation, observing how new words are formed, seeing how rules of spoken language differ from written language, understanding cultural ettiquette conventions, perceptions of different social dialects, observing when and how people switch languages, and of course language change. These are all the topics of a traditional course, but thinking about them in terms of how they can be observed allows me to think about how to push students into making these observations.
I really appreciate that I finally got to put my own course under the ID microscope.
In general, I do think the program has been successful in expanding the ID network and allowing people to share common issues and tips with one another. I also like having a core learning activities like the book readings. I would definitely recommend the program to an ID trying to figure out the Penn State environment.
I liked having the both of us read the book because it can provide a structure for a large chunk of meetings. Plus, I feel that participants can get insights from the book even if there are logistical issues with actually discussing the book. FYI – I ended up getting a duplicate version of the book from the Kindle store. It turns out that I could read it online in the office so I didn’t have to remember to put the book in the car at various times.
Recommendation: UNL/PSU Group Activity
I heard some comments about having a joint meetings with the UNL cohort, and I think it’s a good idea. One idea that could maximize benefit to Penn State is to have the UNL group talk about their observations from the program, particularly in regards to Penn State. If they would be willing to do a presentation for the entire Penn State cohort, everyone would benefit. And perhaps sub group from Penn State could do the same thing for UNL.
Recommendation: Expand “Joint Event” Options
One aspect of the program that may need to be looked at is the “joint event” recommendation. It’s a good idea, but for various reasons, it’s always been a joint webinar for me and my partner, and for me at least it can be problematic. The worst case was a JAWS training session where the presenter just had all sorts of technical issues and it disrupted his entire presentation. When partners can’t attend a live session together, I was wondering virtual options could be expanded to include articles, a Web site or an online tutorial module.