TESOL 2013: Day 3

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Subconsciously Held Bias: Exposing the Myth of Racial Colorblindness, Aram deKoven, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

Aram deKoven was one of the invited speakers at the TESOL convention, and his session was held in the convention center arena. The session focused on how the human brain reacts to priming, based on several different studies across various fields. The presenter contended that while explicit racism has become less common in our society, implicit racial bias has become more of a concern. The whole presentation was based on the idea that the “subconscious is a powerful cognitive force and subconsciously-held biases affect how we act.”

The presenter showed the results of various studies where people were primed to react in certain ways in relation to gender, race, and other socialized conventions within our society. For example, deKoven spoke about how within the field of music, men were considered naturally superior to women, and this was proven by the predominantly male population of orchestras. However, in an attempt to take gender bias out of the equation when auditioning musicians, institutions took to auditioning musicians behind a screen where their gender could not be surmised. The result of this practice was that orchestras became almost split down the middle when it comes to gender.

The issue of social responsibility in the classroom is something that I have to admit I haven’t considered all that much. This presentation brought the need for awareness and reflection in teaching to the front of my mind. What implicit biases do I hold, and how are they affecting my actions in the classroom? It seems clear to me that teachers hold a great amount of power and influence over their learners’ educations, especially with young learners. With such power comes great responsibility. I think the  primary take-away from this session was that people, educators in particular, should look at themselves with open minds, reflect on their practice and beliefs, and realize that the human brain works in weird ways. While we may not hold explicit bias toward one group of people or another, we may very well have implicit, socialized biases that we are not always aware of.

Creating Global Citizens: Socially Responsible Educators in ESL Classrooms

  • Kip Cates, Tottori University, Japan– Overview of global language teaching, teaching with global education
  • Shelley Wong, George Mason University– The Dream Act: Global Citizenship for Social Responsibility
  • Kevin J. Martin, Virginia International University, @kevinjmartin_ — Social responsibility in the classroom (and curriculum)
  • Earlene Gentry, Fulbright Commission (retired), Egypt– Social responsibility in Egypt (revolution)
  • Rob Clement, Sohar University, Oman– Social responsibility issues (bullying & classroom violence)

I stumbled into this session when another session I was going to attend was cancelled. I was pleasantly surprised by the session. Perhaps I had been primed to accept issues of social responsibility in education as being of major importance (from the deKoven session earlier in the day) because I felt a particular affinity for the issues discussed in this session. This session was the Social Responsibility Interest Section educational session, and Kip Cates started things off by giving an overview of global education. Being new to the idea of social responsibility in language education, I found this overview particularly interesting. According to Cates, within the realm of global language teaching there are two branches of a dual syllabus: language teaching and global education. Global education includes: world regions, world themes, and world issues. The goal of global education is to bring the world into the language classroom and take students out into the world. By treating our students as global citizens, and educating them as such, both teachers and students are able to gain a broader perspective of themselves within the framework of a global community.

I think the primary take-away from this session was that language teachers have an amazing opportunity to build a community of language teachers around the world. There are issues that people do not want to talk about, but there may be a place for controversial issues within the global language classroom, especially with adult students who wish to be part of a global community. Once again, I think it’s key to remember that our learners are at the center of our pedagogical/andragogical decisions, and we should include topics and materials that will benefit our learners’ experience within their global communities.

 

Incorporating Peer and Self-Assessment to Enhance Retention, Lisa Leopold, Monterey Institute of International Studies

This session definitely had some practical applications. While it was research-based, Leopold presented her findings in a way that could be useful for teachers. The session focused on using peer and self assessment in a writing class. The presenter focused mainly on peer feedback, although self-assessment was touched on briefly. With regard to peer assessment, benefits and challenges were examined and different modes of feedback were discussed more in depth. The modes discussed included both synchronous and asynchronous written and oral feedback.

Take-aways:

  • Certain modes of feedback may be more suitable for different assignments.
  • Students found value in all the modes of peer feedback.
  • A combination of synchronous and asynchronous peer feedback may benefit the most students.
  • Involving students in the feedback process may give them a greater sense of ownership in assignments.

Overall, it may be useful for writing teachers to consider a variety of modes when assigning peer feedback. Each group of students is different, so once again it is imperative for teachers to consider the needs of their unique group when designing tasks.

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