The Latest in Mediated Integration

WRX MI Fall 2014 Chris and Kim
“[This is] a picture from the last day of the WRX mediated integration “Found in Translation” that Kim S-G and I taught together.  When Kim raised the curtain of her room, her WR100 ESL students saw my non-ESL-ers on the other side of the window holding signs that said things like “Thanks for a great semester,” “You complete us,” “Translate this,” and “Happy Holidays!”; there were also signs in Chinese and Greek, and something glyphic too. The photo doesn’t really capture the loveliness of the moment, and anyway you had to be there.” –Chris
Mediated Integration Reflection Fall 14

By Kim Shuckra-Gomez

I started this project in response to our growing international population and the emergence of the mixed classroom. My personal goal was to find a fresh pedagogical approach to the mixed classroom and ways to create a more level playing field for the L2 learner. My questions were and still are: How can L2 students be better served in terms of their interactions with L1 peers?  How can the L2 student help the L1 student discover the nuances of the English language that seem transparent and therefore go unnoticed by native speakers? What strategies can help Non ESL faculty serve both populations in the classroom?

Jason Prentice and I taught the first mediated integration course titled Toxic Boston. The course proved successful and after the first year of Toxic Boston, the cluster has now grown into three topics and six sections. Through my own experience teaching MI, as well as coordinating the cluster this past fall, I can honestly attest that the Mediated Integration Cluster truly offers the potential in finding creative approaches to the distinct challenges of cultivating the academic writing skills of the L1 and L2 students in the mixed classroom.

Goals of MI for both the L1 and L2 students:

  • Overcome social, linguistic, cultural isolation
  • Find a fresh pedagogical approach to the mixed classroom and ways to create a more level playing field for the L2 learner
  • Offer a creative approach to the distinct challenges of cultivating the academic writing skills of the L1 and L2 students in the mixed classroom.
  • Provide Non ESL faculty with ESL experience
  • Provide ESL faculty with NES experience
  • Develop practical in class solutions to the mixed writing class
  • Foster a multicultural perspective
  • Create opportunities for meaningful interactions with theme-based discussions
  • Promote cultural understanding and create global moments
  • Enhance what L1 and L2 students have to offer one another through meaningful interactions
  • Transfer of linguistic and rhetorical skills.

Cluster Description:

An ESL instructor and a NES instructor share a theme and a syllabus. Each pair agrees on two or three group projects and to mix the classes at least once every other week. The topic and type of projects are entirely up to each group, therefore allowing for several possible solutions and ideas to emerge from the collaboration. We meet at least once over the summer and twice a month during the semester to discuss strategy and problem solving and develop practical in class solutions to the mixed writing class. At the end of the semester our findings are documented into a group report that will share best practices, class strategies, and challenges of the mixed classroom.

The Level Playing Field

In order to make both populations understand what they have to offer the other, a level playing field needs to be developed, so both populations can work together and escape the “language barrier.” To create a level playing field, each pairing of NES and ESL classes will create groups of L1 and L2 learners. Ideally the groups should consist of half ESL students and half NES of students. The cluster will search for ways to develop an environment within the mixed classroom that will enhance what L1 and L2 students have to offer one another through meaningful interactions and transfer of linguistic and rhetorical skills. The tasks include peer editing between NES and ESL students, presentations that exploit the resources of the mixed population, and discussion initiatives that promote meaningful interactions.

Classroom Culture

Classroom culture can create misunderstanding and potential obstacles to the interaction of the L1 and L2 learner.  The key to reinforcing the achievement of mediated integration takes some effort in figuring out what the obstacles are and the best way to remove them.  The mediated integration cluster works at providing opportunities for both populations to understand each other better through discussions on classroom culture and cultural approaches to writing arguments. These conversations can demonstrate to both ESL and NES students what the other has to offer within the classroom setting, an understanding vital for the success of any mixed classroom.

Food For Thought_Mediated Integration_Fall 2014 (Instructors: Jason Prentice & Somy Kim)
Students from Mediated Integration course “Food For Thought” Fall 2014 (Instructors: Jason Prentice & Somy Kim)

ESL Specific Training

The mediated integration cluster is in the process of gathering practical in class solutions in the mixed classroom that will benefit both ESL and Non ESL faculty

  • Incorporating context into the content-specific curriculum: vital for L2 student success
  • Peer Review
  • Classroom discussion groups

In addition to collecting material Mediated Integration is also designed to provide training for the Non ESL faculty co-teaching in the cluster. The ESL faculty are asked to share specific ESL strategies within the classroom, as well share grading strategies and commenting practices for the ESL essay. Participating in the Mediated Cluster provides the NES faculty the benefits of working with a trained ESL faculty. The ESL faculty has the benefits of working closer with a colleague and sharing in topics and ideas specific the L1 student.

I used to believe it was only the language barrier that made ESL students apprehensive to integrate with NES students.  However, after teaching three MI courses, I realize the apprehension is not one sided. Classroom culture can also create misunderstanding and potential obstacles to the interaction of the L1 and L2 learner.  The key to reinforcing the achievement of mediated integration takes some effort in figuring out what the obstacles are and the best way to remove them. I have learned that providing opportunities for both populations to have cultural discussions, for example: classroom culture, different cultural approaches to writing arguments, etc., open up a forum for discussion, allowing students to understand each other better. Also, these discussions can demonstrate to both ESL and NES students what the other has to offer within the classroom setting, an understanding vital for the success of any mixed classroom. What I have also learned is that the benefits of co-teaching out-weigh the difficulty. To have the opportunity to share and engage in thoughtful discussion, planning, and reasoning, with our peers creates a closer community within the Writing Program and develops an environment for true collaboration and innovative teaching of writing to all our students.

The Clusters Fall 2015:

Sharing a syllabus and a willingness to experiment with new suggestions and ideas could char most faculty members, ESL or Non ESL. By working closely with another faculty member, I have learned the value of exchanging ideas and being exposed to different styles of teaching: a combination beneficial to both populations of students and teachers.  Within co-teaching there is still plenty of room for individual input. Only the texts and meeting times need to be in sync.  When the sections meet separately, different approaches take place within the classroom. The challenge is creating a schedule that allows students to participate equally when the class mixes.  Communication, vital to the success in co- teaching, calls for the ability to express concerns, share ideas, and compromise on realistic goals. The result is creating a community dedicated to improving the quality of teaching instruction for both the L1 and L2 learner and providing a much needed service to the program as a whole.

The Melting Pot: American Immigration

NES: James Pasto

ESL: Sarah Hanselman

American Poetry and Translation

NES: Chris Walsh

ESL:  Kimberly Shuckra-Gomez

 Boston in Film and Literature

NES: Brandy Barents

ESL: Kevin Barents

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