Organizer: Luna Nájera​​​​​​​
This panel offers insights and proposals to invigorate the persistence of language and culture programs during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. As classroom instruction has shifted to hybrid and remote instruction, language programs have been undergoing immense pressures to adapt, rethink, and transform existing pedagogical and curricular paradigms. Such changes have raised larger questions about the place of the humanities, and specifically language and culture programs, in the university and multiple other communities.  
Working with the premise that challenges offer opportunities for growth, the speakers in this panel offer diverse perspectives on the persistence of language and culture programs. Speaking from an instructional perspective, Luna Nájera (Spanish) and Angela Lee-Smith (Korean) describe pedagogical practices they have devised for teaching in the remote setting and which have successfully responded to the needs of 21st century learners. Following a brief discussion of some limitations of twentieth-century paradigms for language teaching, Nájera proposes a language teaching assemblage that builds on insights from instructional design and multiliteracies approaches. Nájera’s presentation engages with the theme of the panel by proposing that the creation of more fluid and interdisciplinary language teaching paradigms can fulfill two goals: (1) meeting the challenges posed by remote teaching and (2) responding to the call in the 2007 MLA report on “Foreign Languages and Higher Education” for dissolving the division between language and content courses in two-tier language curricula.
Drawing on the practice of using Digital Portfolios as assessment tools by distance education practitioners, Lee-Smith shows how Second Language (L2) instructors can closely monitor their students’ progress in learning specific target language forms and features and use them in real-world communications in various modes by incorporating standard and performance-based audio-visual portfolios into their teaching practices. Lee-Smith’s presentation demonstrates how instructional adaptations in the remote teaching setting can ultimately transform language assessment in a post-COVID setting in ways that can enrich and strengthen that essential component of language programs.
Speaking from the standpoints of (former) department chair and language program director respectively, Megan Ferry (Chinese) and Ame Cividanes (Spanish) identify some of the pressure points with which language programs are grappling at an institutional scale. Both speakers identify areas of growth for carving out a sustainable future for language and culture studies. After presenting a snapshot of where language programs and departments stand now in this COVID moment, Ferry considers how department and program leaders can take advantage of this moment to rethink our professional expertise in active learning pedagogies to strengthen our presence in higher education. Ferry’s proposal involves conceptualizing and designing language programs that provide better pedagogical training of language and culture teachers at all levels, build out the K-16 relationship, engage with social justice through access and inclusion, embrace multilingualism, and cultivate transcultural competency.
In her role as language program director and Chair of the Contingency Planning Task Force for Language and Writing courses at the collegiate level, Cividanes addresses the impact of COVID on institutional curricular models. This is followed by a discussion of how the “academic shake up” brought on by the pandemic has produced new paradigms and ways of interacting with students that, while challenging and stressful, have offered new opportunities for reflection, movement, and change. Some of those changes, Cividanes will show, have entailed finding ways of bridging generational technological divides and rethinking how learners and educators can discover, apply knowledge, and use the online space in real task and multimodal exchanges and interactions.
Given the novelty of the transition to remote teaching at a massive scale that occurred throughout academia in mid-March of 2020, there is little scholarship on the subject of this panel. Although since the middle of March language textbook publishers and academic societies have offered multiple workshops and resources for transitioning to remote teaching, their focus has (understandably) remained limited to the sharing of immediate teaching tips and strategies. Thus, there is an urgent need for initiating conversations among teaching practitioners, language program leaders, and department heads about the opportunities for strengthening language programs capable of persisting in the face of our current material, political, and economic challenges.
The four speakers who comprise this panel will speak for 12-15 minutes each, thus allowing for a 15-minute Q&A period.
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