Since 2013, I have been primarily teaching online courses in the FLT curriculum. Because I came on board with the MAFLT when it was just beginning to take shape, I have taught nearly every course in the curriculum at least once. As Program Director since 2018, I also supervise all of the FLT instructors and the design and facilitation of all the courses.
FLT Curriculum > Course Descriptions
In the case of each course below, I have designed (and re-designed) the content and online structure of the course based on my own training and experience, contemporary research and writing in the field, and years of reflection on working with the MAFLT’s student population of multilingual working professionals teaching in a wide range of contexts.
These days, I primarily teach:
- FLT 815 Culture (and Intercultural Competence) in Foreign Language Courses
- FLT 817 Foreign Language Program Development and Administration
- FLT 898 Final Portfolio / Comprehensive Exam
I have also taught, and substantially contributed to the current design of the remaining courses listed below. Scroll down to the relevant headings.
Methods of Foreign Language Teaching
Methods of Foreign Language Teaching offers a foundation in approaches, methods, and materials for the teaching of second and foreign languages from the perspectives of second language acquisition (SLA) research. We begin by reviewing the history of language teaching methods and basic concepts pertaining to the field and then focus on specific communicative modes, planning, motivation and strategies, and other pertinent topics. In particular, we focus on implementing communicative and task-based approaches to promoting language skills and language learning strategies. Designed for pre-service and in-service teachers of any language, this course emphasizes the development of effective decision making by constantly drawing connections between theory and practice and encouraging reflection on students’ language learning and teaching experience. The major tasks for this course include writing a critical review of currently available teaching materials and a teaching philosophy, both grounded in current research and practice.
This fully-online course has 7 modules. These modules, consisting of instructor videos, readings, useful links, published videos, and assignments, can be accessed through the course page on Michigan State University’s learning management system, D2L (http://d2l.msu.edu). This course requires online participation, weekly quizzes, four written assignments, and a final exam.
Foreign / Second Language Acquisition
The field of second language acquisition (SLA) seeks to understand and explain the development of proficiency in multiple or additional languages as a cognitive and social process. This course provides an overview of the major concepts, theories, and research methods that have emerged in the forty years or so since SLA began to be identified as a field.
The extensive and widely-varied work of scholars in this field informs the research-based practices to which language teachers aspire in their classrooms. However, the links between the results of research and the “real world” practice of teaching are not always immediately apparent or accessible. Not all SLA scholars believe that language learning really occurs as a result of teaching, and most agree that instruction is not necessary. Certainly other kinds of exposure to language will lead to learning.
However, this course centers around instructed second language acquisition (ISLA), which deals with development of proficiency in a second or foreign language that occurs in a classroom or otherwise as a result of a deliberate effort to manipulate and manage the learning process.
As the author of our main textbook points out, there are two main questions that drive inquiry in this field: “(1) Is instruction beneﬁcial for second language (L2) learning, and (2) if so, How can the effectiveness of instruction be optimized?” (Loewen, 2015, p. 1).
The structure of this course includes twelve content modules divided in to three sections. In the first section, we will begin by learning about the broader scope of different approaches to SLA, from more traditional cognitive approaches to emerging “alternative approaches” (Atkinson, 2011), and where ISLA fits into that spectrum. In the second section, we will focus on ISLA and research that has been conducted in this area. In the third section, we will consider a number of influences other than actual instruction that may impact how languages are learned, including context and learner differences. Along the way, we will discuss how second language learning differs from learning our first languages, what it means to know a language, the roles of input and output in the target language, the influence of interaction with other users, the importance of differences among target languages, sequences in which learning tends to occur, and the impact of social and cultural factors on the language learning process.
In addition to informing you about these theories and issues, this course is intended to strengthen and expand your ability to process the findings of academic research and determine how they should inform your own classroom practices. As an aspiring master teacher, you need to be confident in your ability to draw connections between theory and practice and even to conduct your own investigations. To that end, you will be presenting critiques of published articles to your classmates and designing your own ISLA research project.
Culture (and Intercultural Competence) in FLT
As many scholars in foreign language education and applied linguistics have noted, culture is one of the most widely-used and least agreed-upon concepts in our field. This course is intended to embrace that complexity but also lead toward some clarity in the principles that can guide our pedagogical decisions and practices in regard to teaching culture and intercultural competence. To that end, the course begins with overviews of the many definitions and facets of culture and provides opportunities to reflect on your own understandings of culture. We will then delve into the theoretical underpinnings of culture and intercultural communication. Following that, we will explore frameworks for teaching not only cultural knowledge but also intercultural competence and discuss current national and international standards for teaching culture. Throughout the semester, we will consider the implications of these issues for teaching and assessing culture and intercultural competence in foreign language courses.
The tasks for this course, which parallel the components of Byram and Zarate’s (1997) intercultural competence framework, include reflective tasks, observation tasks, activity design tasks, and an investigative task in which you will use ethnographic interviews to engage with the themes of this course as they relate to specific individuals and contexts.
Language Concepts (and Corpus Analysis) for FLT
The Language Concepts course in the MA in Foreign Language Teaching program aims to provide current and aspiring language teachers with the foundational knowledge of linguistics that is necessary to support planning, instruction, and evaluation in our courses and programs. Many instructors and advanced learners of additional languages are driven by their admiration for linguistic forms, their curiosity about how language represents the world, and their interest in comparing patterns across languages. This course aims to deepen teachers’ knowledge of linguistic forms so that they can be better equipped to describe, promote, and assess learners’ use of those forms. To that end, this course begins like a traditional Introduction to Linguistics course in that it addresses the primary categories of language description: phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. We will also touch on language typology, language variation, and various writing systems. Teacher-learners in this course will also develop skills for investigating language in use through corpus analysis. Corpus-based tools allow us to locate linguistic features in authentic contexts, identify lexicogrammatical patterns, and explore variation among genres and registers.
Given that the aim of this course, like all FLT courses, is to promote excellence in language teaching, we will consistently draw connections from our study of language description to pedagogical practices for teaching pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, and pragmatic competence. Throughout the course, we will emphasize approaches to instruction in linguistic features that are implicit, inductive, learner-centered, and compatible with contemporary communicative methods and standards. As Kumaravadivelu (2001) advocates in Beyond Methods, we will strive to enhance language awareness in order to “activate the learners’ intuitive heuristics, ultimately enhancing their state of readiness to internalize the grammatical system of their L2” (p. 175). Teacher-learners in this course will develop skills and strategies for leading learners through a process of discovery that can improve their language use and enhance their appreciation for languages and linguistics.
This fully-online course includes 12 content modules to be completed each week, each consisting of instructor presentation videos, readings, discussion prompts, exercises, and supplemental materials. This course also involves a series of more extensive assignments in which we will synthesize and apply the course content. These will involve creating visuals and presentations that explain features of our target languages; exploring research that has investigated the learning of grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation in foreign languages; analyzing authentic texts and learner language; and designing instructional materials to develop language awareness. As the semester proceeds, these assignments will be incorporated into a collaborative Language Concepts website that can be shared with language learners and fellow teachers.
Sociolinguistics & Spoken Language
What does it really mean to speak a language fluently? In order to become fully competent in an additional language, learners must not only gain mastery of the grammatical system and vocabulary of the target language but also learn to use the language appropriately and effectively in various contexts and with various people. They must develop communicative competence, which involves mastery of the sociolinguistic, pragmatic, discourse features of the language as well as strategic competence for managing bilingual and multilingual encounters. If we intend to teach language communicatively, then we must understand that language itself is “inseparable from individual identity and social behavior. Not only does language define a community; a community, in turn, defines the forms and uses of language” (Savignon, 2007, p. 217). The field of sociolinguistics explores these forms, uses, and communities. This course, then, seeks to provide current and aspiring language teachers with the tools to understand and address the needs of language learners as they relate to sociolinguistic competence. We will cover language variation and change, the use of language to define individual identities and group membership, and the influence of power and policies on languages themselves and their users. In addition, we will explore the sociolinguistic features of the languages that we teach, develop pedagogical approaches that take these features into account, especially in the teaching of spoken language skills, and consider the impact of policy and power on our learners and their use of the language.
Literacy and Biliteracy
This course takes a broad view of literacy in one’s first language and in second and foreign languages, ranging from the cognitive processes of reading to the roles that reading and writing play in our lives. Topics will include components of literacy skills in multiple languages and writing systems; sociocultural approaches to literacy and literacy practices; ways of analyzing the increasingly wide range of texts that language learners will need to interpret and produce; digital literacies; and specific pedagogical approaches for developing reading and writing in language courses. In addition to reading about and working with important theoretical concepts related to literacy and the pedagogy of reading and writing through discussions and weekly tasks, students will engage in observations of literacy practices, collaborate on the design of activities and lessons, and develop a major writing task for language learners that draws on principles of process writing, peer interaction, corrective feedback, strategies, and assessment.
Reading in a Foreign Language
Reading is one of the most complex tasks that human minds have learned to do over the last several thousand years, and yet we often take it for granted. Learning to read again in an additional language brings us back to the precise and demanding levels of identification and awareness that allow us to decode writing into meaningful text. We can transfer some of our reading skills into the new language, but we must also resist interference and develop new skills. This course covers the processes and pedagogy of reading in second and foreign languages, ranging from the cognitive processes of reading to the roles that literacy plays in our lives. Topics will include components of literacy skills in multiple languages and writing systems; sociocultural approaches to literacy and literacy practices; ways of analyzing the increasingly wide range of texts that language learners will need to interpret and produce; digital literacies; and specific pedagogical approaches for developing reading and other aspects of literacy in language courses. The topics we discuss will be relevant for learners of various target languages, from young beginning readers to highly proficient users of multiple languages. In addition to weekly discussions and tasks, students in this course will design activities and lessons for teaching reading, analyze texts in the target language, critique current research on literacy and biliteracy, and conduct a case study of reading development in language learners.
Reflective Teaching and Teacher Inquiry
This course focuses on reflective teaching and teacher inquiry. Whereas most courses focus on the how and the what of teaching a foreign language, this course focuses on the who – the teacher’s and the learner’s identity, beliefs, values, and roles. To that end, this course brings together, reflective practice, and teacher research. The course readings focus attention on many different aspects of language teaching, and they move from research on teachers to research by teachers. The theory component will cover research and scholarship that brings together identity and learning as well as motivation. The reflective component will provide guidance as teacher-learners build a practice of reflection that can lead to greater confidence, more effective teaching, and better change management. The research component is intended to introduce teacher-learners to theory forms of research that can be and frequently are implemented by teachers in their own classrooms. These approaches seek to decrease the distance between theory and practice, to empower teachers to become researchers in their own right, and to help teachers add to the field’s body of knowledge about teaching and learning in specific contexts and communities.
Mentoring Capstone Experiences
The following courses represent the two capstone experiences in the MAFLT Program. I have mentored close to 40 of these extensive master’s projects. I also regularly oversee the Final Portfolio course, which serves as the comprehensive exam. When I am not teaching the course, I serve as an evaluator.
Experiential Modules in the MAFLT Program function as a capstone assignment that should bring together learning experiences from throughout the MAFLT and advance the teacher-learner’s development toward becoming a master FL teacher. It may be helpful to think of your EM as a kind of practical thesis. Through these projects, teacher-learners should seek out experiences that apply and enhance their their skills and reflect thoroughly on the impact of these experiences. These projects should also lead to the creation of materials, reports, presentations, designs, assessment tools, etc. that can be added to the MAFLT Portfolio as evidence of the teacher-learner’s accomplishments and expertise. Ideally, outcomes of these projects should also be informative and useful to fellow teachers both in and beyond the MAFLT community.
Typically the EM should be completed at the end of the MAFLT Program, after taking at least 6, if not all 8, courses. See comments in the descriptions below regarding courses that you should take prior to starting certain project types. To fulfill the experiential module requirement, teacher-learners may choose to complete one larger EM project for 5 credits or two smaller projects for 2 and 3 credits each. You may also complete one 5-credit project over two semesters. For example, students have completed Action Research projects by enrolling in 3 credits one summer and 2 credits the following summer. Others have combined a 2-credit conference participation project with a 3-credit materials design project. The descriptions below designate whether a given EM type can be considered for 2, 3, or 5 credits.
This is the full list of projects that I developed in 2013 and have updated several times since then. The first two sets of project parameters are provided as examples.
- Action Research Project
- Ethnographic Research Project
- Community Outreach or Service Learning
- Language or Area Studies Immersion
- Practicum in Foreign Language Teaching
- Language Program Administration or Evaluation
- Proficiency-Based Assessment Design or Critique
- Materials or Curriculum Design
- Professional Seminars for Language Teachers
- Conference Participation
- Self-Designed Module
Action Research (5 credits)
An action research (AR) project for the EM will involve “systematic observation and analysis” in your own context “and typically involves developments and interventions… to bring about improvement and change” (Burns, 2009, p. 290). Because AR requires planning and implementation that may need to take place over a number of months, it may be advisable to continue a project that began in FLT 860 or to complete this 5-credit module over two semesters. For example, in the first semester you would work on your literature review, design the methods, and begin collecting data, and in the second semester you would complete your data collection, analyze your data, and write your research paper. FLT 860 Foreign/Second Language Acquisition is considered a prerequisite for this project type.
Description: AR projects involve classroom-based practitioner research. In other words, you will investigate your own teaching practices and students. Noffke and Somekh (2009) state that “action research is a methodology exceptionally well suited to exploring, developing and sustaining change processes both in classrooms and whole organizations such as schools, colleges and university departments of education” (p. 2). You will design and implement an action research project for the target language classroom. After collecting and analyzing your data, you will prepare a research report that follows the established structure and content for research in applied linguistics and education. In order to encourage students to share their results, the project also includes writing (though not necessarily submitting) a proposal to present at a conference of their choice.
Keep in mind that in order to share results beyond the MAFLT students and faculty, you must apply for approval from the MSU Institutional Review Board, which oversees research in order to protect any and all human subjects.
Documentation: Action research proposal including research questions or hypothesis, literature review, context, participants, data collection methods, data analysis, and expected outcomes; research paper including revised sections from the proposal as well as findings, discussion, and action plan; video presentation (narrated slides) suitable for posting online and sharing with peers; conference proposal based on the results; reflective essay.
- Burns, A. (2009). Action research in second language teacher education. In Burns, A. and Richards, J. (Eds.), The Cambridge Guide to Second Language Teacher Education (p. 289-297). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Craig, D. V. (2009). Action research essentials. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
- Noffke, S. E., & Somekh, B. (Eds.). (2009). The SAGE handbook of educational action research. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
Ethnographic Research Project (5 credits)
Whereas the action research project is intended to involve classroom-based research and focus on the effectiveness of instruction, the ethnographic research project is intended to take a more exploratory approach and inform the teaching of intercultural competence. It may take place in a range of contexts, from your local community to a location in another country where you intend to live, travel extensively, or study abroad during the MAFLT Program. FLT 815 Culture in Foreign Language Teaching is considered a prerequisite for this project type.
Description: This project type provides opportunities to investigate aspects of culture and identity relevant to learners of your target language; to develop intercultural awareness and skills in you as a teacher; to engage more deeply with the concepts of culture and intercultural competence; and to develop materials for teaching interculturality that draw upon these aspects, skills, and concepts. Construct a project that involves direct interaction with users of the target language and use ethnographic methods (particularly observation, interviews, and relevant artifacts or materials) to investigate a specific aspect of culture related to those users. Write a paper that reports on this study and its results. Then, create materials based on your findings that will support your (and others’) teaching of culture and intercultural competence. This module is particularly appropriate for those who would like to work on the module while in residence in a country where the target language is spoken, but it can also be completed without leaving the U.S.
Documentation: Ethnographic research proposal, discussed with and approved by the EM mentor; ethnographic research paper; researcher journal (or blog); materials created using insights gained from the study; reflective essay.
Roberts, C., Byram, M., Barro, A., Jordan, S., and Street, B. (2001). Language learners as ethnographers [electronic resource]. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters. (Available through MSU Ebrary site.)
Heath, S. B., Street, B. V, & Mills, M. (2008). On ethnography: approaches to language and literacy research. New York: Teachers College Press.
Purpose and Procedure:
The MAFLT Portfolio is designed to serve two primary purposes. The internal purpose is to demonstrate that you have met the learning objectives of the program. The external purpose is to ensure that you graduate with a coherent, well-presented, detailed collection of evidence that can convey your foreign language teaching experience to stakeholders outside the program, including current and future administrators, prospective employers, academic programs, state boards, and so on. To that end, we ask you to present your materials in two forms:
1. Submit Materials for Review:
The MAFLT Community in D2L has Assignments folders corresponding to all the components of the final portfolio. They are there so that you can begin uploading material to them before the semester you enroll in FLT 898, the comprehensive exam/portfolio course. However, for the purposes of reviewing your final portfolio, you should use Google Drive to store and share materials that are “under construction,” and use your Assignments folder in the FLT 898 course page to submit all of your final drafts for review.
2. Create an Internet-Based Portfolio to Display your Materials Publicly:
All the materials that can and should be shared widely, with colleagues, potential employers, etc., will be compiled in an online format that is easy to share internally and externally. Include all elements of the portfolio as listed below. A “Model” site has been provided via Google Sites, but you may use another platform such as WordPress, Weebly, or D2L’s ePortfolio function. Your faculty mentor can and will provide some guidance on all of these methods, but ultimately you are responsible for your own web design skills and efforts. Designing an online portfolio is another form of evidence of your learning in the MAFLT.