An integrative syllabus for Second Language Acquisition

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An integrative (and interdisciplinary)
syllabus for Second Language
Acquisition (SLA)
Joint Fellows Symposium 2013
Dominik Wolff (IIT Fellow)
Second Language Studies Program
What is SLA?
• Second language acquisition (SLA) is the
study of how second languages are learned
and the factors that influence the process.
• Different approaches: e.g. cognitive, sociocultural
• SLA is not inherently interdisciplinary
although that is sometimes the claim (taking
professors from different department does
not make it interdisciplinary)
The class
• Undergraduate students; mostly Education
majors (some language or TESOL minors);
mostly juniors/seniors
• Future teachers: content or languages (K-12),
some teachers want to teach English abroad
Syllabus: before and after
Motivation for upgrading the syllabus:
• Lack of value for the students (future teachers)
• Although the topic is fundamentally ‘learning’, it
makes SLA look abstract/unique/unrelatable
Goal:
• Integrate knowledge from disciplines and also
from other sources, e.g. the students’ life
experiences
• Connect this knowledge with their future careers
How do we get there?
• Backwards design (Wiggins and McTighe,
2006)
• Usually used for curricular units and not
entire classes or programs (but it works for
me)
Syllabus (OLD)
Materials: mostly SLA readings (articles)
Articles: mostly from a cognitive perspective on SLA (most TAs’ and professors’
preferred area of research)
Assignments: article presentations, quizzes, exams, (reflective) papers
Syllabus (NEW)
Syllabus: Additions/Changes
Assignments:
• Linguistic autobiography
• Comparative case study / L2 learner biographies
Syllabus: Additions/Changes
Materials:
• More variety
• Articles yes, but not only of the academic kind
• Multiple disciplines represented: e.g. psychology, educational
psychology, teacher education
• Selected readings from:
– Atkinson, D. (Ed.). (2011). Alternative approaches to second
language acquisition. London: Routledge.
– Gibbs, R. (1994). The Poetics of Mind: Figurative Thought,
Language, and Understanding. Cambridge: Cambridge University
press.
– Gladwell, M. (2008). Outliers. New York: Little, Brown & Company.
– Kramsch, C. (Ed.). (2002). Language acquisition and language
socialization: Ecological perspectives. London: Continuum.
– Pinker, S. (2007). The Language Instinct: How The Mind Creates
Language. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics.
Previous Syllabus [Schedule]
A work in progress – what’s next?
• Get feedback from my current group of
students about both versions of the syllabus
• Try it out and refine it
• Could be adapted for variety of contexts and
classes (e.g. grad level; undergrad intro to
linguistics)
Special Thanks
Ann Chrapkiewicz
Colleen Tremonte
Lami Fofana-Kamara
Constance Hunt
Michael Macaluso
Linda Racioppi
Samantha Noll
Louise Jezierski
Emily Riley
Paula Winke
Baburhan Uzum

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