Congratulations to Alyeh Mehin and Bruna Sommer, the first fellowship recipients in the new CERCLL Graduate Fellows program!

The program is a one-semester professional development opportunity for foreign language GATs at the University of Arizona, that is intended to support work on projects related to CERCLL’s mission as a national language resource center. A public presentation and online resource will be available from each fellow, following the completion of their projects. Alyeh Mehin and Bruna Sommer will be Fellows for the Fall 2019 semester; abstracts for their projects follow.

Alyeh Mehin, PhD Candidate in Middle East and North African Studies, Second Language Acquisition and Teaching, and Anthropology

Teaching Culture in Persian Language Classrooms: Material Design

Through this project, I aim to construct lessons for Persian language classes in three Intermediate sublevels in line with ACTFL standards, to address ‘everyday culture’ in contemporary Iran. I propose materials designed culturally critically to deal with multiplicity of practices of Persian culture. The existing materials that deal with teaching culture are limited: they usually only introduce reflections of ‘high culture’ (Byram, 1994: 27; Brown, 2015: 19) like poetry, fine arts, etc. and ignore the ‘everyday culture’ their beliefs, assumptions, and attitudes. For instance, they choose artistic expressions and literary styles as manifestations of culture, or introduce a location in uptown Tehran as context of an event. Another example is presenting cafe music of the 1980s in Tehran as pop music, preconceiving culture as an unchanging and homogeneous system of rules, as the received view of culture (Atkinson, 1999: 626). Presenting everyday culture with its multiplicities and variations helps develop awareness of what Persian is/isn’t and what Iranians do/do not do in their daily lives. Cultural awareness will influence attitudes underlying motivations in continuing learning (Dörnyei and Ushioda, 2013; Gardner, 2004) of our non-heritage learners of Persian, addressing exoticism, orientalism and othering as well as a ‘peace making’ tool in the international affairs context (Aruni and Sjraydi, 2001). In the three years I taught intermediate Persian with School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies at the University of Arizona, I have designed materials for project teaching with such themes as sports, lifestyle, food, physiology, the 1979 Revolution, myths and epics, rituals, love and relationships, marriage, etc. depending on needs and interests of the learners. I would like to use the opportunity of this fellowship to streamline these materials into more coherent project-based modules. I aim to develop task-based materials to match ACTFL standards for the three sublevels of the Intermediate with the supervision of the CERCLL team. I propose project teaching in the form of modules, each including lessons with meaningful task-based exercises with authentic materials in a range of themes, with task-based and meaningful use of language. Each module includes lessons which start with presenting a mainstream and official idea of the theme, followed by lessons that engage in alternative ideas and presentations, and tasks that present Iranians’ critiques on the official and alternative practices. At the end of each module, lessons include tasks that call for learners’ ideas about each aspect of the practices and engage them throughout.


Bruna Sommer, Candidate in the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Program in Second Language Acquisition and Teaching

Materials to Develop Genre Awareness in Foreign Language Classes

Supporting genre awareness often encompasses fostering rhetorical flexibility (Johns, 2008, 2015), which promotes the adaptation of genre knowledge to different contexts. Such a support can be built up through rhetorical-consciousness raising tasks guided by discovery-based (Cheng, 2018) and examine-and-report-back (Swales & Feak, 2004) approaches. While providing instructors with high-quality materials designed under these approaches facilitates instruction delivery, the pedagogical practices that support task implementation are not intuitive, thus requiring teacher preparation to understand concepts, methods, and how one affords the other. For this reason, this project aims to review and improve previously developed materials that foster metacognitive genre awareness implemented in the course PORT 425 (Advanced Grammar, Composition and Writing Skills) in the University of Arizona for seven semesters. In order to contribute to the curricular progression improvement in the UA Portuguese program, one additional lesson will be created under the same approach to be part of the PORT 325 course, Intermediate Grammar and Conversation, which comes right before PORT 425 in the curricular sequence. Since PORT 325 is a conversation course planned around the theme of art, this lesson will be designed following both a genre-based approach and principles of the Foreign Languages and the Literary In The Everyday (FLITTE) project. Creating materials for both courses (PORT 325 and 425) contributes to bridge the prevailing language and literature divide in foreign language programming and textbooks. In addition, this lesson can later be added to the number of resources in Portuguese provided by COERLL and CERCLL through FLITTE’s website. Drawing from the dissertation research conducted by the applicant, the project seeks to support the implementation of genre-based tasks by other instructors in the same institution, thus solidifying the approach inside the UA Portuguese program at the same time it also provides materials to inspire programs in other institutions. To do so, this project is three-fold: 1) revise and improve the materials previously implemented in light of the dissertation results, 2) prepare a teacher’s guide to support future instructors’ practice, and 3) create two webinars to explain genre-based teaching principles, and to illustrate how to implement one of the genre-based lessons. Ultimately, at the same time the project seeks to contribute to enhancing the number of pedagogical resources available for less commonly taught languages (LCTLs), in this case, Portuguese, it aims to provide materials as means for professional development. This initiative also works as a supporting measure to tackle the decrease in enrollment in Portuguese in the US (-20%) (Looney & Lusin, 2018) through strengthening research on LCTLs’ materials and instruction delivery.