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Promoting diversity and inclusion in an online Spanish course

Buffalo State College


A longstanding challenge in world languages pedagogy centers on the integration of content, communication, and culture learning (Kramsch, 1991; Warford, 2006; Warford & White, 2012). The lack of integration of these essential and interrelated components undermines deeper learning, both in terms of proficiency attainment in a world language as well as with respect to cross-cultural literacies. Given the increasing cultural and commercial connections in this age of globalization, we can ill-afford to stay within the zone of grammar drills and decorative treatment of cultural content, what has been referred to as the “four f’s” of food, folklore, festival, and facts (Kramsch, 1991). While on the surface, this may at worst come across as superficial and innocuous “integration” of target cultures, the ramifications are decidedly more pernicious and insidious, even racist.

Inspired by the Ambassador Model developed by the Department of Modern and Classical Languages at Buffalo State College, and in particular, its emphasis on global citizenship, I developed an online version of the SPA 202: Intermediate Spanish II course that expands on approved student learning outcomes, topics and assessments in ways that promote student’s awareness of underrepresented voices in the Spanish-speaking world. More importantly, in agreement with the ACTFL Global Awareness Standards-driven pedagogical model espoused by MCL, which demonstrates the connectedness of communication, culture and content-oriented learning experiences. I integrated these cross-cultural competencies with proficiency- and literacy-oriented learning experiences.

Regarding the Ambassador Model’s focus on Global Citizenship, the third module in the course, “Historias” (historias meaning both history and stories in Spanish) places the folk stories of Pre-Columbian (Aztec and Inca) and Afrolatino Caribbean (Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic) cultures front and center as a focus for critiquing conquest and colonization, including the exploration of how these stories function as ways to heal cultural traumas. Without detracting from this focus on cross-cultural competencies, experiences are integrated to increase students’ literacy (focusing on basic literary devices such as narrative perspective) and their ability to communicate in the past tense (case studies of preterite vs. imperfect past tense aspect). Students collaborate, filling in missing cells in collaborative Google Docs, such as a cross-text analysis of literary devices and cultural considerations for the analysis of folk stories. Additionally, they contribute excerpts from folk narratives to a googledoc chart that serves as a collection point for case studies of how to decide between using the preterite or imperfect form of past-tense verbs. Past tense aspect is notoriously difficult for many language learners, and the grounding of this grammar learning in authentic cultural content presents an innovative and effective way to promote more effective language acquisition.

Students must not only demonstrate cross-cultural competencies as citizens. Additionally, they need to be Engaged Professionals, using their competencies in Spanish language and cultures to improve the global workplace. To this point, Module 4 (Mundo de Manuales) challenges students to investigate their particular academic and career interests through the prism of Spanish language and cultures. More concretely, they must find and analyze professional guides (manuales) and present relevant points of learning to their peers through a video based on a presentation software platform.

For more on the course model, please consult this brief orientation video:

Additional Metrics:

See attached syllabus for SLOs and assessment rubrics.

For sample Google Doc collaborations, click on:

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