ACTFL Meeting (cont’d)

“Best Practices and New Horizons for Teacher Training in Italian,” ACTFL 2009
                                                                                                                                                                                             By Risa Sodi

I applied my CLS Travel Grant towards travel to San Diego for a panel on “Best Practices and New Horizons for Teacher Training in Italian.”  My presentation was part of a joint session organized by Colleen Ryan-Scheutz (Indiana U.) for the American Association of Teachers of Italian (AATI) and the American Association of University Supervisors and Coordinators (AAUSC), in occasion of the 2009 American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) national convention.  Elissa Tognozzi (UCLA) was the third presenter.  The session took place on Saturday, November 21, 2009, at 10:00 a.m.

Each presenter was allotted fifteen minutes, for a total of forty-five minutes for three presentations, leaving fifteen minutes for questions and discussion. 

My presentation emphasized three aspects of the teacher training regime I have put into place in the Italian Department:
I. Pre-Service Apprenticeship Week
II. Pre-Service Intensive Teacher Training Workshop
III. In-Service Team Meetings
Within those general topics, I focused on two elements in particular:
i. Peer-to-peer training and advising during the Pre-Service Apprenticeship Week; and
ii. “Teaching Scenarios” pairs/group troubleshooting exercise I use during the Pre-Service Intensive Teacher Training Workshop.

i. Peer-to-peer training and advising during the Pre-Service Apprenticeship Week

The Apprenticeship Week takes place during the week immediate preceding or following Spring Break and aims at preparing “rising” graduate student teaching assistants for their work as Part-time Acting Instructors the following semester (i.e., the following fall).  Each rising instructor is paired with a veteran instructor, whether current PTAI or Lector/Senior Lector I.  The rising instructor shadows the veteran instructor for the first three days of the week (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday), meeting with the instructor each day after class to discuss the veteran instructor’s lesson plan, classroom management style, methods, and other pertinent issues.  On the fourth day of the week, Thursday, the rising instructor teaches the regularly scheduled lesson with the veteran instructor observing and with benefit of a lesson plan developed together with the veteran instructor.  On the fifth and final day of the week, the rising instructor teaches solo.

The following week, each rising instructor and veteran instructor is called to a joint de-briefing meeting with me based on a survey I give them about their fears, aspirations and actual experiences in the classroom (rising instructors), and their evaluation of the rising instructors (by the veteran instructors).  A lively discussion usually ensues.

The Apprenticeship Week is usually identified by current PTAIs as the most valuable component of their teacher training insofar as it: (1) introduces them to the Yale classroom (in a basic, physical sense); (2) introduces them to Yale undergraduates; (3) gives them a preview of what their teaching experience will be like; and (4) provides a venue for peer-to-peer advising and building peer-to-peer relationships.

ii. “Teaching Scenarios”: A Pairs/Group Troubleshooting Exercise

Used during the Italian Department’s Pre-Service Intensive Teacher Training Workshop (for new and returning instructors), this exercise provides eight fictional profiles of Italian language undergraduate students.  Each profile is a composite of issues, problems, good points and bad points I have encountered in my own teaching career.  Instructors are divided into pairs and are asked to read through all the scenarios and select one to work on as a team.  Each team is given approximately twenty minutes to discuss the “student” in question and then to come up with answers to three questions:
What are the issues?
What are the possible courses of action?
Which is the best course of action, and why?

Each team then reads its scenario aloud and presents its answers to the group.  Invariably, a broad and lively discussion of classroom management, student and teacher psychology, and pedagogy ensues.
I have also used this exercise in the context of the CLS summer teacher training workshop and Graduate Teaching Center workshops.

The other presenters at this ACTFL session on best practices discussed the following topics:
• Colleen Ryan-Scheutz (Indiana U.): “PACE: A Story-based/Guided Participatory Approach to Language Instruction (Donator and Adair-Hauck, 1994)”
• Elissa Tognozzi (UCLA): “A Film Subtitling Project for Intermediate Italian”

Approximately fifty people attended the session, evenly divided between university professors who train graduate student TAs and university/college professors who train undergraduates to become high school language teachers (i.e., for teacher certification).

[ACTFL Session Handout, R. Sodi]

I. Pre-Service Apprenticeship Week
1. Peer-to-peer training and advising
2. The LPD’s supervisory role
3. “Rising” teachers’ expectations and apprehensions
4. What the Apprenticeship Week accomplishes

II. Pre-Service Intensive Teacher Training Workshop
1. Mentoring rising teachers during the workshop: the LPD’s role and “veteran” teachers’ roles
2. “The Teacher’s Handbook” and “Teaching in the Yale Italian Department”: how written guidelines can simplify the LPD’s job, clarify the TA or lector’s job, and help set the bar high
3. Teaching Scenarios: a pairs/group troubleshooting exercise

III. In-Service Team Meetings
1. The purpose of team meetings
2. What can be accomplished and what can be prevented
3. The LPD’s role in advising, regulating and mentoring team members, com-bined with peer-to-mentoring

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