Summer Institute 2001 Report
The National African Language Resource Center (NALRC) recently held its second annual summer institute. The two-week institute lasted from June 25 to July 6, 2001. The NALRC hosted ten fellows during the institute. The Fellows came from nine different Institutions across the United States, Austria (Europe) and Ghana (Africa). There were three Institute leaders from three different Universities in the US.
The field of African language pedagogy is rapidly growing. We have started witnessing increased interest both in the teaching and learning of African language - this is indeed a great breakthrough. However, it poses a great challenge for us to invigorate our "Teach the Teachers" program. One good way of doing this is by training graduate students and teaching assistants who are planning to pursue African language teaching as a profession. This is the goal of the Summer 2001 Institute. It trained fellows in a number of crucial areas central to the effective design and operation of an African Language Program.
The first week of the institute focused on Improving Language Learning through Strategies-Based Instructions. This part of the Institute was led by Susan, J. Weaver from the University of Minnesota. Strategies-Based Instruction (SBI) is a learner-focused approach to teaching that emphasizes both explicit and implicit integration of language learning and use strategies in the language classroom. The approach aims to assist learners in becoming more effective in their efforts to learn and use the target language.
The overall goal of this course was to help provide strategies-based instruction in the foreign/second language classroom. Through a series of lectures, discussions, and hands-on activities, participants received practical training in techniques for: (1) raising their students' awareness of strategies and learning style preferences, (2) introducing and reinforcing systematic strategy use in the language classroom, (3) integrating strategies-based activities into daily lesson plans, and (4) facilitating discussions of strategy effectiveness. During the course, fellows were asked to use their own language learning and teaching experiences to understand the concepts being presented. A Resource Handbook is currently being developed. The Resource Handbook is a compilation of materials to be submitted by the course participants. The purpose is to allow for personal reflection on strategy issues and to provide an opportunity for people to share teaching/learning ideas and materials. It will consist of journal entries, sample activities, and abstracts (summaries) of the course papers. Also, during the course, all the participants were encouraged to keep personal journal throughout the course to track their reactions to the course and their progress toward understanding how to apply strategies-based instruction in their own teaching contexts. Journal entries address reactions to the material presented in the course, teaching/learning insights or experiences, reflections on philosophical/methodological issues, and/or how the fellows intend to apply SBI in the language classroom. During the course, participants practiced creating strategies-based activities with their own teaching materials. They received suggestions and feedback from other course participants as they learn how to apply SBI into their everyday class activities. In all, participants learned how students' styles, strategies and motivations contribute to language learning, they also explored the possible interconnections among tasks, styles and strategies and learn how to plan and conduct Strategies Based Instruction (SBI).
In the second week, Professor Lioba Moshi from the University of Georgia at Athens and Professor Charles James from the University of Wisconsin-Madison led the Institute on African Language Classroom Management . They took the fellows on several interesting aspects of effective classroom management. This involves: teaching methodology, deciding what you want to accomplish by establishing goals and identifying both content and non-content goals, structuring the course, setting course policies, handling administrative tasks, creating a syllabus, content and context, creating a positive classroom environment and setting course expectations and standards. The participants had a microteaching demonstration towards the end of the course. A very interesting part of this institute was the discussion on "The Teacher - The Mission - The Task". The focus was on several factors militating against effective teaching of African Language and how they can be resolved. The guidelines from all sections of the institute will be published and disseminated by the NALRC.
The institute culminated in an awards ceremony and dinner on Friday, July 6, 2001. Short speeches were given by Antonia Schleicher, Director of the NALRC, Professor Magdalena Hauner, the Chair of the Department of African Languages and Literature, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Professor Gil Morahg, former president of the National Council of Organizations of Less Commonly Taught Languages (NCOLCTL) and Professor Lioba Moshi, Director of African Studies program at the University of Georgia at Athens. Certificates were presented to: Akinloye Ojo (University of Georgia-Athens), Zoliswa Olga Mali (University of Iowa) , John Njue (University of Iowa), Memmuna Sillah (Virginia Commonwealth University), Mamery Traore (University of Graz, Austria), Richard Wafula (Indiana University), Emmanuel Akolgo (Atebubu Training College, Ghana), Joachim Sekyi-Achenie (Swedru Secondary School, Ghana), Christina Henaku (Accra Training College, Ghana) and Shiferaw T. Feleke (University of Florida- Gainesville).
With the tremendous success of our Summer 2001 Institutes, we are sure that the field of African Language pedagogy will benefit from the expertise of the institute participants.