Amy Rossomondo received a BA from the University of Notre Dame, MA from the University of Georgia, and PhD from Indiana University. Before joining the faculty at KU she was a Visiting Professor at Miami University of Ohio. Her principal areas of research are second language acquisition, the intersection of foreign language pedagogy and technology, and foreign language teacher development. Research articles by Professor Rossomondo have appeared in journals such asStudies in Second Language Acquisition and Hispania, and she recently contributed a chapter to the 2011 American Association of University Supervisor and Coordinators (AAUSC) volume, Educating the Future Foreign Language Professoriate for the 21st Century.
In her role as the Director of the Spanish Basic Language Program, Professor Rossomondo has redesigned the curriculum of first and second year Spanish language courses to focus on the development translingual and transcultural competence, as recommended by the MLA 2007 Ad hoc Committee’s Report on Foreign Languages. She created and implemented Project Conexiones, a virtual intercultural exchange between Spanish students at KU and English language students at the University of Costa Rica and in 2007 was chosen as a Mortar Board Outstanding Educator of the Year.
Professor Rossomondo’s current research and pedagogic focus is the Acceso project, an open access, Web-based platform for intermediate-level Spanish study that structures critical exploration of the culturally diverse Spanish-speaking world to promote foreign language development and awareness, critical cultural literacy, and opportunities to relate to and reflect on differing cultural perspectives. Under her leadership, graduate teaching assistants, lecturers, faculty and the staff of the Ermal Garinger Academic Resource Center have collaborated to create this highly interactive digital learning environment, which instantiates a literacy-based approach to foreign language study and fosters a connection between instructors’ research interests and cultural experiences with their classroom teaching to benefit undergraduate education in the Humanities. The open-access platform, which structures and directs student interaction with a complete set of authentic, media-rich materials and broad support for instructors, is currently available at no cost for use at other secondary and post-secondary institutions. Acceso also welcomes collaboration from teaching professionals and graduate students at other institutions who would like to contribute to the project.
Second Language Acquisition, Foreign Language Pedagogy, Applications of Technology to Foreign Language Learning, Foreign Language Teacher Development, Hispanic Sociolinguistics
If you were to ask my students about my approach to classroom teaching, I am confident that they would all agree that I clearly articulate what are exceptionally high expectations for their learning. As their professor, my responsibilities include providing students with an explicit roadmap for success through curricular design that fosters the development of the competencies necessary for achievement of clearly established learning outcomes; inspiring and encouraging them to apply themselves; and providing all of the support that each student needs to learn and develop intellectually within this framework. In order to promote their engagement in this learning process, I design final projects that require students to synthesize and apply the concepts that we explore in class to create a final product for an intended audience other than myself, to serve a purpose beyond earning a course grade (cf. Social pedagogies). These projects structure and promote collaboration among the students so that they learn from and with each other. Indeed, developing the ability to work well with colleagues is an explicit learning outcome for each of my courses, regardless of level, in order to prepare students for successful futures that will not be realized in isolation. A final component of the project involves students reflecting on their own learning so that they are aware of their progress and take pride in their accomplishments.
This approach to classroom instruction is illustrated by the final projects in SPAN 522 (Spanish for Teachers), a course that reinforces Spanish majors’ understanding and use of problematic grammatical structures by studying the psycholinguistic processes involved in their acquisition along with pedagogic strategies for teaching these structures to students of Spanish. Working in teams of four, students choose one of these structures and design Web-based presentations and practice activities to be included as curricular content in Acceso, our open-access curriculum for intermediate-level Spanish study. By working through each of the steps required to successfully complete these projects, the students assimilate and apply the content knowledge about Spanish linguistic structures that they learn throughout the semester, develop the necessary skills to use Web 2.0 tools to present this information, and collaborate to produce a high-quality product that they know will be used by real students to learn Spanish. Finally, the students reflect on the challenges of working on each step of the product and articulate what they learn as a result of realizing it.
In addition to the mentoring relationships that I form with my assigned advisees and with students in my undergraduate courses, an important part of my undergraduate teaching is realized on a large scale through my role as Director of the Spanish Language Program. My goal is to coach students to successfully achieve this curriculum’s established learning outcomes by transparently communicating expectations and responsibilities, explicitly explaining and modeling effective academic practices, and facilitating dialogue between the students and their classroom instructors. This begins with convincing nervous students that they can be successful in courses taught exclusively in Spanish by explaining why we use Spanish in the classroom and how the linguistic skills and content knowledge they will develop by applying themselves will enrich their academic experience and broaden their professional prospects. I do this on an individual basis with students who voice concerns but also reach out to all of the students through formal communications distributed in class and carefully crafted course syllabi. All policies and expectations for student work are clearly established, and their rationales are explained just as clearly. Consistency and fairness among sections and across semesters is a priority, and students are made aware that I methodically collect data related to their performance on key assignments and exams to ensure the validity and reliability of our assessment tools, as well as to promote inter-rater reliability among the many different instructors working within our program. For example, for each section-wide exam (which I write in collaboration with course coordinators), the instructors report their section’s mean, range, and distribution of scores before exams are returned to students. I analyze these results to determine the extent to which the exam was fair and effective and to identify sections with atypical results. In the case of unexpectedly high or low scores, the instructors are asked to review their grading; in many instances outlying scores are due to inadvertent misapplication of rubrics and grading criteria. When results are lower than expected across all sections, I work with the instructors to identify items or sections of the exam that were misleading in order to make appropriate adjustments to the scores.
In order to foster the development of practices that lead to success in our courses, tasks broken into manageable steps are used to structure all student assignments and activities. Additionally, models demonstrating effective student work are provided, and due dates are carefully spaced to allow students to clarify doubts with their instructors before handing in assignments. I have also implemented a system of weekly self-evaluations and reflections with respect to preparedness for and participation in the active learning that takes place each class day in all courses in the language sequence. Each student rates her own performance (with respect to use of Spanish, preparation outside of class and contributions to class activities) at the end of each week and her instructor then provides feedback (agreeing with the student’s self-evaluation or adjusting it up or down) as the next week begins. Students are also asked to reflect in writing on the feedback on assignments that they received from their instructor and any learning challenges related to course content. This weekly dialogue between students and instructors serves to both demystify expectations and to encourage interaction and reflection. These examples demonstrate how my role as director of Spanish language instruction is as much pedagogical as it is administrative, thus allowing me to encourage and facilitate our students’ success as they complete the foundational sequence.
Finally, I believe that careful incorporation of digital resources and tools is integral to successful foreign language teaching and learning in the 21st century. Maximizing the benefits of Web-based resources requires that I as an instructor provide clear instructions and guidance in the use of these technologies and listen carefully to students’ feedback on the resources’ utility and ease of use. My own research and engagement in the field of foreign language learning and technology is a constant reminder of the potential pitfalls of allowing technology use to drive rather than facilitate approaches to teaching and learning. I conclude this statement with an example of how student feedback has resulted in innovation in our approach to implementing Acceso in the classroom: Students consistently reported struggling with seeing text and images projected on a screen from across a classroom during class activities in groups. Our instructors agreed and further noted that because the small groups of students worked through the materials at different rates, we were not maximizing learning during our classroom meetings. In response, I volunteered for the university-wide committee on learning spaces and was able to advocate for the creation of a SCALE-UP style active learning classroom designed specifically to support our students’ study of foundational language and culture. The resulting classroom was featured in the Chancellor’s 2015 report seen here from minute 1:00-1:30: https://chancellor.ku.edu/reports/2015/educate.
- Foreign Language Pedagogy
- Technology Enhanced Language Learning
- Second Language Acquisition
- Applied Hispanic Linguistics
- Technology Enhanced Language Learning
- Second Language Acquisition
- Applied Hispanic Linguistics
- Graduate Teaching Assistant Professionalization
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