The Power of Collaboration: Learning Language and Culture by Teaching
Keywords:Collaboration, ESL College Student, academic language, intercultural competence
The purpose of this research is to present a means for ESL students in higher education to apply their academic knowledge and language (Cummins, 1981) to increase their local knowledge of school culture and intercultural competence (Neuliep, 2017) by working with teachers and students in a local K-12 school community. This was accomplished through a co-teaching K-12 program sponsored by a large public university that provides international college students of any major an opportunity to have a cultural and language learning experience through student teaching in a public middle school. The researcher, an ESL graduate student, along with a fellow ESL graduate student teacher pursuing a degree in food science, was partnered with two middle school teachers, observed an ESL and a science classroom, co-designed new lesson plans, and co-taught a full day of lessons weekly over one semester. Throughout the practicum, the participant researcher wrote weekly journals and reflections and attended workshops. At the end of the semester, the middle school students (n=140) completed a short questionnaire regarding their experience working with the international student teachers. The survey results indicate that the middle school students, including 40 ESL students, valued the experience of working with culturally diverse teachers. In addition, the experience benefited local teachers, as the ESL college students were able to provide linguistic, sensory, cultural, and interactive supports for content matter (Gibbons, 2014), along with innovative ideas and resources funded by grants. In the meantime, the ESL graduate students had an immersive learning experience on communicating more effectively in a school setting, both academically and interculturally. In conclusion, this collaboration program benefits ESL college students by developing their language proficiency, broadening their cultural perspective, and achieving their educational goals.
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