BLC Travel Grant Report

I have been participating in the Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association’s annual conference for several years now. As a Senior Lecturer, I do not have the same privileges as Senate Faculty in terms of available departmental funding for travel. I must look for funding elsewhere and/or pay for it myself. Consequently, I choose my conferences very carefully and attend the ones where I would learn and benefit the most from presenting papers, attending sessions, and engaging in productive conversations about teaching and literature with colleagues from across the nation. The Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association’s annual meeting is such a conference. It is comprised of many different sessions both on theory and practicum and provides the opportunity for brainstorming and exchanging of best practices. Although there are language and specialty-specific sessions, it has a wide scope and includes sessions on American, British, Canadian, and foreign languages and literatures. Consequently, it provides an opportunity to speak to and learn from pedagogues outside of one’s field. The French language is well represented by allied MLA organizations such as Women in French and Conseil international d’études francophones.

Without exception, every year, I come away from this conference reinvigorated and stimulated to pursue research in general scholarship in Applied Linguistic and Second Language Acquisition pedagogy. The benefit of what I experience and learn in the conference is far-reaching for it applies not only to my own professional development but also to the improvement of our lower division program and our students in general. It enhances our efforts to continue to strive to deliver excellent instruction to our students despite the budgetary constraints.

This year, I presented a paper on Simone de Beauvoir and attended many interesting sessions. It is difficult to choose one particular section among the many thought-provoking sessions I attended on literature, linguistics, and pedagogy. In pedagogy in particular, there were several sessions on practical approaches to teaching language, literature, and film. In the field of literature, I particularly enjoyed the session by the Francophone writer, Kebir Ammi, who read from his latest novels and fielded questions about the process of creative writing in general and linguistic considerations in particular. I also attended an inspiring presentation on student electronic portfolios. A colleague from the Modern Languages Department at Saint Mary’s College in Moraga explained how she created a capstone exit project required of her students of Italian (1). She decided that the best and most interesting format for her “Facebook-era” students would be electronic portfolios. With her guidance, her students developed excellent multimedia portfolios in Italian reflecting the student learning outcomes and final pre-graduation assessment of their linguistic and cultural proficiency. Attending this particular session made me ponder on whether such a capstone project could be developed across our language departments here. Of course, in smaller colleges such as St. Mary’s, it is much easier to track students’ progress throughout their undergraduate language studies. Although excellent research on teaching and student portfolios has been conducted individually in some language departments here at Berkeley, it would be interesting to explore the challenges involved in instituting a capstone project on a large scale.

I am grateful to the Berkeley Language Center for providing lecturers with opportunities for professional development and conference attendance through the travel grants.

1. Maria Grazia De Angelis Nelson, Saint Mary’s College of California. Using Electronic Portfolios to Enhance Language Curriculum. Second Language Acquisition Online: Possibilities and Challenges. 64th Annual Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association Convention, Albuquerque, NM, October 14-16, 2010.

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