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International English Center University of Colorado

Fall 2016



“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

Reaching new heights in ESL

~Soren Kierkegaard

Reflection By Editor, Amanda McCracken

Thank you to all journal contributors! ~Amanda McCracken,

We reflect on the past to avoid making the same mistakes in and to improve upon the future. Our students reflect our pronunciation, mannerisms, and our grammar. We are encouraged to remember that in the community we are a reflection on the university. Reflections are all around us, but they take time to make. Often we teach the difference between hearing and listening, but how often do we teach reflective listening skills in the classroom? A Taiwanese student told me in the first class I taught at the IEC, “Amanda, I usually know the answer, but you don’t leave me enough time to respond.” He was right, silence during class discussion made me anxious—like my job as the teacher was to keep the energy moving forward. Parmelee’s article, “Reflective Listening,” highlights how important it is that we as teachers model reflective listening in both the questions we ask and the time we offer for students to respond to those questions.

Editor INSIDE THIS ISSUE 1: Reflection: Editor’s Prelude 3: Critical Reflection as a Tool to Engage Leaners 6: Faculty Spotlight: Larry Fisher 8: Reflecting on Reflective Listening 9: Lessons Learned from an Online Writing Course

Kirsten, Nick and Olivia reflect upon the IEC’s first fully online course, “Technology Writing for Engineers,” they developed and ran this past summer for incoming engineers. In their article “Lessons Learned from an Online Writing Course,” they look at the students’ responses to the course, challenges they faced, and ways they would improve it in the future. Just as it’s important for teachers and administrators to reflect on newly developed courses and programs, students’ learning deepens when they reflect on their projects and per1

formance. In her article, “Critical Reflection as a Tool to Engage Learners,” Barbara Flocke looks at ways we already use critical reflection in the IEC classroom and offers suggestions to incorporate reflective activities in the classroom. As teachers, how often are we too rushed fulfilling classroom objectives to remember that learning is occurring outside the classroom as well? When I reflect on my own experience learning a language abroad in Strasbourg, France, I don’t recall the moment I started accurately using the subjunctive tense in French. I remember the people at the crepe stand and markets I frequented. I remember the bike path I ran, the dinner at my professor’s house, and first time I hitchhiked.

When I visit friends in other countries I first met as their teacher at the IEC, I am a place and time. I am nostalgia. I am a piece of themselves they thought they’d left behind. I am the family they made when far away from their loved ones, a hike in the Flatirons, and the Chinook winds. I am (un)fulfilled hopes, a Vail ski-run, and an American auntie their kids may someday visit while at a summer camp in the Rockies. I am the feeling of freedom to be someone else and do something else outside of their routine in their own countries. For me, this sort of reflection reminds me why we teach, what we mean to our students, and what the context is in which they are learning.

Former IEC student and CU Master’s student Roberta Restaino reflecting on her thesis printmaking and ceramic project “Other Worldly Nature” with Barbara and Frank Flocke on 11/4/16 2

Critical Reflection as a Tool to Engage Learners By Barbara Flocke

In their article “Generating, Deepening & Documenting Learning: The Power of Critical Reflection in Applied Learning,” Sarah L. Ash and Patti H. Clayton write about the importance of critical reflection in demonstrating a student’s learning. When students think critically and write or speak about a course activity that they have participated in, the students’ learning “deepens.” The authors explain that before creating a student reflection activity, it is important to decide what student learning outcomes and objectives should be demonstrated. Knowing these goals can help guide the teacher when creating critical reflection assignments. Using Bloom’s Taxonomy for a range of higher level critical thinking questions can also help students increase their awareness and understanding of the topic (Ash, Clayton, 2009). At the International English Center, students participate in a wide range of experiential learning, service learning and volunteering activities in their core, elective and University Prep classes. Creating a follow-up lesson to these activities that guides students in reflecting on their experiences is essential. Our student learning outcomes and class objectives can be easily applied when creating critical reflection assignments. Additionally, there are many online resources that can help teachers and students use Bloom’s Taxonomy to create questions which focus on higher levels of thinking. The highest level of thinking in the original Bloom’s Taxonomy is “Evaluation” (Bloom, 1959). Students could be asked to evaluate the importance of an activity and defend their opinion with evidence. In the upper level University Prep classes, students regularly have guest speakers, visit on campus, and learn about campus resources. For these activities, students often do reflection assignments to think more deeply about the information they have learned. One learning objective is for students to write responses to short-answer questions by restating the prompt in their thesis and then writing a thorough explanation with examples. Too often students write answers with very little detail or analysis of the topic. In order to help with this issue, students study techniques for writing answers clearly and are graded with a rubric that requires student to restate the prompt, write content with comprehensive explanation, and use correct levelappropriate grammar and word choice. Another example of using class objectives for reflection is in the Intermediate 3 Listening/Speaking class in which students are expected to think critically about topics, demonstrate clear pronunciation and do impromptu speeches. As a critical reflection activity, students participating in the homeless shelter project are given a prompt question and perform an impromptu speech reflecting on the prompt. Classmates in the audience ask the presenters questions to help them give more details about their oral reflection.


The following are a variety of ways in which I like to incorporate reflection into my class. In all cases listed, teachers and/or students write prompts to guide student reflection. Bloom’s Taxonomy can be used to help in writing critical thinking questions. Reflection prompt questions include what did you learn; how did you learn it; why is it important; and how will you apply what you learned? 1. Students write a reflection paragraph responding to question prompts. 2. Students keep a reflection journal on a long term project using standard questions as a prompt. They write regularly in their journal commenting less formally on observations they have made. 3. Students use the discussion board on D2L, their class management system, to share ideas about an activity. The teacher provides initial prompts and students write a reflection for their group to read. Group members respond to each other with thoughtful comments and their own questions using upper levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. 4. Students record an audio reflection using prompts as a guide. This can be an impromptu recording done as a class in the computer lab or with phones. It can also be a prepared speech recorded as homework. 5. Students blindly choose a question prompt about an activity out of an envelope and perform a short impromptu speech for the class. 6. Multiple students record a video of themselves discussing an activity using prompts to guide them. 7. Students draw a quick sketch that represents one person, object or action from the activity. Students walk around discussing their sketch and explaining what it means to them. Partners ask questions to further discussion. The teacher can write prompts on the board to guide students in their explanation and questioning.

Barbara’s sculpture “I See You”

8. Students find one image or multiple images to represent their impression of the activity. Students present their images to the class and discuss how the images relate to their experience. For example, after attending a university lecture, a student might choose an image of friends because of his/her observations of how the students interacted in the university class discussion.

The following table was compiled by Ash and Clayton (2009) about reflection. The table is a useful summary for teachers to review when creating critical reflection assignments.


Table 4: Characteristics of High Quality Reflection High Quality Reflection ... Eyler et al.

is continuous (ongoing)


is connected (with assignments and activities related to and building on one another and including explicit integration with learning goals and academic material) is challenging (including in terms of the expectation that students take responsibility for their own learning)

Bringle & Hatcher (1999)

is contextualized (to the community setting and broader public issues and to the students’ own particular roles links experience to learning is guided occurs regularly involves feedback to the learner to enhance the learning

Zlotkowski & Clayton (2005)

helps clarify values is oriented toward specific learning objectives is integrative is assessed in terms of critical thinking includes goal setting generates change in the learner’s life


Ash, S. & Clayton P. (Fall 2009). Generating, deepening & documenting learning: The power of critical reflection in applied learning. Journal of Applied Learning in Higher Education, 1. Retrieved from Bloom, B. S. (Ed.). (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives, handbook I: Cognitive domain. New York, NY: David McKay Company. Bringle, R. G., & Hatcher, J. A. (1999). Reflection in service-learning: Making meaning of experience. Educational Horizons, 7(4), 179-185. Eyler, J., Giles, D. E., & Schmiede, A. (1996). A practitioner’s guide to reflection in service learning. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University.
 Zlotkowski, E., & Clayton, P. (2005, April). Reclaiming reflection. Paper presented at the meeting of the Gulf South Summit on Service-Learning and Civic Engagement, Cocoa Beach, FL.


Faculty Spotlight Larry Fisher Reflects This journal’s faculty spotlight features our resident historian, Larry Fisher. Who better to interview than someone who has done a lot of reflection during his almost 40 years at the IEC? AM: What did you want to be when you were little?

In the 1940s , like other kids, I probably wanted to be a fireman. AM: Where did you go to high school? College? I grew up in downtown Seattle, attended an inner-city high school, and attended both the University of Washington (chemical engineering) and Seattle Pacific University (English literature). Larry teaching in Gaziantep, Turkey in 1962

AM: What in the field of linguistics gets you excited? In the 1960s I taught ESL at Robert College Istanbul with materials heavily influenced by the linguistic methodologies of the day. Speaking was king! And linguistics informed our understanding of all those sounds. I became quite proficient at transcribing English pronunciation for the benefit of my Turkish students. AM: Do you have a favorite linguistic/language/play on words joke? I have been intrigued how drastic reductions/contractions in English can still be understood. For example, /jeejet/ can be understood as “Did you eat yet?” At the University of Michigan, students in my linguistic class used to laugh at these brief but understandable utterances.


AM: How did you get into teaching ESL? ESL found me, I didn’t find ESL. In 1962 President Kennedy created the Peace Corps, and I jumped at the opportunity to teach overseas. Liberal arts grads either taught English or did community development. After a 3-month crash course in the ESL pedagogy of the day, I ended up in a Turkish high school equipped only with mim -mem oral-aural. I was frequently disciplined by the principal for having noisy classes. AM: Where have you taught abroad? Most fascinating place/time period? The 10 years I taught in Turkey were traumatic times. Political upheaval resulted in anti-American marches, house-to-house searches, marshal law, and forced blackouts. There was fear that Greece would bomb Istanbul. We ex-pats used every event as an excuse to party. AM: How many years have you been teaching/working at the IEC? When I came back from Turkey in 1974, I taught in a special Continuing Ed summer program for Japanese students. I then joined an effort to create an IEP at CU, resulting in the formation of the IEC in 1976. I began teaching at the IEC in 1978 and have remained a part of the organization until today. AM: What is the greatest change you've seen in the student body population? Like all IEPs, our student population has varied in numbers and demographics affected by financial crises, war, and revolution. Before the 1978 Khomeini revolution, we had many Iranian students. Before the 1997 Asian financial crises, we had many Korean telecom students. The Korean students got instructions on a Friday to come home immediately and left early Saturday morning. After 9/11 our enrollment dropped dramatically. We went to 4 levels and part-time teaching for everyone. AM: What is the greatest change you've seen in our relationship with CU? The relationship with CU has never been better. Teachers today benefit from the many employment improvements achieved over the years. In the early days the IEC was an orphan with no reliable home, sometimes a part of CE and sometimes in other departments. At one time we were just below UMC catering on the flow chart. CU would not allow the IEC to hire “instructors” because ESL was considered remedial. For ten years teachers had the status of “part-time temporary honorarium” until CU realized that temporary could not last 10 years. Because of our status, we were told that the university couldn’t pay into social security for 10 years. It’s gratifying now to see how CU recognizes the important contribution the IEC and its team can make to international diversity on campus.


Reflecting on Reflective Listening By Parmelee Welsh Some statements are so filled with emotion or possible ambiguity, that the best way to respond is to practice reflective listening (or active listening) by stating back what the listener heard the speaker say. Imagine a conversation between two friends on the topic of childcare in a family setting. “I get furious with him when he says things that suggest that I don’t take good care of the kids.” A reflective listening response would counter, “What I think I hear you saying is that you feel furious when he implies that you’re not a good caregiver for your kids” (“Reflective Listening Skills, n.d.). We teach students listening skills, so as teachers, refining our listening skills can have multiple benefits for us and for our students. Listening skills in an interactive classroom can enhance effective communication. So often teachers concentrate on their presentation and questioning techniques, but overlook their own listening skills. Tony Lynch (1990), a professor at the University of Edinburgh, states, “Interacting is more than taking turns to speak. It requires attention to what the other people are saying.” One key component to reflecting on what students say is wait time. Leaving time to listen to students is a simple step towards reflection. “Some instructors bombard the class with questions—they ask too many questions too quickly—and when the students cannot respond promptly, they provide the answers themselves.” Sometimes rushed questions come from a lack of time or a desire to clarify, but most often from the uncomfortable feeling of silence. Silence, an effective, expectant listening, gives the students time themselves to reflect for a few seconds, and encourages longer, more appropriate and more analytical responses from the students. “When teachers wait for 3 seconds or more, there are profound changes in student use of language and logic and student and teacher attitudes and expectations” (Williams, 2001). Another way to listen reflectively is for teachers to consider their responses to the students’ comments. Teachers often respond with the perfunctory “good,” yet “good” may be a response to the grammar or the content or just the fact that the student said something. A disturbing example of not actively listening is described by Thompson in her article, “Training Teachers to Ask Questions.” In a classroom practicing the vocabulary of jobs, the teacher asked a student, “What does your father do?” The student replied, “My father dead.” In continuing the practice exercise, the teacher responded, “Good/and what about your father” (Thompson, p. 104). Lack of really listening to the students’ responses can communicate an authoritative and disinterested tone in the classroom instead of an authentic interaction that reflects ideas back and forth. 8

Finally, reflectively listening to students can involve eliciting students’ questions and listening to their level of comprehension. By re-stating and summarizing, we can reflect back key information in the classroom. Often we ask for questions to check for comprehension. How often do I say, “Any questions?’ What grammar am I modeling for the students? Am I really eliciting questions or just using the phrase as a discourse marker before I move on? Pica suggests phrasing a question to check comprehension more safely so that students can save face. By alluding to the difficulty of the subject matter, the teacher can create a safe environment for questions. A more expectant, “So what about asking some questions on that difficult topic?” implies that the teacher will wait for questions and is genuinely interested in understanding the students’ ideas (Pica, p. 42). Reflective listening allows time for a full response, is modeled by the teacher, and genuinely elicits questions. When we as teachers actively reflect on our listening skills, we can encourage more authentic and active communication.

References Lynch, T. (1996). Communication in the Language Classroom. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. Pica, T., & Barnes, G. A. (1990). Teaching matters: skills and strategies for international teaching assistants. N.p.: Heinle & Heinle. Reflective Listening Skills. (n.d.). Retrieved from: file=28907-2-36000-ReflectiveListeningSkills.pdf&filename=ReflectiveListeningSkills.pdf Thompson, G. (1997, April). Training teachers to ask questions. ELT Journal, 51, 2. Williams, J. A. (2001, May). Classroom conversations: Opportunities to learn for ESL students in mainstream classrooms [Electronic version]. The Reading Teacher.

Lessons Learned from an Online Writing Course By Kirsten Stauffer, Nick Einterz, and Olivia Livneh During Summer Session 2016, Nick Einterz, Olivia Livneh, and Kirsten Stauffer launched the IEC’s first fully online course, Technical Writing for Engineers. The course offers incoming international graduate students to CU Boulder’s Interdisciplinary Telecom Program (ITP) and Engineering Management Program (EMP) a fourweek writing skills and grammar course before their arrival in Boulder. While the team was able to develop content based on known needs and skill gaps present in this international student population, online courses present challenges that do not exist in the face-to-face classroom. In addition to collaborating on course material, the team took a preemptive approach to mitigate issues common with online courses: time, space, technology, motivation, interaction, and participant retention.


Time This 35-contact hour course needed to operate asynchronously within each week. While most participants in this global cohort were located in India, Mountain Daylight Time established an official course time to release new content and standardize deadlines. Course material consisted of scaffoled weekly modules addressing specific writing skills and grammar points with relevant assignments. The schedule enabled students to view interactive video lectures and complete quizzes, discussion boards, and written assignments within the week. This structure also allowed the team to provide individual feedback in a timely manner. Space

Distance learning offers a learning opportunity not limited by the walls of a traditional face-to-classroom; however, an online course still needs to provide a learning pace and community. As D2L served as the learning environment, the team customized a D2L page to engage students within a consistent framework to present a cohesive appearance to the course materials and to make the site user friendly. Interactive video lectures, handouts, reference links, and supplementary videos provided additional support. Students were given the opportunity to practice the concepts presented in the lectures and handouts in a variety of ways. Technology Issues The team anticipated technological challenges and incorporated solutions into the course design. It was important to create an organized and consistent structure for students to interact and complete assignments. In addition to developing new content for a digital audience, the materials needed to be tested for accessibility (for various learning needs/disabilities and internet speeds). Before beginning, students completed an interactive video with short assignments to become familiar with the layout and features of D2L. Additionally, the team had a new email address that was checked frequently to troubleshoot issues as they arose. Overall, the foresight for safeguards helped the course run smoothly. Motivation and Interaction ITP and EMP offered this as an optional and free course, and participants knew their grades would be reported back to the appropriate department. Consequently, students were initially internally motivated to participate. The team utilized the discussion boards to garner external motivation. Interacting on the discussion boards served as a place for students and instructors to interact and as a forum to practice writing and grammar concepts. At the beginning of the course, the discussion boards served as a way for students to “meet� and get to know each other. Within a few threads, students were making plans to get together, go hiking, and form study groups before even arriving in Boulder. Additionally, students also provided thoughtful and constructive comments to writing skills and grammar discussion boards. For examples, students suggested alternative word choices or corrections. As instructors, the team was able to create a presence by interacting through comments and individualized feedback. Participant Retention Dropout rates for online courses are typically extremely high, especially compared to 10

face-to-face classes. MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses) typically have a completion rate of 10-20%. Forty-nine students registered, and 40 completed the course, giving this first online course an 82% completion rate. As previously stated, the students did not have a lot at stake if they did not complete the course. Therefore, it was important to create content, interaction, and feedback that helped students. In post-course feedback, several students said they had been studying English for years; however, some of the writing skills and grammar points covered were new for them. Students also noted the interaction with their peers and instructors was extremely valuable. One student wrote, “Yes I know English very well, I used to think this before I started this course. It was over these four weeks I realized I have a lot to know yet. Be it concision, paraphrasing, quoting or citing, I always skipped these minute details prior to this course, which in the professional world hold a prime importance.� Final Thoughts While the team worked proactively to preempt common obstacles, they identified several areas for future improvements. Many lessons learned were reflections of anticipated actions and decisions. However, one of the most unexpected positive outcomes of the course was the opportunity to try a new assessment strategy, which emerged organically as the course began. The team delegated grading responsibilities to the instructor who had created the content. For the final assignment, all three instructors provided feedback and grades, each focusing on a different criterion. This system allowed for specific feedback and was extremely efficient and effective. In reflection, by anticipating many online course challenges, the team was able to build a writing course that addressed student needs and built community among distance learners.

IEC students responding to seeing snow for the first time 11/17/16


ESLevations Journal, Fall 2016 - International English Center, University of Colorado Boulder  

We reflect on the past to avoid making the same mistakes in and to improve upon the future. Our students reflect our pronunciation, manneris...