- Community-Based Language Learning: A Framework for Educators by Joan Clifford, Deborah S. Reisinger
Students excel when they are given opportunities to use their second language outside of the classroom. This can often be an arduous task for teachers to incorporate into their classes, but the authors advocate for implementing community-based language learning (CBLL) into curricula, and outline concrete steps and guidelines for using the community as a partner to aid student learning and advancement. One of its great advantages is that students are exposed to different communities and diverse groups of people who live nearby. The idea is not simply to offer another authentic source of input, but rather to have them work with community organizations and [End Page 75] members to grow in other areas as well. The process is not to achieve a linear objective—for students to know x/y/z—but for a more cyclical process of providing a chance for them to challenge their knowledge and understanding of different cultures. The authors include ample testimonies of previous students who experienced culture shock within their own community. After tutoring a student who was later deported, one student began to question their own thoughts about the fairness of immigration laws. Reactions vary among participants; some experience more dissonance, while others may appreciate that working with a refugee family may not mean aiding them linguistically or culturally, but being a friend to the family. The student tutor wrote that her lesson was understanding that she could not change their world, it was not her job; her job was just to be there for the family.
The goal of CBLL is to help students grow in their language use and cultural awareness, but that is easier said than done. The authors do a wonderful job of supplying the tools for teachers to begin developing their own courses. For CBLL to work, the community must be involved. This is essential and crucial. The authors identify some organizations to get involved with. However, the larger stress is in creating and maintaining these relationships. CBLL works best when both the students and the community benefit from the program. Some organizations may not be able to adequately support training and educating students to aid in their work. For those that can support students, it is essential to keep in close contact with them to make sure everything is running smoothly, to check student progress regularly and to evaluate the benefit for the community members in case changes or additions need to be made to make it more worthwhile. Once relationships are well established and understood, all parties can benefit.
CBLL offers a wide array of invaluable experiences for students, making it difficult for instructors to assign grades. Again, the authors do an excellent job of describing many tools and theories for how to tackle this problem. They suggest many checks for instructors to consider how certain concepts pertain to their particular community and class, as well as activities and questions to pose to their classes. The main recommendation for creating activities based on CBLL is to provide opportunities and ask the students to reflect upon them. This can take place in various mediums, from blogs to presentations to essays, each with their own advantage, but the idea is to have students process what they may be confronting and better identify their own needs and growth. It is important for teachers to give feedback [End Page 76] throughout the year to help the student better understand and analyze their own experiences. It is also useful for teachers to explain that the program will look different for all of the participants to remove the illusion that they will have some grand breakthrough. Each student will learn something valuable, but there is no one goal. Teachers should also take the time to discuss privileges and powers that may come forth during the process, so as to not shock the students and to help them process these revelations. Overall this book is an excellent, useful and informative tool for the advocation...