Every instructor of a second-semester language course is faced with the challenge of adequately and appropriately addressing the varied needs and abilities of his or her students -- and of preparing them to continue in the language. In this paper, I suggest that more traditional pedagogies and course structures limit our ability to accomplish these goals effectively and that we should instead look to the sciences, in particular, for a potential solution. SCALE-UP (Student-Centered Active Learning Environment for Undergraduate Programs) is one such approach. Originally designed to accommodate more students in Physics classes, the emerging pedagogy focuses on collaborative, individually-paced learning as well as frequent, in-depth instructor feedback to help students progress through the material. The results continually include increased student success, self-confidence, and most importantly, learning.
I will begin with an overview of the pedagogy as it was first used in the sciences, focusing on the structure of such courses, the impetus behind the idea, and the elements necessary to execute the method in its fullest form (e.g. grading, classroom space and the division thereof, technology, etc.). Then I move to a discussion of the ideas that I adopted for my own second semester Latin course (Spring 2011) of twenty-five students. In short, the course was divided into three ‘modules,’ each of which included a specific number of concepts (e.g. ‘indirect statement’) which were in turn assigned an appropriate number of points. By initially working on their own but soon with one another in groups of two to four (and later, six or more), students moved through each ‘step,’ acquiring not only linguistic aptitude but also self-confidence. In the presentation I will pay particular attention to how the group dynamic functioned to motivate students and how, much to this instructor’s delight, it led to inter-subjective teaching and guidance.
The Spring 2011 ‘test’ course resulted in tremendous success as well as a number of problems and points of consideration that I will address in the third part of the paper. Many of these difficulties were logistic, for example, in the early part of the course there were frequent logjams, where the instructor was often overwhelmed by the number of students stuck on a given step, or by the number of students who needed instruction to learn the next concept. Despite these challenges, on the basis of the successes, I will argue that this is a fundamentally useful approach to three important, recurring problems: (1) a high student-to-teacher ratio (in this case, 25 to 1); (2) the diverse levels of ability in the typical second-semester language classroom; and (3) motivating students to learn for the sake of learning, that is to say, in an authentic way. I will close by outlining how the course will be developed and enhanced for its next run (Spring 2012), touching on matters related both to content and to the inclusion of technology (e.g. iPad, Moodle, and Facebook).