Teaching Diversity Perspectives in Spanish Language Classes through Service-Learning

By Jodie Parys.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In an increasingly globalized world, borders, both literal and figurative, are being crossed as cultures intersect, collide, and collaborate. The resultant multiculturalism requires that all parties become versant in and cognizant of the cultural, linguistic and sociological differences between individuals with the aim of forging respect for the increasingly diverse world in which we all live. One way to foment such diversity perspectives is through education. Many colleges and universities across the United States recognize this vital aspect of education in their academic missions and have made it their responsibility to prepare students for our multicultural society by incorporating diversity perspectives into both general education courses and specific area studies as students progress toward a degree. What varies, however, is how diversity perspectives are presented and incorporated into the curriculum.
This paper looks specifically at teaching diversity perspectives in university-level Spanish language courses geared toward students whose primary language is not Spanish. I illustrate the vitally important role that diversity perspectives play in Spanish language instruction to produce not only bilingual, but also bicultural, graduates who are adept at working with the rapidly growing Spanish-English bilingual population in the U.S. I argue that the most effective way to do this is vis-à-vis the incorporation of service-learning into Spanish language programs. Through the use of service-learning as a way to cross the boundary between the campus and surrounding community, students are given an invaluable opportunity to cement the knowledge gained in the classroom while serving the community and interacting with people of diverse backgrounds. This article will trace the use of service-learning as a pedagogical tool, showing how it is an ideal way to teach diversity perspectives in the college Spanish language classroom while producing students who will have a greater ability to be effective professionals with increased respect for our multicultural society.

Keywords: Service Learning, Pedagogy, Diversity

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp.359-372. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.273MB).

Dr. Jodie Parys

Assistant Professor of Spanish, Department of Languages and Literatures, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Whitewater, Wisconsin, USA

Jodie Parys is an Assistant Professor of Spanish at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Her research interests include the intersection of disease and narrative, gender studies and cultural studies. Her recent publications include several articles that examine the representations of AIDS in Spanish American Literature. In additional to this avenue of research, she is investigating the use of service learning as a pedagogical tool in her Spanish language classrooms, having completed a case study of the impact it has on her students’ perceptions regarding immigration. Further areas of interest include the use of technology in Foreign Language teaching; to this end, she incorporates wikis and podcasts, among other technologies, in her teaching and shares her experiences with colleagues.

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