The following four-step process will help you plan a small action research project to explore your questions about integrating culture into the study of foreign languages, implement action plans for designing cultural explorations, and collect information to assess your instructional innovations. Before you begin this section, you can go to About Action Research for an introduction to the process of designing and conducting action research projects. If you are taking this workshop for credit, you will need to complete one action research project from any one of the eight workshop sessions as an assignment.
If you would like to focus on teaching culture for your action research project, use the following questions and examples to help frame your thinking and shape your action research project.
- What issue concerning teaching culture do you want to describe, document, and investigate? For example, you could investigate your students' attitudes about the target language cultures, including any stereotypes they may have; explore how cultural perspectives can be tied to practices and products; or examine how your students' attitudes toward the target language cultures change over time. This will be the focus of your action research project.
- Why is it important to you as a teacher to integrate culture into foreign language instruction? How have you integrated culture into your units and lessons in the past? Do you feel that you have been successful in addressing the Cultures goal area of the standards? If so, why? If not, how and why do you want to change that approach? What has been your experience with designing lessons that lead students beyond cultural products and practices toward an understanding of cultural perspectives? Are you satisfied with your approach to addressing stereotypes that students may have about a target culture? Why or why not?
- What is your research question concerning the integration of culture into foreign language teaching? The research question will help you investigate your area of focus and understand it better. For example:
- What are my students' attitudes and understandings about the target language culture?
- How can I enable my students to interpret the cultural perspectives that underlie cultural products and practices? How can I conduct a cultural perspectives discussion with my students?
- Do my students feel that their cultural knowledge and understanding is enhanced by lessons that are designed with a cultural context?
- What are the cultural topics that my students want to investigate, and how can I incorporate their cultural interests into my lessons?
- What is the action plan for carrying out your project? Depending on your action research question, the following are some questions you might ask yourself to help you develop an action plan:
- How will I identify my students' attitudes and understandings about the target culture? Will I use a questionnaire, focus groups, or interviews with my students' families or friends?
- How will I assess the cultural perspectives that my students develop from lessons? What types of questionnaires or self-assessment instruments do I need to develop?
- How will I lead a cultural perspectives discussion? What discussion strategies will I use? What kinds of questions will I ask? How will I record the discussion for analysis?
- How can I find out what cultural topics my students want to learn about? Will I record what they say in a class discussion or ask them to submit topics to me individually?
- How will I document my students' growing cultural competence? Will I videotape them during cultural role plays, use journal entries, or conduct interviews with groups of two or three students?
- What information will you need to collect to answer your research question and assess your project? For example, you could take field notes, ask a colleague to observe your class and look for particular aspects relevant to your study, distribute student questionnaires and self-assessments, or record yourself leading a discussion. You should have at least two sources of information.
- How much time will you allot for your action research? That is, when and for how long do you plan to collect information before you're ready to begin analyzing it? Develop a timeline for implementing your action plan.
- After collecting your information, how will you analyze it? That is, how will you organize and review the information you have collected to understand it better and help you answer your research question? For example, will you use percentages based on responses to a questionnaire? Themes from students' reflective journals? Summaries of interview data? A flow chart of a class discussion?
- How will you display the information so that it can be shared with others? For example, you can use charts, graphs, and/or tables. The goal is to organize your data in a way that presents a clear description of what you investigated.
Note: The final step of the action research project is to reevaluate your teaching practice based on your research data. Because it takes time to complete an action research project, it may not be possible to do this step during the workshop. However, if you are taking this workshop for credit, you will need to complete one action research project during or after the course of the workshop to submit as an assignment.
If you are taking the workshop for graduate credit, submit your completed action research project on any one of the eight session topics.
- Based on what you learned through your data analysis, how will you rethink your teaching practice? What changes will you make to your lessons the next time you integrate culture into your foreign language curriculum? If you had to research the cultural component of your teaching again, what changes would you make to your action research plan?
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