|I am a specialist in Film and Media Studies. My contribution to our collaborative OER project in Spanish at George Mason University is a series of four units for Spanish 306, the second semester of the year-long requirement for L2 students who are first entering advanced study in the language. These four units center on themes in Latin American media and cultural studies. I crafted the units with two related goals in mind. First, I sought to make the content accessible for students who were perhaps encountering rich text in Spanish for the first time. Second, I situated the content within disciplinary frameworks of media and cultural studies that students will go on to encounter in higher-level Spanish courses. My work is inspired by numerous calls in K-12 and higher education that have stressed the need of students at all levels of schooling to learn not only content knowledge but also how that knowledge is organized in a particular subject or discipline (MLA; see also Zimmerman; Arum et al.). |
I chose four themes for the units that I believed would be of interest to students majoring in Spanish as well as other popular subjects like Global Affairs, Business, Political Science and Public Health. The themes are: Globalization and Latin America; Mass Media in Latin America; Latinx in the United States; and Modernity and Tradition in Latin America. I composed each unit as two sections of narrative text. The first narrative introduces the thematic material through the lens of a theoretical approach common to Latin American or Latinx studies, such as Jesús Martín Barbero’s “From the Media to the Mediations” (1997) in the sample uploaded here or Border Studies in the unit on Latinx in the United States. In the second narrative, students are then asked to use these critical lenses in a close reading of specific artefacts of Latin American and Latinx culture, including film, radio, comic and other visual art, journalistic writings and literature. Each of the sections includes a series of reflective questions that students can complete as homework or small group work in class and then discuss in the class as a whole. My colleague and collaborative partner on the larger OER project Alexia Vikis generously developed vocabulary lists and exercises to correspond to each cultural unit.
One of the positive outcomes that I have witnessed from this approach has been students' familiarity with critical approaches to culture and Latin American history that they bring into their higher-level classes. A number of students in my advanced courses have been exposed to the four units in Spanish 306. These students are conversant with complex abstract concepts like nationalism and populism as well as with historical traditions like caudillo leadership. They also find the reading assignments in critical theory less daunting. This project has been enormously gratifying not only for its pedagogical value, collaborative nature and civic purpose, but also for its creative and intellectual challenge.
Arum, Richard, Roska, Josipa, and Cook, Amanda. (2016). Improving Quality in American Higher Education: Learning Outcomes and Assessments for the 21st Century. Hoboken: Jossey-Bass.
Martín Barbero, Jesús. (1987). Desde los medios a las mediaciones. México: Ed. Gustavo Gili.
MLA Ad Hoc Committee on Teaching (2001). Final Report. Profession 2001. New York: MLA, 225–38. Retrieved from https://www.mla.org/Resources/Research/Surveys-Reports-and-Other-Documents/Teaching-Enrollments-and-Programs/Report-from-the-MLA-Ad-Hoc-Committee-on-Teaching/Read-the-Report-Online.
Zimmerman, Jonathan (12/02/2014). “Why Is American Teaching So Bad?" The New York Review of Books. Retrieved from http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2014/12/04/why-american-teaching-so-bad/.