The assignment Interview with a Bilingual: Case Study is a midterm, high-stakes written research paper in ELN101: Introduction to Bilingualism, a course contributing one deposit into the Global Learning Core Competency and Written Communication Ability. The assignment calls for the consideration and application of psycholinguistic and sociolinguistic concepts into the discussion of individual multilingualism. By completing this assignment, students gain a deeper understanding of linguistic and cultural diversity in the US society. They learn to position issues in bilingualism against a global backdrop through the consideration of an individual bilingual journey as representative of similar histories and perspectives elsewhere. As such, the assignment asks students to approach the challenges and opportunities afforded by multilingual experience from multiple perspectives and engage with issues of diversity, identity, power, and privilege.
ELN101: Introduction to Bilingualism is a course housed in the Linguistics Program in the Department of Education and Language Acquisition. It is a writing-intensive, urban study, ePortfolio course offered in two modalities – face-to-face and hybrid. The course also fulfills LaGuardia’s urban study graduation requirement. ELN 101 is depositing for Liberal Arts: Social Science & Humanities and four options in Liberal Arts at the midpoint for the Global Learning Core Competency and Written Communication Ability. Students in the course have typically taken the ENG 101-102 sequence and many liberal arts majors are concurrently enrolled in ENG 103: The Research Paper. The ENG sequence of courses provides an introduction to the skill of writing with power and clarity – the ability to combine vocabulary with grammatical proficiency, fluency, and cogent organization. The ELN 101 course, also attracting diverse cohorts of students from outside the Liberal Arts majors, including Business, Computer Science, and Natural Science majors, continues this task of teaching writing in the liberal arts tradition, emphasizing, in turn, the writing conventions of social sciences.
The assignment Interview with a Bilingual: Case Study takes several weeks to complete as it incorporates an authentic primary research experience for community college students. Students are introduced to the qualitative research paradigm through the case study methodology. To complete the assignment, students design an interview scheme, conduct individual interviews, analyze data, and present findings in written case study reports. The assignment is worth 15% of the final grade. The assignment in its earlier and the revised versions has been implemented in ELN 101 for a number of years. For the majority of students taking the course this is one of the highlights of the course because, typically, they interview bilinguals who have been in their lives (i.e., friends and relatives). Students report learning unexpected, new, and surprising facts and events from the lives of their intimate friends and family members. Students also report enjoying primary research experience afforded by this assignment, usually their first experience analyzing primary data in a college class. By the same token, being the first-time experience, data analysis poses the biggest challenge in the assignment and is accompanied by multiple staged assignments during which students receive ongoing feedback from the instructor.
The assignment in its final version has benefitted from the feedback of LaGuardia colleagues coordinating and participating in the Learning Matters Mini-Grant 2018-2019.
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