Teaching Philosophy

“Overall, her teaching style has been great and I appreciate her enthusiasm to teach us Spanish and help us learn it through several avenues such as listening to music and doing group projects.”; “It was not the same thing every day and she helped me speak better as well as understand.”

Innovation in methods, technology tools, and research integration are the core pillars supporting my teaching philosophy. To maintain a dynamic and updated approach to teaching, I trial new tools and approaches based on developing technologies and second language (L2) pedagogy research, evolving generations of learners, and societal shifts. I keep my students and myself engaged, motivated, and curious by capitalizing on pedagogically sound, innovative, multimodal, and low- and high-tech lessons and activities, and an overall supportive classroom community. These elements are essential to my course and material design, instruction, and research integration.

For instance, to strengthen content comprehension I supplement a reading activity about La Carretera Panamericana with small group work and a printed map of the route. Learners take turns reading paragraphs and each time the text describes one of the marked locations on the map, the students briefly pause to discuss the paragraph and to write down key words directly on their map in the corresponding location. A group share-out of takeaways helps me assess student learning and also provides other groups different ideas for their maps, which can later be used to support completing their homework. Active student interaction in their groups, complete maps, high homework scores, and elevated engagement in the group share-out are indicative of this successful activity.

In an upper division Applied Spanish Linguistics course, I leverage linguistic corpora such as the Davies Corpus de Español to show students how these corpora can be used to gain a panoramic view of the characteristics of the Spanish language. In addition to developing Spanish language knowledge, working with digital linguistic corpora also helps students develop digital literacy skills. Responding to a prompt, students draft their own list of words and utilize the word frequency feature in the Davies Corpus to compare and contrast their expectations with actual usage-based language. After small group exploration in the digital corpus, students write lists and rankings on separate white boards to make visible to the whole class. This white board visualization helps learners compare and contrast, as well as to see what other groups discovered. This dynamic also functions as formative assessment because it allows me to gauge the entire class’ discoveries in order to provide feedback. I have also designed activities which draw on a variety of Spanish language digital news sources to engage learners in authentic language use while also being exposed to economic, social, political, and geographical context to their language and culture studies. 

Inclusive teaching is also part of my endeavor to prepare students to be successful users of the Spanish language, culturally and linguistically competent, and to develop digital literacy skills. For instance, I help learners understand how to use technological tools, set proper expectations about functionality, and learn best practices. Best practices include discussions about determining credible online sources, identifying pedagogically sound platforms, using online translators and ChatGPT for language learning, avoiding plagiarism, and ethical use of technology. My knowledge and interest in this topic is reflected in activities I designed for a fully-online Spanish course at UC Davis.

Further, my dissertation research capitalizes on technology by applying it in fresh and inventive learning contexts, which enhances learning accessibility, fosters inclusive teaching, and provides additional language practice for learners. One of the driving factors of this research is the accessibility of mobile-assisted language learning (MALL). Utilizing students' mobile devices and their familiarity with texting extends learning beyond the classroom, providing a low-stress, creative, and flexible way to learn without the need for additional technology or reliance on stationary devices.

Communicative and task-based language teaching is a consistent priority in my teaching practice. This has motivated me to create Communication Activities (CA), which are interactive, dialogue-based exercises. Students pair up with a classmate for the semester and engage in weekly scenario-based, game-based, or role-playing activities either on Zoom or WhatsApp outside of class. Instructors provide timely, actionable forward-thinking feedback. The CA were the base of my doctoral dissertation research, and their success has kept them integrated in the curriculum. Possessing a growth mindset and iterating on projects based on data, including student feedback, has fueled continuous development of the activities. 

These activities foster all-around language skill development, learner autonomy, creativity, and community building among classmates. Student comments about enjoying the low-stress environment and my own observations of gains in learner confidence and language skills throughout the semester demonstrate the success of these activities. At first, the students seem nervous about the new activity, such as using their mobile device for text messaging an assignment, but through consistent and clear coaching, they get comfortable with the modality and expectations, and end up enjoying the experience and getting a lot out of the activity.

In conclusion, this iterative approach to teaching, research, and instructional materials development has not only optimized my students' online and in-person learning experiences to be more personalized and transparent, but has also allowed me to gain valuable insights into their needs and challenges. As a result, I am better equipped to design targeted interventions that facilitate their effective achievement of learning outcomes. This commitment to continuous improvement remains at the core of my teaching philosophy, ensuring that I remain dedicated to fostering an enriching and inclusive educational environment for all learners.