Thursday, December 25, 2008

Modest Program Recommendations

OK, so it's the end of the semester, I've completed two whole classes in applied linguistics and I have spoken to many people about the program - classmates and faculty alike. I've gotten to find out what my classmates' plans are post graduation and so on. Some of my classmates are going into teaching (or remaining in teaching) while others like me are considering a PhD route.

Now, the program is structured in this way:
1. You've got 5 core courses that everyone needs to take

2. Then you must specialize in ESL, Foreign Language teaching or Bilingual education (2 courses + 1 practicum)

3. Then you've got your pick of 2 electives.

4. Pass comprehensive exams

The program is ten classes for an M.A. which is about normal for a Masters Degree. The department, at least in the course catalogs, has plenty of absolutely GREAT courses which have not been offered for a long time. Why? It's my impression that they don't have enough faculty to teach niche courses (such as Asian linguistics or Franco-American linguistics), so they focus their teaching on core courses and courses that students must have for concentrations.

This I see as a major problem with the program that needs to be fixed.

So, AK's modest proposal for the applied linguistics department:

Keep the five core courses. Get rid of the 'three track' system. Make the 10 class degree a 12 class degree.

Forcing people to pick a track is constraining. Some people, like me, would like to apply linguistics in a manner other than the foreign language classroom (although knowing how to be a good foreign language teacher is a good skill to have).

I would say have two recommended paths. If students want to be teachers, recommend the courses that they would need to be good ESL or foreign language teachers, and recommend that they do practicum. If students want to have a more open degree, learning more theory and applying it elsewhere, encourage that too. Recommend classes that would closely align with the students interests, and if a practicum or traditional 'track' courses are good for them, recommend them, otherwise, recommend other courses from the catalog.

By getting rid of the tracks, you will be freeing both students to experiment with courses, and you will be freeing the faculty to teach some of the courses that they have interest in but haven't been taught for a long time - Asian linguistics or cape-verdean linguistics for instance.

Now why 12 courses and not 10? Well, if five are core courses, and if students are interested in a practicum, that leaves only 4 courses to expand their horizons. I am a big advocate of the notion that school is there to not only teach you skills, but to expand your horizons. By having a 12 course M.A. program students will cover the core knowledge they need, expand a bit into ESL, FL Bilingual or theoretical areas and have some extra wiggle room to experiment with courses that they never thought of taking.

Just some food for thought...
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