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Language Resource Center Speaker Series - Mariame Sy

Thursday, November 4, 2021 at 4:30pm to 5:30pm

Stimson Hall, G25 204 Feeney Way

"Critical Thinking in World Language Teaching"
Mariame Sy
Director of the African Language Program and Lecturer of Wolof and Pulaar, Columbia University 

Critical thinking, an essential element across academic fields, has been at the heart of education for decades. While research on language education and critical thinking remains somewhat timid, it continues to gain ground among academic communities.  Available studies strongly suggest that pedagogical practices that wed world language teaching and critical thinking can facilitate language acquisition and enhance general proficiency. Despite this progress in the research field, there is nonetheless a general reluctance to integrate critical thinking in language teaching practices (Li, 2011; Pica, 2000) because, arguably, its integration presents more challenges for language educators than for teachers in other fields (Lin, Preston, Kharrufa, & Kong, 2016). However, while this statement may be true for teachers of major languages, teachers of the so-called less commonly taught languages (LCTLs) might be more inclined to take on these challenges. As decision-makers of their courses, teachers of LCTLs have opportunities to create innovative practices by engaging in three types of decisions: educational outcomes (what learners can do), content (what should be/is taught), and manner (how the goals of teaching language are achieved). 
While recognizing the many challenges – including historical marginalization and inadequate institutional support – in this presentation I aim to shed light on the importance of integrating critical thinking in the language teaching and to explore models and ways of designing materials that can facilitate the integration of critical thinking in the African language classroom. While examples are provided from African languages classrooms, the principles and ideas are applicable to all languages.   

Bio: Dr. Mariame Sy is a Lecturer in African Languages and the Director of the African Language Program in the Department of Middle Eastern South Asian and African Studies at Columbia University. She began teaching Wolof in 2001 in the Linguistics Department at UCLA and has since taught Wolof and Pulaar at several institutions, including the Summer Cooperative African Language Institute (SCALI) and The Colorado Project study abroad program in Senegal. She also teaches French in the African Languages Flagship Initiative summer program. Her publications include academic articles on the morpho-phonology and syntax of Wolof and she has two upcoming elementary-level textbooks in Wolof and Pulaar (with Africa World Press and the National African Language Resource Center).   
She is also a co-developer of a Wolof video course and has designed a flipped classroom for beginning Introductory Wolof to provide students with supplemental technology-based opportunities to enhance proficiency in key areas of difficulty by practicing outside the classroom setting. Her current work focuses on developing a curriculum based on performance assessments and what learners should understand, know, and be able to do. 
She is the current President of the African Language Teachers Association (ALTA) and the Vice President of the Senegambian Studies Group. 

This event will be held in person in G25 Stimson and will also be streamed live over Zoom. Join us at the LRC or on Zoom.

The event is free and open to the public. Campus visitors and members of the public must adhere to Cornell's public health requirements for events, which include wearing masks while indoors and providing proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test.

Co-sponsored by the Language Resource Center and the Institute for African Development at Cornell University.

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