Academic journal article Italica

Italian Culture through Authentic Advertisements. Articulation and Assessment of Student Learning with PACE

Academic journal article Italica

Italian Culture through Authentic Advertisements. Articulation and Assessment of Student Learning with PACE

Article excerpt

In North America and beyond culture is not only a central component of foreign language teaching and learning, but a complex and evolving one too. If, as the 2007 MLA Report "Foreign Languages and Higher Education" suggests, we are preparing our students to be global citizens--"educated speakers who have deep translingual and transcultural competence"--the regularity with which we integrate culture into lower-division language courses is only superseded in importance by the question of how we teach culture and with what learning objectives and longer-term goals (237). Just as the focus on intercultural competence in recent decades has shifted objectives in teaching culture from predominantly factual learning to more dynamic, analytical thinking about one's home or native culture with the target culture, with an emphasis on the learner him/herself as a culturally-formed subject, the significance of transcultural in the MLA Report emphasizes movement across genres, text types, and rhetorical strategies as learners "comprehend and analyze the culture narratives that appear in every expressive form." (1) This one, plausible definition of "transcultural" has much in common with Swaffar and Arens' concept of multiple literacies, which envisions student growth and progress in terms of depth and breadth of cultural competence through their interactions with and creation of a variety of texts exemplifying a given culture. (2)

With inter- and transcultural competence considered important learning outcomes of the language major of today, individual courses and whole curricula must explore and value the development of literacy across a variety of textual and linguistic examples. From early on in our programs, we must design lessons and tasks that gradually lead students toward principle goals such as functioning "as informed and capable interlocutors with educated speakers from the target language" and reflecting "on themselves and others, precisely through the lens of the other (person or culture)" (237).

Though the great majority of pedagogical materials produced in recent years have included more varied cultural information and in ever more integrated ways, this does not mean that the field of foreign language education has come to consensus about how best to achieve, in very practical and daily terms, these inter- and transcultural goals. It is significant, however, that these pedagogical objectives are more and more frequently a subject of discussion in national forums on language teaching and within the more local settings of individual states and educational programs experimenting with the articulation and realization of such goals regarding culture.

By now almost every secondary and post-secondary program following the Standards for Foreign Language Learning (5Cs) articulates its learning goals for culture according to the categories of the products, practices and perspectives of a given community. (3) However useful this flexible framework for understanding the central components and interrelated nature of language and culture learning, it does not suffice to convey what intercultural and transcultural learning might entail at the level of a concrete lesson plan. If such competences comprise a specific learning outcome we hope to attain, what specific materials, activities, and classroom methods can effectively lead us there?

Here we propose a multi-step approach to teaching and learning culture that renders the student active and central to the construction and analysis of intercultural ideas. More specifically, we take Donato and Adair-Hauck's PACE model (1994, 2002) beyond the realm of grammatical structures and apply it to cultural units. (4) After outlining the model and its theoretical underpinnings, we describe in detailed the implementation of this approach in an intermediate-level Italian unit, wherein Italian television commercials serve as the primary cultural texts. The sequence of classroom activities is followed by a set of corresponding assessments which, like the unit itself, emphasize the inter- and trans- aspects of cultural learning through students' explorations with other texts and awareness and analyses of their own native culture(s). …

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