Academic journal article English Language Teaching

One Stone, Two Birds: Maximizing Service Learning Outcomes through TESOL Practicum

Academic journal article English Language Teaching

One Stone, Two Birds: Maximizing Service Learning Outcomes through TESOL Practicum

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper examines a good practice for service learning that has been implemented for years in TESOL Internship, a professional unit for students doing Master of Arts (MA) in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) at a major university in Australia. The author has investigated and identified three key features of a good practice in service learning, including critical reflection, community engagement and intercultural communication, which are evidenced in student service learning in various English language centres in Great Western Sydney. Data are collected from student reports, supervising teachers' reports and comments, weekly workshop discussions and emails. Using constructivist grounded theory (Glaser & Strauss, 1967), the author conducts thematic analysis to code the data, categorizes them into key themes for critical analysis. The results show that during their practicum period TESOL student teachers critically reflect on their observation experience and participate in curriculum-relevant and extra-curriculum activities, particularly their own teaching practices drawing on relevant TESOL theories and communicating with their peers and mentors. Furthermore they come to understand local communities better as they are actively engaged in interacting with members of local communities. Finally their intercultural awareness is enhanced through regular and active intercultural communication with people of diverse language and cultural backgrounds. Opportunities and challenges for good service learning practices are also discussed.

Keywords: service learning, TESOL practicum, critical reflection, community engagement, intercultural learning

1. Introduction

Along with emphasis on teaching quality and research outcomes, more and more international universities have focused on students' critical analysis, community engagement and intercultural awareness. For example, University of Western Sydney (UWS) promotes community engagement, which "provides a focal point for activities involving the community and creates opportunities for development of relationships and interaction with external and internal partners" (UWS Engagemennt, 2014). Such active engagement with diverse communities can take place at local, national and international level and take various forms such as "joint research projects, engaged learning opportunities and community engagement activities" (UWS Engagemennt, 2014). Service learning, one of the three practicum components in TESOL Internship program at UWS, provides an opportunity for interns to actively participate in various engaged learning tasks and interact with members of diverse communities, and further enables them to communicate with their mentors for professional development on a mutually beneficial basis (Smolen, Zhang, & Detwiler, 2013; Yang, 2013). It is generally acknowledged that building connections and maintaining relationships between university coursework and diverse communities will benefit both university students and community members.

This project examines a good practice for service learning that has been implemented for years in TESOL Internship, a professional unit taken by students doing MA in TESOL at UWS. The author has investigated and identified three key features of a good practice in service learning, including critical analysis and reflection, community engagement and intercultural awareness. These service learning activities enable interns to put TESOL theories (e.g. teaching methodology and curriculum development) into practice, forge fundamental part of TESOL teacher education and benefit their ongoing professional development and future career.

The author will first briefly review the current literature in service learning concerning the three key features identified, and then describe research method used and procedures for data analysis. The discussion highlights the fact that UWS TESOL interns have made achievements in their service learning through undertaking critical reflection, community engagement and intercultural learning at various practicum locations. …

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