Teaching to the Masses: The Design and Implementation of a Large Lecture Hispanic Culture Course

By Kaplan, Gregory B. | Foreign Language Annals, Fall 2006 | Go to article overview

Teaching to the Masses: The Design and Implementation of a Large Lecture Hispanic Culture Course


Kaplan, Gregory B., Foreign Language Annals


Abstract:

Due to an increase in enrollment in upper-level Spanish classes that posed staffing problems, the Spanish section of the Department of Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures at the University of Tennessee decided to combine three sections of Spanish 331, "Introduction to Hispanic Culture," into one large lecture course, which was offered for the first time in the spring of 2004. This study is devoted to analyzing the design of Spanish 331 in the light of recent pedagogical research as well as to discussing the successful implementation of this course. Special attention is paid to the distinguishing features of Spanish 331, in particular to the effective use of PowerPoint presentations as a means of managing a large lecture course taught in a target language, the integration of a variety of Hispanic cultures into one course, and the creation of assessment techniques and follow-up activities.

Key words: civilization, Hispanic culture, incorporating technology in the classroom, large lecture, PowerPoint, Spain

Language: Spanish

Introduction

"Introduction to Hispanic Culture" (Spanish 331) is a required upper-level course (taught in Spanish) for majors and minors in Spanish at the University of Tennessee. In essence, Spanish 331 is a gateway course that offers students a panoramic vision of Hispanic and pre-Hispanic cultures in Europe and America, and is intended to provide students with a solid foundation for a variety of upper-level courses in Hispanic cinema, civilization, and literature. Prior to the fall semester of 2003, five sections of Spanish 331 (15-20 students per section) were offered each year, with three being offered during the fall semester and two during the spring semester. Increased enrollment resulted in the need tor four sections during the fall semester of 2003 and an anticipated need for three sections during the spring semester of 2004. This increase created a staffing problem for the spring, namely, a lack of available faculty to cover the extra sections. In response to this situation, the Spanish section of the Department of Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures decided to combine the three spring sections into one large lecture course. As a long-term solution, it was determined that, beginning with the 2004-2005 academic year, all sections of Spanish 331 would be replaced by one large lecture course, which would be taught annually each spring. The present study is devoted to analyzing the design of Spanish 331 as well as to discussing the successful implementation of this course, the first large lecture course taught in Spanish at the University of Tennessee.

The Organizing Principle and Format of Spanish 331

Spanish 331 is different from other upperdivision courses in Hispanic cinema, civilization, and literature at the University of Tennessee, which shift in focus between Peninsular and Spanish American topics depending on the specialization of the faculty member involved. The titles and descriptions of these courses have been created with such flexibility in mind. An example is Spanish 484, "Race, Ethnicity, and Nation in Hispanic Literature," whose description in the catalog reads as follows:

Close reading and analysis of literary texts that deal with issues of race and ethnicity in the Hispanic world, especially with regard to identity and concepts of nationhood. Among possible course topics: mestizaje; conceptual distinctions between race and ethnicity in Latin America; indigenismo; afrocentrism; issues of monarchy and empire; relationship between Jews, Christians, and Moors in Spain.1

Whereas topics studied in courses such as Spanish 484 vary from semester to semester, Spanish 331 is entrusted with a broader mission, as its catalog description indicates:

Introduction to the fundamental historical, political and demographic developments that led to the creation, geographic distribution and distinctive character of Hispanic cultures, with attention to those qualities that distinguish Hispanic culture from other cultures, as well as to ethnic and linguistic components of the Hispanic world in the present day. …

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