Statement of Teaching Philosophy of Lizz Caplan-Carbin
Why I Teach German:

Teaching foreign language is my primary interest in my professional life. My studies in second language acquisition and instructional technology are explicitly to support and inform my efforts in teaching German. I endeavor to keep up with current field research concerning German pedagogy, cognitive psychology and learning styles and instructional technology.

What I want for my students:

I believe in striving for excellence and I set high standards for my students and for myself. I want to foster in students the confidence that bilingualism is well within their grasp. My expectations are that every student beginning German shall finish the course with a German language knowledge base that is considerable, personalized, cannot easily be dislodged and that serves as a substantial foundation upon which to continue language learning either immediately (i.e. continue to the next level) or at any point in their futures.

I am dedicated to reaching every single student who wants to learn, (and I try even harder with those who don’t). I hold myself to the highest standards of teaching as I would expect from my own teachers. Students have a right to expect that their work will be corrected and commented upon with careful consideration in a timely manner and I give that activity my first priority.

How I Teach:

I use reflective practices to monitor and improve my teaching skills and effectiveness. I’ve conducted action research into my teaching practices and student learning style differences. I regularly conduct Needs-Analysis studies to assess how well I meet the needs and expectations of my students. (see Assessment of Teaching Practices)

My students are all well versed in English either as a first or second language. It is important to invoke the students’ prior knowledge base and to start them off on solid footing. In order to illustrate and stress the similarities between English and German I begin with cognate recognition strategies including material designed to promote cognitive endeavor, i.e. ‘guessing’. (see Phoneme Relationship Key) To test the effectiveness of this strategy I have conducted research, the results of which I presented in paper sessions at the Second Language Research Forum (SLRF 1996), Florida Foreign Language Association Conference (FFLA 1996) and at a poster session of the American Association of Teachers of Foreign Languages (ACTFL 96). (see Cognate Recognition Study ) Since that time, I have been studying ways of reinforcing and scaffolding cognate recognition strategies for reading and listening.

I enjoy helping students with individual instruction, both as a means of getting to know them better, and as a way of assessing learner characteristics and appropriate strategies. I apply careful consideration to students' evaluation products and I feel that homework correction has great value: 1) I can address the individual’s deficits in a specific way, 2) It creates a dialogue that couldn’t take place in class, especially with students who are shy, and 3) student errors can show developmental patterns and give me insights to help plan appraoaches to address diverse learning styles. Student evaluations attest to the fact that a little extra time and personal attention from the teacher can have a positive impact on a student's overall attitude towards learning. (see Student Evaluation Samples)

I keep a very extensive library of German literature and language materials from which I continually draw upon to supplement the required textbook and I create many materials from clipart and original drawings illustrating principles and meanings of concepts and words from the curriculum. I keep current with research and theoretical movements in language pedagogy through listservs and Internet resources and through journal subscriptions of professional foreign language education associations (ACTFL, AATG, MLA, IALL, CALICO) and I participate in interdisciplinary seminars in order to learn from developments in other fields.

To see that students receive as much authentic input as possible, I ask them to keep a weekly lab journal. I accept a wide variety of experiences in fulfillment of their lab requirement: German movies; news broadcasts (Deutsche Welle on TV, 1470 AM radio, and Internet); computer assisted language learning (CALL) programs; German lyric music; radio plays; etc. These experiences offer context rich target language input. Students exercise metalinguistic learning strategies when they record the instances of their understanding and the sources of their confusion.

I encourage organizational skills and effective learner behaviors by requiring students to keep a portfolio including all of the materials used in their efforts to learn the target language. I believe this helps them to succeed in the class, as well as to create a reference tool for future language learning and review. (see Student Portfolio)

I practice a conversational approach and I encourage inductive inquiry, but I also believe that every conversational context has a set of features that can be seen as structural targets. Therefore, I formulate curriculum with linguistic-grammatical targets at the core and socio-cultural contexts at the surface. In class, I take advantage of the learners’ group presence for conversational activities with implicit instruction, while for handouts, webexercises and multimedia presentations I use more explicit instruction to illustrate target features.

Other Teaching Practices:

I created a unique course to piggyback onto the USF department of International Studies’ tour of Germany course. I designed the course to speak to a range of levels from no German at all (pre-foreign language students) to 1st and 2nd semester learners. (see German Immersion Light) The goal of the course workbook is to act as a guide to negotiating meaning and to understanding the features of a German language environment. The activities urge the students to explore and to interact with the people to experience more of the life and culture.

I consider teaching foreign language to be an activity that extends beyond the classroom into the community. I see that my job entails a great deal of PR and ‘selling’ in order to open the channels of learning, both within the students enrolled in my courses as well as toward those who may yet consider learning to become bilingual.

I model and facilitate the use of the Internet for communication and resource gathering. I communicate with my students through private email and email distribution lists on a regular basis. Assignments are sent directly to students as well as being posted in traditional ways, and students are free to deliver materials electronically. This flexibility has often proved to benefit the student to balance school demands with life-priorities. (see Email Communication Sample)

I have created and maintain the website, WebGerman.com as a source for German learning and as a resource for teachers of German. The site serves as showcase and archive for the German language learning programs that I create and as a central resource for students in my courses.

I love language because it’s a topic that everyone knows something about.
I love foreign languages because each word you learn brings a new way of knowing the world.

Materials I’ve created

I have authored over 20 multi-media presentations that are linear and interactive illustrations of complex grammar points. (see Presentations)

I create animated, interactive webexercises for both vocabulary and structural acquisition. (see Webexercises)

(On-line: http://webgerman.com/german/webexercises/)

I have researched and written the Internet bulletin, Deutsch im Netz - web exercises designed to teach German and Internet exploration using graphic and contextual cues along with cognate recognition to encourage browsing of target language websites. (see Deutsch im Netz)

(On-line: http://webgerman.com/german)

I have researched, compiled and continue to maintain an extensive catalog of German Internet resources for learners, teachers, germanists and historians. (see German Internet Resources)

(On-line: http://webgerman.com/germlinks)

  • I have been compiling and publishing interactive activities on the Internet Resource Webpage for all languages offering activity based websites geared toward language acquisition. (see Foreign Language Internet Resources)

(On-line: http://webgerman.com/languages)

  • I created the websites for Phi Sigma Iota International Foreign Language Honor Society and for the University of Tennessee-Martin German Language Program

(On-line: http://phisigmaiota.org, http://www.utm.edu/departments/german )

  • I have designed and implemented original materials for instruction, drill and testing of German language concepts.
  • See Table of Contents for complete teaching portfolio.