Editor’s note: the below post is the forward by Carl S. Blyth, COERLL director, to the recently published book New case studies of openness in and beyond the language classroom, edited by Anna Comas-Quinn, Ana Beaven, Barbara Sawhill. The forward carries a CC BY license.
Today, in the field of foreign language teaching, there is much talk of shifting paradigms. The term paradigm was popularized by the American physicist Thomas Kuhn in his 1962 book entitled The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. According to Kuhn, scientific progress is neither linear nor continuous, but rather subject to abrupt shifts in the consensus of a scientific community. To illustrate this phenomenon, Kuhn cites the well-known shift in astronomy from geocentrism (the belief that the sun and the planets revolve around the Earth) to heliocentrism (the belief that the Earth and the planets revolve around the sun). Kuhn stresses that paradigms are defined by contrasting concepts and discourses and, as a result, are largely incommensurable. Kuhn also notes that paradigm shifts are not only a matter of accepting new facts, but of reorganizing those facts into a new worldview. In other words, paradigm shifts entail objective as well as subjective change.
Despite examples of revolutionary change in the sciences, paradigm shifts in the humanities – such as in foreign language education – appear to be more gradual. Most foreign language educators integrate new ideas into their curricular and pedagogical practices in an incremental process of professional development. Personally, I believe that paradigm change in foreign language teaching is largely a matter of educators learning by example from each other. Simply put, there is nothing more powerful than a case study for catalyzing change in our field. And in this book, New case studies of openness in and beyond the language classroom, foreign language specialists share their stories of personal and professional transformation in the well-known form of a case study. Following the same format, each case study provides the reader with the necessary information to understand and to implement a specific pedagogical or curricular innovation. For example, each case study includes a detailed description of a new project, the intended student outcomes, as well as the tools and resources used in the project.
While many case studies focus on the use of ready-made Open Educational Resources (OERs), others describe how to integrate Open Educational Practices (OEPs) into foreign language classes. Several case studies explain how to implement principles of open pedagogy such as the creation of a Wikipedia page or a translation of a TED Talk by the students themselves. In such cases, students are challenged to follow the editorial guidelines of Wikipedia and TED for the creation of open content. Thus, in the open language classroom, students share their knowledge with the world while, at the same time, improving their proficiency in the target language. In short, each case study described in this book is a beautiful illustration of the creative commons in action. I sincerely hope that foreign language educators who read these case studies will embrace the affordances of openness for themselves and their students and thereby shift the paradigm one classroom at a time.
For an open world.
- Read the book New case studies of openness in and beyond the language classroom
- Read the case study “Creating and implementing open educational resources for the Spanish as a Heritage Language classroom” by Evelyn Durán Urrea and Jocelly G. Meiners, which discusses the Heritage Spanish website maintained by COERLL, and the OER featured there
- Read the case study “An inclusionary open access textbook for Portuguese” by Carlos Pio, Eduardo Viana da Silva, which discusses the inclusive Portuguese textbook they are authoring, which integrates some content from Orlando Kelm and COERLL’s Brazilpod materials