The University of Chicago has received a $2 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for the project “Transforming Language Instruction at the University of Chicago and Beyond: Collaborative Curricula and Professional Development.” The five-year grant will be led by the University of Chicago Language Center (CLC) to support efforts to increase student access to less commonly taught languages (LCTLs) and support language instructors through professional development.
“Language study and scholarship are critical elements for students and scholars in the Division of the Humanities,” says Martha T. Roth, Dean of the Division of the Humanities and Chauncey S. Boucher Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. “Under the leadership of Cathy Baumann and the University of Chicago Language Center, this grant will further the ability of the University of Chicago to maintain and indeed to advance language instruction and language learning.”
“Transforming Language Instruction” will strengthen the course-sharing initiatives on campus. Course-sharing allows students to enroll in LCTL courses not offered on their campuses and attend them using video-conferencing multimedia. In 2015–16, students from partner institutions are taking courses in Bangla, Catalan, and Haitian Kreyol taught at UChicago, while UChicago students are enrolled in Mongolian and Zulu courses taught elsewhere.
“Transforming Language Instruction” also provides support for professional development and collaborative teaching. To foster collaboration, LCTL instructors from UChicago will be matched with colleagues from other institutions in order to rethink and redesign collaborative curricula as they embark on course sharing. The CLC will invite instructors who work on a wide array of languages and across multiple campuses to workshops and conferences to stimulate interest in the project and maximize the effect of professional development events.
“Often these instructors have to create their own materials,” says Cathy Baumann, Director of the University of Chicago Language Center and Senior Lecturer in Germanic Studies. “We hope this project will make it possible for them to share this task with a cohort of collaborative partners who all face the same challenges.”
By expanding the number of languages taught, the CLC hopes to provide “more opportunities for students to pursue advanced study of less commonly taught languages, which are increasingly in danger of disappearing from American higher education,” says Jason Merchant, Professor of Linguistics and Deputy Dean for Language and Instruction in the Division of the Humanities.
With the support of this grant, the CLC will expand its offerings at UChicago and at partner institutions to include more languages such as Wolof, Cantonese, and Hungarian. The CLC will also coordinate the implementation of new equipment and technological resources increase the effectiveness of remote learning, both at UChicago and at partner schools.