Colloquium: Laura Catharine Smith

Date(s) - 01/26/2023
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm

3108 JKB


Laura Catharine Smith, Associate Professor of German and Russian will present at the Humanities Center’s weekly colloquium on Thursday, January 26. The presentation will be held at 3:00 PM in room 4010 JFSB.

Title: Promoting Information Literacy and Critical Thinking in the Modern Humanities Classroom

According to the Skills for a 21st Century, students need to develop a series of skills to be able to succeed beyond graduation. These skills include information literacy, critical thinking, communication, creativity, and collaboration, among others. Not surprisingly these skills overlap well with the functions (detailed descriptions of topics, being able to discuss opposing points of view, and abstract thinking/hypothesizing) and text type (extended discourse) associated with achieving Superior level proficiency. Bearing in mind that not all educated speakers graduate with Superior level proficiency in their own first language, it falls to educators to actively develop these skills whether they are teaching in the foreign language classroom or other majors such as philosophy, humanities, or literature and culture taught in English (i.e., the first language of the majority of our students).

In this colloquium, I discuss one project, namely Current Event Panels, that can be used in both foreign and first language classrooms to scaffold students towards Superior-level proficiency in either their first language, English, or a foreign language while also developing critical 21st Century skills. Not only do students gain skills in identifying and assessing the quality of the information they find in their research (information literacy), but this project helps them organize their research into a well-balanced professional presentation way that parallels the so-called Superior Triple Punch: a detailed description of issues, a report on various points of view, including also advocating for a position drawing on evidence, and finally thinking abstractly by presenting hypotheses for potential outcomes. As part of the discussion, I outline the outcome of using this in a senior seminar where students presented in German on three different aspects of climate change. By coupling the use of transition words and rhetorical devices, students were able to better develop their individual presentations around the Superior Triple Punch thereby pushing their language skills into a new domain. This activity is an alterative to debates and allows students to develop both linguistic and intellectual skills regardless of the language of the class. Moreover, it can be adapted to lead to panels more focused on issues related to class topics beyond current events.

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