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HomeMethodologyImplementing a Bilingual Authorization Program

Implementing a Bilingual Authorization Program

Ivannia Soto, Jose Flores, and Karla Palomino share their findings from the first year of their online teacher education program

In Fall 2022, Whittier College’s Teacher Education program launched their online bilingual authorization program (BILA). In year 1, the program was initially fully asynchronous, but after surveying BILA students mid-way through the semester, they provided feedback that they wanted more synchronous instruction with their instructors. Whittier College students are used to personalized and small group instruction, so this did not surprise the three faculty members who taught in the program. The BILA program introduced Canvas as the primary learning platform, providing students with a user-friendly interface. The platform’s simplicity allowed students to navigate easily through their asynchronous courses. The following three questions are what we asked BILA students mid-way through the semester, in order to identify how they were experiencing the program. Below, we have included a few student responses for each question, as well as an overall summary of themes and patterns for each question.

The first question that we posed to students was: Please tell us both what you enjoyed about Canvas and what could be improved. A few student responses are also included below.

I like Canvas. It is user friendly.

I like the fact that it’s very organized, however I don’t like that I can’t look at assignments until I finish the one before.

Canvas was easy to navigate through. I did not feel overwhelmed with it and I appreciate how simple it is to access everything.

The major themes and patterns from survey question #1 were that students valued the flexibility to work at their own pace via Canvas, while professors remained accessible through email and periodic check-ins, being true to Whittier College’s supportive and interactive teaching approach. The survey results noted that Canvas enhanced the learning experience for BILA students, which combined convenience and guidance excellently.

The second question that we posed to students was: Do you think the material covered in this course could have been enhanced with additional synchronous time? Why or why not? According to students, additional synchronous time would be beneficial, particularly meeting every other week to coincide with major assignments. Students agreed that bi-weekly in-person classes before significant projects would be valuable to address questions and clarify assignment expectations. Specific student feedback for question #2 is included below.

I don’t think so, the readings and discussion boards are helpful.

I would say that I would have benefited from additional synchronous time. However, I do not think it is needed on a weekly basis. An option could be to check in for review after a few weeks. However, I really enjoyed being able to do things at my own pace.

I like when we meet with the professor before any significant assignment. For example, when I presented my rough draft to my professor, she helped me enhance my work and gave me ideas to improve it. I hope we can have that synchronous time for every significant assignment, as it eases my anxieties.

The feedback for question #2 demonstrated that bi-weekly synchronous meetings would allow students to receive immediate feedback, seek clarification on complex tasks, and ensure they are on the right track. By incorporating synchronous sessions strategically, professors would be able to enhance the learning experience, foster student engagement, and facilitate a better understanding of course content. Additionally, synchronous time would serve as valuable checkpoints to ensure students are adequately supported.

The third question on the survey asked students to comment on their experience with the asynchronous delivery of this course. They were also asked to tell us what they enjoyed and what could be improved. Overall, students affirmed that asynchronous classes offer convenience, as this type of learning suits busy schedules. Access to videos and readings aids review and enhances learning flexibility and accessibility.

Specific student feedback for question #3, included the following:

I am enjoying the recorded lessons because you can review the content as many times as needed. Asynchronous classes are ideal for a student with a busy schedule. You work from home and during the time that works the best for you. However, I would love it if there were weekly/bi-weekly class time to get additional support. I guess this is what I missed from being in the classroom. When you are in the classroom, you have face to face clarification with the instructor and there are more opportunities to work with classmates.

The lesson videos are helpful because one can watch as many times as needed to understand the concept. Videos and readings are helpful to look back into.

I’m unsure whether I prefer this model or if I prefer in person. I do think that the asynchronous model really helps me go at my own pace and not rush things, especially because I don’t have to attend/log in to the course.

From the overall survey results, we decided to add more personalized components, which Whittier College is known for. One way to do this in the online setting was to provide more time to teach synchronously. Additionally, specific changes to each course are also included below.

In the class Methodology for Primary Language Instruction in a Bilingual Setting, valuable insights were gained over the course of one semester. It was evident to students and the professor that human connection was necessary and increased synchronous instruction was paramount. Asynchronous learning is definitely an avenue many students may decide to participate in, and it has the capacity to be very successful. Thankfully, because Whittier College is paving the way for the BILA program, it has the ability to enhance students’ learning experience and tailor the program to meet the student’s needs.

This was especially true when fulfilling the key signature assignments where students do bilingual shadowing work in a school setting. This project may have proved to be a challenge to complete asynchronously due to the level of guidance needed to grasp the process and data recording. Shadowing work is not simply tallying a sheet but requires thinking, planning, and reflection.

Because Whittier College prides itself on providing personalized instruction, the professor held periodic check-ins with students to facilitate a better understanding of the course requirements. For this reason, it was decided to implement more synchronous instruction moving forward to accommodate all learning modalities, incorporate real classroom application, and foster student engagement and collaboration.

From pilot course to Year 1, the Chicano/Latino Cultures: An Interdisciplinary Perspective course underwent significant changes in delivery and assignments. During the pilot, the course was taught in person during the Spring 2022 semester. The majority of students in the course were already teaching in middle and high school settings but wanted to acquire the BILA authorization to further their professional opportunities. The content in each class discussion inspired reflections on personal and professional experiences that resonated with the BILA students, many of whom identified as Latinx, and saw parallels between the material and their students’ stories. Moreover, the BILA students expressed their surprise that they were not introduced to this material earlier in their undergraduate careers.

Midway through the semester, the professor of this course noticed that the BILA students would arrive to class exhausted because of miscellaneous after-school duties, or in rare cases, arrive moderately late because of their long commutes in the Los Angeles area. This prompted the professor to hit the “pause button” so-to-speak and check-in with the BILA students relative to their classroom (and out-of-class) experience.

It was determined that the content and the course experience itself was great, however, some of the schools where the BILA students taught were not flexible in accommodating them to attend after-school classes. As a result, a suggestion was made to change the meeting dynamic and shift to a synchronous online format. Overall, students enjoyed the convenience of remote delivery when considering outside factors (work, commute, etc.), although, they also reiterated that being in-person would have helped to continue developing personal relationships (Spring 22 evaluations).

In Year 1, the course shifted to asynchronous delivery. With our planning informed by the feedback of former students, there are aspects of the course that were developed to retain a synchronous element, particularly when engaging directly with the instructor and when providing feedback on course experience. For instance, in the Chicano/Latino Cultures course, there are three 1-on-1 meetings throughout the course to check-in with students on their course experience.

These 1-on-1s simultaneously helped to clarify questions for students and to receive broader feedback on course experience at different intervals. While there is a consensus that there is no substitute for in-person instruction, it is also possible to provide an engaging and personalized experience using asynchronous modalities. One recent student describes her experience with the asynchronous BILA program in this way:

I am glad I selected Whittier College as the institution to earn my BILA credential. This program is a hundred percent asynchronous but engaging, perfect for working individuals like myself. The professors teaching the courses are highly qualified in their subjects and are always available to answer any questions I have. The curriculum is rigorous, meaningful, and relatable to the classroom. The small teacher-to-student ratio has allowed me to create professional relationships with my professors and get constructive feedback on classroom assignments. If you plan to earn your BILA credential, Whittier College is an excellent option that will exceed your expectations.” (Karina Andrade, Single Subject Candidate, Art)

Due to the fact that Whittier College prides itself on the personalized experience that it provides its students, the BILA faculty continually evaluate their courses and program to ensure that students are receiving an engaging and relevant course experience.        

Similar to my colleagues, and due to the survey results, the professor of the course, Bilingualism and Biliteracy, needed additional synchronous support to be successful, especially with larger, core assignments. Additionally, I noticed that previous students in completely synchronous courses did much better in that learning format and struggled with only asynchronous environments. This made the BILA professors want to survey all of our students to see if they also preferred to have synchronous/asynchronous mode of learning. I am glad that the survey data substantiated that this was what students preferred.

One of the most engaging projects that students were able to engage in was a Center for Engagement with the Community grant project at Ceres Elementary School in Whittier, CA. For this project, BILA students hosted an after school bilingual book club (with books purchased from the grant) with children that included art projects, music, as well as reading and writing in Spanish and English. BILA students would meet with their professor to plan each after school day, and then they would work with the children to strengthen the pedagogy that they had learned in the BILA program. Below is feedback from one student who participated in the after school program.

The Bilingual Authorization Program was the most effective route for helping me reach my professional objectives. Throughout the program I gained knowledge and skills for addressing the needs of students in academically linguistic environments. I had the opportunity to take part in a project with Dr. Soto where I co-led an after school dual language immersion book club program at Ceres Elementary. The book club provided students in dual language classrooms with the chance and experience to interact with a bilingual book using a variety of media, including art, music, reading and writing in both Spanish and English. In order to become the bilingual educator I have aspired to be, the Whittier College BILA program and the professors have supported and guided me through the various content I was personally able to relate to.” (Yenice Canas Guerrero, Multiple Subject Candidate)

Additionally, as a BILA faculty we met several times to determine what the survey feedback would mean for the second part of implementation in year 1, as well as what it would mean for implementation in year 2. We also met as a team to complete the BILA transition plan for the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, which included the new bilingual standards. During this time, we also discussed how our teaching and assignments would change in order to meet the new standards. We look forward to continuing to meet the needs of our BILA students by surveying them yearly and by working collaboratively.

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