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Language Learning And Social Responsibility Part I - Articles Surfing

Recent events in world history have shown the interconnectedness of peoples around the world and their aspirations for peace and economic comfort as well. While these events inspired heated discussions in the social sciences, language teachers can not overlook the fact that social concerns are an integral part of the life systems of language learners too. Issues and problems that beset the human race are concerns that should not be attended only within institutional structures but also within and without the confines of the language class. There is an urgent need to provide student experiences with an international dimension, experiences that should empower them and equip them with the proper knowledge and skills in dealing with social issues that should help equalize the negative feelings of selfishness, regionalism, discrimination, hatred and hopelessness.

The task of providing appropriate information and stimuli to language learners is daunting indeed. Both students and teachers may find universal topics like human rights, poverty, hunger, war, minority issues and related concepts too overwhelming and cumbersome. Nevertheless, a confluent approach to teaching social responsibility in the language class helps to neutralize this seeming difficulty in dealing with social issues. Alfred Adler (as cited in Stein and Edwards, 1999) explained that:

If people have developed social interest at the affective level, they are likely to feel a deep belonging to the human race and, as a result, are able to empathize with their fellow humans. They can then feel very much at home on the earth -- accepting both the comforts as well as the discomforts of life. At the cognitive level, they can acknowledge the necessary interdependence with others, recognizing that the welfare of any one individual ultimately depends on the welfare of everyone. At the behavioral level, these thoughts and feelings can then be translated into actions aimed at self development as well as cooperative and helpful movements directed toward others. Thus, at its heart, the concept of feeling of community encompasses individuals' full development of their capacities, a process that is both personally fulfilling and results in people who have something worthwhile to contribute to one another. At the same time, the concept denotes a recognition and acceptance of the interconnectedness of all people. The confluent approach to teaching social responsibility in the language class embraces the four dimensions of teaching social studies: the provision of factual information; the development of skills; drawing on one's concern for positive change; and the practical application of knowledge and skills in actual situations. Further, the instructional model adopts Nonita Marte's (2003) four phases of value learning: learning trigger phase; values clarification phase; directive / inculcation phase; and action phase. The uniquely personal and subjective nature of learning allows the learner to undergo experiences within these four phases alone or by collaborating with others. At the end, recognizing the learners as the nucleus of the learning process and allowing them to facilitate productive transformations in their cognitive and affective attributes heighten the purposes of language learning. This discussion is therefore guided by the perceptions that this confluence is a process of holistic learning, involving body, mind, emotion and spirit. Students learn multi-dimensionally about themselves and others at the same time learning the traditional structures of the language.

Language learning is a social activity as much as it is an academic exercise. Students should be provided with venues for collaborative learning. Collaborative activities heighten student participation and can easily translate to students getting a chance to come across the perspectives of others besides themselves and the teachers, thus enriching the acquisition of knowledge and social skills that are necessary in developing students' ability to respect diversity, understand conflict, and practice negotiation and cooperative problem solving;

Language learning goes beyond factual learning to problem finding and anticipation. Classroom activities should encourage students to hone their thinking skills they need to understand controversial contemporary issues and the ability to take responsibility for what is learned. Activities should therefore motivate students to go deep into the issues and analyze them from different perspectives, thereby increasing the effectiveness of the language;

Understanding one's role in society helps create or develop the explorer in the student. This promotes positive self-direction and independence as well as develop one's sense of community, a personal responsibility for the well-being of a greater populace.

Submitted by:

Rex Pe

Rex Pe writes about his observations and meditations about society and culture, religion and spirituality, China travel experiences and life in general at Reflections Unlimited: http://goldendragon613.blogspot.com.



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