LCTL Partnership

A Mellon Grant for Less Commonly Taught Languages


December 2017 Pedagogical Workshop

On December 7-8th, the Michigan State University team welcomed 27 participants from 11 institutions to the second pedagogical workshop hosted as part of the LCTL Partnership.

Throughout the workshop, we gave opportunities for all participants to talk, set goals for the workshop and their instruction, and to learn from each other.

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Our presenters focused on topics ranging from ACTFL Guidelines and Differentiated Instruction…

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to the Flipped Classroom…

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to Communities of Practice and Grassroots LCTL Sharing.

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The participants were engaged in lots of discussion throughout the two-day workshop. We enjoyed the energy they brought to the workshop and can’t wait to welcome another round of instructors to the May 2018 workshop!


If you are interested in learning more details about the workshop topics and/or interested in watching recordings of the sessions, follow this link for access to those materials!



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Shared LCTL Symposium 2017 Recap




Stakeholders from across the Big Ten Academic Alliance (BTAA) and beyond gathered for a full-day Symposium on LCTL instruction at the Big Ten Conference Center in Chicago, IL on Monday, September 11th 2017. On the agenda were updates on collaborative projects across the BTAA, as well as a discussion of some of the most pressing issues moving forward.

Morning session: Updates on current projects

After a welcome by Chris Long (Dean, College of Arts and Letters, Michigan State University) and Cathy Baumann (Director, Chicago Language Center, University of Chicago), the morning saw a number of groups give reports on their projects.

Emily Heidrich and Koen Van Gorp (Project Manager and Curriculum Coordinator, Michigan State University) provided an update on the Mellon-funded LCTL Partnership initiative, which aims to foster collaboration and the development of communities of practice among LCTL instructors across the BTAA. The first year of the project focused on Swahili, and so Deo Ngonyani (Michigan State University), Katrina Daly Thompson (University of Wisconsin – Madison), and Mary Gathogo (University of Illinois Urbana – Champaign) each had an opportunity to showcase the first set of teaching materials developed under this project.

Cathy Baumann (Director, Chicago Language Center, University of Chicago) reported on the Collaborative Partners project, now in its second year. The project is also funded by an Andrew W. Mellon grant and focuses on bringing together pairs of instructors of Less Commonly Taught Languages (LCTLs) from different home institutions to develop shared course sequences in the target language, following a reversed design approach.

The morning session ended with an update from Joseph Miller (Program Coordinator, Academic Programs, Big Ten Academic Alliance), who reported on the established CourseShare initiative. During this portion of the session, many attendees from outside the BTAA had the opportunity to learn more about CourseShare for the first time.

You can watch a recording of the morning session by clicking here.

Afternoon panels

After the lunch break, where everyone had a chance to catch up with old friends and network with new acquaintances, the afternoon session sought to generate dialogue among attendees and input about current projects and future directions.

The research panel saw Chris Kaiser (Program Manager, Distance Learning, Columbia University), Chris Long (Dean, College of Arts & Letters, Michigan State University), and Nick Swinehart (Multimedia Pedagogy Specialist, University of Chicago) each give a brief presentation on research issues and agendas brought forth at their respective institutions. The panelists brought different vantage points on research across collaboration initiatives, from more granular (Chris Kaiser) to broader (Chris Long). Nick Swinehart discussed a very interesting research question: how can we measure LCTL instructors’ readiness to teach online?

The technology panel, led by Luca Giupponi (Educational Technology Specialist, Michigan State University), Thomas Garza (Director, Texas Language Center, University of Texas at Austin), and Steel Wagstaff (Instructional Technology Consultant, University of Wisconsin – Madison) focused on different approaches to using technology to foster collaboration and openness. Attendees learned about the potential of technology to disrupt traditional ways of teaching language, as well as affordances and constraints associated with two major publishing tools: Google Apps and Pressbooks.

You can watch a recording of the afternoon session by clicking here.

Major themes

The major themes of the 2017 Shared LCTL Symposium which emerged from presentations, discussions, and audience questions were the following:

We’d like to thank everyone who attended for coming and offering so many ideas and topics for discussion. See you all next year!

Swahili Working Group Modules

The Swahili Working Group met for a two-day meeting in early 2017. One of the blessings and a point of some frustration that has arisen with this project is the unprecedented nature of this collaboration. With no precedent to show us the amount and the types of materials that should come out of a project like this, there were a lot of decisions to be made by both the MSU team ahead of the meeting and by the Swahili Working Group at the meeting. Before the Swahili Working Group Meeting, the MSU team decided on a minimum amount of materials that we expected to come out of the project. However, each LCTL has its own unique needs, and the Swahili Working Group truly shaped the direction of material development for the project.

After much discussion about the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines and the NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements, our Swahili experts narrowed down certain areas of proficiency they felt were particularly important to their students. In particular, they felt that there were not enough materials for advanced learners, and wanted to focus on learners in the third and fourth years of Swahili, ranging from Intermediate-Mid to Advanced on the ACTFL Scale. They also discussed different areas of East African culture on which they wanted to focus.

Out of these discussions came modules that will focus on a variety of aspects of East African culture and varying proficiency levels:

  1. Multi-Cultural Identities (Intermediate-Mid) – with a particular focus on preparation for students who will study abroad in East Africa
  2. Family/Community and Traditions/Celebrations (Intermediate-High)
  3. Politics/Societal Issues (Intermediate-High)
  4. Careers/Research and Technology (Advanced-Low)
  5. Religion and Urban Legends (Advanced-Low)
  6. Sexuality and Gender Roles (Advanced-Mid)

This academic year (2017-2018), we hope to pilot three of the units in our core/affiliate partner sites. Based on feedback from instructors and students, the pilot-tested modules and final three modules will be refined.

Welcome to the news update for the LCTL Partnership!

The first months of the project have been both invigorating and challenging. The project started in earnest with a Kickoff Symposium in September 2016, where constituents of the Big Ten Academic Alliance came together to talk about two Mellon projects – one facilitated by Michigan State University and another from the University of Chicago.

Soon after that kickoff meeting, Swahili was chosen as the first language of focus for our project. We worked on getting commitments from core and affiliate partner universities for their participation. The engagement and interest from the participants was inspiring to see.

Despite our high hopes for a completely smooth start, creating a new initiative is not easy. It can be daunting to try to establish collaborative groups, forge partnerships, and create new methods of approaching old problems in an innovative way.


Some highlights:


Some challenges:


Our Principal Investigator, Dean Christopher Long, and two of our co-investigators, Susan Gass and Koen Van Gorp, wrote a commentary about the project in the latest issue of the journal Europe Now. Check it out for more highlights and challenges!