Graduate Language School
The Master of Arts in Teaching a Second Language (MATSL) program is for elementary, middle, and high school foreign language teachers who wish to advance their careers. The curriculum is designed to foster growth by integrating cultural perspectives and practices, language, pedagogy, and leadership. The MATSL experience enables our students to:
- become better teachers by applying what is learned in the classroom to their own classrooms;
- improve language skills by participating in structured and unstructured learning experiences in the target language;
- deepen their cultural knowledge by experiencing content-based instruction.
In order to best take advantage of the intensive approach of this low-residency program, candidates should be involved in teaching a second language. Applicants must demonstrate proficiency in the language they teach, in part, through an Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) administered by Language Testing International (LTI), the language testing office of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). MATSL applicants are expected to score at least at the Intermediate-High level. The test must have been taken within two years of entry into the program. All MATSL students, especially those who enter at the Intermediate level, are expected to improve their language abilities over the two years of their enrollment. Specifically, all students are expected to leave the program at the Advanced level or higher. The program’s language/culture courses are meant to aid in that improvement, but the responsibility for language development rests with the student.
The program addresses topics such as technology in the classroom, second language acquisition, assessing language competence, and teaching to state and national standards. As they explore these issues, participants wrestle with the more immediate questions raised by teaching a second language, such as: How do I get my students to think in a foreign language instead of merely translating into it? How do I make another culture come alive for my students? Or, more simply, what is good language teaching? Throughout this process, MATSL students hone their powers of observation, deepen their ability to reflect on their own teaching, and learn what it takes to become leaders in their fields.
Native speakers of French or Spanish who earned a bachelor’s degree from a French or Spanish language university may request a waiver of the OPI test requirement. Applicants are encouraged to schedule their OPI appointments as early as possible, since scores can take several weeks to reach the MATSL office. An OPI appointment form is included in the MATSL application materials. Applicants can also call LTI directly at 914-963-7110 or apply online.
Summer term courses
- Experience and Analysis: Experience and Analysis combines a Language and Culture course, which is offered each year, with either a Pedagogy or Assessment course, which are taught in alternating years. The courses are integrated with each other and co-taught in the target language. In the Language and Culture course, a content-based pedagogy is explicitly modeled, providing a basis for analysis in the Pedagogy and Assessment courses. Pedagogical practices are thereby developed through the students’ concrete experiences with their own learning.
- Spanish and French Language and Culture: In keeping with the philosophy of Bennington College, the approach to teaching the target language is intensive, and the content of the language courses is cultural. In these courses, therefore, students deepen their knowledge not only of the target language but of the corresponding culture(s) as well. These courses incorporate the development of the four skills—reading, listening, writing, and speaking—while deepening and expanding cultural content. The Language and Culture courses alternately focus on French/Francophone and Spanish/Latin American cultures.
- Pedagogy in Spanish and French: This course, integrated with a Language and Culture course, provides an opportunity for analyzing the integrated approach to teaching language and culture. The foundation of the course is curricular design that targets understanding, upon which knowledge about grade-level expectations, national standards, and teaching the four skills is built. Based on their analyses, students build bridges to their teaching contexts. In so doing, this course addresses human development, lesson planning, and curriculum development that is appropriate to students’ linguistic and cognitive levels.
- Assessment in Spanish and French: In this course, which is integrated with a Language and Culture course, students analyze how evidence of learning is gathered and evaluated to diagnose teaching and to assess student learning. Students learn how to design and integrate evaluation tools that target the assessment of cultural understanding in addition to the four skills.
- Technology and Literacies for Second Language Learning: This course offers students opportunities to explore relationships between digital communication technologies, literacies, and second language learning. Wikipedia, blogs, chat, email, and social networking as well as commercial technologies such as Flickr and YouTube are analyzed as both the means and the context for communication in ways that sponsor new views of what language is, what it affords, and how second languages can be taught and learned in context. Theoretical knowledge, technical training and hands-on exercises link technology, literacies, and language for education.
- Second Language and Culture Acquisition: This course delves into the ways we learn foreign and second languages, making explicit the presumption that learning, especially language learning, is a cultural phenomenon. The course emphasizes how theories of language and culture acquisition apply in actual classrooms.
- Action Research Seminars: The seminars introduce students to action research, guiding them in developing lines of inquiry, collecting data, and understanding the research cycle. The seminars include presentations, at which students present their action research projects to one another.
Nonresidency term courses
- Spanish and French Language and Culture Online: This course allows students to explore cultural issues in the target language through online publications (newspapers and journals) or through off-line literary or historical texts. It also facilitates student analysis of their experiences in order to apply what they learn as students to their teaching.
- Developing Leaders through Teacher Research: Because action research can be complex and dynamic, students are assigned a mentor who will support them through the research process each Nonresidency Term. Students are required to correspond with their mentor at least once a month, developing and refining their projects as they unfold. Students also enter into online discussions with the other students in their mentor’s care so they can strengthen both their cohort ties and their research skills by helping each other.
- Capstone Seminar: Looking Backward and Forward: During the Capstone Seminar, students integrate what they have learned during their two years at Bennington and discuss issues of professional advocacy. Specifically, students create a concept map of their understanding of leadership and a professional portfolio that provides evidence of their learning in the areas of language and culture, pedagogy, and leadership. The Capstone Seminar takes place on campus at Bennington College, early in the final summer. It constitutes the seventh week of residency.