Making sense of Teaching Linguistics

Jean Ann (State University of New York at Oswego)

This talk is one version of how I began to make sense of teaching linguistics. Since the talk is structured somewhat historically, I explain how ten years ago I came into prolonged contact with "education people," and developed new loyalties outside of the field of linguistics as a result. Next, I explain how through teaching pre-service teachers about teaching, I strengthened my understanding of how I might be able to improve my own teaching. I center this discussion upon my tinkering with two ideas from the field of education that helped me see things differently than I had previously been able to. The first idea is that when you teach you are trying to help students acquire three things: knowledge, skills and dispositions. I explain how thinking about this idea helped me pinpoint what I was doing in my teaching that I didn't want to do, and how I altered things for the better. The second idea is that there exists a 'hidden' curriculum, which professors are not aware they are teaching and students are not aware they are learning, nevertheless, what is learned through the 'hidden' curriculum is learned as well as that which is learned through the overt or intended curriculum. This idea moved me ahead in my understanding of what students (particularly students who take only one course or students who are linguistics majors but who will not go on in linguistics or a related field) could and should get from linguistics courses. I conclude by suggesting some connections and implications that I see as a result of what I have put together. Perhaps the most important of these is that the more you teach students, not linguistics, the more linguistics you can teach your students.