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A Project-Based Language Learning (PBLL) Approach to Developing Advanced Communicative Skills, Multiliteracy and Intercultural Competence: Examples from the Arabic Language Flagship

Session XIII-17, 2022 Annual Meeting

On Sunday, December 4 at 1:30 pm

Panel Description
Grounded in John Dewey’s (1938) theory of experiential learning, Project-Based Learning (PBL) emphasizes learning by doing, integrating perspectives from constructivism (Piaget, 1953; Vygotsky, 1978) and constructionism (Pappert, 1980). Drawing from this rich theoretical background, several frameworks for PBL implementation have been developed, but one has been widely adopted across disciplines, namely the PBLWorks framework. PBLL engages learners in the construction of public products that serve an authentic purpose with authentic audiences beyond the institutional setting, and enables immersive experiences that promote the development of intercultural competence and critical 21st century skills. This panel will begin with an overview of how this framework can be applied in the context of world language education. It will rely on a seven-year process of input and consultation with language professionals which has resulted in insights and resources for the design and implementation of Project-Based Language Learning (PBLL) experiences. Following this introduction, the panel will address key elements of project design, implementation, and effectiveness through three case studies presenting findings supported by data from Arabic Flagship Programs in the U.S. and in a study abroad environment. The first case study reports on a project that aims at helping Arabic-speaking visitors and immigrants to the USA avoid misinterpretations of various explicit and implicit traffic rules that may be drastically different in their home countries. Students develop essential linguistic, (inter)cultural, and communicative knowledge and skills required for the production of a public product: a resource to be used by the local Department of Motor Vehicles. The second case study reports on a project based on the complex cultural concept of hospitality. Students construct a cultural guide for Arab immigrants and travelers to the United States. The report will address key aspects of this project such as curricular integration, challenges in PBLL design and implementation, assessment, as well as how the linguistic and intercultural outcomes for Arabic learners in this program were met. The third case study focuses on a project that developed a model to investigate the effectiveness of using the PBLL approach in achieving the linguistic, intercultural and professional goals of internships within an Arabic Flagship study abroad context while developing students’ 21st century skills. The paper presents an overview of the design and implementation of the project within a hybrid online and in-person environment and measures its effectiveness using a multi-method approach.
  • Based on the concept of project-based learning as a pedagogical approach to language acquisition, the presentation is going to show how this approach was implemented at an American university with learners of Arabic as a foreign language at the intermediate level. The presentation focuses on the project of producing a guide that Arab immigrants and travelers to the United States, specifically the State of Maryland, can use to facilitate learning and recognizing different driving rules and cultural differences involved in the act of driving and following traffic regulations. The presentation will show the steps undertaken pre-, during, and post-project, and will discuss whether the project benefited the students linguistically and culturally and in which way. It will also show the difficulties and modifications required in future implementations of the same project if it were to be adopted in different classrooms or levels . The presentation will also focus on how the project was integrated into an existing course and what adjustments were needed in order for that to be achieved in the best educational way and meet the learning outcomes and objectives of the course. It will also show the methods used in collecting data and assessing the learning process.
  • Abstract البيت بيتك /Make Yourself at Home: Hospitality in Arab and American Culture This presentation reports on a Project-Based Language Learning initiative entitled "البيت بيتك/ “Mi casa es su casa”/ Make yourself at home." The project is conducted at the Arabic Flagship Program at Indiana university and focuses on the concept of Hospitality in both Arab and American culture as a medium for developing intercultural competence and connection among American students and Arab newcomers in their community in the U.S. Why hospitality? Hospitality matters because it deepens existing relationships and creates the space for new ones to flourish. While learning a new language or studying abroad, students can be considered “like guests who honor the house with their visit and will not leave without having made their own contribution" (Smith, David I. & Barbara Cavill, 2000). Likewise, students can help better welcome newcomers in their community at home if they learn about the latter’s understanding and practices of hospitality. This project will help Arab newcomers avoid culture shock especially when they host Americans, and help the Arab community to appreciate the American culture of hospitality. It also will help students learning Arabic and those interested in studying abroad to avoid the culture shock of hospitality. Through this project, students build a hospitality-focused resource by engaging with the Arab community and compiling a large number of authentic materials (videos, news, articles, and social media, etc.) all related to the tradition of Arab and American hospitality. The presentation reports on the various steps and challenges of designing and implementing this project as well as the linguistic and intercultural outcomes for Arabic learners in this program.
  • Students often struggle when it comes to engaging in the workplace environment during internships abroad. Similarly, organizations where students volunteer and intern are not always clear about how they would benefit from this partnership opportunity with students. The barriers to international and local travel imposed by the pandemic only complicated matters further for the year-long Arabic Flagship program in Morocco where internships are central to the mission of the program. This paper chronicles the adoption of a Project-Based Language Learning (PBLL) approach within the program curriculum in order to tackle both issues through a project called “Help My Association.” The project involved groups of advanced Arabic learners interning with Moroccan associations and organizations over one semester. The study focuses on how this hybrid PBLL project was designed and implemented initially in the virtual environment while students were U.S.-bound because of the pandemic and then overseas when international travel was allowed. Using a multi-method approach, the study also evaluates the effectiveness of this approach in developing these advanced learners’ professional Arabic language usage, their pragmatic and intercultural competence, and their 21st Century skills. Finally, the paper will delineate some of the challenges the program encountered in developing and implementing this hybrid project and will share lessons learned for future iterations of the project as well as pedagogical recommendations for the application of PBLL in other contexts.