Drexel English Language Center Helps to Prepare the Next Generation of Fulbrighters
By Hannah Dong, communication ’24, and Liz Waldie
October 06, 2022
The English Language Center (ELC) at Drexel University has a long-standing history with the Institute of International Education’s (IIE) Fulbright program.
Since 2008, the center has run an English for Graduate Studies program, typically held on-site at Drexel for four to six weeks during the summer. This past summer, the ELC expanded its IIE Fulbright offerings to include an English Teaching Assistants (ETA) program. The program, funded by a State Department grant, was geared toward preparing Fulbright scholars for their travels abroad. The ELC held several virtual workshops over the span of two weeks, designed to prepare scholars for their upcoming teaching roles across the globe.
Travis Harman, interim director of the ELC, and Anne Politz, International Teaching Assistants program coordinator, worked closely with the School of Education, Office of Equality and Diversity and Office of Global Engagement to develop a comprehensive proposal for the program, which included workshops on themes including the use of authentic materials; diversity, inclusion and multiculturalism; and classroom management.
Part of the ELC’s mission is to promote the practice and scholarship of English language teaching in an environment of integrity and respect. Politz believes the recent ETA program encompassed that through both a local and international lens.
“We saw the opportunity and knew that it’s really what we do. It’s who we are,” said Harman. “We have a strong history of teacher training so we knew we could be successful.”
The grant is renewable for up to five years, provided the first year was a success. According to students of the program, it was. A unique combination of asynchronous work; synchronous sessions with Drexel faculty and staff members; and conversations with twenty Fulbright alumni made for an enriching program packed with collaborative lessons.
“We knew we wanted the center to be involved in the workshops, but we also wanted to work with other facilitators throughout the university,” added Politz.
The “Using Authentic Materials” workshop was led by William Albertson, an instructor at the ELC. In this session, authentic materials were defined as anything designed for native speakers that helps learners, from videos to readings. Emily Prechtl, a Fulbright alum, noted the value of adding videos in her classroom, and Julia Laden, another alum of the program, discussed the benefits of including online sources to teach about daily news.
“It’s incredibly helpful that the workshops were intentional in bringing in former Fulbright alumni to talk about their own experiences and answer questions,” said Megan Brady, a scholar headed to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
She found the program to be well-structured and noted that the Diversity, Inclusion and Multiculturalism workshop was especially outstanding. Run by Patience Ajoff-Foster, PhD, CDP, assistant vice president for inclusive culture and belonging, and Ahaji Schreffler, senior director of education abroad, the session started with alumni who talked about their experiences teaching around the world. These talks were followed by discussions about social location, what diversity means and incorporating materials that not only tell the American story.
The main takeaway of this program is a portfolio, explained Harman. “The purpose of our workshop is to help the participants go to their host country and host institution with a portfolio of lesson plans and activities, and really be able to hit the ground running.”
Kevin Oman, a scholar traveling to Cyprus, said the portfolio aspect of the program was daunting at first, but he ultimately found it to be one of the most beneficial parts of his time in the workshops.
“It really helped me just get an idea of how much work goes into creating a lesson, and I appreciated the feedback from people in our groups.”
Politz described a “Lesson Lab” section of the program, which served as an opportunity for scholars to gather feedback from groups on their portfolios of lesson plans. The goal is for everyone to have four solid plans that make up a unit, similar to a textbook section, that cover the four areas of learning English: reading, writing, listening and speaking. Based on testimonials from attendees, the program met this goal, preparing them for the next step in their careers.
“I’m just so excited for the opportunity to get to go [abroad],” Brady beamed. “And I felt the workshops that I was able to attend at Drexel were really helpful in getting me ready for the journey.”