From left: John Scott, Santiago David Albuja Ruales, Breanne Allcock, Tom Allcock.

Oct. 5, 2021

German instructor works with students to produce open-educational resources that make learning tough languages easier. Klingt aufregend!

Apply for a Teaching and Learning Grant by Jan. 17, 2022

For some instructors, the lack of available subject-specific resources to assist with teaching complex concepts contributes to a lack of student understanding and connection with course material. This gap provides the perfect opportunity for using Open Educational Resources (OERs).

OERs are teaching, learning and research resources that have been made available via an open licence such as a Creative Commons Licence, or under an intellectual property licence that permits their free use and repurposing by others. Using OERs can provide educators with a collaborative approach to teaching and learning and also reduce costs for students by replacing textbooks with free, open-access resources.

Approaching a complex problem

Foreign language classes often teach grammar in small pieces without ever stepping back and providing context by pulling those pieces into a bigger system. The German language has a notoriously challenging interaction of three grammatical genders and four grammatical cases, and German teachers are divided on how best to approach their complex interaction in articles and adjectives.

Dr. John Scott, PhD, a German instructor in the School of Languages, Linguistics, Literatures and Cultures (SLLLC), is aiming to inspire a solution to this challenge by creating OERs as part of his 2021 Teaching and Learning Grants project, Teaching German Adjective Endings through Metaphorical Narrative Videos.

Photo of Tom Allcock, Breanne Allcock, and John Scott in an alley in downtown Calgary, posing against a graffiti wall.

From left: Tom Allcock, Breanne Allcock, John Scott.

Creating open educational resources

Scott is working with a team of undergraduate students including Santiago Albuja Ruales, Daryl-Lynn Jimmo and Breanne Allcock to produce a pair of videos as OERs that will use metaphorical narratives to teach how the case and gender endings of German articles and adjectives work as a system. A metaphorical narrative has characteristics that resonate with our personalities, and will often contain references to roles or parts that people play. Effective metaphorical narratives should be accessible within the experience and imagination of the person adopting them.

“I first started using the metaphor of a gang, with a leader followed by the rest of the gang, to explain the behaviour of German articles and adjectives years ago, presenting it informally as a fun and memorable lesson that helped many students grasp the content better,” says Scott. In recent years, Scott’s students have come up with their own creative metaphors to explain the topic.

This summer, the team worked to elaborate the concept behind these metaphorical narratives, prepared storyboards and completed two live-action video shoots on location in Calgary. They are currently editing the videos and are hoping to make both available on PRISM in October.

The approach behind the videos is inspired by drama pedagogy and related work using educational technology in foreign language instruction. By introducing a metaphorical narrative to model the relationships between grammatical forms and the concepts they represent, students are able to identify more concrete and personified roles in the narrative.

Photo of Daryl-Lynn Jimmo holding BBQ tongs.

Daryl-Lynn Jimmo

For students, by students

“Adjective endings are notoriously difficult for students of German across North America. Our memorable and engaging videos will help these endings finally make sense to students. German teaching professionals everywhere will be able to use our videos freely in their classes under Creative Commons licence,” says Scott.

“Beyond teaching this topic of German grammar, we hope to inspire other language teaching professionals to consider how metaphorical narratives can make it easier and more fun for learners to grasp and engage with any variety of abstract grammar concepts, and potentially to develop similar creative projects for their own courses.”

The grant has provided crucial funds to compensate past and present student collaborators for their time and creative contributions to high-quality video productions. “The grant has made this a project for students, by students,” says Scott.

Apply for a grant or volunteer to adjudicate

The University of Calgary Teaching and Learning Grants are designed to enhance student learning experiences through the integration of teaching and learning research and educational leadership. Since the start of the program in 2014, 251 teaching and learning research projects have received funding. Past grant recipients have achieved remarkable results through their research projects in diverse areas of development and innovation, and scholarship of teaching and learning.

Are you interested in submitting a research proposal for a 2022 University of Calgary Teaching and Learning Grant? Successful applications can receive up to $40,000 in funding.

The Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning invites applications from academic staff and librarians, archivists and curators, as well as teaching assistants, postdoctoral scholars, student service professionals and administrative staff. Applications are due Jan. 17, 2022.

Online drop-in consultation sessions are offered in October, and internal peer review opportunities are open until Oct. 31, 2021. Learn more.

The success of the grants program is strengthened by the diverse perspectives of the university community through the adjudication process. Adjudication for the grants will occur during February 2022. Faculty, staff and students can apply to adjudicate grant applications and get unique insight into the program. Apply to be an adjudicator.

About the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning 

The Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning is dedicated to better understanding and improving student learning at the University of Calgary. Its mission is to strengthen teaching and learning communities, cultures and practices to create extraordinary learning experiences. Every year, the Taylor Institute publishes a detailed community report to share and measure their progress towards key priorities. Learn more about the 2020 Taylor Institute Community Report.

Translation (German to English): "Klingt aufregend!" = "Sounds exciting!"