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Profiles in Language Teaching at UT: Carol Seeger, Senior Lecturer, ASL Language Program Department of Linguistics
I am currently a Senior Lecturer within the Department of Linguistics. Since my arrival at UT in 1992, I have taught a variety of undergraduate courses including all five levels of American Sign Language (ASL). During my first eight years, I was a lecturer in CSD (Communication Science and Disorders) within the College of Communication. In 2000, the ASL program transitioned to the Linguistics Department. Several graduate students have also taken my classes over the years, often for job-related reasons. The courses I teach regularly are: ASL 506 (First Year American Sign Language I); ASL 507 (First Year American Sign Language II); ASL 312K (Second Year American Sign Language I); ASL 312L (Second Year American Sign Language II); and ASL 320 (Advanced American Sign Language Conversation).
When the ASL classes were transitioned to the Department of Linguistics in 1996, I became the Course Coordinator and was given the responsibility of supervising all lower-division ASL courses and some of the upper division courses.
American Sign Language is a visual/gestural language; throughout class, students must attend visually to the instructor or to whoever else is signing. My teaching philosophy is rooted in motivating students and maintaining their visual attention. Some of the ways that I do this include: 1) engaging storytelling as a mechanism for teaching language and culture, 2) using humor/jokes and language games to keep things lively and fun, 3) encouraging classroom interactions by modeling language uses for various types of interactions that are common in the Deaf community, and 4) utilizing videos or visual aids as resources for class discussion.
I believe that students can benefit by bringing their own experiences into the classroom. One particularly effective task is to ask students to describe their most embarrassing moment (to the extent that they feel comfortable doing so). The act of sharing a personal anecdote in class helps students to truly embody communication (i.e., communicate manually, with their hands, but also non-manually, with facial expressions, body movements, etc.). I believe that an activity like this helps students gain confidence in using ASL and they are aided by the fact that the events they are describing are very familiar to them. Class is very amusing when we do this activity, and students truly engage in the language-learning process.