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Carolina R. Buitrago

Pillar 3: Intentional Content

3 min read

In my opinion, intentional content is one of the most interesting pillars in FL. I guess all teachers want to provide our students with intentional content, not with a bunch of useless facts.

However, set curriculum in most institutions and the "this-is-how-we-do-it" model some administrators preach have taken away the magic of teaching for some people.

In language learning, especially,  we have the possiblility to make every single thing we teach intentional. After all, we are teaching students to be themselves in a foreign language. Therefore, everything we share with students can be used in their own life. Unfortunately, sometime bureucracy, the set curricula and other variables have transformed language classes into meaningless moments for repetition.

Students in language classes could (and should) learn about themselves as people, about their community, about their profession, but most of the times, the use of a textbook and the set standards to achieve have taken all the fun out of teaching/learning.

In my context, an EFL one, it is crucial to use every class minute wisely, since class is the only contact students may have with the foreign language in a day. However, when students come to class to "stay busy" and when no connection whatsoever is found between the content and they, as people, I can only understand their lack of engagement and attention and their laid-back attitude towards the lesson. Students are tired of "studying" the language, they want to finally start learning it. I think that's how FL earns its place in the language classroom!

Fortunately, this is not my case! Even though the class I teach in the MA program I work for is set and has been taught many times, it evolves. I know it might sound a bit contradictory, but considering the class observes the use of technology and its implications in language teaching and learning, it can't be static. In that sense, I have plenty of room for exploration, design and decision-making. This possibility to innovate has led to my flipped graduate class.

However, not all teachers are this lucky. My students, for example, are educators in the public sector and have to face the worst possible conditions for teaching, not allowing them to offer the best conditions for learning to their students either. Some of them have as little as 2 hours of class a week, and rarely those 2 hours are used for English instruction. My students report they are usually asked to "give out their class hours for other activities" like meetings, or school cleansing or whatever. It is really discouraging for them.

Also, in the public education setting, students don't see much use for English in their real lives. They have challenging socio-economic situations, forcing kids to start in the workforce very early in their lives, some do it right after they finish high-school, others not even get to finish that. Therefore, English to them seems more a luxury than a need. For that reason, they don't invest much time and energy trying to really learn the language. Considering that, intentional content delivered through videos is a flipped learning environment could be a game-changer for these students and teachers.

In sum, the third pillar of FL is very important for me in providing the best experience of learning to students and in showing them the importance of English as a foreign language. I think we should always provide intentional content, flipping or not.