Virtual Exchange for Future Teachers: A Project-based Learning Design

Virtual Exchange (VE) has received more attention recently, due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. Although VE is not new (O’Dowd, 2020), its home is usually in second language programs, rather than education faculties where the focus is less on language learning and more on expanding pedagogical content knowledge (Rets et al., 2020). However, instructors of pre-service teachers still see a need to support language learning while designing for learning around second language teaching (Tedick & Lyster, 2020). During Feb. - Mar. 2021, future language teachers from Spain and Canada took part in a VE that provided experiential learning about second language pedagogy in different cultural contexts while working on improving their Spanish and English respectively. Students in Canada studying to become Spanish as Foreign Language teachers were partnered with students in Spain who were becoming English as Foreign Language teachers. Embedded in a course in both countries, student partners met during an overlapping portion of their respective semesters, both synchronously and asynchronously through a combined course shell. A bilingual TA was hired to support the VE and students had language practice, as the Zoom sessions alternated between using Spanish and English. The design for the courses were built around project-based learning (Stoller, 2006) all modelled around a Choiceboard. Project-based learning allowed students to follow their interests through choices in how to demonstrate their learning in the form of final products. Classwork and partner projects resulted in a meaningful global learning experience. The VE projects involved researching and sharing specific topics of L2 pedagogy and language use (e.g., common teaching approaches; the role of other languages in the classroom; dialect awareness), including one multi-modal assignment. As a result, this VE addressed an ongoing goal of internationalizing this introductory teaching specialization course. The VE also provided intercultural communication and language practice for the students and a design partnership among the Canadian instructor and TA with the Spanish partner instructors.
instructional design, Virtual Exchange, learning technology, language learning, second-language learning