Deniz Ortactepe, assistant professor in the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages/Teaching Foreign Language degree program at the Middlebury Institute has designed and implemented an innovative project to raise awareness of social justice among English Language Teaching (ELT) students in Turkey, alongside colleagues Adnan Yilmaz, assistant professor of ELT at Sinop University, and Eyyup Yaprak, a Masters in ELT candidate at Cukurova University.
Ortactepe says the project is an opportunity to address a lack of coursework in ELT undergraduate programs surrounding social justice in Turkey, aiming “to integrate social justice issues in English language teaching curricula in Turkey by educating pre-service teachers across four different universities in Turkey.” She and her colleagues centered the project around universities in the Black Sea region that were not in the largest cities, and did not have extensive access to resources. The project is funded by the U.S. Embassy Public Affairs Office in Ankara, Turkey, through the U.S. Department of State. The grant is offered to projects that “build mutual understanding and promote U.S. culture, including American Studies, English teaching/learning, music, art, sports, and education; encourage study in the United States; and support human rights, women’s and youth empowerment, LGBT rights, diversity, acceptance of minority groups, and other areas of mutual interest that promote freedom and democracy.”
The overarching goal of this project is to “reduce social injustice and increase equality in socio-economically disadvantaged areas in Turkey.” Participants create lesson plans that take into account social justice, and explore various topics pertinent to language education and equity. Themes that participants explore include environmental justice and sustainability, LGBTQ+ rights and advocacy, gender equality, and immigration and peacebuilding, among others. Ultimately two participants will be selected to travel to Denver, Colorado and attend the TESOL International Convention and English Language Expo in 2020. The remaining seven program participants will have the opportunity to travel to a conference in language teaching in Turkey.
Ortactepe has been very pleased with the results of the project so far. “It was beyond what I was expecting,” she remarks. Student participants have received the project very well, and have been engaged and interested in connecting the themes of the project with their own experiences. In the current phase of the project, webinars are being held, each of which is available on the project website. The first was centered around environmental education, the second on gender equality. The third discussed LGBTQ+ inclusive pedagogy, and there is another forthcoming on immigration and peace building. After these webinars, program participants write blog posts and create lesson plans relating to the theme. There are a variety of individual social responsibility projects being conducted by the students participating in this initiative, including a film that discusses gender inequity and domestic violence, and a project surrounding the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
To see how this project progresses, and what participants are creating, visit the Social Justice in ELT website. [http://www.socialjusticeinelt.com/] For anyone who would like to contribute their ideas, in addition to student blog posts on the website, there is a “Share Story” option in which anyone who is not involved with the project may also reflect about social justice and teaching and share their own stories.
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