University of Utah
Dr. Steven Sternfeld
Liberal Education 110 "Building Community in and outside the Classroom:
Exploring Linguistic and Cultural Diversity" 801-581-7756

Part of the Liberal Education Problems in Human Values series, this service-learning course was first developed four years ago, with students working as Partners in Education with minority language children at Granger Elementary in West Valley City. Last September, I offered another version of this course as a two-week intensive that met concurrently with the training workshop for new International Teaching Assistants (ITAs). This course, which meets five hours a day for 10 days, allows students to explore issues of linguistic and cultural diversity on our own campus by making them an integral part of the training of new ITAS.

  1. Students in the class provide a needed service.

Each year University of Utah graduate programs hire 30 or more new International Teaching Assistants. ITA training is carried out as a two-week pre-Autumn workshop. By combining the ITA training with my Liberal Education class, two components critical to ensuring ITAs' greater long-term classroom success were added: extensive one-on-one interaction with U of U undergraduates and practice teaching in front of small groups of these students. To promote extensive one-on-one interaction, one or two undergraduates are assigned to each ITA for the duration of the course. These participants spend over three hours each day in their dyad/triad, which, in turn, is continually combined and recombined with other dyads/triads during the course to ensure contact among all participants. Practice teaching includes a total of four micro-teaching lessons which ITAs present to groups of 10- 1 5 undergraduates who, under the guidance of an instructor, provide the ITAs with detailed feedback.

2. The service experience relates to the subject matter of the course.

One of the fundamental principles presented in the course is the notion that communities draw strength from diversity and, as such, viable communities tend to be inclusive rather than exclusive. In attending ITAs micro- teaching lessons and forming work teams that combine both undergraduates and ITAS, undergraduates are able to experience first hand the challenges and benefits of community-building with a linguistically and culturally diverse population.

3. Activities in the class provide methods for students to think about what they learned through the service experience and how these learnings relate to the subject of the class.

Students keep in-class reflexive learning logs, worth 30% of their final grade, in which they systematically describe and comment on their experiences with ITAs and relate those experiences to our texts and our texts to their classroom experience. Students share these reflections directly with one another in their small groups. At the beginning of each session, a selection of these reflections is read out loud to the entire class.

4. The course offers a method to assess the learning from the service.

In addition to students' reflexive learning logs, two of the three questions on their final essay exam, worth 30% of their final grade, require that they show evidence of having learned from their service. The first question asks them to reflect on educator/activist Myles Horton's phrase "We make the road by walking." Specifically, they are asked to describe the road they have traveled in the Lib Ed course using a metaphor such as stepping stones or milestones that represent the various component parts of the course, including their service learning. The second question requires students to prepare a document that demonstrates their skill as a peer educator in the field of diversity training and community-building, with particular attention given to the issues surrounding linguistic and cultural diversity that surfaced in working with the ITAS. In the first class offered last September, students produced documents ranging from a letter to a friend who had complained about ITAs in the past to suggestions for an on-going support program for ITAs staffed by Liberal Education students.

5. Service interactions recognize the needs of service recipients, and offer an opportunity for recipients to be involved in the evaluation of the service:

ITAs do they own on-going and final evaluation of the workshop, with particular attention paid to the contribution made by the Liberal Education students.

6. The service opportunities are aimed at the development of the civic education of citizens.

Central to the workshop is an examination of the consequences of embracing an "Us and Them" mentality which can lead students to attribute a less than satisfactory classroom performance exclusively to ITAs' linguistic and cultural diversity. One of the long-term goals of the service is to prepare students to be peer educators capable of bringing greater clarity to teaching/learning issues involving linguistic and cultural diversity by drawing on their own experiences working with ITAS.

7. Knowledge from the discipline informs the service experiences with which the students are involved.

The texts for the course provide students with a historical perspective on diversity issues in American society as well as models of community-building that promote greater tolerance of diversity. These readings form a foundation for students'community-building efforts with the ITAs as well as among the undergraduates themselves, who are often surprise to discover the extent of their own diversity.

8. The class offers a way to learn from other class members as well as from the instructor.

Each day students work in a series of permanent and ad hoc collaborative groups. Permanent groups meet every day of the two-week course to ensure sufficient time to develop close relationships with a number of fellow undergraduates. At the same time, each day two or three of these smaller groups are recombined to form larger, ad hoc groups that give each student the opportunity to collaborate at least once with all other students in the class.

9. Course options ensure that no student is required to participate in a service placement that creates a religious, political and/or moral conflict for the student.

Students who are for any reason uncomfortable with the ITA they have been paired with can asked to be reassigned.

                  There is a place set for you at our table, if you will choose to join us.
                                                                      - Starhawk, The Fifth Sacred Thing

You are about to enter the classroom of a Liberal Education course in the 110 series known as Problems in Human Values. As its title indicates, the Problems in Human Values series is intended to bring students into the on-going discussion of problematic issues concerning the human condition. Thus, by definition, we will be seeking to expose fundamental, underlying disagreements and conflicts that characterize human relations in general and our American society in particular. The title of this particular section, "Building Community in and outside the Classroom: Exploring Linguistic and Cultural Diversity," identifies the two primary areas of controversy that we will be focusing on: community and diversity. We will be looking for answers to questions such as:

These issues will not be dealt with only in an abstract and intellectual manner, so that in addition to reading and discussing how others in our society seem to answer these types of questions, students will be brought face-to-face with their own thoughts and, just as importantly, with their own feelings about these issues.

Thus, we will explore experientially community and community-building by carrying out all in-class work in the context of a variety of collaborative relationships. First, dyads and triads of one International Teaching Assistant (ITA) and one or two Liberal Education students will be formed today; students will remain in these same dyads or triads every day for the duration of the course. In addition, each dyad/triad will be combined with one or more other dyads/triads to form permanent work groups; each dyad/triad will be a member of three different work groups that will meet each day. The opportunity to participate in a number of groups in variety of settings, students will have an opportunity to learn first hand about the dynamics of community-building.

Likewise, we will explore experientially our underlying attitudes towards and feelings about diversity, not only as it relates to language and culture, but also as it relates to the much broader issues of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality. We will do this by engaging in a process of reading and discussion that exposes us to images of and attitudes towards diversity that we may often find ourselves rejecting out of hand. In other words, we will experience the limits of our own tolerance. By sharing with one another where our own limits lie, we can begin the often slow and difficult process of learning when and how to accept and respect these differences in the context of an American society committed, according to our Constitution, to building, "a more perfect union" and dedicated, according to the Declaration of Independence, to the proposition that "all men all created equal."


A rule of thumb for homework assignments is 1-2 hours of homework for each hour of class. Since this class meets 4 hours daily, students should plan on spending from 4-8 hours a day on homework, depending on their reading and writing skills. Students who believe that they will not be able to set aside, on a daily basis, a sufficient amount of study time for the next ten days are strongly advised not to take this class. Those students who already know that they will not be able to attend each class for the entire four hours (or Saturday from 1 0 to 5 at Camps Rogers near Kamas) would also be wise to reconsider taking this class. NB: You must officially withdraw from the course by Wednesday, September 4. to avoid a W on your transcript.

It is possible to pass the class with some absences and without turning in all of the written assignments; nevertheless, because of the collaborative nature of this course, students are highly interdependent and those who are not able to fully participate often find themselves in intense conflict with their fellow group members. While such conflict is a natural and expected part of community building, it is nonetheless very trying on all members of the community.

During class students will be making regular hand-written entries in a Daily Learning Log at the end of each instructional component (on average five in-class entries a day). You will also have a reading and writing homework assignment in each of the three required texts for eight of the ten days of the course, as follows:


Read up to three articles for each of 8 assignments nightly

Write (by hand or typed) answers to, on average, 5-6 study questions for one of
assigned articles.

Time Magazine

Read up to three articles for each of 8 assignments nightly

Write a maximum 1 -page (typed only) lesson preparation for at least one of the
assigned articles

The Fifth Sacred Thing

Read approximately 60 pages (3-5 chapters) for each of 8 assignments nightly

Write a maximum 1 -page (typed only) reaction paper on at least one of assigned chapters

There will be a comprehensive, 2-hour, in-class final essay exam on Friday, Sept. 13 (!). This is a closed book exam; however, you will be able to use the writing assignments (Us and Them, Time, The Fifth Sacred Thing, and Daily Learning Logs and notes) .


Points are awarded for each writing assignment and for the final exam, as indicated below. Points for each of the three writing assignments are awarded on an "all or nothing basis," i.e., a writing assignment that meets minimum standard criteria and is turned in on time receives maximum points while a writing assignment that fails to meet minimum standard criteria or is not turned in on time receives no points. No credit is given for late work, but students will be allowed to use work that is turned in late as notes for the final exam. The final exam will be graded on a standard A-F scale.

Date: Fri, 24 Oct 1997 07:22:54 MST
From: Renee Buchanan <>
Subject: Liberal Education 110