Radical Pedagogy


Radical Pedagogy (2005)

ISSN: 1524-6345

Sharing Power with Students:
The Critical Language Classroom

Isabel Moreno-Lopez
Department of Modern Languages and Literatures
Goucher College


In the critical classroom, authority and responsibilities are shared between teacher and students, empowering all course members to become active, responsible participants of the learning process, not merely passive consumers. Sharing authority sets the ground for a bilateral learning process in which students and teacher negotiate the class procedures, structure, content, grading criteria as well as their own roles in relation to each other. Following the Vygotsky paradigm, the emphasis of the learning process is shifted from assessing the student’s performance to assessing the amount of help s/he needs. Through a critical ethnographic study, this article focuses on the ways in which participants shared power and reproduced or rejected the traditional roles of the teacher as an authority figure and of students as passive recipients of knowledge.

The dominant classes of a society often play an ideological role in the reproduction of social inequalities as their rules and customs function to maintain the hegemony that serves their social and economic interests. Furthermore, this reproduction assists in keeping the various factions of the dominated classes divided against each other in the interests of the ruling class hegemony. Schools are only one of several institutions that on occasion serve to perpetuate a hierarchical social structure through the transmission of habitus, or the inculcation of particular dispositions in students, teachers, administrators and politicians that generate specific power practices (Bourdieu & Passeron, 1998).

Thus, both students and instructors may acquire similar habitus in which a particular social order reflecting the interests of the dominant classes is systematically reproduced. Critical theorists examine how individuals can exercise agency to act upon their own destiny and interrupt the transmission of an oppressive habitus. The concept of agency refers here to the human ability to influence and change the environments individuals have constructed through their discursive practices. Thus, they may deny the power of dominant social classes through resistance (Selfe, 1996: 275).

Within the educational system in the United States (US), many scholars have analyzed the foreign language classroom, and specifically the Spanish classroom, as a site that contributes to reproduce a school habitus in which the target cultures are perceived as the other, that is “someone outside the set; someone who doesn’t fit into the mental configurations that give our lives order and meaning” (Madrid, 1994: 130). These scholars voice the necessity of organizing the language curriculum in ways that enhance cultural sensitivity and that are relevant for language learners (Kramsch, 1993; Omaggio, 1993; Seelye, 1993; Schwartz & Kavanaugh, 1997). The application of alternative pedagogies which might help to question the power of the dominant classes results in the creation of new collective futures for teachers and students (Giroux, 1992).

To apply alternative pedagogies, language teachers must acquire a perspective of language theory since theory and practice influence and shape each other. Furthermore, just as advances in language theory are reflected in the classroom, the realities of pedagogy impact on theory (Eckman, Highland, Lee, Mileham, & Rutkowski Webber, 1995). In this study the teacher embraced both theory and practice by conducting a critical research of her own teaching and applying critical pedagogy to a Spanish language classroom. This article solely focuses on the results related to the following questions: what are the implications of sharing authority among students and their teacher? What are students’ reactions when they participate in the course decision-making process?

Literature Review

The main goal of critical pedagogy is to create engaged, active, critically thinking citizens, that is to say, political subjects who can participate as decision-makers in the organization of their socio-cultural realities (Freire, 1970; Giroux, 1992). Critical pedagogues challenge teachers and students to rethink the purpose and meaning of schooling, and the role that they might play as cultural workers. They assert that critical pedagogy is an invitation to engage in social criticism, to create new discourses where the principles of human dignity, liberty, and social justice are extended. Education is defined here as a system based on a mutual exchange between a teacher and her students:

    We can learn a great deal from the very students we teach. For this to happen it is necessary that we

     transcend the monotonous arrogant, and elitist traditionalism where the teacher knows all and the student  

      does not know anything (Freire, 1985: 177).

Critical Pedagogy emerged in the 1960s, when Paulo Freire conducted a national literacy campaign in Brazil that promoted knowledge through the critical examination of social conditions. He drew from Catholic liberation theology that broke from the definition of Church authority, encouraging teachers and students to engage in dialogues over texts that were meaningful to their lives (Bennet deMarrais & LeCompte, 1999: 3). Thus, this new pedagogy emerged as a reaction to traditional pedagogy defined as the norm, that is to say, the way in which most language classes are taught in the U.S., focusing mainly on the acquisition of listening, reading, speaking, and writing skills, as well as the systematic integration of fragmented glimpses of the target cultures. Traditional pedagogy is generally practiced in institutions that promote pre-designed syllabi centered on a fixed course material to be covered.

On the other hand, critical pedagogues encourage teachers to reinvent the role of power, placing authority on the students, and arranging curricula and classroom practices to ensure students can develop the relative autonomy necessary to be empowered to analyze, criticize, and question not only the material they are studying, but also the texts in which the content material is presented. Freire (1970) illustrates the pedagogical importance of inviting students to create their own texts and use them as the course materials, and demonstrates that allowing them to learn from texts created in the classroom guarantees the relevance of the material being studied to the learner’s reality, and results in an accurate level and pace for the learning process. It is not probable that students will find these texts too advanced or not challenging enough in relation to their level of proficiency, and they can relate to their content because they have created it. Furthermore, the act of learning involves a dialectical movement that shifts from action to reflection and resistance, and vice versa (Freire, 1970). Creating texts (for instance, in journals and ethnographies) allows students to reflect on their work and progress, and on that of their peers. Furthermore, it is an active way of sharing power with the teacher (who is usually the one to create or choose the texts to be studied in class) and of enhancing the learning process.

For instance, the development of mini-ethnographic projects is an activity that promotes critical thinking skills, in which students are given the freedom to explore their own interests in relation to the target cultures. These projects “are open, long-term, integrative inquiries done in a social setting that are created and/or developed with much student input and ownership” (Wolk, 1998, p. 96). Critical analysts denounce school practices that break knowledge into discrete pieces considered in isolation. They criticize the fact that students hardly ever plan or start projects of length, conceptualizing their own endeavors. These practices alienate students from the topics dealt with in class, making the learning material irrelevant to their personal experiences (Kincheloe, 1991; Freire, 1985). Conducting ethnographies allows students to choose a topic they want to explore further, design their own projects and present their findings, becoming meaning makers, not merely meaning consumers:

    Ethnography is a method used to obtain cultural information from the native’s point of view to explore how

    people within the target culture group prioritize their language experiences. The field work is done by

    interviewing a native speaker in the community who can provide an inside account of a specific topic

    (Rodriguez Pino, 1997, p. 4).

The importance of conducting mini-ethnographies in the Spanish classroom as a final project is significant. First, students get to practice everything they have learned during the semester in a final project (both at the level of content and at the level of structure). Second, students get to choose the topic of study. Third, students are instructed in ethical issues when conducting qualitative research with human subjects, bringing together cultural awareness issues that already have been studied throughout the semester. Fourth, students learn how to conduct the different stages of the project (identify thesis, write interview probes, and report findings). Fifth, they practice decoding authentic language in a real situation with a native speaker. Finally, by sharing their work with their peers, students learn from course material that they have created and develop a sense of achievement and self-esteem when they realize that their active participation in the teaching/learning process is highly valued.

In the critical classroom, students are required to engage in individual and collective dialogues not only to help design the course procedures, but also to understand the cultures under study. However, in the language classroom setting, instruction is conducted largely in a language other than the students’ mother tongue. The following section discusses the relationship between acquisition theories and the second language classroom. Second Language Acquisition (SLA) is defined as “the general field of learning a non-primary language, including what is commonly referred to as both second language acquisition and foreign language learning” (Gass, 1995, p. 3).

Second Language Learning and Acquisition Theories

Vygotsky’s (1978) theory of the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) sets the foundations for many pedagogical practices in today’s schooling. ZPD is defined as the learning that takes place when a novice is assisted by or collaborates with a more experienced person. Although this socio-cultural theory is not new in relation to cognitive and linguistic development, it is relatively new in its application to the analysis of SLA (Schinke-Llano, 1995). Vygotsky’s theory asserts that learning occurs through dialogical interaction between a novice or student with the assistance of an expert or teacher. Applied to SLA, the significance of his theory lies in that the emphasis of the learning process is shifted from assessing the student’s performance to assessing the amount of help s/he needs. That is, instead of focusing on exams to assess students’ performance, language teachers can implement a re-writing process from which students with a need for additional help can benefit. Furthermore, while Vygotsky describes the manner in which each stage of the learning process includes the previous one, he also addresses the non-linear nature of learning, in which students both progress and regress as they learn (Schinke-Llano, 1995).

To apply ZPD theory to SLA when the classroom size might be too large for the teacher to be the only expert or facilitator, Schinke-Llano proposes several techniques such as peer teaching (help from a more competent peer) and collaborative learning (as the process of joint-problem-solving). In this way, the classroom becomes a place where the teacher is not the sole provider of knowledge and help, and where learners’ inputs are valued. In addition, she proposes to use a Vygotskian paradigm of enabling learners to use new language in the process of modeling their own language proficiency through activities outside the classroom (such as interviewing members of their community).

The official language of instruction has been a debated issue for the last forty-five years in the fields of multicultural and minority education (Crawford, 1992; Jacob & Jordan, 1993; Lo Bianco, 1997). In the 1960s, the Civil Rights Movements raised cultural awareness, and the languages of minority students started to be taken into consideration in many schools. Respect for linguistic human rights (LHRs), that is the right to education through the medium of the mother tongue, was established as a legitimate means to enhance learning and self-esteem in minority students (Phillipson & Skutnabb-Kangas, 1995). Critical pedagogy is an approach that focuses on students’ voices and encourages active learning. Therefore, in the SLA setting, when applying a critical pedagogical approach to beginning and intermediate levels, the use of the students’ mother tongue facilitates student participation in classroom procedures and debates on cultural issues. This requires the teacher to allocate class time in which students express their concerns about the learning process and the content of the course in their mother tongue.

Since the methods chosen to produce knowledge promote specific practices, critical theorists in the field of education invite teachers to become researchers, and to develop their own inquiry based on their personal practice. Thus, teacher/researchers are encouraged to develop their own action research in schools as a form of inquiry: “Teachers are obligated to become researchers of themselves, revealing the interests implicit in their own teaching” (Kincheloe, 1991: 34).


Critical theory and practice guides this project because it frames the language classroom as a progressive space for learning about foreign cultures, focusing not only on students’ individual voices, but also on the different voices of the target Latino cultures under consideration. Through a critical ethnographic research, this study analyzes a Spanish course at the college level. Data collection in this study involved participant-observation (compiled in the teacher/researcher’s daily personal journal and in transcripts of videotaped sessions), and primary documents (students’ questionnaires and anonymous course evaluations, journal entries, and written assignments). The data analysis incorporates both the students’ and the teacher/researcher’s interpretations. The coding of data led to the emergence of patterns, which became evident after the topics were tallied. The dominant patterns became the categories for analysis.

The fieldwork for this study was conducted in a four-credit course that met two hours and thirty minutes a week to address grammar and content, and one hour a week for conversational/computer-based activities, usually conducted in the language laboratory. Students met twice a week, Tuesday and Thursday from 1:00 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. The traditional lab sessions became out-of-class activities in which students conducted in their free time fieldwork for the mini-ethnographies in addition to other culturally relevant activities. The maximum enrollment for the course was 25 students. Twenty-nine students were accepted into the course (anticipating some dropouts). A total of 24 students remained in the course throughout the entire semester.

Participants and Setting

This project involved designing and executing a critical pedagogical approach in an Intermediate-Advanced Spanish course (fourth semester of Spanish) taught at Midtown University in the fall of 2001 (all names of specific people and institutions are pseudonyms). Midtown University is a medium-sized public research institution located in the Baltimore metropolitan area of Maryland. In the fall of 2001, there were approximately ten thousand undergraduates and two thousand graduate students at Midtown University. Nine thousand students were full-time and three thousand were part-time students. Seventy percent of the freshmen lived on campus. Ethnic minorities constituted 37% of the overall enrollment (18% Asian-American, 16% African- American, and 3% Latino and Native-American).

At the beginning of the semester, the class was composed of seventeen female students and twelve male students. Nineteen students reported themselves as White-Americans (WA), five African-American (AA), one Persian-American (PA), one Colombian-American (CA), one Italian-Hispanic (IH), one Asian-Irish (AI), and one Haitian (HA). For a breakdown of the students’ demographic characteristics, see Table 1.

Course Curriculum

To design the curriculum of the class, I used the established departmental syllabus as a guideline to guarantee that the students attending this section would cover the same grammatical material as students attending other sections of the course. This course was originally designed as having two “tracks”: a content track and a grammar track. Following this pattern, I designed a course in which the grammar track was taught using the textbook Gramática Esencial (Nelson Rojas & Curry, 1995), while the content track was based on a critical pedagogical methodology (Shor, 1996). Students met twice a week for 75-minute periods. Most class sessions were organized allocating the first thirty minutes for grammar presentation and the last forty-five minutes for the use of the grammar in the context of cross-cultural analysis.

The students and the teacher designed together a contract system to assess students’ class performance (see Appendix 1). The contract grading system provided for a re-writing process in which, using a correction key sheet, I identified grammatical and content mistakes on written assignments so that students could correct and re-write the assignments as many times as they wished to attain a desired grade. There were no exams, but several written assignments. Table 2 specifies in what language each assignment was written, and if the assignments were graded or not graded (not graded assignments had to be completed, but students were not required to re-write them).

Contract-Grading System

Critical pedagogues maintain that emphasis and over-dependence on traditional tests only serve to fragment, narrow, deflect, and trivialize the curriculum, but that they are used in schools because it has been claimed that they are scientific tools that can measure students’ progress (Kincheloe, 1991). Instead of enforcing quizzes and exams, Shor (1996) proposes to include students in the grading process through a negotiation system.

The negotiation process starts with the teacher designing a contract grading system and presenting it to the students at the beginning of the semester. The contract grading system is based on the quality and quantity of work students are willing and capable of doing. That is, if a student signs for an A, s/he will conduct more work than the student who signs for a C, and the quality of work will also reflect the contracted grade. Students may rewrite the written assignments as many times as necessary to attain the contracted grade. This practice enables teachers to apply the Vygotsky’s theory of ZPD which helps to shift the focus from only evaluating the student’s performance to also assessing the amount of help s/he needs. Furthermore, the re-writing process takes into consideration the different stages of the learning process (because each new draft builds on the previous one) and addresses the non-linear nature of learning, in which the learning process entails both progress and regress (when a new draft, for instance, is worse than the previous one).

At the beginning of the semester, the teacher accommodates class-time for discussing the syllabus and the grading system. Then, s/he asks for questions, amendments, and comments on the original proposal. A debate follows, after which the students sign the contract, as amended by themselves, and keep a copy for their records. During the semester, the negotiation process continues throughout the students’ journals and class debates. At the end of the semester, based on the contracts and their performance, students discuss with the teacher their final grades. This grade might be the same they contracted or might have varied depending on their performance and progress. The usefulness of this system is twofold. On the one hand, the students’ learning progress becomes a process and not an end. On the other hand, this system is a helpful tool that encourages students to be active participants in their own learning process by allowing them to cooperate in what is usually considered the ultimate prerogative of the teacher: the assessment process.

Out-of-Class Activities

Fieldwork in the community transforms learning into a meaningful activity that takes place in context. Many teachers have implemented creative ways of bringing the community into the classroom. For instance, Christensen (2000) requires her students to spend one hour a week on what she called “service projects,” in which students have to gather information from community members (p. 32). In a language classroom, making contacts in the community can take different forms provided that the activity is related to the target cultures. Students might take dance lessons, attend lectures, go to restaurants, clubs or concerts, watch movies, read books, etc and write reaction papers analyzing their experiences. Interviewing members of the community to write mini-ethnographic projects is also a way of bridging the gap between the local community and the classroom.

Mini-Ethnographic Projects

In the middle of the semester, I introduced ethnographic methods by describing what an ethnography is and how ethnographic work is done. Furthermore, I talked about my own study with students, and explained the procedures for conducting a mini-ethnography. An out-of-class session was organized the following day in the language lab for students to go through the Investigator Training in the Protection of Human Research Participants, apply for exemptions from the Institutional Review Board (IRB), and request waivers of signed informed consent. I sent a package to the IRB with all of the students’ forms and, a week later, the IRB approved all the students’ proposals for mini-ethnographies.

Three weeks later, I discussed with students the procedures and theory behind ethnographies, and students were asked to prepare the title of their mini-ethnography, the objectives, the profile of the participants, and a draft of the interview probes. After receiving feedback, students were given the instructions for the first draft of their mini-ethnographies (introduction and methodology) and allowed in-class time to work on them in pairs. This introduction and methodology sections were due after the Thanksgiving break. From this point on, students were encouraged to turn in the different sections of their mini-ethnographies as soon as they were ready, because the final draft of this final assignment was due the last day of class. Most students interviewed family members, neighbors and friends who were connected in some way to the Latino community. Finally, two hours of out-of-class work were organized for students to present their mini-ethnographies to their peers.


In this section, I present the results that relate to issues of sharing authority and the decision making process among students and their teacher while (a) designing the contract method that was the basis of the grading system of the course, (b) conducting the out-of-class activities and the mini-ethnographic projects, and (c) performing class discussion based on journals written both in English and Spanish.

The Contract Method and Grading Process

On the first day of class, students received the syllabus describing the course and the contract grading system (see Appendix 1). I informed students that the syllabus and contract grading system could be negotiated with me, and requested that they read the syllabus and contracts carefully, prepare any changes they wanted to make and bring them to the next class.

At the beginning of the next session, I stepped out of the classroom and gave students the opportunity to discuss the syllabus and the contract grading system. When they were ready, they called me into the classroom and presented the changes they wanted to make. An active discussion followed in which students and I negotiated changes to the syllabus and the contract grading system. Negotiation focused primarily on the attendance policy. Students wanted me to eliminate it. After explaining my teaching philosophy (and the necessity of creating a community in the class in order to enhance learning), we added to each grade-contract the possibility of one additional excused absence, which would not affect students’ grade level. When all the changes were made, students signed their contracts and kept a copy.

At the end of the semester, I held an individual interview with each student in my office, in which I asked them to evaluate their work and assign a final grade for the course based on their contract and class performance. Among the 24 students who remained in the course at the end of the semester, 23 had initially signed for an A and one for a B. The final grades as decided by each student were twelve As, eight Bs, three Cs and an Incomplete. I agreed with each of the students’ grade decisions.

Out-of-Class Requirements

Ordinarily, the Intermediate-Advanced Spanish course has three hours a week allocated for grammar and content, and one hour for conversational/computer-based activities performed in the language lab. In the section of the course where this study was conducted, students did not have to meet in the lab. Instead, they were required to conduct independent work to satisfy the requirement. Depending on the grade for which students had contracted, they were required to complete a specific number of hours. That is, if a student had contracted an A, s/he had to conduct twelve out-of-class hours in the community; if s/he had contracted a B, they had to conduct ten hours, and so on (see Appendix 1).

For the out-of-class requirement, students could watch movies related to Latino cultures; read books, magazines, and comics; attend Latino dance-classes, concerts, and lectures; go to Latino restaurants or clubs; or conduct other activities related to the target cultures. Students proposed many of these activities at the beginning of the semester. In order to obtain credit for the out-of-class requirement, students were requested to submit a two-page reaction paper in Spanish reflecting on how these activities related to the cultural content of the course.

Approximately a month into the semester, students complained about the reaction papers’ length. They argued that the reaction papers seemed too long in comparison to other written assignments such as the Spanish journal, which was only a one-page paper and was a graded assignment (see Table 2). Following a class discussion, it was agreed that the reaction papers would consist only of a one-page paper in Spanish. This was one of many instances in which I as the teacher was able to improve the assessment system following students’ suggestions, and in which students actively participated in the class procedures sharing the power of decision making with me.

Furthermore, when negotiating the syllabus at the beginning of the semester, students asked me to organize some of the out-of-class sessions for them to share their work, which would not require them to write reaction papers describing them because I would attend the sessions. Therefore, ten extra hours were scheduled on Mondays and Wednesdays at 1 p.m., days and times that suited most of the students. One of these hours was used for students’ training in the Protection of Human Research Participants and submission of IRB forms; another was used to learn the rules of the Spanish accent marks (as requested by students); and the remaining were used for students’ oral presentations on their cross-cultural activities and mini-ethnographic projects.

Mini-Ethnographic Projects

The mini-ethnography was the assignment that glued the whole semester together at the content and grammatical level, highlighting the relevance of each individual course element. At the grammar level, students were required to use the indirect speech style to report the findings of their interviews (using complex verb tenses in a cohesive manner). At the content level, students had to interact with a member of the Latino community and practice the cross-cultural skills learned in class. Furthermore, they had to research some of the topics studied in class with a source different than their teacher applying Vygotsky’s ZPD theory in which a novice student is assisted and collaborating with a more experience person other than their teacher. The mini-ethnographies were a success as reported by twenty-one out of the twenty-three students that completed them, and all of them acknowledged having enjoyed and learned from the interviews because of the relevant material that emerged from them. Mar’s comments are an example of what students said about the mini-ethnographies in their last journal entries:

    This class has allowed me to learn much about the Spanish language and Latino cultures. Doing the

    intercultural activities provided a good means of integrating activities about different Latino cultures and

    peoples’ perceptions of other ethnic groups. I am much more aware of the stereotypes that are wrongfully

    assigned to various cultural groups, including my own. The ethnographies were particularly good in that

    each student had the ability to interact personally with a Latino and learn about their thoughts relative to a

    specific topic (Mar; Journal Entry 3; 12/11/01).

Journals and Discussions

Students were required to keep journals in both Spanish and English. The objective of the journal entries in Spanish was to practice the grammar structures introduced in class in the context of the cross-cultural issues that were being discussed. For instance, when studying the preterit and the imperfect, students were required to write a journal describing a cross-cultural incident, which they had encountered in the past. Each Spanish entry was followed by an oral activity or debate in Spanish that was videotaped the day it was due.

The journal entries in English were written in class and were followed by class discussions in English to address issues that emerged in the journals. While students were writing their English journal entries in class, I also wrote an entry and shared it with my students during the class discussion.

The objective of the English journals was to allow time to reflect on and discuss the class procedures. For instances, in their journals, students were able to voice their frustration with the different drafts of the papers and, in the debate that followed, the whole class discussed the non-linear nature of learning, in which students both progress and regress as they learn.

Originally, I had anticipated that students would write five journal entries in English and five journal entries in Spanish. However, only three journal entries in English and four in Spanish were eventually written. The number of journal entries in English was reduced because of time constraints and because of concerns students expressed at the beginning of the semester about the amount of time to be spent discussing in English (considering that this was a Spanish language course). The number of journal entries in Spanish was reduced because of a miscalculation when designing the syllabus. That is, the fifth journal was first scheduled for the last day of class. However, following the re-writing procedure that guided this course, it was impossible to conduct this assignment because students would not have time to re-write it to attain the desired grade.


As Shor argues “one way to inaugurate a new speech community on Day One of class is to invite students to take the most active role while the teacher restrains her or his verbal profile” (1996: 30). Therefore, on Day One of the course, students were asked to read the syllabus and start familiarizing themselves with the course philosophy. Students were invited to participate in the development of the course by redesigning the syllabus, organizing a student committee (see Appendix 1, notes * and **), and being responsible for conducting one credit hour of work independent of the class time. In sum, students were asked to take responsibility for their own education by becoming independent, active learners.

At the beginning of the semester, students reacted both positively and negatively to the new procedures. Their first reactions were generally happiness and surprise when they found out that there were no scheduled exams in this course, and a lot of the work was to be done with no teacher supervision. After reading the syllabus, some students reacted with disbelief and they started inquiring about the student committee. I explained that if I was going to ask them to question conventional ways of learning Spanish, I had to give them the possibility of challenging me in my traditional role as a teacher. The committee would only be created if they wanted to question my assessment criteria, in which case the members of the committee would discuss the grades of the students who requested it. Students seemed happy with the idea of challenging the role of the teacher, but it took most of them the whole semester to adjust to their new role as independent learners in charge of the class and of their own learning. Furthermore, their hostility to the idea of a student committee can be explained by their initial resistance to consider themselves as a group composed of both novice and experienced learners capable of helping each other to succeed in different areas of expertise. As a consequence, students often demanded that I play the role of the traditional teacher, the ultimate source of authority, reproducing the school habitus familiar to them after years of institutional education.

Traditional Teacher and Students’ Roles

From the beginning of the semester, the roles of students and the teacher were negotiated in different ways. On many occasions students demanded that I take a more traditional role as a teacher, and be the ultimate authority. The students seemed to resent the responsibility demanded from them within this new structure, and sought shelter in their conventional role as passive recipients of knowledge.

An interaction on Day One illustrates these dynamics. After receiving the syllabus, Vera (a 31-year-old senior) was struggling to understand what students were to do to substitute for the traditional language lab sessions. I explained that they had to conduct cultural activities of their choice in the Latino community and write reaction papers describing them. She asked several times if this meant that she was free on Wednesdays at 10 am (the time at which her lab session was originally scheduled in the course catalogue). The other students grew impatient and started to explain to her that she was free on Wednesdays, but that she had to allocate some of her own time to conduct activities related to the local Latino community. Vera became upset and told me: “when I ask YOU a question, I expect YOU to answer.” I answered that in this class students were going to learn as much from each other as from me. Sadly, Vera was one of the five students who dropped out of the course. During the first two weeks that she attended the course, she was absent three times. Data suggest that the students who where not used to being independent learners and to considering each other as possible experts on different learning areas eventually dropped the class or did worse than students who were happy to experience with the independence that was being offered to them.

On Day Two, students discussed the syllabus among themselves, agreed on a number of changes, and presented them to me. Three of the changes had to do with me taking a more traditional role as a teacher. They agreed on asking me to organize some of the out-of-class sessions, give them status reports every three weeks to keep track of their progress and grades, and not relegate all of my authority to the student committee.

This last demand was a result of the students’ concern that the committee might be stricter than I in its assessment criteria. Therefore, they asked if decisions made by the committee were final. I told them, “you decide,” and I saw the first signs of students’ malaise. After a small discussion, students decided that if the committee gave a lower grade than mine, the student who had questioned my criteria could choose to keep the higher grade. Consequently, students liked being able to question my criteria, but asked not to dismiss it completely if the outcome of their freedom was contrary to their academic interests. As many students explained later, on occasions they were given more responsibility than they were willing to take, specifically because more responsibility often seemed to entail more work. The student committee was never formed during this semester possibly because students feared it would entail more work and because they trusted the teacher’s fairness more than the competitiveness of their peers.

On Days Thirteen and Fourteen, students were asked for the first time to reflect in writing on the course procedures. Fifty percent of the students voiced their concerns with the out-of-class requirements. Their critiques focused on the fact that they were harder to complete than the traditional lab sessions, and asked me to suggest activities and to organize sessions for them to share their work. However, on the last day of class when students were asked to evaluate the course retrospectively in their last journal entry in English, three students said that they preferred the traditional lab sessions, seven declared that the out-of-class requirement was more difficult than the traditional lab sessions, but eleven admitted liking the out-of-class activities more than the traditional sessions because they were more interesting than doing self-corrected exercises in the lab or watching and discussing videos from Hispanic countries. The increase of positive comments towards the out-of-class requirement was related to students’ realization that these activities only seemed harder at the beginning because of their unfamiliar nature. Many students soon understood that they could relate their everyday life to the Spanish classroom. For instance, Eva (an 18-year-old freshman) tutored Latino children on Saturday mornings, and Jorge (a 22-year-old junior) attended weekly Salsa lessons. The out-of-class requirement allowed them to write about activities which they were doing aside from the Spanish class, value them as learning experiences and receive credit for them. This would explain that at the end of the semester, nearly 50% of the students reported that these activities were much more engaging than the lab sessions.

Furthermore, many of those students who repeatedly complained about the out-of-class requirement, demanding that I organize sessions, often forgot about the sessions that I would organize for them, and failed to attend them. Daniel and Diego (an 18-year-old freshman and a 25-year-old senior respectively) were among those who regularly forgot to attend the organized sessions because these sessions were not included in their regular class schedule. Interestingly, Diego had been a student of mine in a previous semester attending traditional lab sessions every week, and he never missed a session. However, during the fall 2001 semester, he only attended four out of the ten organized sessions and systematically forgot to attend them. Moreover, he turned in his last four reaction papers during an extension I granted him at the end of the semester. This suggests that some students resent when they are offered more academic freedom than they are used to, and respond better to the more pre-established schedules to which they are accustomed.

Students also asked me to take a more traditional role as a teacher in relation to the language spoken in class. For instance, in her second Spanish journal, Mar (a 20-year-old senior) wrote that I allowed too much English in the classroom. In their second English journal entry, two more students discussed the use of English in the class. By this point, students had already written two journal entries, and conducted two discussions in English. I thought about the use of English in the classroom, and understood that students were again reacting against an unfamiliar procedure. It is not uncommon to use English in a Spanish classroom to explain grammar, for instance. However, it is uncommon to schedule in the syllabus journal entries and class discussions in English. Although the literature in critical pedagogy suggests that time allocated to speak the students’ mother tongue is necessary, I decided to reduce the journal entries and English debates from the five originally scheduled to only three so as not to aggravate students and hinder their learning process.

Finally, in the second Spanish journal entry, four students asked for exams to force them to study and to track their progress, and in the second English journal entry, two students asked me to collect the grammar homework so they would be required to do it. When I synthesized students’ requests in class, I informed them that because of the nature of this course I would not design exams, but that I would collect the grammar homework more often if it would motivate them to do it. Interestingly, the students who made this request failed to turn in the grammar homework on several occasions, thus negatively affecting their final grade because if I had not started collecting it upon their request, they might have passed unnoticed.

What happened with Paula (a twenty-one-old junior) illustrates this point. On the day I gave students their fourth status report, Paula approached me complaining about hers. She said that she could not believe that she had 3.5 out of 8 on her grammar homework because she was sure she had only failed to turn in “like” three homework assignments. I answered that 3.5 out of 8 meant that she had failed to turn in four, and that she had turned in one incomplete assignment, which was not as farfetched from her own calculations. We looked at my records and I told her that I had returned grammar homework that same day, which she had not handed in. She said that she had done it, looked in her notebook, found it and showed it to me. I got impatient and told her that I could not be looking inside each student’s notebooks to see if they had done the homework but were not turning it in. Paula started protesting that she had lost the possibility of attaining an A and, although I knew that it was not true, I looked at her and asked: “is that my fault?” She did not answer and looked down and I repeated: “Paula, look at me and answer: is that my fault?” She softly answered, “no.”

This and other anecdotes suggest that asking me to be more controlling by writing status reports and collecting grammar homework did not always help students to become more independent or more successful learners. However, it also suggests that those students who had been less exposed to sharing power in the classroom setting needed a transition between the learning environment they were used to and the new one they were experiencing. This transition entailed introducing some familiar techniques in the process. At the end of the semester, although 87% of the students performed very well in the course (at the A and B levels), 30% of the class still believed that freedom hinders students’ learning process. They explained that the natural instinct of students is to work less when they are not supervised, as documented in their third journal entry written in English the last day of class.

The Critical Pedagogue and the Independent Learner

In the process of becoming familiar with critical pedagogy, students challenged their traditional schoolhabitus by questioning the authority figure of the teacher. In this section, I describe several occasions in which students demanded from me the same critical questioning and individual responsibility that I was requesting from them.

On Day Two, I left the classroom to give students time to discuss the syllabus and agree on changes they would like to make. Approximately twenty minutes later, Jorge invited me back into the classroom and asked me to sit on his chair and listen. I remembered Shor’s (1996) description of his discomfort the day he resolved to challenge the teacher’s traditional location in front of the students, protected by his desk, and decided to sit in the last row of the classroom among his students. I felt very uncomfortable sitting surrounded by students, instead of in any of the positions I was used to (in the periphery of a circle, standing in the front of the class, or walking among them while they were seated). However, I perceived this gesture as the students’ first attempt to put into practice the egalitarian relationship I seemed to be proposing, by placing me among them, where I was claiming I should be.

On Day Three, the first changes to the syllabus had already been agreed upon, and students had conducted a cross-cultural activity that focused on cultural sensitivity entitled The Parable: An Introduction to Cultural Values (Appendix 2). This activity is a short story involving five characters, in which the behavior of each character is intended to represent different values. The goal of this activity is to demonstrate how individual choices are determined by cultural values and to acquaint students with specific cultural differences and similarities held by class members. After reading the story aloud, in which a young woman breaks the law in order to help her friend, I asked students to rank the characters in order, starting with the one they respected most, and explain their choice. A group consisting of only female students ranked Rosamaria and Regina in the first and second place because their behavior was driven by their desire to help. They ranked Paco next for not helping, followed by Esteban who asked for an unreasonable amount of money in exchange for help, and finally, Felipe for rejecting his friend. Another group formed by two females and two male students were divided. The female students had made the same choices as the previous group, and the male students ranked Rosamaria last because she was a thief and they explained that the ends do not justify the means. Esteban was ranked in first position because he was merely taking care of his business. Next, I asked students to identify the cultural values that had risen from our interpretations of the story, and the values that emerged included friendship, support, loyalty, and hospitality as positive values; and greed and capitalism as negative values. Six female students insisted that it is acceptable to break the law for good causes, while the male students disagreed, contending that the law should never be broken. I summarized the discussion saying that different cultures might hold opposite values, and I gave as an example that some female students had ranked Rosamaria’s stealing as a positive value, but a few male students had labeled it as negative. To that, Raul (a twenty-two-year-old senior) said that he disagreed with my explanation because in the classroom everybody shared the same culture.

Raul’s comment gave us the opportunity to discuss the dominant ideology that a culture is formed of merely one set of values, those held by the dominant classes. Students brainstormed on the different cultural groups that form society in terms of gender, race, age, sexual orientation and other social constructions, analyzing a society as a compound of different micro-cultures. Students finally agreed that our Spanish class was composed of different cultures, which accounted for the contrasting cultural values that had risen from the activity.

By the end of the first week of class, the dynamics were already in place and students were quickly familiarizing themselves with course expectations. I started the class by calling out the students’ names and Raul interrupted me to ask in Spanish if it was culturally acceptable to change people’s names. It took me by surprise, and I was confused by his question. I thought he was asking if it was acceptable to use English words when speaking in Spanish, and vice-versa. I started explaining that code switching was common but that as beginning language learners I did not encourage them to get used to code switching. Raul rephrased his question and I finally understood: as a Spanish teacher, if students’ names have a Spanish equivalent, I tend to call them by the Spanish equivalent, and Raul was inquiring if this practice was culturally appropriate. I had never considered that this practice could be perceived as me changing students’ names without their permission. I apologized and asked students to please correct me if I mispronounced their names or if I used their Spanish equivalent and they would rather I did not. I interpret Raul’s remark as an attention call: if they were to learn to be culturally sensitive towards Latino cultures, I was to learn to be culturally sensitive towards them, and I also had to question practices that were usually taken for granted in the SLA setting.

Throughout the semester, students jokingly told me to respect the contract system on several other occasions. On Day Sixteen, I arrived five minutes late to class, and students made reference to the contract. I justified myself by saying that I had signed for an “A” contract that stipulated that I could arrive five minutes late to class twice during the semester, and students laughed. A similar incident happened when I was absent from class and provided a substitute. Finally, in one instance, I handed out instructions in English for the mini-ethnographies with a grammatical mistake. Morticia (an 18-year-old freshman) quickly corrected my mistake and told me that I had to re-write the handout (making reference to the re-writing process that by this time was getting very tedious for some of the students). These remarks were made in a humorous tone, but underlying them was the implication that students expected the same from me as I expected from them.

Day Four was September 13 th, our first meeting after September 11 th 2001. I proposed to change the syllabus moving forward the due-date of students’ first journal entry in English to discuss the events. Students agreed and I asked them to write their feelings and reaction to what had happened. When I was going to write my own entry, it suddenly occurred to me that I wanted to write it in Spanish. I told students and explained that this was a very sensitive topic, and that I wanted to be able to express myself in my own mother tongue. Jorge immediately rejected the idea, claiming that he wanted to understand my entry. When I was reassuring him, Tara (a 22-year-old senior who had spent a semester in Mexico in a study-abroad program) interrupted to say that I should be allowed to write in Spanish because it is easier to express feelings in one’s own language. As students’ opinions were divided, I asked them to vote. The majority voted that I could write in Spanish and so I did. This anecdote illustrates how authority was shared throughout a negotiating process implemented in class debates and journals, and how more experienced students could help understand novice learners class content (such as cultural sensitiveness) on the occasions where the teacher’s experience was harder to relate to the students’ realities. During the semester, both students and the teacher experimented with a new decision-making process in order to encourage and validate every individual voice in the classroom community.

Mini-Ethnographic Projects

When conducting their mini-ethnographies, students used their social networks as a strategy to facilitate their work. Eighteen out of the twenty-three students who completed this assignment interviewed family, friends and acquaintances of Latino origin. Some interviewees were related by blood (Bea interviewed her mother, and Clara her grandmother), some work-related (Julia interviewed a co-worker), some family-related (Mar interviewed her mother’s cleaning lady, and Elba a neighbor), and many were school related (college friends or former teachers).

Using social networks from the local community was a strategy to facilitate the class assignment, by relating the content to students’ own life, and to learn from a more-experienced person other than the teacher. The few students whose social network did not include Latinos suffered some anxiety at the initial stages of the assignment. These students were Lola (a nineteen-year-old junior) and Martha (a twenty-two-year-old junior), who until they actually spoke to the interviewees (provided by me) and enjoyed the process, felt a great deal of frustration. Another student whose social network did not include Latinos was Diego (a twenty-five-year-old senior), who decided to go to a downtown Latino Diner and try to interview random construction workers. I advised him against this method but he insisted on trying it and failed in finding an interviewee. When he went to the Diner, he stood up on a chair and asked for volunteers for his project, and no customer responded to his call. He reported in his ethnography the difficulties and obstacles he had encountered in his attempt, and reflected on his approach to finding volunteers as an outsider of a specific target culture.

The assessment of students’ cultural competency was conducted by analyzing their reflections gathered from their last journal and class discussion. For instance, Bea (a twenty-four-year-old junior) interviewed her mother and reported that they had argued for the first time about the fact that Bea’s mother had allowed her to stop speaking Spanish when she was a child and now she had to re-learn her mother-language. Bea reported that after the ethnography she understood better her mother’s attitude towards the language and the Latino community they belonged to in the US. This is a very interesting example of the application of the Vygotskian paradigm of enabling learners to understand language usages in the process of modeling their own language proficiency through activities such as interviewing members of their community. Another example is Elba (a nineteen-year-old sophomore) who interviewed her neighbor, a doctor originally from Venezuela. Elba explained that her interviewee had been her neighbor for 15 years and that until she interviewed him for the ethnography she had not realized that he was from another country and had a rich cross-cultural experience to share with her. Elba exemplifies many students who are exposed to the Latino community in their daily lives but seem to be unaware of it.

Finally, students viewed the mini-ethnographies as a type of final exam, a culminating project that brought together all that was learned in class at both the cultural and grammatical level. Students’ reactions to the mini-ethnographies are illustrated in the following excerpt from Paula’s last journal entry written in English:

    The ethnography was extremely informative and although a lot of work, much less nerve-racking than a

    final … The assessment process was much better than exams because most of all, I learned from my

    mistakes, whereas in exams, if you are wrong, that is it. Although the essays were frequent, the only way to

    learn a language truly is to write it or speak it, which we did both. Grammar assignments only help you

    understand the particular tense or words you are studying whereas essays combine everything and every

    tense you have learned in all the semester taking Spanish (Paula; Journal Entry 3; 12/11/01).


In the US, Latinos are a diverse group that tends to be stigmatized by stereotypical images, which enter the walls of the language classroom. Applying a critical pedagogical approach in the Spanish language classroom aims to develop both linguistic competence and cultural awareness, and to help learners become cross-culturally competent in a country where Spanish speakers are the fastest growing minority. Specifically, this qualitative study examines reactions to sharing power among students and their teachers in order to enhance language learning through the development of cultural awareness and critical thinking skills.

Critical pedagogy proposes defining education as a multilateral relationship in which authority and responsibilities are shared between teacher and students, and where students and teacher negotiate the class procedures, structure, content, assessment, textbooks, and their own roles in relation to each other. This is not to say that the traditional roles of the teacher and the students are abolished. As the teacher, I designed the syllabus, served as a facilitator in students’ grammar acquisition, as moderator in the cross-cultural debates, and as a provider of resources inside and outside the classroom walls. For their part, students were included in the decision-making process of the course and were invited to share authority with their teacher. Students were invited to co-develop the course by participating in its redesign (e.g., through reconfiguring the initial contracts, and organizing a student committee), by discussing and reflecting on the course procedures in classroom debates and journals, by being responsible for conducting one credit hour of work independent of the class time, and by conducting interviews in the Latino community in order to write and present mini-ethnographic projects.

Participants’ reactions to the critical pedagogical approach were varied. Participants reproduced and rejected, at different moments, the traditional roles of the teacher as an authority figure and of students as passive consumers of knowledge. Some students tried to return to their traditional passive roles and demanded that the teacher take a more authoritarian role, for instance, making students turn in grammar homework to force them to do it. This implies that some students may prefer and thus respond better to the more teacher-controlled classroom to which they are accustomed. This was the case of Elba who wrote “I will be honest: once you started collecting the homework, I was much more thorough in doing it” ( Elba; Journal Entry 3; 12/11/01). However, the data suggest that asking the teacher to be more controlling did not always help students to become either more independent or more successful learners. Yet, when given the opportunity, many students developed effective independent learning strategies.

Relevance between the course content and students’ realities is an essential element of the learning process, and might be achieved from practices addressed from the top-down (usually established by teachers and language departments) or from the bottom-up, emerging from students’ input on the content. In this study, I used multiple methods in an attempt to achieve relevance in light of the diverse backgrounds and language levels of the participants. From the top-down, I allocated time for students to share and analyze their own texts, and modified the class content according to the students’ needs. From the bottom-up, students voiced their concerns regarding certain class procedures, for instance when the length of the original out-of class reports was negotiated or the teacher’s practice of pronouncing their names the “Spanish” way. They also created strategies to facilitate their work, for example relating the class content to their own lives and using their social networks to conduct their assignments.

Sharing authority with students by applying Vygotsky’s theory of assisting novice students with more experienced people inside and outside the classroom, facilitated the learning process by examining the connection between students’ daily lives and the target cultures, which deconstructed the misperception that the study of Latino cultures is confined to what the teacher brings to the Spanish classroom and has little relation to mainstream college students in the US. Therefore, participants realized the extent of their exposure to the Latinos that live among them, and this information made me more aware of the resources that could be used to establish relevance between the course content and the students’ worlds.

Implementing a re-writing process demands a lot of deep processing from students. They need to develop independent learner’s strategies (e.g., learning how to use efficiently different sources such as dictionaries and textbooks) and to reflect on their own learning process in order to find successful strategies to facilitate the process. Following the Vygotsky paradigm, in critical pedagogy, the emphasis of the learning process is focused on assessing the amount of help students’ need. ZPD is defined as the learning that occurs when novice students and more experienced people collaborate together. With my assistance and that of more experienced class-peers, in addition to the collaboration that took place with local members of the Latino communities, all the students soon learned how to function in cross-cultural encounters and how to correct their drafts successfully, and although the number of drafts increased due to the increase in complexity of latter assignments, students asserted having progressively less trouble in improving them. Furthermore, the data also corroborated the Vygotsky’s theory of the non-linear nature of learning. Through the debates and English journals, students were able to reflect on the fact that both progress and regress are elements in the learning process, and this helped to decrease feelings of anxiety and to develop self-esteem, thus enhancing learning.

Through critical pedagogy, participants in this study learned Spanish and interrupted conventional school habitus by sharing the power of decision making and creating a new environment where the teacher was not the sole provider of knowledge and help, and where the students’ input became indispensable in the learning process. We all learned not only about other cultures, but also about our own and, most importantly, about how and why we construct images of difference and are perceived by people that we consider different. By learning Spanish using a critical pedagogical approach, we experienced new forms of relating to the course content and to each other, and new ways of conceptualizing difference.


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Appendix 1

Contracts (Shor, 1996, p. 77)

For an “A” Grade:

2 absences

2 late arrivals to class (no more than 5 minutes late)

No early departures from class

“A” quality on written work *

All written work handed in on time

5 Journal Entries in Spanish

2 incomplete daily homework assignments

Very active class participation **

12 hours of work outside the regular classroom meetings

For a “B” Grade:

3 absences

3 late arrivals to class (up to 5 minutes late)

1 early departure from class

“B” quality on written work *

1 late written assignment

4 Journal Entries in Spanish

3 incomplete daily homework assignments

Active class participation **

10 hours of work outside the regular classroom meetings

For a “C” Grade:

4 absences

4 late arrivals to class (up to 5 minutes late)

2 early departures from class

“C” quality on written work *

2 late written assignments

3 Journal Entries in Spanish

4 incomplete daily homeworkassignments

Little class participation **

9 hours of work outside the regular classroom meetings

For a “D” Grade:

5 absences

5 late arrivals to class (up to 5 minutes late)

3 early departures from class

“D” quality on written work *

3 late written assignments

2 Journal Entries in Spanish

5 incomplete daily homeworkassignments

No class participation **

8 hours of work outside the regular classroom meetings

* If the teacher’s criterion is questioned, a committee elected by and comprised of students will review the written assignments and decide what A, B, C or D quality means.

** If the teacher’s criterion is questioned, a committee elected by and comprised of students will review the written assignments and decide how to evaluate the different levels of participation.


1). Failure to fulfill the above expectations will result in a grade of “F”

2). Papers handed in on time can be rewritten for a higher grade as long as you hand in the rewrite one week after you get it back from me. You can rewrite papers as often as you like for a higher grade as long as each rewrite is handed back in one week.

3). For borderline grades, that is, if a student has signed for an A, and s/he is writing A quality papers but s/he has not fulfilled two of the other requirements for an A, the student committee will decide if the student deserves an A or a B. If students do not achieve the quality of work they have signed for, or do not meet three of the other requirements, they will receive a lower grade. This grade will reflect the amount and quality of work the student has accomplished, as established in the above criteria.

Appendix 2

Una Parábola: Introducción a valores culturales

Había una vez dos amigos que vivían juntos en un pueblo a las orillas de un río muy peligroso. Siempre estaban juntos y, un día, Felipe rompió sus gafas. El pobre de Felipe no podía ver nada sin sus gafas. Rosamaría se sentía muy mal por Felipe y quería ayudarlo. Felipe le dijo que sólo había una solución: encontrar unas gafas nuevas. La única oculista que él conocía vivía al otro lado del río. Rosamaría debía cruzar el río (que estaba lleno de cocodrilos) para ir a ver a la oculista.

Rosamaría buscó día y noche a alguien que la ayudara a cruzar el río. No había ningún puente. Sólo encontró a un hombre llamado Esteban, que tenía un barco. Rosamaría le pidió que la ayudara a cruzar el río y Esteban aceptó pero pidió $20.000 a cambio. Rosamaría no tenía tanto dinero y le rogó que la dejara pagarle poco a poco, a lo largo de cinco años. Esteban se mostró implacable: o todo el dinero o Rosamaría tendría que cruzar el río nadando. Rosamaría estaba muy confundida y fue a visitar a su amigo Paco. Le explicó toda la historia: las gafas, los cocodrilos y el dinero. Paco le contestó que era su problema y que tenía que solucionarlo ella sola.

Rosamaría decidió que tenía que ayudar a su amigo Felipe. Una noche entró en la tienda del pueblo, robó el dinero, cruzó el río, y volvió con unas gafas nuevas. Cuando le contó a Felipe toda la historia él se enfadó muchísimo. Felipe le dijo a Rosamaría que tenía que irse de la casa porque él no podía vivir con una ladrona.

Rosamaría estaba descorazonada. Fue a ver a su vecina Regina y le contó lo que había pasado. Tras escuchar la historia, Regina le dijo que aunque no fueran amigas, podía irse a vivir con ella.

Escribe el orden de los personajes (Rosamaría, Felipe, Esteban, Paco, Regina) según el respeto que sientes por ellos. Escribe la razón por la cuál respetas o no respetas a cada personaje.


  1. ______________________________________________________________

  2. _______________________________________________________________

  3. _______________________________________________________________

  4. _______________________________________________________________

  5. _______________________________________________________________

Adapted from: A Manual of Teaching Techniques for Intercultural Education, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 1971.

Source: Hoopes, David and Ventura, P. Intercultural Source Book: CC Training Methodology. (1979) Chicago: Intercultural Press.

Translation (Appendix 2)

A Parable: An Introduction to Cultural Values

Once upon a time there were two friends, Phillip and Rosemary who lived together in a village on the shore of a deep, wide, dangerous river. They were always together but one day, Phillip broke his prescription glasses. Poor Phillip could not see anything without his glasses. Rosemary felt terrible and wanted to help him. Phillip told her that the only solution was to find new glasses. The only eye doctor was a woman who lived on the other side of the river. Rosemary had to cross the river full of hungry crocodiles to visit the eye doctor.

For days and nights, Rosemary looked for somebody who would help her cross the river because there were no bridges. She only found a man called Steven who owned a boat. Rosemary asked him to help her and he accepted but, in exchange, he asked for $20,000.00. Rosemary did not have that kind of money and begged him to allow her to pay in small installments during 5 years. Steven rejected the offer: Rosemary could give him the whole amount of money or cross the river swimming. Rosemary was very upset and went to visit her friend Paco. She explained the whole story: the prescription glasses, the crocodiles, and the money. Paco responded saying that this was not his problem and that she had to solve it on her own.

Rosemary decided that she had to help Phillip. One night she broke into the village shop, stole the money, crossed the river, and returned with a new pair of glasses. When she told Phillip about her ordeal, he was very angry. Phillip told Rosemary to leave the house because he could not live with a thief.

Rosemary was distressed. She went to the house of her neighbor, Regina, and told her the whole story. Regina said that even though they were not friends, she could stay with her.

Rank the characters in order, starting with the one you respected most, and explain your choice (Rosemary, Phillip, Steven, Paco and Regina):

  1. ______________________________________________________________

  2. _______________________________________________________________

  3. _______________________________________________________________

  4. _______________________________________________________________

  5. _______________________________________________________________


Adapted from: A Manual of Teaching Techniques for Intercultural Education, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 1971.

Source: Hoopes, David and Ventura, P. Intercultural Source Book: CC Training Methodology. (1979) Chicago: Intercultural Press.

Table 1.

Demographics (* students who dropped the course)

Table 2.

Course Assignments


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