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Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. University Partnerships with Saturday Morning Schools
  5. Advancing the National Standards and the Carnegie Classification Efforts
  6. Conclusion
  7. References

German university programs can increase enrollments and diversify their curricula through academic community partnerships with surrounding schools. This article informs about two community-supported initiatives between the German Studies Program at Santa Clara University and the South Bay Deutscher Schulverein, a Saturday Morning School in Northern California. It describes the service-learning components of a German Honors Program and a media class and shows how their community engagement components led to an increase in the number of program majors and how both initiatives benefited both the university and the Saturday School.


Introduction

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. University Partnerships with Saturday Morning Schools
  5. Advancing the National Standards and the Carnegie Classification Efforts
  6. Conclusion
  7. References

German has been able to hold on to its rank as the third most-studied language, other than English, in U.S. colleges and universities, but for how long? As reported in the Modern Language Association of America (MLA) 2009 enrollment survey, German saw a 2.2% increase compared to 2006. Nevertheless, the immediate outlook for German appears to be uncertain in light of increased competition from other foreign languages, budget cuts, and a weak economy. Not surprisingly, the past three years have seen several publications alerting the profession to a “changing landscape” (Tatlock, 2010) for German in the United States, even mentioning the word “crisis” (Melin, 2010).

In spite of the growth of German at the university level, the demand for German elsewhere has been shifting. Whereas more students pursue German at the undergraduate level, fewer students are enrolled in pre-college programs and fewer study German at the graduate level. In a national survey of elementary and secondary schools, enrollments decreased at the elementary level from 5% in 1997 to 2% in 2007. At the high school level, the decline was from 24% to 14% for the same time period, yet German still retains its position as the third most commonly taught language (Pufahl and Rhodes, 2011). At the graduate level, the MLA's 2009 enrollment survey shows an overall decline of 6.7% in graduate-course enrollments in languages other than English compared to 2006. The decline in German went from 3,072 in 2007 to a total of 2,600 in 2009 (Furman, Goldberg, & Lusin, 2009). According to an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, these declines might continue since “budget woes leave many more foreign-language programs on the chopping block” (Kaya, 2012). The article concluded with a perspective from the MLA's executive director, Rosemary Feal: “This is a vulnerable time for language study” (as cited in Kaya, 2012).

In fall 2010 a coalition of German teaching and interest groups1 released a strategy paper asking “Deutsch als Fremdsprache in den USA in der Krise?” in which the authors offer an appraisal of the state of German as a foreign language in the United States. In addition, the strategy offers various recommendations to strengthen German, for example, networking and promoting partnerships, supporting and strengthening the work of German teachers, and finding new ways to promote German. One such promising approach involves rebuilding or expanding private or public charter schools as well as language schools operating on either a full or part-time schedule. According to the document, when the course offerings in German are reduced or when programs are eliminated in schools and universities, creating and promoting opportunities for the study of German elsewhere have shown promise and merit further support.

The need to act has been acknowledged by others as well. For example, in examining the relationship of German enrollments in high schools, colleges, and universities, Tatlock (2010, p. 17) warns, “the state of German in the schools will be an ongoing concern to postsecondary German program.” However, in order to benefit from German's continued strong presence in many US high schools, she argues that, “those who teach at the postsecondary level will need to continue to work on articulation between the schools and colleges and universities in order to support the programs in the schools and to encourage students to pursue the study of German and the fields of study that it opens up at the postsecondary level” (p. 20). Tacklock's challenge to German college and university faculty is echoed by Melin: “Wir sitzen alle in einem Boot” (2010, p.3). Melin speaks to the interdependence of German programs from K–8 to colleges and universities and the need to interact for a common purpose. If German programs are to remain afloat and be strengthened, Melin (2010, p. 3) recommends that colleges and universities “practice constant outreach” and points to her own institution's “College in the Schools” program as an example. In that program, high schools students can take intermediate German for university credit. In addition, their teachers can attend professional development workshops at the university. As Melin demonstrates, such efforts need to go beyond the university. Davidheiser and Wolf (2009, p. 64) reiterate this point, advocating for German needs to take place “on campus with the administration and in the community at large.” Without any doubt, the profession has not only voiced concerns and sounded an alarm, but has also presented concrete steps for sustaining and reviving interest in German Studies.

This article contends that German programs and faculty must step up their efforts to connect to and interact more intentionally with German communities off campus, for these communities are an often overlooked partner. One example of such a community partnership is the German Saturday School. This article highlights how two partnership initiatives between Santa Clara University's German Studies Program (hereafter: German Studies) and the South Bay Deutscher Schulverein German School (hereafter: Saturday School), enabled university faculty and students to create standards-based learning opportunities while establishing a mutually beneficial partnership. German programs and faculty must also revise their curriculum. In this article, the curricular enhancements and revisions that have successfully strengthened the Santa Clara University German Studies Program will be highlighted, along with those from other institutions. The curricular changes at Santa Clara University include a course entitled “Germany in the Media,” the creation of a German Honors program, and the incorporation of a service-learning component to various German courses.

University Partnerships with Saturday Morning Schools

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. University Partnerships with Saturday Morning Schools
  5. Advancing the National Standards and the Carnegie Classification Efforts
  6. Conclusion
  7. References

Saturday Morning Schools can be ideal partners for German Studies programs at colleges and universities. This section describes (1) two partnership efforts, and (2) shows how they can offer tie-ins with disciplinary and higher education initiatives.

The Saturday School Initiative

The partnership described in this article between the Santa Clara University German Studies Program and the South Bay Deutscher Schulverein dates back to 2006 when both institutions were actively exploring ways to improve and grow their programs. Benefiting from their locations in the greater metropolitan area of Santa Clara County, in the San Francisco Bay Area, California, both institutions sought a mutually beneficial partnership.

The German Studies program was eager to explore this opportunity as part of the program's efforts to expand and incorporate new learning strategies. Small, with only one tenured faculty member at that time, the program is housed in a large department of modern languages at a medium-sized university. With 2005–06 enrollments remaining flat and with the number of majors having fallen to about five, program faculty and students were concerned that the administration would put the German major on hold. Since the university at that time was involved in the Carnegie Foundation's “community engagement” classification initiative, German Studies faculty and students decided it was an opportune time to explore a community link. They were also optimistic that the link with the Saturday School would allow German Studies students to get hands-on experience speaking German in a practical setting and at the same time help to raise the visibility and popularity of the German major on campus.

The Saturday School was equally interested in partnering with the university. As one of seven such part-time schools2 organized under the umbrella organization of the German American School Association of Northern California, the non-profit Saturday School enrolls approximately 170 students distributed across fourteen class levels from toddler through adult on thirty Saturdays from September through May. Like the university, the Saturday School had a variety of reasons for pursuing such a partnership, among them attracting university students to work as teaching assistants. At the Saturday School, teachers from pre-K up to 5th grade can request assistants depending on class size. The assistants may be graduates from the Saturday School itself or former or current German Studies majors. Aside from having at least intermediate-mid level of oral proficiency and a friendly positive attitude, the assistants are expected to perform a wide range of activities and duties, such as, rhyming, story telling, and finger plays with individual students or small groups of learners. They are also responsible for keeping the students on task in the classroom and taking children outside the classroom for recess and play. The university students' active involvement in classes is of benefit to the teachers and it also reminds parents and the entire school community that the study of German is alive and well at a local university, thus it is of prime importance to maintain the relationship with the university.

The partnership has passed the six-year milestone. Two projects highlight the work underlying the collaboration: (1) the German Honors Program, and (2) the Germany in the Media community engagement project.

The German Honors Program

The GHP was created in spring quarter 2006 with the aim to attract more students to the German Studies Program. The idea to create an honors program with a service-learning component was proposed by a student majoring in German and Political Science.3 Following conversations with the department chair and community board, the GHP was approved in May 2006. In addition to the regular four upper-division courses in language, culture, or literature, students would have to complete additional requirements4 including a community-engagement component, either on campus volunteering as peer educators in lower-level German courses, or off campus as teaching assistants at the Saturday School. Since the start of the GHP in fall 2006 through spring quarter 2011, thirteen GHP students completed their service-learning experience at the Saturday School as did three additional non-program students. Moreover, six of the GHP students volunteered at that Saturday School for more than the minimum requirement of one quarter.

The impact on enrollments in the German Studies program has been significant. Whereas the program had an average of 6.6 program majors in the six years before the start of the GHP in 2006, that average increased to 8.6 by spring 2011. Admittedly, other German Studies program initiatives, such as the German Movie Night and the Study Abroad Program in Freiburg, have contributed to the increase of participation in the GHP as well. Nevertheless, to focus on the impact of the GHP, a questionnaire was sent in fall 2010 to eleven GHP participants (current and former students) asking them to reflect on their GHP participation, including their experience at the Saturday School. Students were also encouraged to share their ideas on how to improve the program. Six students responded to the survey. Students were asked if the experience at the Saturday School helped with their German coursework. All but one student agreed that it was helpful. Five students agreed that their decision to major in German had been positively influenced by the community component of the GHP. To the next question—Should the university's German Studies program continue its partnership with the Saturday School?—all six respondents endorsed this partnership. Students also widely agreed that the GHP should establish partnerships with other community groups. Students were asked to indicate how they had specifically benefited from the community experience. The question yielded the following responses. One student found it to be helpful with finding a job post-graduation. For two students the GHP was an important factor in receiving fellowship positions in Germany. One student received the German Federal Government's International Parliamentary Scholarship (IPS) and a second student received a Fulbright Teaching Assistantship. When asked to share if the GHP in general had benefited them in other ways, three students wrote that it helped them get into graduate school. Several stated that it helped them build confidence in their oral skills and allowed them to get involved with the German community off campus. The students offered the following suggestions on how to improve the partnership: (1) allow the university students to work with different levels of language learners, from youth beginner classes to higher grade levels and (2) invite German School students to university events related to German.

The Germany in the Media Community Engagement Project

Partnerships between universities and community groups can also be promoted through course-based engagement projects. In winter quarter 2011, the author offered Germany in the Media, an upper-division course focusing on how the media portrays Germany's image in and outside Germany. As part of the course, students were required to conduct a media project with the Saturday School that would address a community need related to media. To initiate the assessment process, students5 received in their syllabi a set of questions to discuss with the Saturday School's librarian. The first two weeks of January, both groups pondered questions relating to the school's current media holdings: were the holdings up to date and balanced. And, more importantly, were the community needs in that area being met. The goal was to have by the end of the quarter a course project that would benefit the Saturday School and showcase the students' learning experience. As with any new endeavor, both partners encountered challenges. The Saturday School needed to decide where and how the school wanted to serve their members' media interests. Should their focus be on print or electronic media? While that question remained unresolved for another week, the university students grew concerned about the scope of the project and whether it could be done within the remainder of the quarter. Shortly thereafter the project idea was finalized. They would create a link farm with annotated German web links, combined with a rating system. With clear expectations and a revised timetable, the university students then prepared and conducted a brief survey in German with the following questions: (1) which web pages do you regularly use and why? (2) Which web pages would you like to see listed on the Saturday School's website to help you and/or your family learn the German language and culture? (3) For which age group(s) and topics would you like to see more content pages? The responses from students and parents varied considerably. The first question yielded sites about German language learning, teaching, and translation but also links to newspaper and magazine websites, including BILD and Der Spiegel, and one link to Lokalisten, a German social media site. Some of the responses to the second question resulted in links to free, interactive German courses, references to current events in the Bay Area, games for the iPad, and also links to student exchange sites. Responses to the third question suggested web pages for teenagers.

Based on the membership survey, the university students subsequently met with the Saturday School for a follow-up conversation confirming that the links pages would feature the following categories: German Language News Sites, Children's Radio, Children's Games, Children's Magazines, Newspapers and Story Sites. They also confirmed the next project steps: (1) work in teams back on campus to research the various link categories, (2) formulate brief site summaries and develop a rating scale. The students were able to deliver the annotated web links to the Saturday School in week nine and on the last day of classes proudly reported on the project and their work with the Saturday School.

Disciplinary and Higher Education Tie-ins Advancing Service-Learning in German in the United States

Partnerships between Saturday Schools and universities help fill a void in service-learning6 in German. In spite of its positive effects of service-learning on students' academic learning, on a host of personal and social outcomes, on faculty, institutions, and communities,7 and the fact that it is employed by German teachers at small and large institutions, it has received surprisingly little attention in the professional literature. Of the small number of articles and reports written on the topic in the past ten years, most describe service projects in a study-abroad or a virtual global context. Very few, however, address service-learning in the United States. In the area of study abroad, the reports highlight service projects in Germany involved with education, health, or social services agencies (Ward, 2003), teaching English (Ducate, 2009), assisting in an elementary school (Badstübner and Ecke, 2009), or participating in an interdisciplinary setting. In the virtual global context, students contribute translations to a virtual global sustainability platform (ter Horst and Pearce, 2010).

The few published articles and reports about service-learning in German in the U.S. offer an interesting overview about service-learning projects and practices by region and institution. For example, at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, students in an upper-division German culture course interacted with German-speaking residents in a senior care center located in St. Cloud. Over the course of a semester, students assisted with numerous activities ranging from helping serve meals to interacting with Alzheimer patients to organizing social or educational events at the center. According to Mueller (2011, p. 217), this German service-learning project “made a difference in the community” and “When students realized the relevance of class material in a real-life context, their motivation to learn increased.” Aside from the project's impact on community and student learning, it should be noted that the professor, too, served along with her students at the senior care facility for the entire semester. This level of participation enabled the professor to share in the students' experiences and witness first-hand how these students interacted in the target language.

Other efforts of engaging communities can be found in the German Studies program at Rollins College, a private four-year institution in Winter Park, Florida. Student involvement ranged from student performances of fairy tales at a local school for autistic children to a school-university partnership to conduct a community-action project in Namibia, a German protectorate until 1919. In the Namibia project, Rollins students worked with elementary and middle school learners of the local New School College Prep and together they created a tax-exempt, charitable organization for disadvantaged rural children that enabled these children to attend a private school in the country's capital, Windhoek. From the perspective of the participating faculty (Sara Hoefler from School College Prep and Nancy Decker from Rollins College), the partnership allowed both groups of students to “foster a deeper understanding of social studies, language arts and German content as well as an enhanced sense of civic responsibility” (Hoefler, 2007).

Community engagement in German is also offered at the community college level. As the following examples from Portland Community College (PCC) highlight, service-learning in German can take place in the community as well as on campus. PCC students participate in service-learning projects at the German American Society of Portland, the German American School of Portland, and PCC's Student Success Center. For service-learning on campus, German students can participate in conversation programs in which they interact with ESL students. In a study involving German and ESL students from PCC and Portland State University, Dittmore (2012) had her German students at both institutions participate in weekly conversation sessions during the quarter—with ESL students at each institution. In an analysis of students' reflections, Dittmore (2012, p. 28) found that the German students made cultural comparisons with the cultures represented by the conversation partners. She concluded that while German culture was discussed only in two student reflections, the experience was “transformative for at least some of them in terms of language and culture even though it was not directly tied with the target language or target culture.” As these examples from three very different institutions illustrate, service-learning and community engagement in German can make for a good fit with a department's efforts to promote local and international learning partnerships.

Advancing the National Standards and the Carnegie Classification Efforts

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. University Partnerships with Saturday Morning Schools
  5. Advancing the National Standards and the Carnegie Classification Efforts
  6. Conclusion
  7. References

Promoting community engagement through service-learning and other forms of experiential pedagogies benefits German Studies in two additional ways. As to the first, the Standards for Foreign Language Learning in the 21st Century (National Standards), first published in 1996 by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), lay out an interconnected set of learning goals for language instructors in the United States, among them the “Communities” standard.

Efforts to address the “Communities” standard in teaching foreign language are not new. To the contrary, in an article on how to achieve the National Standards through community service learning, Lear and Abbot (2008, p. 77) note that references to community-based pedagogies and the Standards appear in the literature as early as 1999 and that “CSL has been a boon for the communities standard and an achievable one for Spanish language courses in the United States.” More recent publications on how to address the “Fifth C” can be found in Cutshall (2012) and Troyan (2012).

Efforts to achieve the National Standards through community-based learning have also been made in German. As Fowdy (2012) informs on the AATG site Alle Lernen Deutsch (ALD), one strategy is to address the Communities goal area via the “Connections” standard, when students “Connect with Other Disciplines and Acquire Information.” Fowdy gives an example in which German students can visit nearby historical sites connected to German immigration and/or help schools and cultural associations create and disseminate oral history projects. To address the National Standards, a similar strategy was pursued in the Germany in the Media community engagement project. German Studies programs can reap a second benefit by connecting with local communities by contributing to their institutions' community engagement classification efforts. As a strategy for engaging learners with communities, service-learning has also found its way into the Carnegie Foundation's Classification Systems of Institutions of Higher Education and its elective community engagement classification.8 The Carnegie Foundation describes community engagement as “the collaboration between institutions of higher education and their larger communities (local, regional/state, national, global) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity.” One such form of collaboration is curricular engagement, which the Carnegie Foundation defines on its website as:

Curricular Engagement describes the teaching, learning, and scholarship that engages faculty, students, and community in mutually beneficial and respectful collaboration. Their interactions address community identified needs, deepen students' civic and academic learning, enhance community well-being, and enrich the scholarship of the institution. NOTE: The terms community-based learning, academic service learning, and other expressions are often used to denote service learning courses.

With foreign language faculty already attuned to service-learning as a strategy for advancing the National Standards, teachers and administrators now can add community engagement as a second justification and benefit for their engagement efforts.

Conclusion

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. University Partnerships with Saturday Morning Schools
  5. Advancing the National Standards and the Carnegie Classification Efforts
  6. Conclusion
  7. References

The community-engagement efforts in German described in this article benefitted all parties. When German majors or minors have an opportunity to gain teaching experience in a community school, address a community need by contributing to a website, and successfully apply for prestigious national or international awards, faculty and students have a reason to look optimistically at their German programs. Aside from attracting more students to the German Studies program, such efforts can help universities establish important links to community organizations, such as Saturday Morning Schools. By supporting such projects, universities can demonstrate capacity and commitment to community engagement efforts and thus submit documentation to their accrediting agencies. Saturday Morning schools benefit as well, for they gain access and cachet by collaborating with higher-education programs. And, they can present their schools as an innovative partner supporting German in the wider community and beyond. Such partnerships have a good rate of success if they (1) benefit institutional partners, (2) empower program students, (3) enrich the program curriculum, (4) connect to and advance program and institutional goals, and (5) have champions to sustain the partnerships over time.

Without any doubt, German teachers in the United States can no longer rely on a steady supply of prospective German students working their way through the traditional education channels at the college or pre-college level. Instead, higher-education faculty must take a second look at their German course offerings and find ways to revise and update their curriculum, and explore community-engagement projects. They must also actively promote articulation efforts in their local and regional communities if they hope to increase interest and enrollments in their German programs.

  1. 1

    The document acknowledges the contributions from organizations ranging from the American Association of Teachers of German to the Zentralstelle für das Auslandsschulwesen. It is available in pdf at: http://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/DE/Aussenpolitik/KulturDialog/SchulenJugend/Auslandsschulwesen-ZfA_node.html.

  2. 2

    There are between 72 and 93 German Saturday Schools in the United States. According to AATG's List of German Language Schools, that number stands at 72 Saturday Schools. It is available as an excel download at: http://www.aatg.org/?page=DaSGermanschools. A higher number is reported on GLOW (German Language Opportunities Website), a registry created and maintained by AATG's Southern California Chapter, which lists a total of 93 Saturday schools. Both sources invite members to provide regular updates.

  3. 3

    Therese Mathis not only created the GHP, but her commitment to engaged student learning also allowed her to sustain and grow the GHP and its links to the German School. I also wish to acknowledge her contributions to the questionnaire mentioned in this section.

  4. 4

    The GHP requires students complete the following four program components: 1. one of the following academic requirements: (a) a second major or minor, (b) a second foreign language through the intermediate level, or (c) a minor in International Studies; 2. one of the following service-learning requirements: (a) volunteer as a peer educator in a lower-division German class or (b) complete one quarter of service at the German School assisting teachers with young German learners 3–6 years of age; 3. Write a senior thesis in German; 4. Submit the Honors Program Activities summary.

  5. 5

    I wish to acknowledge the efforts of two students, Laura Sylvan and Sabrina Kaschmitter. Their leadership and contributions were crucial in this curricular engagement effort with the German School.

  6. 6

    Bringle and Hatcher (1996, p. 222) define service-learning: “A credit-bearing educational experience in which students participate in an organized service activity that meets identified community needs and reflect on the service activity in such a way as to gain further understanding of course content, a broader appreciation of the discipline, and an enhanced sense of civic responsibility.”

  7. 7

    See Eyler, Giles and Gray for a summary of service-learning research in higher education.

  8. 8

    A more detailed description of the classification framework together with definitions and purposes of key categories and descriptors can be found at: http://classifications.carnegiefoundation.org/descriptions/community_engagement.php.

References

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. University Partnerships with Saturday Morning Schools
  5. Advancing the National Standards and the Carnegie Classification Efforts
  6. Conclusion
  7. References
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  • ter Horst, E., & Pearce, J. (2010). “Foreign languages and sustainability: Addressing the connections, communities, and comparisons standards in higher education.” Foreign Language Annals, 44 (3), 365383.
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