Culture as the Core in the Second Language Classroom

July 13–31, 2020 • Asynchronous 3-week online institute

This institute is now FULL.
The waitlist is also FULL.

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Kaishan Kong and Martha Bigelow

Transformative learning often happens when people experience cultural and linguistic contact with people different from themselves. This institute will explore how to make these experiences happen in and through classrooms. We will explore a wide range of tools for understanding self and 'others' without falling into stereotypes or reductive simplifications. While cultivating deeper understanding on how language-culture-identity informs our teaching, we will envision ways to integrate culture and language learning that include authentic materials and inter- and transcultural habits of mind. Throughout the course, participants will be engaged in constructive conversation, hands-on practice, and reflection. In the end, participants will be able to conceptualize culture teaching in ways that suit their teaching and learning context.


  • This institute is primarily asynchronous (not real time). For the most part, you will work on activities according to your own schedule during the week.
  • This institute includes several required check-in/discussion synchronous sessions: 8:00 a.m.–10 a.m. (CDT) on 7/13, 7/14, 7/17, 7/22, 7/23, 7/27, 7/29, 7/30. On the last day, 7/31, participants will be asked to share their final projects between 8:00 a.m.–4 p.m. at a time arranged with the instructors.
  • Make sure to review the tech requirements for this institute.

Program Schedule (9am-4pm)
Week 1 Culturally-Oriented Language Teaching
  • Exploring Teacher Cultural Selves in the Teaching Process
  • (Re)framing Culture and Culture Learning
What Cultural Understanding Looks Like: Focus on the Learner
  • Envisioning Objectives for Culture Learning
  • Moving from Language Proficiency to Intercultural Competence
  • Raising Essential Questions
  • Assessing Culture Learning
Week 2 How to Integrate Culture and Language: Topics, Texts, Tasks
  • Complicating Culture Throug Intersectionalities
  • Integrating Culture through Chontent-Based Instruction
  • Using Insider Authentic Texts
  • Deciding What Culture(s) to Teach
Week 3 How to Explore (Youth) Culture
  • Enhancing Intercultural Communicative Competence Using Various Models
  • Evaluating and Adapting the Culture Content of Textbooks
Culture Learning in Action
  • Sharing Lessons and Lessons Learned
  • Devising an Action Plan for Curriculum Revision

After this institute, you will be able to:

  • Bring everyday culture into language instruction;

  • Apply common frameworks of culture and culture learning;

  • Create integrated language-and-culture learning objectives and lessons;

  • Use authentic materials for teaching culture;

  • Assess culture learning; and

  • Use textbooks for culture learning and unlearning.


Martha Bigelow is Professor in Second Language Education at the University of Minnesota. She received her Ph.D. from Georgetown University. Her research interests span fields of education, applied linguistics, and cultural studies. While she has focused mainly on the language learning and schooling of adolescent refugees from East Africa, she is also deeply invested in the schooling of all language learners as they learn in home, community, and school settings.

Kaishan Kong is Assistant Professor of Chinese at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in Second Language Education. She has taught language and cultural courses in both China and the United States. Her research interests include second language acquisition, mediated learning in study abroad, intercultural communication, and teacher training.

Target Audience
This institute is suited for elementary school to postsecondary foreign language, ESL/EFL, indigenous teachers. It is also suited to immersion teachers and teacher educators.

Quote MarksRight quote marksI learned so much from this institute and had a great time! The instructors were very knowledgeable and approachable and made learning fun. I could use a lot directly for my curriculum. I also liked learning from the other participants and look forward to taking another institute next summer.
Astrid Alvarado-Sieg, 2019 Participant
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Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA) • 140 University International Center • 331 - 17th Ave SE • Minneapolis, MN 55414