Life Hacks for LPDs

To help you navigate the complexities of the LPD job, below are some tips and tricks we've pulled together based on feedback from seasoned program directors. Click on each life hack for details. After you’ve read through this list, talk to other LPDs you know (e.g., a colleague at your institution, the LPD from your graduate program, an AAUSC member). Do they have other tips and tricks you can add to your own list of life hacks for LPDs?

Tracking the amount of time you spend on each of your LPD duties can help you assess your time management and identify areas where you should be spending more or less time. The time tracking template in the Practical Resources section of this module can help you with this task, and the list of time management apps provided in that section can help you improve your time management and prioritize your list of LPD responsibilities.

Once you understand how you are using your time and have identified areas where you can streamline your time management, you need to stick with your plan! Many LPDs report that it’s useful to set time limits on your LPD tasks so that you don’t spend too much time on any one task or you don’t neglect your other job responsibilities such as teaching, research, and committee work.

Another tried-and-true strategy for increasing efficiency and improving time management is to block off chunks of time in your calendar for carrying out your LPD duties, just like you would schedule a face-to-face meeting or an exercise class. This strategy also has the added benefit of ensuring that you do not schedule meetings or other responsibilities during your LPD time. Over time, strive to carry out your LPD work only during these time blocks.

As LPDs, we often see a stream of people--instructors, students, colleagues, departmental administrators--coming into our departmental office. Even when the door is closed, these people knock to ask a couple of quick questions, which often take up more time than anticipated. Many LPDs find it useful to set up a second workspace for carrying out duties unrelated to their LPD job, such as research or class prep. This second workspace can be your home office, your institution’s library, or a coffee shop--anyplace where you can work effectively without distractions. Compartmentalizing your job responsibilities in this way has the potential to help with time management and productivity.

This tip may seem obvious, particularly when you feel like all you are doing is thinking and talking about the language program. Nonetheless, communication with all colleagues about the program--those who teach in it and those who don’t--is important for a number of reasons. First, it ensures that everyone is on the same page when it comes to goals, approach, assessments, and so on. Second, it contributes to vertical articulation both within the lower-level program and beyond. Third, it increases buy-in from all program participants. Fourth, it makes the often invisible work of the LPD visible to other program members, thus making it easier to seek out and receive support when you need it. And last, it reinforces to colleagues--particularly those outside of the program--the importance of having an LPD with specialized knowledge in second language acquisition, curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment.

When you are overwhelmed with the day-to-day responsibilities of your LPD job, it is sometimes hard to step back and see the big picture. Yet because an important LPD role is to ensure that the language program is articulated, it is imperative to consider the program in relation to the entire undergraduate curriculum. This big-picture view will also inform your discussions of the program with colleagues (see Life Hack#5), allowing you to demonstrate your expertise in second language acquisition, curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment, and to therefore have a stronger voice in departmental discussions about curriculum and instruction.

You’ve probably heard colleagues--and perhaps yourself--refer to the lower-level program as “language courses” and the upper-level program as “content courses.” This kind of language, however, suggests that what happens in lower-level courses is “just language teaching” and that these courses comprise “the service part of the department.” Your discourse around language program direction matters and it is important to be cognizant of how you and others talk about the program with instructors, colleagues, students, departmental administrators, and so on. Scholars in our field have long argued for coherent approaches to curriculum that do not separate language from content and for the legitimization of LPD positions due to its grounding in empirical and theoretical scholarship (see Scholarly Resources at the end of this module, particularly Levine et al., 2008, and VanPatten, 2015). You can support these contributions to our field by speaking thoughtfully about your program and your LPD work. For instance, instead of referring to the courses you supervise as “language courses” consider calling them “lower-level courses” or “language-content integrated courses.” And when referring to the content you teach in those courses, consider describing it as “linguistic content” or “target language texts” instead of “language” or “authentic materials.”

Language program direction can be overwhelming and isolating work. Creating connections with LPD colleagues is therefore essential. It provides a way to share ideas and materials, and also to gripe about the challenges of the job. If there aren’t other LPDs at your institution, seek them out through the AAUSC (see Life Hack #9) or at conferences such as ACTFL, AAAL, or LTE. You might ask one of these colleagues to serve as your LPD mentor—someone who can advise you when you have questions and advocate for you when facing challenging situations.

The American Association of University Supervisors and Coordinators (AAUSC) is a national organization that supports the work of LPDs. Each year the AAUSC holds its annual business meeting and reception at ACTFL. This is a great venue for creating connections with other LPDs and for learning how to get involved with the organization. The AAUSC also has a number of LPD resources on its website and publishes an annual journal featuring scholarship on postsecondary language education (see Life Hack #10).

Second Language Research & Practice is the open-access peer-reviewed journal of the AAUSC. Published annually, the journal features research papers, descriptive reports, and position papers addressing postsecondary language education from theoretical, empirical, and practical perspectives. Even if you don’t consider yourself a researcher, you are using research to inform your LPD work. Highlight that work by writing a descriptive report about your curricular, pedagogical, or assessment innovations!

 

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