Advances and challenges in teaching linguistics at university, LAGB 2022

A special themed session at the annual meeting of the Linguistics Association of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Ulster University, 14 September 2022.LAGB logo

Discussion | Program | Description | Registration | Organizers


Here are some of the resources that were mentioned in the discussion or are otherwise noteworthy:


Please check the LAGB website for the most up-to-date schedule.

Talk slots have 20 minutes for the talk and 10 for discussion. The two presentations by Brian Hsu (Skillsbased grading in the syntax classroom) and Marcela Cazzoli (Embedding (socio)linguistic awareness in secondary language education) had to be cancelled.

9:00-9:30 Joseph Casillas Rutgers Open science practices and reproducible research in the classroom: A case study
9:30-10:00 Itamar Kastner and Sumin Zhao Edinburgh Multimodal assignments in linguistics
10:00-10:30 Maria J. Arche, Angeliek van Hout, Alexandra Perovic, Josep Quer, Jeannette Schaeffer and Petra Schulz Greenwich, Groningen, UCL, ICREA/UPF, Amsterdam & Frankfurt Raising awareness: scarce linguistics in the university curricula can lead to critical mishaps in health and education provision
10:30-11:00 The organisers (chair) Discussion
14:00-14:30 Sam Hellmuth, Julia Kolkmann and Marina Cantarutti York Understanding Language in the Real World: delivering academic skills and initial subject content through ProblemBased Learning
14:30-15:00 Rebekka Puderbaugh Edinburgh Modular materials for teaching phonetics: Choose your own academy
15:00-15:30 Pavel Iosad, Graeme Trousdale and Robert Truswell Edinburgh Linguistics puzzles in the university curriculum [slides, handout]
15:30-16:00 The organisers (chair) Discussion

Workshop description

This themed session aims to provide a platform in which linguists can present new approaches to teaching linguistics in higher education, including discussion of challenges new and old. Some of these challenges include teaching to students with diverse and changing backgrounds, rapid and continual changes required by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, bureaucracy inhibiting such changes, and the limited capacity of staff to implement changes within existing workload capacity.

Background. Our contemporary “banking model” of education (Freire 1968, hooks 1994, Gannon 2020) places the teacher at the centre of the classroom as the source and assessor of student knowledge. Exams and grading are the standard methods of assessing this knowledge, despite the deep problems with marks as a pedagogical tool (Kohn 1993/2018, 2011, Davidson 2012, Stommel 2017). In response to the inherent deficiencies of this model, alternative methods of teaching and assessment such as the flipped classroom, ungrading (Gibson 2016, Blum 2020), contract grading, skills grading (Brackett and Reuning 1999, Nilson 2014, Schimmer 2016) and unessays (Cordell 2015, Awan 2019) have gained traction in recent years. These methods reflect learning better than exams and grading, while placing an emphasis on balancing skills and content (Ambrose et al 2010) and also providing a more equitable experience for students of different backgrounds (Awan 2019; Gannon 2020). Some of these approaches are already being adopted in linguistics classrooms: Zuraw et al (2019) describe skills-based contract grading in phonetics and phonology, O’Leary and Stockwell (2021) describe skills-based contract grading in formal semantics, and Conrod (2021) discusses participation grading. These approaches to assessment reflect a shift away from teacher-centred models of education toward more student-centred and student-led approaches, requiring new methods and styles of teaching practice.

Challenges. The Covid pandemic has catalysed change in many classrooms by requiring that instructors provide lecture materials and assessments that are asynchronous, available remotely, interactive and engaging. As a result, many of us have had to compress lecture materials into durations suitable for short videos, flip classes to become more student-centred, and replace sit-in exams with more practical or project-based assessments. In the UK, these alterations to course materials and teaching methods were undertaken within a baroque system of ratification and moderation that slow the process of change. In many cases, student numbers have also increased for the 2021-2022 academic year, further straining the already heavy workloads of staff.

We invite submissions that engage with these topics, such as those seeking answers to the following questions:

  1. What novel teaching methods are linguists implementing and developing in higher education?
  2. What useful skills and techniques have we learned as a result of the changes necessary for teaching during the Covid era?
  3. What structural and bureaucratic barriers exist in our institutions, and how can we overcome these?
  4. How do our pedagogical methods interact with EDI and decolonial considerations?
  5. How do we decide what content and what skills to teach, vis-à-vis existing content?

We welcome “case reports” on completed courses or curriculum changes, as well as “works in progress” describing a change currently being implemented.


See the LAGB website for registration options, including an online livestream.


Stefano Coretta, Itamar Kastner and Rebekka Puderbaugh (Edinburgh)