Number 58 (2014)

New Ways of Teaching English: The U.S. Embassy Election Project 2012

Edited by Martina Kohl and Torben Schmidt


“New Ways of Teaching English”—this title will raise expectations. How many “new” ways are there to teach a language? Task-based language learning, project work, cooperative learning, content-based instruction, and computer-assisted language learning or e-learning are just a few methodological approaches in the English as a Foreign Language (EFL) classroom that can be highly beneficial for learners in developing their foreign language skills. On a more general level, these approaches also further intercultural communicative competence – including the knowledge, skills, and personal attitudes to communicate effectively and appropriately with people of other cultures.

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What We Can Learn About America from the 2012 Presidential Election

Presidential elections are gold mines for historians. They are more than teaching moments; their lessons can fill a classroom for an academic year and beyond. Presidential elections are both a detailed snapshot of America at one particular moment and a window on the nation to be. The 2012 presidential election in the U.S. was particularly rich in both its depiction of the country at that time and its portent of America’s future.

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Political Cartoons in the EFL and American Studies Classroom

Political cartoons are anything but innocent caricatures. They have been described as “a confrontational art form” (Oliphant 25), as “purposefully designed to elicit strong emotions and reactions from readers” (Long, Bunch, and Lloyd 651), and as “among the more extreme forms of expression” (Long, Bunch, and Lloyd 651). Stories abound with the harsh punishments endured by political cartoonists under oppressive regimes. One might even say that what allows liberal and conservative American cartoonists to feel any sense of solidarity with one another is their bond through the First Amendment and their belief in the democratic enterprise that is criticizing government.

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Web 2.0 Tasks in Action: EFL Learning in the U.S. Embassy School Election Project 2012

Exploring topics that are personally relevant and interesting to young adult English as a foreign language (EFL) learners remains a core challenge in language teaching. At the same time, the advent of Web 2.0 applications has many repercussions for authentic language learning. The “U.S. Embassy School Election Project 2012” has addressed these questions by combining a close focus on the U.S. Presidential Election with an interactive project scenario. This paper discusses the general educational potential of such projects in the contexts of computer-assisted language learning (CALL), intercultural learning, and learning in a task-based project environment.

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Racing to Reform in the United States and Germany

Both Germany and the United States have made significant reforms over the last decade to their secondary school systems. This article compares the reforms focused on at-risk secondary school students in both countries and explores emerging trends in achievement and attainment data. The authors conclude that both countries have made significant education reforms and improved the educational results for at-risk students.

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Results from the U.S. Embassy School Election Project 2012

During the weeks leading up to the U.S. Presidential Election in fall 2012, over 1,400 German EFL students in more than 100 courses across the country participated in an interactive project to predict the outcome of the election. Each class was assigned a U.S. state to research and together their predictions formed a mock election of the U.S. President in the week prior to the actual elections. The result: These students’ predictions were more accurate than many polls published in U.S. national media. Moreover, their predictions were assembled in different categories of creative multimedia products, many of which were published online by the students themselves for the general web-audience.

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