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Featured Presentation

Having Someone to Talk To: The Role of Empathetic Mentors in Language Acquisition


Location: 024
Target Audience: K-12

Absract: Being a second language learner isn’t easy. Sure, we can fire up Duolingo, Mango or Babbel to learn vocabulary, grammar, and helpful phrases such as “My grandmother has a cat,” but in the end language is about communicating ideas, particularly with other people. Conversations do not take place according to a script or in tidy idea-packages, which can lead to uncertainty and discomfort for second language learners. In this interactive session we will explore the concept of empathetic mediation as a way of supporting second language learners as they encounter challenges. Along the way we will examine theories and applications related to communities of practice, productive success and productive failure, feedback loops and mentoring. As a heads-up, attendees will start learning a new language during the session to gain additional personal perspectives on this topic.


Speaker Bio:

Alan Buss Headshot photoAlan Buss is a Professor of Education at the University of Wyoming. He has been teaching elementary mathematics and science pedagogy courses at UW for over two decades. Prior to joining the University faculty he taught second grade in rural New Mexico and sixth grade in Casper, WY. His experience teaching English as a Second Language started while serving as missionary on the island of Kyushu, Japan for two years, which included teaching English conversation classes. Learning Japanese at that time also provided him with insights to the challenges faced by second language learners, such as the need for kind, responsive feedback as he learned the intricacies of another language. Later, while teaching in New Mexico Dr. Buss had the opportunity to work with students from the Navajo Nation, some of whom were learning English as a second language. His students further taught him the value of humor, patience and kindness. Most recently Dr. Buss has been learning programming languages, such as Python and Spanish.


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