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Spotlight on Inclusive Excellence: Dr. Ryan Carroll

Dr. Ryan Carroll Nominated for Spotlight on Inclusive Excellence

Our spotlight this week recognizes  Dr. Ryan Carroll. Dr. Carroll was nominated for his extensive work in implementing a new language curriculum for elementary and intermediate German.

Dr. Carroll began phasing in a new textbook, Impuls Deutsch, this Spring semester. Impuls Deutsch promotes a more inclusive approach to German language instruction and student engagement. Dr. Carroll worked tirelessly with instructors and TAs to devise the new curriculum and write new lesson plans. Thanks to their efforts, lower-division German courses at UGA now reflect the diverse experiences of our students and of the various cultures associated with the German language.

Impuls Deutsch proclaims its main distinguishing features to be the focus on multiple perspectives, inclusiveness, the flipped classroom approach, flexibility for syllabus creation, and a fun attitude towards learning German. These 5 facets promote “learner autonomy” and encourage intercultural competence.

According to Dr. Carroll, the classroom setup encouraged by Impuls Deutsch permits students to be the experts in their classroom, lending more equality to the relationship classmates have with each other and with their instructor. The class is designed so that the instructor and the students are learning from each other, and because of the book’s multidisciplinary content, students learn how to communicate in German about topics they wouldn’t usually consider in a German class, such as physics, psychology, product design, and food science.

To demonstrate how Impuls Deutsch promotes inclusivity, Dr. Carroll points out one example chapter in the textbook focused on amusement and theme parks. The chapter discusses rollercoasters, German festivals, and amusement parks across the world. By discussing these topics, students are led to consider issues of stereotyping and accessibility. Students explore, using the German language, how to make an amusement park more accessible to different types of riders, how stereotypes of the Wild West have resulted in harmful imagery of Native American communities at German theme parks, and the stereotypes of other cultures that might be involved in Themenwelten (theme parks). The chapter even has a unit on the physics of rollercoasters, allowing students from STEM disciplines to share their expertise with their instructor and classmates.

Importantly, Impuls Deutsch provides a much broader perspective on what German society looks like. There is less focus on tradition and more focus on the fact that there is no single representation of German culture. [RC3] Students are not led to think any one way about German culture, but instead are given information from a variety of sources so that they can think critically and form their own opinions. The book makes sure to highlight underrepresented communities in German culture, such as Afrodeutsche and refugees.

Moreover, by the simple expedient of including images of different body types, levels of physical ability, gender identities, and ethnicities, Impuls Deutsch emphasizes its mission to provide as large a view of German society as possible while giving students the opportunity to see themselves and their communities represented in lessons. The book also implements the casual usage of gender-neutral German pronouns and grammar. Student identities can thus be honored even in a language whose very construction is gendered. In these ways, students’ backgrounds become important to the classroom and to their language learning.

One of the most important aspects of the textbook change, Dr. Carroll says, is that Impuls Deutsch teaches students that “you can still be an active participant in the [German language] community without having perfect German,” and without having close ties to what is considered “traditional” German culture. Using the authentic, humanized experiences of refugees and immigrants, the textbook emphasizes that German doesn’t have to be intimidating to students who are still acquiring the language or who come from a different culture than that of European German-speaking countries.  Students are thus able to gain confidence in their speaking ability while also setting realistic language learning goals.

Dr. Carroll will continue his work on course development during his time at the Active Learning Summer Institute this May, a program for which he was selected along with Germanic & Slavic Studies faculty member Dr. Charlie Byrd. In ALSI, Dr. Carroll hopes to continue refining communication within the classroom. How can students have more agency in the classroom? How can class be more relevant to student life? How can the classroom be set up to promote improved student engagement? Dr. Carroll looks forward to exploring these questions by collaborating with other faculty members from various disciplines.

Congratulations to Dr. Carroll for the realization of his work on the textbook and for his Spotlight nomination!


Lecturer of German, German Language Coordinator, Kaffeestunde Host 2022-23

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