Harinder Khalsa

Harinder Khalsa

Romance Languages, Yamada Language Center


Courses: Ital104, 105, 201, 202, 203, 320 - LT 199 Turkish

In my courses you will:

  • Make connections to lived experiences and real-world challenges.
  • Learn with and from peers.

I was invited into the Teaching Academy because:

  • I am a Herman Award Recipient.
  • I participated in the UO Summer Teaching Institute.
  • I was a Fellow in the Teaching Online CAIT Group.

In what ways are you working to make your teaching inclusive?

I am fortunate to teach smaller sized language classes at the University of Oregon. This means I get to see my students pretty much everyday and know them well both personally and academically. In my classes we create a productive and collaborative learning community where we accept and respect everyone's background and personal preferences. Everyone knows each other by their names, use the pronouns they prefer. We all acknowledge that everyone has a different reason to be in this class, which inspires us to be motivated to learn in multiple ways. We work together with the understanding that there is no one ahead or behind, we can all help and learn from each other in order to accomplish our learning goals both individually and collectively.

What do you do in terms of professional engagement with the teaching and learning culture on campus or nationally?

I strive to maintain a dynamic teaching and learning environment in my courses. This means that I need to grow and evolve as a teacher and learner myself so I can meet the needs and skill levels of all students I get to work with. To that end I read a variety of publications, participate in various language teaching and learning related workshops, conferences and webinars, take online courses, etc. I also learn from my peers by observing them and having them observe me. This helps me reflect on my teaching practices and explore new ways of delivering content, interacting with students and assessing their progress in a transparent and meaning way. Besides teaching languages, I also coordinate the Self Study Language Program (LT 199) where we offer less commonly taught languages such as Farsi/Persian, Thai, Vietnamese, Cantonese, Turkish, Hindi/Urdu, Twi and Quechua. One of my roles in this program is to mentor language tutors with varying degrees of expertise in language teaching. This gives me a chance to share best practices with them. I find teaching to be one of the best ways of learning. Currently I am in the process of developing a new course called Learning How to Learn Languages with a group of colleagues from Linguistics, Yamada Language Center and International Studies. I am also developing an e-portfolio assignment method for my First Year Intensive Italian (104-105) courses in collaboration with my colleagues from Center for Media and Educational Technologies (CMET) and Center for Applied Second Language Studies (CASLS). I am also a member of the professional organization ACTFL, COFLT and IALLT and a co-founder of the UO Language Council.

In what ways was your teaching in this course research-led—informed by research on how students learn and inflected by UO's research mission?

The way I design my language courses, assessment and the learning experiences include but are not limited to the following key points that are endorsed by UO's Teaching Engagement Program.

  • Providing students with explicit, compelling goals for their learning.
  • Structuring small-group discussions and activities during class.
  • Discussing the relevance of material from students' perspectives.
  • Assigning activities and quizzes (beyond reading alone) to help students prepare for class.
  • Offering frequent feedback on low-stakes activities and assignments.
  • Offering opportunities for student self-reflection about their own learning process (metacognition).

Through the learning experience the students gain in my classes they also develop the following transferable skills that they may end up using for other classes and in their career lives:

  1. Collaboration/Team Work: ability to learn together & to work in a team structure.
  2. Time management: ability to plan, organize and prioritize work, meet deadlines.
  3. Communication: ability to verbally communicate with persons inside and outside the group (organization) / ability to give and receive constructive feedback / ability to use various communication platforms effectively (social media, cloud services, etc.)
  4. Problem-solving: ability to negotiate and make decisions / ability to find effective, creative approaches to resolve a problem.

What is your proudest professional achievement?

My proudest moment is whenever I see my students communicate effectively in the languages they learn no matter what proficiency level they are at. I am also proud to see them become successful in their career lives. Some of my students who have studied at least two years of Italian through the Romance Languages Department have professional titles such as: Program Director and Program Support at A Family For Every Child (AFFEC) Teaching assistant for Academic Programs Abroad Event Coordinator at Syracuse University Associate Product Line Manager at Nike Instructor of Italian at Oregon State University

Who or what led you to this discipline?

There are so many people and circumstances that led me to teaching languages with great passion. When I was in 4th grade, my father took a job at the Turkish Embassy in  Baghdad, Iraq where I was thrown in an English-speaking environment at an International School and had to learn to swim whether I liked it or not. It was frustrating at the beginning but the need to survive became a great motivation for me to learn how to communicate in English pretty fast. Later on, after deciding physics major was not the right one for me, I decided to study Italian simply because I had befriended a mother and daughter while I was traveling with my grandmother during high school and had fallen in love with how their language sounded and how wonderful people the two were. At my university I was not so impressed by how the language was taught so I signed up for evening classes at the Italian Cultural Institute in Istanbul. Interacting with native speakers who were also passionate teachers, receiving several scholarships to study abroad during summer breaks, practicing, practicing and practicing boosted my language skills and intercultural knowledge and competence exponentially. The immersion experiences I had both for English and Italian taught me several things in terms of language learning: - If I really need and want to communicate my needs and understand how people respond to me, I have to try. It’s ok to do things in simpler ways perhaps with some difficulty at the beginning. I can trust that the speakers of the language I am trying to learn will appreciate my effort and meet me half way. - I can enjoy seeing a natural growth in my abilities, gradually. I do not need to be afraid of making mistakes. I can learn from them. - If I am stuck at any level there are people to help me both among my peers and my teachers. Identifying where I get stuck, being ok with it, asking for help, receiving it and reciprocating indeed constitute a great strength. Besides being able to communicate effectively in two languages other than Turkish, I also discovered the unifying effect of languages for our humanity. Both in Baghdad and in Italy I met so many people from all over the world with many different backgrounds. No matter how different we looked or sounded, the languages we were learning united us and helped us discover how similar we are as human beings. We are able to laugh and cry for similar reasons. It was also extremely enriching and fascinating to discover our differences giving us the ability to look at and solve problems in different ways. If we have a common goal, there is no difficulty we can not overcome. There are many people who inspire me in my personal and professional life but I will never forget the following people for their contributions to my success: My 6th grade Language and Arts teacher in Baghdad, Ms. Awqadi. She recognized in the most compassionate how much I struggled at times and what my potential was. She took a few extra minutes each day to guide me with my class work and homework. Professoressa Sira Miori who was my teacher at the Italian Cultural Institute in Istanbul pushed me in every way she could to do my best in Italian. She was the one who encouraged me to apply for scholarships in Italy and guided me for a long time in my personal and professional growth. All my colleagues at the UO. Among them are Nadia Ceccacci, my first and long time supervisor in Italian, Jeff Magoto, the director of Yamada Language Center and one of my current supervisors have taught me (still do) how to be a diligent, reflective and compassionate educator who is able to meet students’ learning needs in innovative and meaningful ways.