August 15, 2023

RASCALS 2023 Colloquium: Mission Accomplished

Last June 5 and 6, 2023, Cégep de Chicoutimi and Cégep de Jonquière co-hosted the annual RASCALS colloquium in the beautiful region of Saguenay. Each year, this colloquium provides an opportunity for college-level English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers to come together to share their insights and practices within their community.

This year’s colloquium with the theme “Stronger Together”, truly lived up to its name. The hosting committee did an outstanding job of bringing together a dynamic ESL community, providing ample opportunities for almost 100 attendees to engage in meaningful discussions and share their experiences through captivating workshops that emphasized collaboration.

The 2-day event allowed me to attend 2 plenary presentations and 6 workshops, as well as meet several passionate teachers.

Editor’s note

This blog post is an overview of my experience at RASCALS and my main takeaways from the presentations and workshops I attended. Full articles on some of the topics will be coming soon! Consider subscribing to our newsletter to be notified!

Pre-colloquium activity – June 4

The event began with a warm welcome from Cégep de Jonquière on Sunday evening with a pre-colloquium activity. The Meet & Greet offered an opportunity for participants to connect while indulging in a delightful local beer and sausage tasting, generously offered by many local providers. A special thank you to the business graduate students from Cégep de Jonquière for their exceptional organization of this event!

Workshops and plenary speaker – June 5

After getting a hearty breakfast at the Hotel le Montagnais, at Saguenay, we hopped on a shuttle bus heading to the Cégep Chicoutimi where all the presentations and workshops took place. One plenary presentation and 4 blocks of workshops that you had to choose from were offered throughout the day.

Plenary Speaker 1: Connecting the Ways Language Makes You Move  

The first plenary on June 5 welcomed a Latin dance teacher at Cégep de Chicoutimi, Ivan Salazar. He presented his experience of learning a second language in Quebec as well as his approach to using this second language in teaching Latin dance. He explored the parallel between learning a language and learning dance.

During the presentation, the participants had the opportunity to put themselves in their students’ shoes by taking part in a merengue dance lesson, similar to how students would have to allow themselves to be vulnerable when learning a language. Ivan shared with the participants his techniques to encourage learners to keep going despite the challenges they might face, whether it is when learning dance or a language.

Presentation 1: Articulation Between Secondary and College 

Nancy Gagné, an associate professor at the Université TELUQ, introduced Articulation Between Secondary and College: An Analysis of Students’ Performance and Pedagogical Implications. She first proposed an overview of the different ESL programs offered before college, including elementary and secondary levels.

Then, she presented her study and analyzed the differences in students’ proficiency from 2 different learning paths, namely the core and enriched ESL programs at the secondary level. Her findings reveal that the main differences are in the student’s fluency and accuracy, as well as in their level of creativity. In other words, ESL programs mostly have an impact on the student’s communication skills.

In the end, we had the chance to explore the pedagogical implications, such as microlearning, to ensure teachers can understand their future college students better and support them better in their learning.

Presentation 2: A New Integrated Solution for 000-Level Students  

Mélanie Drouin and Andréanne Gingras from Cégep Saint-Jérôme discussed a new recipe to help struggling students called the 100-SP/ARF course. SP stands for “special student” while AFR refers to the Activités favorisant la réussite. In simple terms, they have developed a credited alternative to the “Mise à niveau” course at their college in order to support at-risk 100 students.

They presented their new approach to fill the competency gap and help struggling students gain confidence. They proposed a 60-hour course that has the same expectations as a 100 A-block course with an extra 15 hours to work on the competency 1006 in order to improve the students’ learning strategies. The presenters shared the key ingredients, such as the teaching tools and pedagogical practices, to successfully integrate this course into a college curriculum.

Presentation 3: Learning Grammar Can Be Fun!   

Under Philippa Bell’s supervision, Audrey-Anne Laguë and Camille Deschâtelets, 2 Master’s students at UQAM, introduced a collaborative and interactive grammar task called the dictogloss. First, they explained the benefits of collaboration among students, such as helping them develop their speaking and listening skills.

However, learning grammar can also happen through collaboration using dictoglosses. This task provides students with the opportunity to reconstruct a text they have heard, using metalinguistic resources to focus on a grammar point. During the hands-on workshop, the participants had the chance to try the dictogloss collaborative task to negotiate the meaning and form of a text heard through natural interaction.

Presentation 4: Providing Robust Comments to Students Using a Homemade Comment Generator 

For the last presentation of the day, Jamie Bridge from Cégep de Bois-de-Boulogne showed us how to save hours grading papers while still providing insightful feedback to students by easily identifying issues and providing extra resources to the students to explore concepts further. Jamie presented the participants with how to work together to create a collaborative comment generator using an Excel communal database. If you would like to learn more about this session, Jamie’s presentation is available here.

Sightseeing and banquet

In collaboration with Promotion Saguenay, the hosting committee had organized a La Baie Tour to close the day’s activities. Participants had the opportunity to go sightseeing around the stunning Fjord area guided by Elise Mitchell and Stephanie Lapointe, showcasing the beauty of the region.

After freshening up at the hotel, attendees were treated to an evening of festivities at the Regional Museum of la Pulperie de Chicoutimi. The night featured a delightful cocktail reception, a lavish banquet, and live band entertainment. Everyone present had a truly wonderful time, bonding over a nice meal and dancing until the wee hours of the night. A shuttle service was provided throughout the evening to ensure a hassle-free return to the hotel.

Workshops and plenary speaker – June 6

Plenary Speaker 2: A Critical Examination of the Plurilingual Turn in English Language Teaching.  

The day started off with the second plenary from a teacher educator and applied linguist at the Université du Quebec à Montréal (UQAM), Caroline Payant. She shared her research on plurilingualism and task-based language teaching.

The presentation provided the participants with a new perspective on pedagogical approaches that fosters a plurilingual approach, instead of a monolingual one. As teachers, we should create supportive and inclusive language-learning classrooms by encouraging students to bring their rich and diverse linguistic knowledge and identities to their classrooms. These plurilingual practices are known to empower students in their learning process.

Presentation 1: Using Learner’s Whole Linguistic Repertoire  

To follow up on the plenary presentation on plurilingualism, Audrey-Anne Laguë and Camille Deschâtelets, 2 Master’s students at UQAM, discussed how to demystify plurilingual approaches by using the learner’s whole linguistic repertoire in the L2 classroom. Integrating plurilingual approaches means bringing code-switching into the classroom. The main goal is for the students to learn a new language while fostering inclusivity.

To do so, teachers have to encourage learners to use their existing skills and knowledge and empower them to develop their identities in alignment with research on language learning. In other words, we need to consider the students’ linguistic background. In this hands-on workshop, the participant took part in an icebreaker activity that could be done in class called a language portrait. A language portrait is a visual representation of one’s linguistic reality and personality. The task was followed by a reflective analysis of the portrait in small group discussions.

Presentation 2: Using Padlet to Foster Collaborative and Autonomous Learning 

And lastly, I attended a presentation by Bruno Guedes Pereira, an ESL teacher at Cégep Garneau and Université Laval. During his session, he introduced us to the learning tool called Padlet [in French], showing the participants the different features and how to integrate it into the classroom to foster a student-centered approach based on cooperation.

The presenter showcased the features of this tool by sharing many examples taken from actual projects conducted with students. Then, he conducted a hands-on workshop where attended had the opportunity to experiment with Padlet through 3 different tasks related to the literary genre Grimdark. First, we created a collaborative Padlet to share our research findings, then we produced a quiz on the same topic, and finally we were able to make our own Padlet!

According to Pereira, this platform promotes collaborative work and empowers students to take charge of all the stages of the lesson. In addition, it makes the lesson significant for them by taking into account their prior knowledge on a specific topic and making room for their creativity.

Closing activity

The colloquium closed on June 6 with a farewell lunch held at Cégep de Chicoutimi. A big thank you to SPEAQ, especially to Martin Roy for his active support for RASCALS. I also applaud the work done by the hosting committee (Sara Pickering, Suzie Simard, and Élise Mitchell from Cégep de Chicoutimi, as well as Stéphanie Lapointe, Marie-Hélène Belley, and Rona Denise Yu Asensi from Cégep de Jonquière). Through their effort in orchestrating this colloquium, the thriving ESL community within the college network was able to engage in the sharing and pooling of ideas and resources. In line with this year’s theme of being “Stronger Together”, this year’s event fostered a strong sense of community through a wide range of panel discussions and interactive workshops!

Overall, RASCALS 2023 proved to be an unforgettable and insightful experience for all the attendees. The event was not only tinged with memorable encounters but also allowed participants to discover the wonders of the Saguenay region and its local products. This year’s edition was undoubtedly mission accomplished.

I am already looking forward to next year’s edition and have no doubt it will be equally remarkable.

About the author

Véronique Drolet

After teaching English as a second language and English Language Arts at the secondary level for 16 years, Véronique Drolet has recently joined the college network. She is currently an English teacher at Cégep Limoilou. In addition, her strong interest in languages led her to complete a certificate in translation. Passionate about the pedagogical integration of digital technology, she is now part of the Eductive team as a technopedagogic editor.

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