Schooling and Society FSL course

As a way to offer additional opportunities for FSL teacher candidates to speak and work in French, we piloted a novel course structure which created space for not only learning the second language, but also learning content through the second language. In one of the required courses in first-year, entitled PED3102: Schooling & Society, all teacher candidates attend 9-weeks of classes on themes related to social justice in Canadian educational contexts. The three-hour course is split into two components: during the first 90 minutes, all candidates attend a lecture given by the professor. In the second half, the candidates divide into cohort sections of about 30 students which are led by teaching assistants. Our pilot project offered an additional cohort section for candidates in an FSL concentration: this section was delivered in French, offered candidates the possibility to submit work in French, and approached the themes through an FSL lens.

To meet the identified needs of the FSL candidates, we made three primary changes to the course content and structure: video reflections, PLC instruction, and reduced workloads.

Video Reflections

Candidates in the course were required to submit weekly written reflections to readings on the platform Flipgrid. To promote speaking practice, FSL candidates were encouraged to create 3-minutes audio or video recordings of their reflections instead. They could respond in English, French, or bilingually. 

PLC Learning

Throughout the course, candidates had opportunities to develop their understanding of professional learning communities (PLC). Through discussions and experiences about PLCs, candidates were encouraged to create a space of trust and respect in the course. 

Reduced Workloads

Given the time-consuming nature of working in one's second language, we reduced some of the assignment expectations (e.g. choosing 3 resources to analyze instead of 5). 

Video Reflections

Candidates recorded their video or audio reflections on the platform Flipgrid to reflect on the weekly course readings. They submitted these reflections prior to the class as a way to ensure their readiness to participate in discussions with their colleagues. For each recording, the teaching assistants offered private video or audio feedback through the platform. Here is the prompt we posted: 

Cette FlipGrid servira de plateforme pour que vous puissiez communiquer spontanément vos idées, vos pensées, vos sentiments, vos émotions, etc., à propos des lectures et des discussions. 

While we encouraged candidates to speak spontaneously, the data shows that many candidates found this challenging. Many of them prepared written notes in advance to support the flow of their ideas. We also invited candidates to follow this three-step approach to structure their reflections. 

Check out some of the candidates' reflections below!

PLC Learning

Research has shown that FSL teachers benefit immensely from working in professional learning communities [PLCs] (Kristmanson et al., 2011; Masson, 2018). When teachers can consciously reflect on the way they choose to interact with colleagues in small group settings, there is a hope that PLCs foster spaces of trust, mutual respect, and kindness. To prepare our candidates to engage in this type of learning in the future, we scaffolded the concept of the PLC throughout the course through a variety of activities and reflections. This scaffolding stems from the idea that PLC participation is a lot like building a plane while flying it - candidates need to experience running a PLC while learning about how to run a PLC (Hoaglund et al., 2014). 

In the table below, you can check out some of the activities we did to scaffold PLC learning in the Resources column. 

PLC Scaffolding Activities

“I was having a hard time translating or paraphrasing from the text to cite it in my reaction orally. So it would have been nice if we had a text in French that we could use to get that vocabulary…but it was really nice to be able to record and not have to write them because that took significantly less time and was a lot less stressful.” 


Reduced Workloads

Candidates in the program emphasize that the workload is heavy, and the Schooling & Society course contributed to this. Despite our intentions to reduce the burden on candidates working in a second language, we found some resistance to the changes in the course, as seen below. 

Participant Feedback 

As a novel pilot project, teacher candidates provided researchers and research assistants with a wealth of feedback on ways to improve the course moving forward. 

In terms of the course itself, teacher candidates recommended that:

In terms of assignments, teacher candidates recommend that

"Yeah, I definitely think we should keep doing this, and I think in a lot of these very large classrooms it's very easy to feel disconnected with the material, and especially if you're like me and you're not really the ones who participated in a large 100-person group. It definitely had a huge, a huge benefit, like huge benefit for me. There's a social component to it where this is a time for us to interact more with our peers."



Hoaglund, A. E., Birkenfeld, K., & Box, J. A. (2014). Professional Learning Communities: Creating a foundation for collaboration skills in pre-service teachers. Education, 134(4), 521–528.

Kristmanson, P. L., Lafargue, C., & Culligan, K. (2011). From action to insight: A professional learning community’s experiences with the European Language Portfolio. Canadian Journal of Applied Linguistics / Revue Canadienne de Linguistique Appliquée, 14(2), 53–67. 

Masson, M. (2018). Reframing FSL teacher learning : Small stories of (re)professionalization and identity formation. Journal of Belonging, Identity, Language, and Diversity, 2(2), 77–102.