People / Faculty

Mercedes Pérez Serrano

Mercedes Pérez Serrano
Lecturer Department of Latin American and Iberian Cultures
  • Address
    303 Casa Hispánica
    Department of Latin American & Iberian Cultures
    612 W116th Street
    New York NY 10027
  • Office Hours
    Tuesday, 1:15- 2:15, Thursday, 3:45- 4:45
  • Phone
    (917) 754-4341
  • Email
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Mercedes Pérez Serrano, originally from Spain, majored in English and Spanish studies at University of Valladolid and studied abroad at the University of Leicester, UK. She holds a MA in Teaching Spanish as a Foreign/Second Language from the Instituto Cervantes and the Universidad Menéndez Pelayo in Spain. After conducting her doctoral research and an empirical study at Columbia University, she received an International PhD with honors from the University of Salamanca.
She has taught Spanish language and culture in several academic institutions in Spain and Canada. In 2009, she received a Fellowship to work as a visiting lecturer at York University, in Toronto, Canada. She joined Latin American and Iberian Cultures Department in July 2012.
Her research concerns instructed Second Language Acquisition, especially the acquisition and teaching of L2 vocabulary and phraseology. In her PhD dissertation she puts into the test different methodologies to foster collocation intake. Her work has appeared in several journals and she has presented it in different international conferences.

Academic Statement

Provided that language teaching cannot be restricted to the transmission of linguistic operations, as language itself is embedded in social interactions and negotiations, my teaching philosophy focuses on constant self-questioning of my beliefs and practices. Our syllabi and teaching practices cannot ignore this dynamic reality and should be adapted so that they remain relevant to our present and future students.

In terms of general pedagogical goals, I believe in the importance of generating in students a sense of responsibility towards their own learning process. My long term goal as a teacher is to be a facilitator of learning, rather than a mere transmitter of knowledge, by encouraging students to develop communication and learning strategies all aimed at building independent learners, capitalizing on their curiosity and motivation. In the complex process of significant learning, I tend to see myself as an intermediary between the variables outside the classroom and the students, helping them to change and elaborate what is already known, identifying linguistic and socio-cultural patterns, making connections and organising bits of previous knowledge.

Regarding specific teaching practice, I defend an action-oriented methodology. It is widely known that learning a language consists of being capable of accomplishing certain tasks in a given situation. Accordingly the curricular material of our programme and the ones I myself develop consist mainly of tasks and activities that emphasize on learning to communicate in the target language, providing learners with opportunities to communicate interacting both speaking and writing, and connecting language learning with language use outside the classroom. Nonetheless, it is my belief that accuracy cannot be sacrificed when learning a foreign language, so I include explanations and activities aimed at linguistic precision and understanding in my classes.

In my courses I strive to develop writing, speaking, listening, reading and interacting skills in learners, creating opportunities for authentic and meaningful forms of communication, providing with opportunities to make decisions, negotiate meanings. Therefore, I tend to combine large class discussions, small group work and paired exchanges, limiting the amount of lecture to grammar explanations and solving students particular questions. Students’ feedback such as “[in the course] I learnt a lot from her and others in class” encourages me to continue to do so.

In my teaching practice, regarding the development of communicative competence, I try to find a balance amongst its components: grammar, lexis, phonetics, pragmatics and culture. Regarding the latter, I seek to involve the learner in the cultural learning process and help them develop interculturality, pursuing a greater openness to new cultural experiences.  I have been deeply involved in a tandem project in collaboration with Autónoma University of Madrid, in which my students were paired with students in Madrid so that they interchange weekly emails, help each other with their foreign language learning and reflecting on aspects of each other’s culture.

Digital technology has also served me as an effective pedagogical tool, particularly as a means to explore alternative channels and ways of communication. My intention is to take advantage of all the possibilities that new technologies may bring to the Spanish classroom. Thus, I use a blog to provide students with cultural input, with an opportunity to express their opinions and concerns about several issues connected to the syllabus as well as to develop their writing skills in a correction- free space. The writing activity becomes more meaningful when it is meant to be read by others, in this case their partners.

My research interests match my teaching practice, which leads to ask myself questions that I try to answer throughout action research. I am particularly troubled by the ways in which learners actually combine single-words in the discourse. This concern encouraged me to start a research on the important role that lexis plays in the learning process and how effective is segmenting the discourse in chunks rather than in single words, i.e. collocations.

Mentioning how teaching and learning are two sides of the same coin might seem a “cliché” but I must admit that being a member of my Department has revealed to me that I am not alone in my teacher-learner role. Participating and preparing workshops, attending conferences, or simply interchanging experiences with my colleges, has reminded me that teaching is a larger process of collective learning. So I always strive to learn from the other participants –colleagues, other scholars and students– as well as from my readings and my own teaching experiences.