- Ph.D. Degree with Honors in Spanish Linguistics, Departamento de Lingüística General y Teoría de la Literatura, Universidad de Granada, Spain, December 1998. La dimensión discursiva en el currículo de ELE: la calidad de lengua en actividades de interacción.
- M.A. in Spanish Philology, Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, Universidad de Granada, Spain, 1990-1992.
- B.A. in Fine Arts, Facultad de Bellas Artes, Universidad de Granada, Spain, 1986-1991.
- B.A. in Spanish Philology, Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, Universidad de Granada, Spain, 1985-1990.
His academic career has focused in several fields:
- Teaching: Lecturer in Spanish as a second language at Columbia University -LAIC- since 2007 and in numerous institutions since 1990: University of Granada, Universidad Internacional Menéndez Pelayo in Santander, Päivölän Kansanopisto (Finland) and Instituto Cervantes in New York.
- Teacher trainer: In his ample career as teacher trainer in advanced courses and master programs he has presented conferences, seminars and workshops on classroom discourse, oral interaction, instructional pragmatics, material design, content based instruction, teacher training-professional development, teacher cognition and slow teaching, to name but a few.
- Author of teaching materials: Beyond his career as a teacher, he is co-author of two advanced and superior level textbooks of Spanish as a second language: Abanico (1997) and Ventilador (2006) and elementary and intermediate Campus Sur (2017) and Proyectos (2019).
- Syllabus and testing designer: He has an extensive experience in the design and administration of testing materials for the University of Granada, the Instituto Cervantes - D.E.L.E., (Diploma de Español como Lengua Extranjera) and the United Nations Language Proficiency Examination. Consultant for Language Testing International. American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL).
Our life is a trip, a trip with a starting point, with a route and with an arrival. Likewise, a course in any second language can also be conceived as a travel. We set off and follow an itinerary towards new destinations. Learning and teaching are a journey during which we explore and we discover. In any educational process the learner is driven and, like in any other trip, this entails a change of state and a new position. All these academic years have been a long and sometimes bumpy road, with twists and turns, but I must admit that the trip was successful and safe. After many years teaching Spanish as a Second Language I only can conclude that haven’t yet arrived at the last stop in this adventure. At this point I am sitting on the road, looking back on this journey. This reflection should encourage me to improve the academic work and develop a more coherent personal teaching philosophy.
The first concept I want to emphasize is how inaccurate is to talk exclusively about teaching in a Teaching Philosophy. Instead of thinking only about teaching, how I, first person, as instructor, have to teach, I propose that we, not I, we professionals, we need to understand how they, the students, learn, shifting the point of view from a strategy based in the first person: I, to another strategy based in the others: the learners. So, the right statement is not how and why I teach but how I consider the learning process working in my class. Finding the balance and integration between three basic options: teacher-learner and language centred instruction, is one of the main tasks as professionals in our field of second language.
Language teaching and language learning can be considered as well as a complex process that is defined by dynamic interactions among cognition, context and experience. In other words, a conversation between several agents and interests, not a monologue. In our academic environment at Columbia University teaching and learning Spanish implies the study not only of the language or isolated forms, but the study of the communication in a broad and not narrow sense. For this reason, from my point of view, it’s very pertinent to acknowledge the need of integration and dialogue of the different functions of the participants. The lack of integration produces, for instance, the separation of roles: language learner versus content learner and, at the same time, language instructor versus content instructor. If we want to integrate the curriculum we also need to integrate the student and the instructor personas. For this reason I went off the track from the beginning of my journey in this career. One of my first decisions towards the search of the sought-after integration of content was, simply, not to disintegrate it. It wasn’t so complicated to realize that, for example, formal instruction needs to be contextualized in relevant cultural scenarios: using real documents adapted to present elements from the formal syllabus, while paying attention both to the form and the meaning. I never considered this integration of language and content traumatic at all. Quite the opposite: it was liberating, since I was very young, just graduated, a novice Spanish instructor in the 90’s. At the same time today I still had very vivid memories of my role as a learner, and I empathized with how students of language and culture might feel. I felt and I still feel, it’s my ethical and moral duty to teach my students like I wish all my teachers had taught me: with good sense and intellectual rigor. I have to admit that my multidisciplinary education and experience in Linguistics, Aesthetics, Theory and History of Art allowed me to drive this principle of curricular integration successfully. Nevertheless, how can we design an integrated curriculum? I propose, first of all, to consider knowledge as core in our instruction. Knowledge in a broad and not static sense, taking into account the two basic epistemological dimensions of knowledge: propositional and ability knowledge. This central space of knowledge, however, can’t be considered an isolated category. I believe knowledge coexists with other participants in this learning event: student and instructor. An integrated curriculum is characterized, from my perspective, and according to my own theory, not only by the presence of these components but also by the proportional intersection of these three basic spaces of action: knowledge-student-instructor. With this image I want to draw an overlapping area that we could label as balanced instruction. This common space is where these three forces in tension converge. I propose that a holistic and integrated curriculum must proportionally accommodate these three forces.
I must point out that this dynamic knowledge is also constructed by the intersection of three basic and inherent actions:
- Form: knowing how to formulate correctly.
- Meaning: knowing how to inform properly.
- Motivation: knowing how to stimulate interest and attention. For a curriculum to be integrated, it must seek coherence and balance among these three dimensions of the same entity: form, meaning and motivation.
As regards the role of the student, we must also always keep in mind and respect the different dimensions of his or her person.
- Client: our students are persons using the services of our institutions, they demand and we offer.
- Learner: this person sitting in front of me every day is someone disciplined learning about a particular subject or learning how to do something.
- User: this same person is also a citizen. He or she is someone who uses or can apply the knowledge he or she is learning for her own public, professional and/or personal interest.
And finally, what’s the predominant function in my profile as an instructor? Even if we consider that a competent professional has skills at many different levels, these skills live together; all of them are absolutely symbiotic:
- Expert: a person who has extensive skill or knowledge in a particular field, second language or any other subject matter.
- Educator: a specialist in education.
- Manager: a person who controls and directs the organization of the instruction.
This reflection about my own role in the teaching-learning process helped me to improve my academic duties. I realized how important is to understand the relevance of these three functions of the instructions and also the spaces of action of learners and knowledge. After more than twenty five years teaching, now I feel much more confident because I can remember and manage very specific experiences in which my roles as expert, educator and manager were unbalanced. I believe that a teaching never has to be a close agenda, but a conscious activity for recreating that image of myself in that specific situation when I had that experience, analyzing what happened, reviewing that moment and, the most important, drawing my own conclusions from that reflection to design steps to follow.
In learning trips there are no points of arrival, no finish lines. There’s no end of the road. Maybe there are no defined paths, because paths are made by walking. We must continue asking ourselves questions and keep learning, transforming and creating knowledge.