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In educational linguistics, educators rely on social interactions and real-world experiences to inform pedagogical practice. Such hands-on learning opportunities are not always accessible to students, due to a variety of external factors. Narratives have long been used as tools for teaching and learning in various contexts, particularly when field experiences are unavailable or unfeasible. Personal narratives can be especially powerful, as they provide insight to others’ lived experiences and transcend cultural, geographic, historical, generational, and linguistic worlds. In this presentation I explore the use of written and video personal narratives as a meaningful supplement to (and potential substitute for) field experiences in an applied linguistics for ESOL course in a rural area of the United States. I investigate how using the personal narratives of recent immigrants as presented in Green Card Youth Voices (Clark et al., 2018) informs pre-service and in-service teachers’ understanding of linguistic principles and student backgrounds, as applied to teaching English language learners in their own communities. This area of research is especially important as we continue to work in education through a global pandemic. The use of personal narratives for learning in this study provided a more equitable opportunity for students to engage in critical analysis and reflection by removing the boundaries (1) imposed by geography for those living in areas with limited access to multilingual communities and (2) to ensure safety as social distancing measures limit our interpersonal interactions with one another. Using personal narratives in this applied linguistics course provided participants in the class multiple cultural and linguistic perspectives, by providing students with firsthand accounts of life, education, and language experiences around the globe. Incorporating personal narratives not only increased accessibility, but enriched the learning process and has potential lasting implications for future ESOL teacher education.


American Association for Applied Linguistics (AAAL)