Faculty Focus: Dr. Mark Spalding
DR. MARK SPALDING
College of Humanities and Social Sciences
Title: Spanish Program Faculty Lead
Years at GCU: 2
Academic degrees: Master of Arts in Spanish and Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Innovation
Notable research in your field: I have done action research, an educational experiment that investigated the effect of diversity training on student attitudes. With this intervention, I sought to increase positive attitudes (acceptance, admiration, appreciation) toward minorities and reduce negative attitudes (intolerance, pity, rejection). The intervention was successful in reducing these negative attitudes, but positive attitudes did not increase as much. I would like to do another cycle of research with an improved intervention to strengthen acceptance toward people viewed as “the other” by the dominant culture.
Notable employment in your field:
I began teaching Spanish in higher education using a methodology called “activated learning,” which promotes authentic and memorable situations for students to interact with language. There have been times in the past when students who met in my Spanish class have bonded so well through the classroom activities that they later got married!
I also taught Spanish and ESL in secondary education, which is where I became involved with bullying prevention. I produced a weekly television broadcast that presented a bullying topic for discussion, with the goal of increasing empathy and improving campus culture. Surveys indicated that students throughout the school became more aware of what bullying is and were more willing to report it. This research led me back to higher education and a doctoral dissertation in attitude change.
What are you most passionate about in your field?
The satisfaction I get when I see my students succeed because they are willing to take the risk of speaking Spanish, overcoming their fear of making mistakes as they learn. I know this is possible because of the trusting, safe environment I have promoted in the classroom. If I make a mistake and can have a sense of humor about it, the students know that it is OK for them to make mistakes, too.
I also love learning from the students, which enhances my teaching. I feel very proud and humble at the same time when we all have a “light bulb” or “aha” moment about the students’ learning. One such moment for me was realizing that students can go to the internet and learn to use grammar beyond what our curriculum or textbook has provided at the time. Rather than say, “We haven’t gotten there yet,” at times I allow this to be an opportunity to preview and begin to use a grammar point we won’t see officially for perhaps a few weeks. This flexibility shows my students that I can meet them where they are, so they feel free to explore and use the language in the ways that interest them. It helps to make the classroom more student-centered.
What aspect of your teaching style is the most distinctive and/or memorable?
I use “edutainment” to both educate and entertain at the same time. A sense of humor is important and is one of several approaches I use to engage my students. Another is with the use of technology, such as video feedback. Viewing and hearing themselves speaking Spanish enables students to gain a better understanding of their progress and see where they can improve their pronunciation and grammar. It’s great when former students approach me years later in a shopping mall and tell me how memorable these approaches to learning were for them.
What do you like to do for fun in your spare time? I like to watch all genres of movies, but prefer those that have a layer of symbolic meaning beneath the action and entertainment. I often watch movies while walking on the treadmill at the gym.
What is something interesting about you that most people don’t know? Previously I was a professional wedding videographer. Now, because of my association with other foreign language teachers, I am learning Chinese and French. Also, I am interested in psychology and I’m a fan of Dr. Dan Siegel’s theory of Interpersonal Neurobiology. Yes, I read his books for fun — he’s a great YouTube speaker.