Action Research Communities for Language Teachers

I am a partner in Action Research Communities for language teachers, a project funded by the European Centre for Modern Languages.

The project aims to make techniques for action research widely available to language teachers across Europe by establishing a community of practice which brings together newly qualified and experienced teachers with teacher educators and university researchers. The project will strengthen professional language teaching networks by forging links between academic expertise on action research and good practice in language classrooms. Language teachers will be able to benefit from improved access to action research and to a diverse range of perspectives on teaching methodologies. In addition, this project will provide opportunities for language teachers to reflect on practice and to propose and test innovations while working collaboratively within a community of practice.

More information on the project can be found on the ECML website: www.ecml.at/actionresearch

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New research study published on language teacher development and open practice

I have had a new piece of research published this week with my University of Southampton colleague, Kate Borthwick which focuses on language teacher development and open practice. Our study investigated the professional and motivational benefits of engaging with open practice among higher education language teachers in UK universities. Our findings are published in the latest edition of Computer Assisted Language Learning

 

 

 

Reflections on Storyville: exploring narratives of teaching and learning

This last week I spent two days at the Higher Education Academy’s Arts & Humanities Conference, Storyville: exploring narratives of teaching and learning in a rather damp and murky Brighton.

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I was presenting a paper with my colleague, Kate Borthwick on a research study that we carried out recently which looked at language teacher professional development. Below are a few highlights of sessions I attended:

1              The tall tales we tell about teaching (Vicky Gunn, University of Glasgow)

Vicky used her background as a medievalist to examine how collective memories about teaching and learning are made. For me, most interesting was how Vicky encouraged us to think about how we bring our memories to our teaching. She also talked about some recent research with humanities academics who have reported themselves to be very suspicious of the HE buzzword concepts of entrepreneurialism, work-related learning and global citizenship.

2              Write here Write now (Jac Cattaneo, Northbrook College and University of Chichester)

This workshop introduced a project which set out to encourage Art, Design and Media Studies students to engage with academic writing through the use of creative writing practices. After the preliminaries, Jac got us all writing using a series of visual prompts – in one example we drew a map to represent a childhood place of personal significance and another one of a place in the here and now. We were then asked to do a piece of free writing and to link the two maps. This was a really enjoyable and thought-provoking session. I could imagine using some of the ideas here in professional development workshops for teachers.

3              Narratives of the future self: a narrative method for researching language learners’ self-concepts (Angela Goddard & Alistair Henry, West University, Sweden)

Angela and Alistair reported on a language learning motivation study in Sweden. This was of particular interest to me as motivation is my main research area. They used a narrative approach to investigate students’ L2 identities at key transition points in an English-mediated university programme (using the concepts of possible and future selves). This is a longitudinal study so they will have more to report as it develops.

4              The OpenLIVES OER oral history experience: rebalancing methodologies, values and identities in Arts & Humanities in HE (Antonio Martinez-Arboleda, University of Leeds)

The OpenLIVES Project collected the oral histories of people who left Spain during the Civil War. Antonio described how the materials gathered during OpenLIVES were developed into a student module at the University of Leeds and how the skills developed by the students during the module form part of an ‘empowerability’ rather than ‘employability’ agenda. All the OpenLIVES materials are openly available in the Humbox

5              Student-led peer mentoring (Gabriele Neher, University of Nottingham)

Gabriele described an initiative at Nottingham where students are invited to apply (through a formal application process) to become mentors to new students. It’s an opt-in scheme for mentees and project activities involve extensive use of social media. The scheme has helped to bridge the transition gap for incoming students.

Other useful presentations included Students as partners: sharing stories (Jenny Lewin, University of Worcester), Academic staff perceptions of I.T. in the Humanities (Pritpal Sembi, University of Wolverhampton) and Pioneers on the frontiers of learning? A narrative inquiry approach to new pedagogical practices using technology in Arts and Humanities learning and teaching (Rosemary Stott, Ravensbourne, Sarah Cousins, University of Bedfordshire & Dounia Bissar, University of Essex)

Overall, an enjoyable couple of days although I would have liked to have seen a greater languages presence on the conference programme.

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Language World 2013

I’ll be at Language World 2013 at Nottingham Trent University on Friday 22 March and will be staffing the Routes into Languages exhibition stand with my LLAS colleague, Erika Corradini and the Routes East Midlands team. We’re looking forward to letting delegates know about the work of Routes and we’ll also be giving away lots of free resources.

I’ll also be hoping to pop in to a few of the sessions. Ross Cooper’s presentation on improving memory and Matt Davis’ on language learning and the brain both sound particularly fascinating. I’ll be looking for a few tips that I can use in my own language learning as I’m doing evening classes in Spanish. Other talks of interest are Drama, differentiation and meaning (Liz Black) and Making the most of Skype – bringing the world into your classroom (Bertram Richter and Inmaculada Morris). Both of these look to be about helping to create a motivational purpose for speaking, which is a research interest of mine. David Crystal is bound to be good too. Overall, it looks like a great programme and should be a really enjoyable event.

The latest interesting Open Educational Resources (OERs)

This is a selection of recent OERs from the LanguageBox and Humbox. They cover a variety of themes including plagiarism, open educational resources, open access to languages research and getting employers involved in curriculum design

1             Plagiarism and Referencing

(Richard Galletly, Aston University)

This is a really useful presentation for anyone teaching first-year university students. It explains what plagiarism is, why students sometimes use it and how to avoid it. It also includes good advice for referencing and citing work.

2             Creating and sharing OERs through LanguageBox: a community-based repository

(Bianco Belgiorno-Appleyard, University of Southampton)

This presentation from the LLAS E-learning symposium is a helpful introduction to the FAVOR (Finding a Voice through Open Resources) Project, which provided training for language tutors to publish existing language teaching resources as OERs and to produce new digital materials.

3             No Open Learning without Open Access: a Portal for open access research into teaching modern languages

(John Canning, University of Southampton)

This presentation also comes from the E-learning symposium and is about the author’s journey in setting up an open access database of research articles related to teaching and learning modern languages. It is very useful for people who are interested in this research but who don’t work in universities http://www.yazikopen.org.uk/yazikopen/

4       Piloting employer input into curriculum design

(Antonío Martínez-Arboleda, University of Leeds)

This is a very interesting take on OERs and is a presentation from a recent Higher Education Academy sponsored conference at the University of Leeds: Employability: Addressing the Gulf between Academic, Student and Employer Perspectives. It relates to findings from the OU SCORE Project and for more information on this, see Antonio’s other resource

 

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My links of the week

Universities need a united voice – http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/may/14/higher-education-research-global-position?CMP=twt_gu

Can being bilingual make you smarter? – by Linda Janssen http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/expateducation/9267252/Can-being-bilingual-make-you-smarter.html

MFL Professional Development Consortium Workshops – by Lucy Beharrell http://researchml.wordpress.com/2012/05/15/mfl-professional-development-consortium-workshops/

Forgotten children of Spain’s civil war – http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/may/11/forgotten-children-spain-civil-war

My links of the week