I was very pleased to present a paper at the recent Collaborative Action Research Conference on Action Research Communities for Language Teachers (a project funded by the European Centre for Modern Languages) with my colleague, Christine Lechner from the Pädagogische Hochschule Tirol. The conference, Reflecting on Action Research in an unequal world: alternative perspectives on democracy was held at the University of Crete in Rethmyno https://carnreth2017.wixsite.com/carn. The conference was inspiring with so many examples of teacher action research in classrooms across Europe. The wonderful Cretan hospitality and beautiful setting contributed to a wonderful few days.
I recently had the pleasure of co-editing (alongside Carmen Alvarez-Mayo, University of York and Franck Michel, Newcastle University) a new book on enhancing employability in language teaching. This edited collection includes numerous case studies involving university languages practitioners who have integrated employability projects into their teaching. There is some really great advice here for language teachers.
The book is fully open access and available here.
This collection follows on from an earlier employability handbook published in 2016.
I’m about to start work on a small-scale qualitative study to explore the motivational and learning benefits of (near) peer mentoring for a team of PhD student mentors. In my role as Head of Learning and Teaching Development in a UK university, I oversee a scheme in which PhD students are recruited and trained to act as essay, dissertation writing and language advising one-to-one mentoring tutors to undergraduate and Masters students. The scheme is underpinned by a Vygotskian perspective whereby it is assumed that learners advance their thinking and understanding through interaction with a more competent peer (see for example, Mynard & Almarzouqi, 2006). Our evaluation processes indicate that the scheme is highly valued by UG and PGT students. However, we know little about any benefits for the PhD students who act as mentors and so I’m hoping to be able to shed a little more light on these.
Mynard, J. & Almarzouqi, I. (2006) Investigating peer tutoring. ELT Journal 60 (1), 13-22.
Employability for Languages: A Handbook which I co-edited with two of my University of Southampton colleagues, Erika Corradini and Kate Borthwick was published in the summer by Research-Publishing.net.
The book showcases a collection of case studies and projects which teachers have embedded into the languages curriculum to enable students in both higher education and schools to develop transferable skills and competences. The collection focuses on some highly innovative practice and also provides information on how projects have been set up and organised so that they can be replicated. I really enjoyed being on the editorial team.
All chapters are fully downloadable at the above link.
I recently presented at the London Language Show on behalf of Routes into Languages with Irena Holdsworth from Routes South West and Sarah Schechter from Routes East. Our presentation: What Routes into Languages can do for you and your school focused on exciting projects that help to take languages out of the classroom and is now online.
I’m very excited to be working on a new initiative with two of my University of Southampton colleagues, Erika Corradini and Kate Borthwick. As part of an employability project that we are conducting for Routes into Languages, we are editing an Employability for Languages handbook. We’ve invited contributions and will be showcasing inspiring case studies in the area of employability for languages graduates. The result will be an open access e-book which will be freely available for download. We’re very much looking forward to receiving expressions of interest and I’ll update on our progress later on.
Academic writing with all its trials and tribulations, can sometimes be easier and more enjoyable in the company of other people. So providing students with opportunities either to write together or to talk about writing together seems to me to be an important way of overcoming some of the difficulties experienced in the writing process. There are various ways of going about establishing joint spaces for writing but I am interested in exploring options for doing a bit more than this and trying to create some kind of academic writing community.
I sometimes run writing retreats for Masters students and I’ve written about this before. Retreats are also widely used by the Higher Education Academy to support and mentor academic staff who are writing their fellowship applications. Some useful ideas for organising writing retreats for students can be found on the QMUL Thinking Writing website. Writing retreats have some similarities with Shut up and Write groups. The Thesis Whisperer offers suggestions on setting up these.
There is also lots of good advice available on the Inside Higher Ed website. Various options are described here including traditional writing groups, writing accountability groups (where you have to answer to people regularly about your writing), online writing groups, writing coaches etc. An important point made here is that we all need to work out what our actual needs are in relation to writing first.
Write Inquiry offers a toolbox of ideas to help writing and useful links and is intended for staff and students in HE who want to set up collaborative writing communities.
You could try an academic writing meet up – or set one up
The Writing Cafe at Plymouth University sounds great. It offers students the chance to come and talk to learning developers and writing mentors about their writing. It also puts on writing events.
So there are quite a few examples out there. I’m looking into organising something around writing communities with students and will update this blog with my progress during the next academic year.