Category Archives: foreign language learning

Neoliberalism and Global Citizenship Education

posted by Jürgen Kurtz, Justus Liebig University (JLU) Giessen, Germany

The four-day international Munich conference on global citizenship education and (foreign) language learning in the digital age ended today (cf. my previous post). In retrospect, it was well worth attending: very professionally organized, brilliant speakers, and inspiring, thought-provoking plenaries and talks.

Most talks and presentations I went to addressed contemporary issues and emerging challenges related to global citizenship education and language learning from a humanistic (or ‘philanthropic’) perspective. A humanistic concept of global citizenship is rooted in the supposition that there is a certain commonality among us, as we are all human, and that the notion of global citizenship education transcends the geopolitical borders of the nation-state, especially or even more so perhaps in the age of the internet, i.e. in virtual space. In the context of my talk on neoliberalism in (foreign) language education in Germany, I referred to this conceptualization as a romanticized, early 21st century interpretation of enlightenment. How appropriate, how realistic is this view?

As I see it, looking at global citizenship education in this way largely disregards that (foreign) language education in schools – and this is the context I wish to focus on here– is no longer seen in its educational context only. From the late twentieth century onwards, (foreign) language education has been coopted into other, political and socio-economic agendas and it is now conceived of by those who hold and control the political and economic power as a strategic instrument primarily (as well as a valuable commodity), which is declared indispensable for responding to (or even overcoming) real or imagined threats. The underlying narrative centers on the idea that educational ‘failure’ (whatever is meant by that und whoever claims the authority to define it) is detrimental to a country’s economic strength, competitiveness, wealth, and ‘well-being’. All this has culminated in the paradoxical, post-PISA logic of regulated deregulation (through standards-based instruction, testing of competencies and skills, monitoring measures, etc.).

In consequence, (foreign) language teachers are no longer viewed as (foreign) language educators primarly, but as political agents enacting neoliberal educational policies (which are, in essence, informed by a radical market orientation). I think it is high time to problematize how the humanistic (and as such utopian, idealistic, all too academic) approach to global citizenship is increasingly being turned into and misused as neoliberal propaganda. What about the ethics and moral implications of a neoliberal, radically market-driven, largely utilitarian approach to global citizenship education? In view of current, neoliberal regimes of educational governance world-wide and their reductive conceptualization and instrumentaliziation of education as performance training for international competitiveness and employability (the ‘can do’-perspective), how realistic is it to assume that (foreign) language learning in schools can be more than or different from producing useful multilinguals (in their role as consumers, employees, etc.) for the global economy? Language-sensitive global citizenship education, is this an educational (pedagogical) or a capitalist imperative (i.e. a global business model)?

 

 

 

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Educating the Global Citizen: International Perspectives on Foreign Language Teaching in the Digital Age

posted by Jürgen Kurtz, Justus Liebig University (JLU) Giessen, Germany

Upcoming, large scale international conference at Ludwigs-Maximilians- Universität (LMU) Munich, Germany in March 2019:

GCED 2019 Conference LMU

Scope of the conference:

In times of rapid and unprecedented global sociocultural change, urgent calls are being made for salient educational responses to current global and digital challenges. Such calls are being met in (re)formulations of global (citizenship) education, sustainability education, and service learning, which endeavor to promote a democratic and human rights culture in schools and the larger community.

Foreign language education is increasingly responding to these developments by updating and transforming FL pedagogies. In support of this nascent trajectory, this conference will engage with the epistemological and critical foundations of educating future global citizens across varied contexts. Accordingly, its aim is to explore citizenship and sustainability education from a wide range of perspectives, also interdisciplinary in scope, as regards developing theories, research and practice in FL education. The conference will also focus on how global education performs on a local level as well as in increasingly interconnected environments, and how digital settings, practices and methodologies are consequently implicated.

Confirmed Keynote Speakers (in alphabetical order):

Michael Byram, Durham University, UK & Université de Luxembourg, Lux.
William Gaudelli, Columbia University, USA
Glynda Hull, University of Berkeley, USA
Liz Jackson, University of Hong Kong, China
Claire Kramsch, University of Berkeley, USA
Greg Misiaszek, Beijing Normal University, China
Hugh Starkey, University College London, England

For further information, please click here

My personal contribution (paper presentation) to this event:

Neoliberal Narratives of Threat and the Recalibration of Language Teacher Identity – Fabricating Useful Multilinguals for an Expanding Global Economy?

Over the past twenty years, German governments have implemented a series of neoliberal policies designed to reshape the educational landscape and the character of schooling in this country. The proposed talk problematizes how neoliberal narratives of perceived threat (to economic prosperity, global economic strength and growth in particular) and the post‐PISA logic of regulated deregulation (through competency‐based standards and outcome‐oriented curricular frameworks) are beginning to affect language teachers’ professional status, autonomy and motivation. Based on recent scholarly work on neoliberalism and language education worldwide, particular attention will be given to the following questions:

1) How do EFL teachers in Germany actually perceive and respond to the key ideas of neoliberalism in foreign language education (i.e. performativity, measurability, comparability, competitiveness, accountability, surveillance and compliance)?

2) More specifically, what empirical evidence is currently available indicating how EFL teachers in Germany experience and cope with the potential tensions that (may) arise from ‘fabricating’ useful and employable multilinguals for the international job market vs. cultivating inter‐ and/or transculturally informed, emancipatory and participatory citizenship as envisaged in the academic
discussion?

3) In view of the discrepancies between theorizing intercultural citizenship and developing it under the current neoliberal regime in praxis, what alternatives to viewing EFL teachers as political agents enacting neoliberal political and, more specifically, curricular agendas are conceivable and, perhaps, necessary?

Due to the paucity of empirical research in this area, this talk will raise more questions than it can possibly answer or hope to resolve. Nevertheless, it is of great importance to address the conflicting, and somehow paradoxical conceptualizations and values underlying culture‐sensitive approaches to
learning and teaching in EFL classrooms in Germany (and, perhaps, in other language learning scenarios in other countries) today.

 

 

Evidence for the Bilingual Option: Re-Thinking European Principles in Foreign Language Teaching

by Wolfgang Butzkamm (RWTH Aachen) & Michael Lynch (University of Edinburgh)

In Europe and the western world in general, the monolingual approach has persisted in the guise of the communicative approach—clearly a direct method derivative—until the present day. This paper calls for a drastic revision of a methodology where the learners’ mother tongue is only a stopgap device. It presents different groups of learners who testify to the effectiveness of a bilingual approach. The evidence is in: For beginners, L1 [first language] support is an immediate solution, not a last resort. Detailed proposals are made to improve courses for immigrants with native languages unrelated to conventional European school languages. At the same time, this paper calls for a bringing together of foreign languages teachers and teacher educators to conduct combined research on what works best for foreign language learners. Please click here to read more.

14th BAAL SIG LLT Conference 2018

posted by Jürgen Kurtz, Justus Liebig University (JLU) Giessen, Germany

The 14th BAAL SIG Language Learning and Teaching will come together at the University of Southampton, UK from Thursday 12th July to Friday 13th July 2018. This year’s theme will be: “Language teaching and learning in unstable times, and in changing political landscapes”.

The conference will enable participants to discuss the many challenges offered to traditional language education policy and practice by increasing interconnected globalization and changing conceptions of identity, accompanied by a rise in global migratory flows, resurgent nationalism and social inequality. These challenges have both foreseen and unforeseen consequences for the development and implementation of language education policy, and for teaching, learning and assessment practices.

Confirmed plenary speakers:
Professor Fiona Copland, University of Stirling
Professor Tony Liddicoat, University of Warwick
Dr  John Gray, UCL Institute of Education

For further details, please click here. This is what I would like to discuss:

Standards-based EFL Education in Germany: Toward a checklist approach to instruction and learning?

In Germany and in many other countries around the world, proponents of standards-based education have (somehow) managed to elevate competence-based instruction and the demonstration of knowledge and skills in nationwide performance tests to an educational imperative. Opponents caution against placing too many expectations on standards-based reforms, on measurability, testing, and system monitoring, arguing that conceiving of school education in terms of measurable outcome primarily may eventually have some undesirable backwash effects (e.g. teaching to the test). However, up to now, little empirical research has been conducted to figure out how standards-based reforms affect learning and teaching in EFL classrooms. Against this backdrop, I would like to outline and problematize standards-based instruction and learning in Germany, placing special emphasis on the central findings and implications of a recent interview study conducted with 697 EFL teachers in the federal German state of Hesse.

ACTA 2018 International TESOL Conference: English Language Learning in a Mobile World

posted by Juergen Kurtz, Justus Liebig University (JLU) Giessen, Germany

The next ACTA International TESOL Conference will be held in Adelaide, South Australia from 2 – 5 October, 2018. The main conference theme is ‘English Language Learning in a Mobile World’.

Driving attention to the reality of local and global mobility for TESOL learners and educators, the conference will contribute to the ongoing examination of the theories and practices underpinning the TESOL field, and will project into future directions, whether as policy, pedagogy, materials design, assessment or community involvement.

In the context of increasing mobility through digital technology as well as global unrest and greater recognition of the need for improved outcomes for indigenous students, the conference offers an opportunity for a re-examination of the profile of our English language learners and the implications for TESOL practice.

The six sub-themes or strands are:

  1. English language learners in a mobile world
  2. English language learning and teaching for local and global participation
  3. Embracing digital technologies in English language learning and teaching
  4. Assessment from diverse stakeholder perspectives
  5. English as a medium of instruction (EMI)
  6. Professional standards and teacher identities in a mobile world

Through these themes, the breadth of mobility will be explored, ranging from local and global relocations to communication and intercultural negotiation across borders. With this in mind, the conference will be a space to critically examine ethical and practical challenges for TESOL.

I really look forward to attending this conference, not only because of my gowing interest in researching augmented reality for EFL textboook development and use,  but also because of the special atmosphere of the ACTA TESOL conferences in Australia. For further conference details, please click here.

 

Brian Tomlinson: Materials Development in TESOL – Trends and Issues (TESOLacademic.org)

posted by Juergen Kurtz, Justus Liebig University (JLU) Giessen, Germany

TESOLacademic.org is a knowledge dissemination site which links the work of TESOL scholars to teachers, teacher-trainers, teacher-trainees, decision-makers and other researchers. Edited by Huw Jarvis, it provides a global forum for people to talk about how their published research, or an aspect of it, impacts on language pedagogy. TESOLacademic.org only posts talks about research which have gone through the peer review process and this ‘guarantees’ the quality of the submissions.

In the following video webcast, Brian Tomlinson gives an interview about current trends and issues in TESOL materials development  (click on image to view):

Compare with my nine-part series of posts on the role of the textbook in the EFL classroom if you like (please use search function in the upper right corner of my blog and type ‘role of the textbook’).

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: New Companion Volume

posted by Juergen Kurtz, Justus Liebig University (JLU) Giessen, Germany

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), published almost 20 years ago, is currently under revision. In the context of the 38th Annual German Spring Conference for Research on Foreign and Second Language Learning and Teaching, held again at Castle Rauischholzhausen (February 15-17), Giessen University’s most beautiful venue for conferencing, roundabout 20 EFL/GFL/GSL professors from all over Germany will discuss the new CEFR companion volume with new descriptors and its implications for learning and teaching foreign and second language education in Germany and in Europe in more detail (a preliminary version of the companion volume is available here).

However, the major focus of this year’s Spring Conference will be on foreign and second language teacher education. In this particular context, the revision of the CEFR is just one of many other developments and aspects that need to be taken into consideration (e.g. the theory-practice divide, the interdisciplinary character of foreign and/or second language teacher education, the role of teacher identity and ethos, the functions of physical learning place and digital learning space, the question of teaching expertise, the significance of teachers’ language proficiency and skill, etc.).