Tag Archives: standards

15th BAAL SIG LLT Conference 2019

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

The 15th BAAL SIG Language Learning and Teaching will be held at the University of Bath, UK from Friday 28th June to Saturday 29th June 2019. This year’s theme will be: “Language Learning and Teaching in Different Contexts”.

The conference will encourage participants to explore how language learning and teaching happens in a variety of contexts. Traditionally, the research on language learning and teaching focused on the language classroom, mostly in the context of a handful of developed countries. However, there has been a marked difference in recent years.

Language learning and teaching is now researched in diverse contexts all over the world. One explanation for it is the status of English as a global language and the perception of English proficiency as a basic skill that increases mobility. With increased mobility, however, a new trend has been observed, in that there is an increased demand for learning languages other than English but dominant in a given context.

At the same time, the demand for language learning and teaching has led to the emergence of new forms of learning and teaching. Language teaching is no longer exclusively limited to the language classroom as learners are often exposed to multiple language sources outside the classroom. Hence, language use and learning are often intertwined.

Questions to be addressed:

  • What are the relative effects of local or context specific language pedagogies on the way of learning and teaching languages?
  • How does the use of languages to communicate affect their way of being learned and taught?
  • Why do universities provide students course contents with English medium instruction while it is not the language they speak as a mother tongue?
  • What are the differing contributions of blended learning, computer mediated communication and face to face modes to language learning?
  • What can we learn from the synergy of language learning and teaching in different settings, different linguistic contexts and at different ages?
  • How can the effective use of home languages and translanguaging contribute to language teaching and learning?
  • What do we know of language learners as language users, and the different contexts in which they use their languages?
  • In what ways can different research perspectives and innovative methodologies provide complementary views of learning and teaching processes?
  • How can new technologies (online platforms, smartphone apps, etc.) be exploited for language teaching and learning in classrooms and for autonomous learning?

Confirmed plenary speakers:

For further details, please click here. This is our contribution to the conference:

Leo Will & Jürgen Kurtz (JLU Giessen)

Hybrid learning in foreign language teacher education

TEFLhybrid@JLU (TEFL = Teaching English as a Foreign Language; JLU = Justus Liebig University) is a newly developed project which seeks to explore the potential of hybrid learning within the teacher education program at Giessen University. A hybrid format of course delivery combines face-to-face instruction with collaborative, increasingly self-regulated, online learning in virtual space to transform and enhance students’ learning experience. Within the format, all interaction takes place in the English language (English Medium of Instruction Context).

The first course in the hybrid format is titled “Designing an EFL Textbook Unit”. Adopting a communicative language teaching perspective, the course focuses on developing competencies and skills essential to evaluating, adapting and – ultimately – creating English language learning materials. It comprises four introductory classroom sessions, followed by seven weeks of student-regulated online learning, and four final in-class sessions to give all participants the opportunity to present their materials. The seminar is based on both print and digital media with regard to the resources used, but also with regard to the products to be created by the participants. A learning management system is used throughout the process to facilitate interaction. Student learning advisors offer assistance both in technological and language pedagogical matters.

The research interest centers around the project’s possibilities and limitations as perceived by all stakeholders. A mixed-methods approach is taken by juxtaposing data emerging from questionnaires as well as from the data generated on the online platform.


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)?




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.

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.).

The ACTFL Decade of Standards Report

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

Standards-based EFL/ESL education has become increasingly influential in the past decade, in the US as well as in many other countries. I have voiced my concerns about all this many times on this blog. Yesterday I stumbled upon two important papers in this context, both issued by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL): a) “A Decade of Foreign Language Standards: Impact, Influence, and Future Directions”, and b) “Alignment of the National Standards for Learning Languages with the Common Core State Standards”. If you like to read these papers as well, please click a) and b). I am interested to hear what you have to say about it.

Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the Learning Revolution

posted by Jürgen Kurtz, Justus Liebig University Giessen, Germany

According to Sir Ken Robinson, “We have built our education systems on the model of fast food. This is something Jamie Oliver talked about the other day. You know there are two models of quality assurance in catering. One is fast food, where everything is standardized. The other are things like Zagat and Michelin restaurants, where everything is not standardized, they’re customized to local circumstances. And we have sold ourselves into a fast food model of education. And it’s impoverishing our spirit and our energies as much as fast food is depleting our physical bodies.” (subtitled in 50 languages)

In Germany and, from my perspective, in many other countries around the globe, SL/FL teachers are put under massive pressure to meet vague and – partially – unconvincing standards, and to conduct tests based on a questionable approach to foreign language education. What do you think about all this?

New Publication: Structure and Improvisation in Creative Teaching

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

This new book, edited by R. Keith Sawyer (Washington State University, St. Louis), takes a fresh look at one of the core issues in education and learning. Focusing on the predictability and unpredictability of learning (and teaching) processes in schools, it raises a number of fundamental questions concerning flexible and creative curriculum and instructional design in the 21st century, providing readers with the know-how as well as the ‘do-how’ necessary to create rich, meaningful, and encouraging learning environments in the age of outcome-orientation and testing. As Keith Sawyer points out on his blog:

“The key idea is that good teaching involves both structures and improvisation, both advance planning and adaptability. Expert teachers know how to use structures (lesson plans, activities, techniques to discipline unruly students) in an improvisational way that’s customized and targeted to each class and each student. This is what “creative teaching” really is: it’s not a flaky, New Age performance artist who mesmerizes the students. It’s an expert with a deep knowledge of the craft of teaching, and of the subject being taught, and an expert who can use that to orchestrate valuable learning activities among the students.”

The book comes at a time when education systems are under massive socio-economic and ideological pressure world-wide, and it would be fatal if all this resulted in what David C. Berliner calls creaticide in the foreword: “With a few notable exceptions, policies designed to improve schools have resulted in a diminution of those classroom activities that are more likely to promote higher levels of thought, problem solving, and creativity in academic areas. It is not that the research community can agree on how to produce higher-order thinking and creative responses among youth. Far from it! But there is remarkable agreement about how not to produce the outcomes we desire. And by constraining what teachers and students can do in classrooms we do just that” (2011: xv).

Chapter 7 of this book focuses on the significance of structure and improvisation in teaching English as a foreign language. Title: “Breaking through the Communicative Cocoon: Improvisation in Secondary School Foreign Language Classrooms.” (Kurtz, 2011: 133-161).

For further details, please click here.