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Expert views on: the future student

on Wed, 12/11/2013 - 19:31

Although Davies [7]  agrees with the suggestion that extra demands are made on your motivation to learn foreign languages when English is your first language he regrets that students in the UK are no longer obliged to continue studying a foreign language beyond the age of 14, i.e. after their third year of secondary education. Attempts have been made by the Department for Education (DfE) to encourage students to continue with languages beyond the age of 14. An example is the online MYLO project, which was set up with the aid of substantial government funding. In his view it appears that MYLO is not having a major impact [Davies, 6].

Lund and Guichon see an increase in informal learning because students use social media and so called web 2.0 applications.  Guichon’s research shows that Facebook is popular among Lycée pupils and that its use also leads to (more) collaboration between students outside the school context (Guichon,  2012b). In his reaction to the suggestion that this type of informal learning could be integrated in formal, school-based learning, he points to the  danger that “schoolification” of such Web 2.0 use could spoil its attractiveness for students [Guichon, 5].

Although also Müller-Hartmann observes that students nowadays make functional use of foreign languages (possibly English in particular) in technologically mediated contexts (SMS, blog, Facebook, gaming) it is his opinion that integration of such media in the school context only makes sense if the methodological approach is less forms and structure focused but that content and technological resources that appeal to students get a more central position [Müller-Hartmann,13]. He also reports a growing interest in early language learning in Germany, in line with the developments globally in this respect and as also reflected by the number of registrations for the related educational master studies at the Faculty of Education at Heidelberg University of Applied Sciences [Müller-Hartmann, 5]. One of the implications is the need to improve the transition between primary and secondary education. To this end the EU project PriSECCO, coordinated by Heidelberg Faculty of Education,  aiming for better conditions for the realization of a consistent learning trajectory between these sectors, developed materials (i.a. bridging tasks) to promote a better understanding of the dominant teaching approach in both sectors. In his view more specific attention for this topic is needed in initial and in-service teacher training programmes [Müller-Hartmann, 6]. And more in general Müller-Hartmann (for whom teacher training is a special interest) emphasizes that there should be a better integration of theory and practice and more emphasis on teaching skills in the teacher education curriculum, especially for first grade teachers [Müller-Hartmann, 7].

One of the essentially needed changes in language education, according to Colpaert,  is more attention to the personal goals of the learners (the psychological shift). In his view there has been too much focus on standard curricular learning objectives in the past. Experiences in his projects show that the design of the learning environment must be aligned to the common features of the personal goals of a specific group of learners.
Reinders shares the view that language education needs to become much more student-centered. Referring to higher education he finds that students – although they do not necessarily know how to study languages or do so autonomously – they know perfectly well that what they are being offered is not necessarily related to reality. Neither in terms of the teaching methods being applied and the way they are expected to learn nor in terms of the actual knowledge and skills they are developing. To illustrate this point he mentions some features differentiating developing work-related written documents from producing an essay at university: time constraints, multiple-versions, not necessarily ‘perfect’, produced in collaboration and with a much more practice-oriented content and structure. With a view to the increasing availability of alternative options for developing language skills he expects students to become more critical about investing their time in programmes that do not appear to fit their needs.