Celebrating Success

Our school is remarkably successful in gaining funding and being given awards for the teaching and learning work that we do. We demonstrate innovation, imagination and good practice every day and this section of our site gives us the chance to share our achievements.

 

A Language Teaching Community of Practice: Collaborative development of expertise and scholarship By Jackie Baines (Dept. of Classics), Rita Balestrini (MLES), Sarah Brewer (ISLI), Barbara King (IoE), Regine Klimpfinger (MLES), Congxia Li (IWLP), Sarah Marston (IoE)

 

Over the course of the last academic year, the idea of creating a Language Teaching Community of Practice (LT CoP) has taken shape and developed as part of the University strategy to support and promote language learning and expertise in foreign languages teaching. A number of colleagues involved in language teaching or teacher education from the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies, the International Study and Language Institute, the Institute of Education and the Department of Classics, have agreed to meet informally and contribute, from their different perspectives, to the implementation of the project.

As a core group, we began our work with a critical discussion of the idea of CoP itself, its evolution and its adoption as an organisational tool. We discussed the range of functions that, as a cross-institutional LT CoP, we would like to have (sharing practices, responding to needs, mentoring, influencing policies, bidding for funds etc.) and key issues that we consider relevant to our interests and needs as language practitioners working in different  contexts. We agreed that one of our defining aims will be to deepen knowledge, promote reflection and stimulate in-depth discussion around themes relating to our professional practice at the UoR. Therefore, we have decided to focus on one main theme in each academic year. In 2016-2017, we began to share and discuss some aspects of our assessment practices and we intend to continue exploring this theme in 2017-2018.

We would now like to widen participation and invite colleagues who have an interest in foreign language pedagogy to join us in termly meetings. The first meeting will be held on 13th November, from 1-2 pm (Carrington, Room 101) room tbc) and will focus on marking criteria, rubrics and grading scales used to assess speaking and writing in a foreign language. We invite interested colleagues to give short presentations on these topics (10-15 minutes). For organisational purposes, we would like to receive a short abstract/summary (approximately 100 words) of the presentation by Friday 27th October at the latest. This should be sent to r.balestrini@reading.ac.uk

As is the nature of a CoP, our structure and plans will remain flexible and we will respond to the needs and interests of our members. Therefore, the direction in which the discussion will continue in the spring and summer meetings will emerge from this first event in the autumn term.

If you plan to join us at our Autumn meeting on 13th November, please register your interest in participating at the following link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/autumn-meeting-of-the-language-teaching-community-of-practice-lt-cop-tickets-38351139290

Supporting Inclusivity and Diversity in Language Teaching and Learning at the University of Reading Authored by Laura Brown, Regine Klimpfinger, Daniela Standen and Enza Siciliano Verruccio

Language learning and disability: how to avoid the ‘avoidance’?

When the university disability office was approached in 2003 by a new member of staff for guidance on the assessment of a dyslexic student enrolled on a language module, the reply was that students with dyslexia are better advised to avoid foreign language courses. Fast-forward to 2017, and issues of ‘course substitution’, or ‘avoidance’,[i] when it comes to the study of foreign languages and learning difficulties, are still emerging today, as anecdotally reported by prospective secondary school applicants to this university.

When the principles of inclusivity and diversity, fresh from the new University of Reading Curriculum Framework, were chosen as the focus of this year’s university Teaching and Learning conference (January 2017), the discussion and thinking it provoked pointed clearly towards the need – within our institution and within our discipline in this institution – for a thorough reflection on how our current language teaching practices, our language curricula, and the general university procedures can best support students with disabilities who do not wish to avoid learning a foreign language.

Reflecting on disabilities and language teaching and learning practices: a workhop

This is when the idea of the Disability and Language Teaching & Learning Workshop was born. On 18 May, 22 language teaching practitioners from the Institution-Wide Language Programme (IWLP), the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies (DMLES), the Department of Classics and the Institute of Education gathered to explore and discuss experiences and practices of, as well as aspirations to, inclusivity and diversity in language teaching and learning here at Reading. They were guided by Laura Brown from the university Disability Office, with the support of Regine Klimpfinger (DMLES Disability Officer), Daniela Standen (International Study and Language Institute Disability Officer), and Enza Siciliano Verruccio (DMLES Language Coordinator).

The workshop consisted of a blend of theory and practice, with a strong focus on group discussion and activity, given the collaborative approach we wanted to engender. We set the scene with Enza recounting the experiences described above. To further examine the kinds of assumptions we may make about certain disabilities, the group then engaged in a ‘Fact or Fiction’ exercise to indicate whether statements were true or false, unearthing potential stereotypes and preconceptions, such as ‘Students with Asperger’s Syndrome can’t do group work’.

In smaller groups, participants then prioritised skills and attributes needed to learn languages, such as phonological processing skills, memory, curiosity and motivation, using a pyramid shape to indicate the most important at the top ranging to least important at the bottom (Picture 1). Skills and attributes were discussed in terms of how disabilities can affect those skills and attributes, for example the advantage of extroversion in acquiring spoken fluency and how this can be impeded by severe social anxiety. This led to a broader presentation on the experiences that disabled students may have in relation to the four key aspects of language learning – speaking, writing, reading and listening – looking both at barriers and strengths that disabled students may experience in relation to various elements of a languages course, such as oral examinations, classroom conversation exercises, timed translation examination papers, etc.

 

  1. Groupwork: prioritised language learners’ attributes and skills

The group were then subjected to an impossible memory test and a note-taking exercise using their non-writing hand. These gave them a feel for what it can be like for disabled students to try to fit in with traditional assessment and teaching methods which are unsuited to their learning style.

The group reflected, via Mentimeter, on their experiences of students on their modules who, despite adequate intelligence and effort, struggled with aspects of language learning due to disability (Picture 2). This led to consideration of techniques that can be applied to enhance accessibility and inclusivity in language teaching, across the three core areas of curriculum design, delivery and assessment (Picture 3). The challenges and limitations in applying these techniques were acknowledged as well as the benefits.

2. Workshop attendees report own experiences.

 

  1. Laura Brown from the university Disability Office leads the discussion on embedding inclusivity and diversity in the language curriculum

Case study examples of disabled students successfully studying languages were presented, highlighting particular aspects that helped them to achieve – this led to one of the key messages from the day in the plenary discussion, that small changes can make a huge difference. We also emphasised how people are not on their own in supporting disabled students and that the day’s collaborative approach provided a platform for further building support networks.

Moving forward

The workshop left the participants with solid advice on how to support students as individuals, but more importantly with ideas and possibilities to explore to make the curriculum more inclusive.  From the feedback received there is a clear need and willingness to push these conversations forward. Many expressed the need for more specific information and a forum to share practical ideas and good practice about language teaching and disability, and felt it was paramount to do so collaboratively across departments in order to implement and embed changes. So, keep a look out for the Special Interest Group on disability coming to ISLI and DMLES soon!!

[i] DiFino, S. M. & Lombardino, L. (2004), Language Learning Disabilities: The Ultimate Foreign Language Challenge. Foreign Language Annals, 37, 3, pp. 390-400

HEA Fellowships Awarded

Erhan Aslan (DELAL) and Veronica Heath (DMLES) have been awarded HEA Fellowship status.

Parvaneh Tavakoli (DELAL) and Enza Siciliano-Verruccio (DMLES) have been awarded HEA Senior Fellowship status.

Parvaneh writes:

“While engaged in the very hectic process of leading a team to restructure two MA programmes in my department, I had little time to contemplate, reflect  on and review what I had accomplished and how well I had used the available resources. The Flair application process provided me with an opportunity to pause, review and reflect on my skills, abilities, strengths and of course on what I could have done differently. The thinking required through the process of writing the application was a rich source of learning and a moment of revelation during my academic career.”

Madeleine Davies (DEL) won RUSU Teaching Excellence Award

Dr Madeleine Davies has won the presitgious RUSU Teaching Excellence Award this year. She received the award at the summer 2017 graduation ceremony for the school.

Madeliene writes:

‘I’d like to say a big ‘thank you’ to everyone who nominated me for the ‘RUSU Teaching Excellence Award’. I have won the Award for Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

It is difficult to express how much the nominations for the RUSU awards mean to us as individual colleagues. It makes all the difference to know that the work we do is appreciated and, when our students take the time to make this known, their generosity and goodwill is extremely touching.

Thank you again, everyone: I feel as though I’ve won an Oscar!’

Winners of University Awards for Outstanding Contributions to Teaching and Learning (Collaborative) 2017

The Centre for Quality Support and Development (CQSD) this year awarded the University Collaborative Awards for Outstanding Contributions to Teaching and Learning to members of our school.  This is a highly competitive scheme that recognises and rewards select groups of staff that have made significant and ongoing contributions to the student learning experience and also who have demonstrated an integrated team approach to enhance teaching and learning.

For the project: Promoting research-based learning through an innovative text and performance module

 

Dr Mark Hutchings                    English Literature

Dr Chloe Houston                       English Literature

Dr Lisa Purse                                Film, Theatre and Television

Kerry Webb                                   Library

Lisa Clark                                       Film, Theatre and Television

Josh Oliver                                     Film, Theatre and Television

George Ormisher                          Film, Theatre and Television

This innovative project builds on a TLDF mini award in 2016 for ‘Exploring Early Modern Theatre Practice in the Classroom’. It is an outstanding example of inter-departmental collaboration between academics and support staff, combining their respective strengths to enhance the teaching of early modern drama for undergraduate students.

Mark writes:

“This award is in recognition of a richly rewarding collaboration between two departments which share Drama in common but traditionally tend to do things differently. Rather than confine our engagement to either the page or the stage we explore how the two intersect, and how this might enhance the teaching of early modern drama. What is known and conjectured about the London theatre in this period makes it ideal for the kinds of staging experiments we carry out in EN2ENT Early Modern Theatre Practice, and the use of a theatre space allows us to demonstrate the kinds of practical staging issues Shakespeare and his contemporaries wrestled with themselves. As convenor of the module I have found that teaching in this format has enriched my approach to these plays and opened up a whole range of research questions that will feed back into the practical work we do together.”

Chloë Houston and Madeleine Davies (DEL) awarded UoR Teaching Fellowships

We are delighted to announce that Dr Chloë Houston and Dr Madeleine Davies (Department of English Literature) have been awarded The University of Reading Teaching Fellowship. This is a prestigious award conferred on members of staff who have demonstrated individual excellence and contributed to the development of teaching and learning within the University. The Fellowship is designed to support staff to further develop in this area and to recognise and reward excellence in teaching and the support of student learning.

Dr Madeleine Davies writes: ‘Receiving this award is a great honour and I’m looking forward to my work as a member of the UTFS Community of Practice. Teaching and learning has always been at the top of my list of priorities and this award allows me to engage in new projects designed to further enhance our provision. It will also give me fresh opportunities for dissemination of good practice as well as connecting SLL with teaching and learning initiatives being generated across the University. I would like to thank DEL colleagues and students for their support – winning the RUSU Teaching Award in April, and now receiving the UFTS Award, has been possible because of their encouragement and goodwill.’

Dr Chloë Houston writes: ‘I am delighted to have been awarded the University Teaching Fellowship and to join the UTFS Community of Practice. I look forward to learning more from my colleagues about good practice across the University and developing our teaching and learning in the Department of English Literature.’