FAB – Formative Assessment Benchmarking for Foreign Language Learning and Teaching in Higher Education
Sirpa Rajala and Sanna Simola, TUAS
The third stage of peer observations carried out within the FAB Project (Formative Assessment Benchmarking for Foreign Languages Learning & Teaching in Higher Education) took place at Vytautus Magnus University (later VMU), Kaunas, Lithuania from February 20 to February 24, 2017. During this stage we visited twelve classes in four different campuses. (13 hours of foreign language teaching and learning). We observed lessons of English, Swedish, German, Latin, Russian. The courses were on level from A1-C2.
Language courses at VMU, Institute of Foreign Languages
The language courses are organized in the following way:
- the students take the courses based on the CEFR, so there can be students from different study fields ( but for example Legal English is mainly for law students), the courses at TUAS are professional oriented
- the lessons ( à 45 min.) (NOTE: TUAS 90 min.) are 4 times a week, and on Wednesdays there are no contact lessons, but online tasks on Moodle
- the group size is rather small (7-19 students, NOTE: TUAS 20-40)
- 12-12 (min. 12 ECTS max. 24 ECTS for everyone)
- institute offers many courses in 31different languages
- the importance of language learning and multilingualism is highly valued, Lithuanian and Finnish are both small languages which are mainly spoken by the native speakers of the country in, so there is a need for foreign languages in the countries
We got the possibility to have a sneak peek into language courses, we did realize that we got to observe only a small part of the whole course. So our observations are restricted to that. We did not have a deeper look at the Moodle tasks.
The lessons which we visited were characterised by a good atmosphere and a teacher whose personality played a significant role in the lesson. For us it was a great pleasure to see different kind of teacher personalities. At TUAS we do not observe other teachers´ lessons.
Our impression was that the teaching and learning process was quite strongly lead by the teacher, there seemed to be lack of interaction, the students were mostly an audience who were not always engaged to the learning process. As an example, students did not raise their hands, it was the teacher who said who is going to answer. The students did not have a proactive role.
The lessons we observed seemed to train more the receptive skills than productive skills, learner centered approach was not visible.
All the courses did contain learning material. Textbooks, work books were used during the lessons. At TUAS books are used, but there teachers make also their own material or combine it from different sources.
The instruction language was mostly the taught language; this seems to be more common in Europe than in Finland. One reason could be the fact that the Finnish publishing houses produce foreign language books in Finnish.
The English, German and other books /materials used in the courses were really good.
There was a clear structure of language courses: lessons mostly in the morning, on Wednesdays – Moodle.
45 min. is a short time, but the teachers at VMU did do an excellent job – during 45 minutes there were different activities, excellent planned lessons.
Online teaching is used in the courses – kahoot.it, Moodle (every Wednesday).
An English teacher gave oral feedback right away, also asked from the peers/ others for feedback.
An effective and motivational exercise – a English teacher trained the group also in using English on the phone by sending a group outside the class room and asking them to call the ones staying in the classroom.
One of the best practices was the teachers cooperation, sharing the same mindset and same guidelines (criteria e.g cumulative mark).
Language and communication teachers at TUAS are scattered in different faculties, which has affected the sense of togetherness and practical implementation of cooperation.