ERASMUS+ STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP
FAB – FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT BENCHMARKING FOR FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEARNING & TEACHING IN HIGHER EDUCATION, 2015-1-PL01-KA203-016474
Report on peer observations in Turku, November 28 – December 02, 2016
Peer observations at the University of Turku were conducted on the November 28 – December 02, 2016. There participated two teachers from Vytautas Magnus University, lecturer Gintarė Gelūnaitė-Malinauskienė who teaches German and myself, Almantė Meškauskienė who teaches English. Each of us observed ten language lessons of various length from 90-minute classes to 180-minute ones and filled in peer observation forms. We have observed different languages and taught at different levels:
- English B1
- English B2
- Swedish language B1
- Russian language and communication
- Intercultural communication for global work
- German language and culture for exchange students
All the observed lessons had a very positive atmosphere that facilitated teacher-learner communication. The teachers secured very good environment for students to take part in the process of active learning, to gain new skills and to use them practically. One of the best aspects of the observed lessons, which we liked most, was that all the theoretical issues had their practical application. During the lessons we noticed some differences between language teaching in Lithuania and Finland. One of which was that the majority of teachers do not use course books. Moreover, they are free to choose the material and tasks themselves in accordance with the students’ needs. In spite of the fact that most of the courses had the marked CERF level they did not strictly follow this level and even students in a group seemed to be of a mixed level. Teacher and student roles did not stick to the traditional model but were more similar to colleague-to- colleague cooperation. On the other hand, during some lessons of lower CERF levels teachers used native language as the instruction language where it was possible to use a target language. In Lithuania teachers use native language for explanation only in A1 level, in all higher levels they try to use a target language as much as it is possible.
Instruction methods and formative assessment
Almost all the teachers very clearly defined the learning goals either explaining them orally or presenting them on a slide. Giving feedback the teachers were particularly positive and benevolent. Some teachers explained students’ mistakes straight away others postponed the feedback in order to give it in a written form. As many tasks were done in pairs or bigger groups students also had many chances to evaluate their colleagues’ learning process, to point out mistakes and to give advice what and how should have been improved. Even though the teachers were creative and professional sometimes it was impossible to fill in all the given fields in the questionnaire as not all possible activities or instruction methods were used during one lesson. This was especially relevant to those lessons where the main activity was oral presentations.
The teachers in the observed lessons not only tried to present the information in an interesting and motivating way but also to indicate practical application of it. This may be the reason why students were actively and willingly participating in all the activities proposed by the teachers. Many activities were oriented towards communication, thus, there were lots of interesting discussions in pairs and groups. Below there are some best practices worth disseminating:
- Performing a prepared dialogue in front of the video camera. That is an interesting technique which could be used not only as means for traditional evaluation but for self-evaluation as well because watching the video gives students a clear understanding of the mistakes they made.
- Role-play “Introduce yourself to the employer”. While practicing “pitching” the students were mingling and trying to introduce themselves to different “potential employers”. That was a good exercise for applying theory into practice. The information the teacher gave was used practically and also supported by interesting, clear and useful advice.
- Let’s practice making phone calls. The teacher used a very good method for practicing phone calls. She asked to simulate a real phone call. One student speaking on the phone was asked to leave the classroom and another one stayed in the room. This helped to create a situation which is similar to real one.
- Evaluation sheets for peer observation. The teacher prepared a special evaluation sheet which helped students to understand the criteria better.
- Language teacher cooperation with subject teachers. Students writing a project could come and consult with a language teacher and subject teachers about the problematic issues. This cooperative work involving students and different teachers is highly innovative and efficient.
- Different CERF level students working together. In the German language class students of different CERF levels were perfectly cooperating, higher language level students helping lower level students and both groups gaining valuable experience from this collaborative work.
- Liberal way of evaluation. Teachers are free not only in preparing and presenting teaching material but in evaluating the progress of students achievements too. This helps to focus on the students’ needs in the most effective way.
Prepared by Almantė Meškauskienė and Gintarė Gelūnaitė-Malinauskienė
Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas, Lithuania