LITHUANIAN REPORTS | Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas, Lithuania

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Jūratė Andriuškevičienė, Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas, Lithuania

Report on the peer observation in the University of Warsaw

During the period of 23-29 October 2016 I was visiting the University of Warsaw, following the aims of ERASMUS+ FAB project, to observe lectures delivered by Polish colleagues. The total number of observed lectures is 15: I observed 6 Russian as a foreign language lectures (A2, B1, B2 and C1 levels), 6 German as a foreign language lectures (B1, B2 and C1 levels), one French as a foreign language lecture of B1 level and one Spanish as a foreign language lecture of A2 level.

I must admit that all the lectures delivered by the Polish colleagues were exceptionally professional. The teachers used various formative assessment methods and various active learning methods, e.g., different games were used in the process of learning, particularly in lower levels.  I gained a lot of useful experience from each of the observed lessons, which can be applied in my teaching. I admired the text analysis method through the use of acronyms, poetry (Russian language teacher Magda Tulska-Budziak). As lectures lasted 90 min., teachers had enough time to apply various teaching methods and activities which require active student involvement. Teachers used pair and group work, i.e. conditions were created for students to acquire and develop their speaking skills, participating in various group and class as well as pair discussions.

On the other hand, some disputable methods were used as well: a great deal of attention was devoted to checking the written homework in class. More than 20 min. of class time was devoted to reading sentence by sentence. In my opinion, such homework checking method is inefficient and boring. The teacher could have given the answer key to students to check the answers independently or they could have checked the answers together in pairs and only the discussible cases could have been analyzed with the whole class.  

Moreover, to observe foreign language lessons delivered in a language that you do not know is a real challenge, especially when the observing teacher has no teaching material (French, B1 level) and it is difficult to understand what is going on in groups.

The final concluding remark: it can be stated that Polish language practitioners love short quizzes which were written during almost every lecture. Sometimes these quizzes were very primitive – a word was given in a Polish language and the students had to write its equivalent in the foreign language. Another remark could be made that A2 level does not correspond to the European Framework of Reference, as there were students in A2 level group who did not have A1 level competence.

Finally, it is necessary to state that the visit was fruitful in different aspects: a number of new active learning methods were observed; all observed teachers used formative assessment methods (praised students for well-preformed activities, encouraged to speak, created positive learning environment and etc.); during the discussions with teachers we shared our experience; the hosts and hostesses did their best to prepare for the visit; we learnt much about the system of teaching languages at this university; we acquired new colleagues and had a memorable stay at the University of Warsaw.

Jūratė Andriuškevičienė

12 November 2016, Kaunas, VMU

Daiva Pundziuviene, Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas, Lithuania

Report on peer observations in Warsaw, October 23-28, 2016

Peer observations at the University of Warsaw  were conducted on the 23-28 of October, 2016.

The teachers observed three language lessons a day and had to fill in peer observation forms.

In total, I have observed 13 lessons of different languages and levels taught by 8 teachers:

  • English B1
  • English B2
  • English C1
  • Legal English C1
  • Russian A2

Main insights from the lesson observations:

Establishment of a classroom culture that facilitates learning

As the observation forms indicate, most of the observed teachers create an atmosphere that facilitates active learning in their classes by encouraging  their students to speak and  take part in all the activities. The teachers ask a lot of questions, raise the students’ interest by teaching some slang, cultural or historical issues or comparing British and American English. At the beginning of the lessons most of the teachers use interesting warm up activities which promote active learning. Some students have demonstrated their ability to engage in a really sophisticated discussion expressing well-reasoned and novel opinions. On the other hand, some lessons provided examples when it was  too difficult for shy students to speak, which proves the need of a moderator (a teacher) who would not let some very active students speak for too long and would invite less active students to participate as well.

Establishment of learning goals and tracking of individual student progress toward those goals

The observation forms show that not all the teachers clearly define learning goals and contents of the lesson, although most of them discuss with their students the communicative tasks and check if the goal of the activity has been achieved. Writing the learning goals on the board or a slide before the lesson is a time-saving solution, which could be mentioned as an example of good practice.

Instruction methods adapted to students’ needs

Following the observation forms, it can be stated that most of the teachers make an extensive use use of pair and group work and give the students opportunities to reflect on the work they have done. A number of teachers make use of peer assessment and self-assessment. The students often have to exchange their written work with another group, make necessary changes and write encouraging comments and advice on further learning. As an example of good practice, the teacher’s invitation for some reflection could be mentioned: at the end of the lesson the students are asked to think about what they are ‘taking away’ with themselves from today’s class. The students are often given an opportunity to discuss the effectiveness of the tasks organized.

Active involvement of students in the learning process

As indicated in the lesson observation sheets, all the teachers try to make the students interested in the language he/she teaches by focusing on current issues, which motivates the students express their opinions, relating the teaching material to interesting cultural or historical aspects, presenting humoristic examples or situations, fostering thinking, guessing, associating, doing some home research, etc. Most of the teachers choose the activities appropriate to their students’ abilities and monitor their learning continuously, give linguistic and emotional support for their students. The students are often relaxed, very energetic and eager to communicate because of their teachers’ encouraging attitude and active teaching applied. The students seem to be actively involved in the learning process because of a great variety of the activities organized, such as pair work, group work, competitions, games, role-plays, singing, acting, doing interactive tasks, working with authentic materials, watching videos and discussing the issues relevant to students’ interests.

Novel innovative teaching strategies applied by the observee which are worth  disseminating:

 An inventive use of authentic materials for learning Russian names (the students have to read the names of famous Russian writers from authentic books by Dostoevsky, Chekhov and other Russian writers).

 Learning Legal English through Simple English (for example, firstly the students are explained what is acceleration in driving and later they have to guess how this word is used in legal payments).

3) How to make students be punctual – the class accepts the rule that if a student is late for more than 15 minutes, he / she has to do an extra task spontaneously (dance, make a short improvised presentation, etc.), which is not a real punishment but definitely something that could motivate a student to be punctual.

  • Writing anticipating questions – the students have to write questions prior to listening (for example, the questions they expect to be answered in a report). Such an activity lets revise question formation and encourages the students’ critical thinking.
  • Show your reaction – the students have to show their reaction (e.g. by clapping hands) when another student tells the correct answer. It helps to ‘wake up’ less active students and helps them enjoy the activity.
  • Let’s interview our guest – the students know in advance that a guest from a particular country is coming to their lesson and are asked to find some information about that country at home. At the beginning of the lesson they ask questions and the guest answers the questions. Then they have to change their direct question into an indirect one and report the answer. The activity is done in a form of a competition (the student gets a point if the guest does not know the answer).
  • TV talk show ‘Controversy’– the activity offers a lot of opportunities to speak as every student has a very specific role to play, his /her own life story to tell and clear reasons to be in favour or against the given topic.

Suggestion: after such an activity the students could fill in ‘Self-assessment form’ and evaluate how well or badly they have participated in the debate by giving the basic reasons for that (it could be done anonymously and later handed in to the teacher who in turn could conduct some data analysis of the students’ self-assessment).

  • Role-play ‘Be a teacher’ – the students have to teach their peers new idioms. Each student has his /her own idiom which has to be learned by all the All the class is engaged in active learning and teaching process.
  • Bingo – a very good task to practise collocations. The students have to draw a table like in a Bingo game in their notebooks and fill it in with four keywords from active collocations. The teacher reads the words which can be used with the keyword in a collocation. The first student who has filled in the table shouts ‘Bingo’.

10) Making a poll – the teacher writes a question related to the next lesson’s topic on-line and asks the students to vote. The results of the poll are announced during the next lesson.

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