Preparing Modern Languages Students for 'Difference'

Going beyond Graduate Skills

by Ruth Whittle (Author) Sandra Salin (Author)
Edited Collection XVIII, 266 Pages


This book informs and encourages aspiring lecturers and teaching staff in Modern Languages who prepare students for using their language skills in and out of the classroom. Drawing on pedagogical, psychological and language-specific concepts of learning, the book illustrates how such concepts can enhance students’ experience of transitioning from school to university to residence abroad, and beyond.
A key feature of the study is an investigation of students’ fragility as they transition from school to university and, only two years later, from their home institution to their placements abroad. Interventions intended to «teach» transition are shown to be unsuccessful, as the learning through such interventions tends to remain superficial. First-year students are shown to benefit from trust-building between students and teachers and early networking among their peers to build self-confidence. In contrast, prior to studying abroad students benefit more from intercultural awareness training, including linguistic, cultural, social, academic and/or emotional aspects.
The book serves as a useful basis for discussion in Modern Languages departments about curriculum change and university policy with regard to resourcing the Humanities.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Figures
  • List of Tables
  • List of Appendices
  • Acknowledgements
  • List of Abbreviations
  • 1. Introduction (Ruth Whittle with Sandra Salin)
  • 2. Profile of a Modern Languages Student: A Story of Transitions (Ruth Whittle)
  • 3. Where is Potential Lost and Why? Modelling ‘Difference’ (Ruth Whittle)
  • 4. Assessing How Students Cope with Change, Challenges and Difference through Year Abroad e-Portfolio Blogs (Sandra Salin)
  • 5. Case Studies on Change Management from Induction to Graduation and Beyond (Ruth Whittle)
  • 6. The Better French Living Project: Preparing Students for ‘Difference’ in France (Sandra Salin)
  • 7. Conclusions and Outlook (Ruth Whittle)
  • Appendices
  • Bibliography
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Index
  • Series Index

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The authors gratefully acknowledge funding for their respective projects, without which they would have not been possible. Ruth Whittle received a Birmingham University Teaching Fellowship, which gave her the necessary means to conduct the Change Management Project (awarded in 2011); and in 2014 she was awarded an Educational Enhancement Grant for the Reflective Learner Project. Sandra Salin received a grant from The Newcastle University ULTSEC Innovation Fund (awarded in 2014) for the Better French Living Project.

The authors are indebted to Professor D. Randy Garrison for permission to replicate his Practical Enquiry Model and would like to acknowledge Worditout.com <https://www.worditout.com>, which allowed them to freely publish their word clouds which were produced using the word cloud tools.

Both authors are grateful to their collaborators and colleagues, particularly Dr Elisenda Marcer and Dr David García-Vidal (both at the University of Birmingham). The latter has been instrumental in converting research findings into palpable improvement of provision at all levels of student transition. Ruth Whittle would not have been able to conduct her research without her research assistants, Dr Sonia Gallucci (now Regent’s University, London), Jennifer Arnold (University of Birmingham) and Dr Aysu Dincer (now Warwick University), or the educational technologists Catherine Coltman, Jagdish Singhal and Melanie Leggatt. Thanks must also go to the student mentors who worked with students on learning blogs and logs (2014–2015) and colleagues across professional services, especially in the Centre for Learning and Development (CLAD, UoB) and UoB Library.

Sandra Salin would like to acknowledge the invaluable contributions by Morgane Mazan and Dr Damien Hall in the development of the BFL Project material. She is grateful to Dr Franck Michel and Jos Harrison for permission to use their questions in the YAeP prompt sheets, as well as to Andrew Grenfell, Andrew Newton and Elina Vasina from the Newcastle ← xv | xvi → University Language Resource Centre for making the BFL Project material available (Blackboard Community and Internet Protocol Television) to all Newcastle University students.

The two people most closely associated with this book coming together are Dorothée Sachse, during much of the research and the early stages of writing, and our proofreader Dr Pat Odber de Baubeta, at the final stage. The advice by Professor Sally Brown on getting writing done and Petia Petrova’s regular ‘writing retreats’ at UoB were instrumental in creating a framework for disciplined writing, without which it would have been difficult to see this book through.

The authors would like to thank Peter, Simon and Magnus Whittle, as well as Steve, Evan and Iliana Kent for their patience and understanding.

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XVIII, 266
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2017 (May)
transitions in higher education reflective learners learning cycles
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2017. XVIII, 266 pp., 10 b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Ruth Whittle (Author) Sandra Salin (Author)

Ruth Whittle is Senior Lecturer in German Studies at the University of Birmingham. In 2014 she was awarded a National Teaching Fellowship, which recognises «excellent practice and outstanding achievement in learning and teaching in higher education» (HEA). She has widely researched and published in the areas of language study and internationalisation as well as women in German literature and literary history. She teaches German language and literature at all levels, with a particular interest in business German, translation studies, interpreting and nineteenth-century German literature. She is currently the School’s Senior Tutor. Sandra Salin is Lecturer in French Language, Translation and Interpreting at Newcastle University and teaches at all levels. She holds a Certificate in Advanced Studies in Academic Practice and is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. She is also an external examiner for French at the University of Bath. She has led and presented a number of internal learning and teaching projects, including two related to the year abroad. She is currently the Director of the Year Abroad and the main editor of the year abroad magazine Flying Solo. Her current learning and teaching interests include independent and reflective learning, students’ engagement, the year abroad experience and intercultural awareness.


Title: Preparing Modern Languages Students for 'Difference'