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Preparing Modern Languages Students for 'Difference'

Going beyond Graduate Skills


Ruth Whittle and Sandra Salin

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.

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4. Assessing How Students Cope with Change, Challenges and Difference through Year Abroad e-Portfolio Blogs (Sandra Salin)


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4  Assessing How Students Cope with Change, Challenges and Difference through Year Abroad e-Portfolio Blogs

This chapter discusses an intervention designed for Modern Languages students at Newcastle University in order to support students’ learning from their year abroad experience, and especially the type of learning that is not measured in academic marks and achievements. The Year Abroad e-Portfolio blogs fulfil this function, and are part of the assessment. The blogs invite students to reflect on their experiences abroad in terms of the graduate skills they develop during that year. The need to tease out this learning comes both from the imperative to verify that students do indeed develop those skills and are aware of it and the realisation that what students expect from their year abroad is not necessarily connected with this agenda.

According to the results of the Born Global report, based on investigations carried out in 2011, ‘University language departments […] should review their courses in terms of content, assessment and modes of delivery in order to ensure that they develop the skills particularly appreciated by employers, such as global mind set and resilience, as well as analytical, linguistic and intercultural skills’ (British Academy 2016: 16). This statement suggests that students will somehow become more employable by developing employability skills. However, the way students perceive and use this development needs to be considered. Based on the findings of the Student Perspectives on Going International report (Mellors-Bourne et...

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