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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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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 , 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...

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