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Higher Education and Second Language Learning

Promoting Self-Directed Learning in New Technological and Educational Contexts

Edited By Rosario Hernandez and Paul Rankin

This volume explores the challenges involved in facilitating student learning of second languages at university level. Easy access to information and communication technologies inside and outside the classroom, alongside an increasing tendency for students to play an active role in shaping their own learning, are having a significant impact on second language learning and teaching in the twenty-first century. Although several recent publications have focused on technologies in education and student-centred learning, there has been very little previous research into how second languages are learnt within universities. This book aims to support teachers of second languages in higher education by setting out practical ideas that can be implemented in everyday contexts, as well as ensuring that pedagogical practice is underpinned by relevant theoretical frameworks.
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Introduction: Second Language Teaching and Learning for the Twenty-First Century


Society is undergoing numerous, rapid changes, driven by equally numerous social, economic and technological developments. Higher education has not been immune to this. Not only have the number of students in higher education increased dramatically in many parts of the world, but the developments alluded to above have led to significant changes in how people go about learning. It is widely recognized nowadays that education needs to prepare learners with competences for lifelong learning (European Commission 2006); in the context of higher education, this means the acquisition of knowledge and skills that are relevant beyond graduation. Thus, teaching has to embrace the above situation and address the needs of learners in ways that will be relevant for the twenty-first century. A further factor in this context is the increasingly globalized nature of our world, alongside the increasing need to work across borders, of which the ever-increasing number of students crossing borders to study is but one example. In Europe, specifically, the move towards plurilingualism has been reinforced through the ‘own language plus two’ concept.

The challenges faced by teaching and learning second languages within the context outlined above are strikingly similar to those faced by other disciplines in higher education. However, teaching and learning a language poses unique challenges since, unlike almost all other disciplines, its subject matter is so often also the vehicle of instruction (QAA 2007). Thus, it is frequently recognized that in learning languages there are more affective concerns such as anxiety and...

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