Course evaluation surveys and study program evaluations by the relevant instructors and study commissions (e.g., SK LA Englisch 2020) point to students’ dissatisfaction regarding the lack of connection between the content of their courses and students’ future professional careers. Students complain that they struggle to see the relevance of the contents of some of the courses for the practical accomplishment of their future professional occupations. For their part, lecturers commonly report that connecting the content of their lessons with students’ interests is particularly difficult with large groups of students coming from an array of study programs (Heterogenität). This also holds for the introductory course ‘Introduction to Synchronic Linguistics I’, attended by various groups of teacher and non-teacher students alike. Students attend this course in their first term of studies (Studieneingangsphase), which is particularly relevant for their later attitude to studies in general. This perceived lack of practical relevance results in various levels of engagement from the students, who are often overtly focused simply on not failing their exams (Persönlichkeitsbildung).
The LingPro project aims to tackle the aforementioned issues through the development and implementation of profession-oriented online tasks to be integrated into the freshmen course ‘Introduction to Synchronic Linguistics I’ (for a summarized overview of the project, see Figure 1 on page 3). As an Applied Linguistics project, this teaching project aims to solve a „real-world problem in which language is the central issue” (Burmfit, 1991: 46 cited in Rampton, 1997) by drawing on key aspects of task-based learning (TBL) approaches, such as active learning and reflection, to transform the existing ‚Introduction to Synchronic Linguistics I‘ into a more profession-oriented course.
The project comprises a pilot study in one of the 4-5 introductory courses usually running in parallel. The pilot study will involve designing new transfer tasks (to be solved at the end of each content unit) that are specifically tailored to students’ future professional areas. These tasks will help students establish links between the course contents and their future professional realities, including an appropriate distinction between primary and secondary school levels. The tasks will be used to engage students in analyses of, and commentary on, recurrent patterns of linguistic behavior related to the contents of the respective course sessions. This will be done in two specific ways. First, each task will feature at least one real-life selected example of written or spoken language use from or about professional environments related to students’ future professions (e.g., in the case of teacher students: a recorded short clip of a classroom encounter, a written assignment done by a primary-school student, a blog entry from an in-service teacher etc.). Second, each task will be designed in light of the following question: How best could students see the relevance of the course content for their respective future career area? Upon completion of each task, students will receive automatic feedback on their performance in that task and they will also be requested to evaluate the task (e.g., in terms of clarity, topic and length). For their part, lecturers will be able to decide whether they wish to topicalize the tasks further after completion via one of the range of resources that Moodle offers (e.g., result polls, forums, etc.) or in class. The tasks will be integrated into the ‘Introduction to Synchronic Linguistics I’ online learning platform (Moodle).
The unique design and innovative character of the tasks have the potential to positively impact students’ competences related to linguistics for professional purposes in at least three ways. First, the authentic nature of the materials that the tasks will draw on will provide students with examples of where they can apply the knowledge of the course contents and related competences. For example, primary-school teacher students will have access to common language issues young learners normally face when learning a foreign language, which skilled language teachers should be able to recognize as part of learners’ learning trajectories and consequently address accordingly. Second, the tasks will provide for repeated explorations of language use, thus supporting primary- and secondary-level teacher students and non-teacher students’ alike in the development of their linguistic awareness and related professional matters at early stage. Furthermore, the tasks will help lecturers draw students’ attention to, and raise their awareness of, the recurrent patterns of linguistic phenomena. Third, the tasks will make possible collaborative work within the ‘Introduction to Linguistics I’ course (e.g., can serve as basis for group in-class or extra-class work) and also across courses and disciplines. For instance, specific issues of teaching English as a foreign language arising in tackling the tasks can be discussed in the Fachdidaktik courses (Interdisziplinarität).
The project is bound to make a substantive contribution to a more positive attitude among the students regarding the field of linguistics. In line with the overarching goal of experiencing, and thus furthering, competence-oriented teaching, it will support students’ professionalization and the development of their digital competences in the context of higher education and also contribute to advance solutions regarding the issues of heterogeneity and lack of connection to teaching practice reported by our students.
Project implementation at a glance
Click here to see the infographic with the project phases.
Dr. Taiane Malabarba
Am Neuen Palais 10 | Haus 19
Tel.: 0331 977 113184