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Developing Co-curricular Language Learning Activities


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The value of co-curricular activity for students on degree courses is uncontroversial. And we know language learning requires engagement with learning beyond the time spent in language class. The nature of Universities, and degree courses at universities, however, means that it is often difficult for language resource centres to ensure that their programme of activity intersects with degree programming in a way that is appropriate, effective and sustainable.
Highlighting both difficulties and innovations, we consider some of the affordances created for both the Language Centre and our students at the University of Leeds as a number of the strategic plans converged to allow for changes to structures, processes and practices. For illustration, we contrast two activities that work well (PowerPoint Karaoke and Conversation Club) with one that didn’t (Peer Learning). In doing so we discuss variables which contributed to their levels of success, including communication, visibility, stakeholders, physical and programme structures and resourcing.
We explore the question of resource by looking more closely at the approach taken to Language Advising, showing how changes in how these activities are staffed plays a crucial role in integrating co-curricular activity. We argue that the tension between pragmatism and intellectual idealism is a useful and healthy one, supporting a perspective in which institutional structures are seen to exist in order to facilitate education, encouraging academic and pedagogical conversations across the University, while offering opportunities for enhanced development and education, not only for students but also for language tutors.

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Developing Co-curricular Language Learning Activities

  1. 1. School of Languages, Cultures and Societies FACULTY OF ARTS Developing co-curricular language learning activities Carolin Schneider and Melinda Whong, Language Centre, University of Leeds
  2. 2. Definition “Co-curricular refers to activities, programs, and learning experiences that complement, in some way, what students are learning in school—i.e., experiences that are connected to or mirror the academic curriculum. Co-curricular activities are typically, but not always, defined by their separation from academic courses.” (Source: Co-curricular activities
  3. 3. Supports independent language learning • Open six days a week during term time, five days a week outside term time • Print and online resources, including satellite TV • Large study area • Language Exchange Scheme • Co-curricular activities The Language Zone
  4. 4. Support through Strategy and Policy National Context: • challenges to Modern Languages • Politics of looking inward, but also Higher Education as successful export commodity • Teaching Excellent Framework (TEF) University Context • Language Centre within School of Languages Cultures and Societies • Local control: exerting positive action in light of national constraints Co-curricular activities
  5. 5. Students as central • All students • Language learners from all backgrounds • Integration a primary aim • Use the newly refurbished space: Language Zone • Student Education Service ethos Response to TEF • Scholarship • As part of workload • Opportunity to work across languages across the School • In partnership with students, where possible • In partnership with other academics, in the LC in other parts of the University Strategy/Policy
  6. 6. Conversation Club • Practise listening and speaking skills • Weekly sessions during term time = one hour • Topics advertised in advance • Guest speakers and trips out, for example to art gallery PowerPoint Karaoke • Practise speaking and presentation skills • Two volunteers - a presentation of 60 seconds each = 4 slides • They have never seen the slides before • Student-led Existing offer: Language Zone
  7. 7. Language advising • Provision of information, for example about resources and options • Offering directional, specific advice and recommendations • Ad hoc support provided by Language Zone staff • One to one consultations staffed by teachers, with experience of tutoring • Can cater for small groups Existing offer: Language Zone
  8. 8. … an example we explored and abandoned Peer Learning • Developed in response to overwhelming demand for language exchange partners in English, French and German • Native speakers spent 15-20 minutes speaking to learners on a one-to-one basis, offering listening and speaking practice • No training or monitoring Other activities
  9. 9. … that we explored and abandoned Peer Learning • Now working well as language groups and Tandem@Leeds • both student-led activities • Learning point: initiatives require formalisation, with training and administration in place Other activities
  10. 10. Points to keep in mind • Stakeholders: who are we doing this for? • Programme structures: do our activities benefit existing activities or rival them? • Resourcing/staffing • Physical structures and space • Communication • Visibility and marketing Want similar things?
  11. 11. Thank you for listening. Any questions? Contact: Carolin Schneider: Melinda Whong: Language Zone: The Language Zone