Spain

Policy Dialogue British Council

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BC Policy dialogue

Dicen que más vale tarde que nunca, así que con un ‘poquitín’ de retraso, aquí van mis conclusiones de mi asistencia al Policy Dialogue organizado por el British Council y la Universidad de Alcalá a principios de febrero con el título: Formación continua del profesorado: modelos de éxito e implicaciones para la enseñanza AICLE. Let’s go!

 

 

 

 

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To be or not to be? Enseñanza bilingüe en Educación Infantil

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La implantación de los programas bilingües en España se ha centrado generalmente en la etapa de la educación primaria. Sin embargo, muchos docentes reclamaban que la inmersión se adelantara a la educación infantil, cuando los niños y niñas están más receptivos al aprendizaje de lenguas adicionales y están comenzando a desarrollar sus destrezas lectoescritoras. El pasado 28 de octubre la Consejería de Educación de la Comunidad de Madrid anunció su intención de implantar la enseñanza bilingüe en centros públicos de educación infantil en la etapa de 3 a 6 años. En este post os cuento cómo se presentó el proyecto, mi opinión sobre esta iniciativa y más. Let’s go!

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El papel de la emoción o en busca de la C perdida

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El otro día leía en Twitter una noticia relativa a una publicación educativa que aseguraba que la neuroeducación está validando la extendida opinión de que el aprendizaje está determinado fundamentalmente por la emoción. “¡Noticias frescas!”, exclamé. Sin embargo, me di cuenta de que, aunque esto sea obvio para cualquier docente en su quehacer diario en el aula, no lo es para el conjunto del sistema educativo, ya que carecemos de la cobertura y herramientas para aprovechar al máximo este descubrimiento.

Echando la vista atrás, no fue hasta las décadas de los 60/70 cuando la psicología y la pedagogía se dieron la mano y se reforzó el ‘lado emocional’ de la educación. En la enseñanza de idiomas adicionales fue en esta época cuando se promulgaron métodos tan curiosos como  la “Suggestopedia”. Su propulsor, un egipcio llamado Caleb Gattegno, aseguraba que era necesario ‘desugestionar’ al sujeto antes de que pudiera realizar un aprendizaje efectivo. Para ello, se ayudaba de música barroca, textos leídos a media voz, sofás y una luz tenue. Si esto es parece bizarro, imaginaos la cara que pondrían ellos al vernos todo el día frente a una pantalla iluminada.  ¿Hemos perdido la emoción en nuestra sociedad?

Francisco Mora, catedrático de Fisiología Humana en la Universidad Complutense, y catedrático adscrito de Fisiología Molecular y Biofísica en la Universidad de Iowa, EEUU, aporta algo de luz a mi pregunta. En su colaboración con Carlos Arroyo en el blog de sociedad de El País apunta a la definitiva unión del binomio “Cognición-Emoción“. Para ser más exactos, “Emoción-Cognición“, ya que el cerebro primero pasa la información por la emoción y luego por la cognición, según sus palabras. Así pues, la emoción es inherente al ser humano en todo proceso cognitivo. (¡Qué interesante!) Además va más allá, asegurando que aprendemos para sobrevivir, y que, por tanto, el que aprende menos suele vivir menos. Tener una mente abierta al aprendizaje, y por ende, a la emoción, nos hace estar más capacitados para la supervivencia.

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¿Pero cómo podemos llevar todo esto a las aulas? ¿Cómo podemos potenciar el lado emocional del aprendizaje para hacerlo más duradero y útil? Marta Palomar, del Instituto Superior de Estudios Psicológicos, nos da algunas claves que intentaré analizar aquí. Para empezar, parece obvio que cada etapa de nuestra vida tiene diferentes momentos de aprendizaje. Es decir, no se trata de que cuanto mayor nos hacemos, menos aprendemos, sino que tenemos picos de actividad, y algunos periodos son más activos que otros. Así pues, debemos cuidar de que los niños tengan entornos que favorezcan el aprendizaje desde etapas tempranas. Para poder conseguirlo tenemos que favorecer el contacto de los niños con la naturaleza, y favorecer el movimiento físico. Esta es una metodología muy común en países como Finlandia y Alemania, por ejemplo, y en centros de carácter experimental-innovador como las escuelas-bosque.

De acuerdo con Palomar, el sistema se vuelve menos sensible a las necesidades emocionales de los estudiantes según estos van creciendo. De manera que cuando el cerebro ya tiene pleno potencial emocional, por así decirlo, es cuando los estudiantes son expuestos a materias de corte racional (y Palomar cita la biología y la física, por ejemplo). Admito que no estoy del todo de acuerdo con esta idea, ya que considero que estas materias no son racionales ‘per se’, sino que depende de la manera en la que se enfoque la asignatura. Esa es la impresión que tengo de lo que veo en mi día a día en el Centro Universitario Cardenal Cisneros. Conozco a profesores de asignaturas de corte científico que realizan numerosas actividades que acercan a los estudiantes los contenidos y ayudan a desarrollar las competencias a través de la experiencia (y por tanto, de la emoción). Otra cosa es que el currículo escolar o los materiales didácticos utilizados pasen por alto esta dimensión, o que hayamos cometido el error de meter las asignaturas en ciertos compartimentos estancos (el aprendizaje no sabe de cajones).

Exactamente pasa lo mismo con la aplicación de CLIL. En diversas ocasiones os he comentado que creo que la utilización de las 4 Cs: Contenido, Comunicación, Cultura y Cognición, ayudan al profesor a desarrollar actividades y herramientas que ayudan al estudiante a realizar un aprendizaje efectivo. Sin embargo, nos faltaba subrayar que en esa palabra mágica: “Cognición”, está también escondida, como la otra cara de la moneda, la “Emoción”. Quizás ésta sea la C perdida, el quinto elemento del entramado CLIL. No podemos enseñar en una lengua adicional si pasamos por alto la ’emoción’, y para buscar la ’emoción’ de chavales que rondan los veinte años hay que dar, desde mi punto de vista, un paso previo: conocerlos, escucharlos, observarlos. Aquí os doy algunas ideas que me han servido para trabajar aspectos emocionales en el aula:

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Write a letter to your students and ask them to do the same. Ask them about their hobbies, their families, their worries and their expectations on the subject you’re teaching or on the degree in general. Te permitirán, además, saber el nivel inicial de lengua de tus alumnos, y conocerás cuáles son las áreas en las que puedes trabajar. Si alguien comparte sus talentos artísticos, deportivos, etc., tenlos en cuenta para las actividades que vayas a desarrollar. Deja espacio para que puedan integrar sus habilidades a la par que llevan a cabo las tareas de clase ¡les ayudarán!

Create student cards with ‘unusual’ categories such as your most embarrasing  moment, or the happiest day in your life. Geniales para revisar el uso de tiempos verbales en pasado. Se pueden organizar con algo de “scaffolding” utilizando la estructura 1,2,3,4 de Aprendizaje Cooperativo. Primero trabajan individualmente, luego comparten en parejas, después en pequeños grupos, y finalmente con el grupo entero. Puedes organizar un Talk Show sobre el tema.

Use poetry, songs or short short stories to discuss on a particular issue seen in class. No olvidéis la literatura, por favor. Si estáis trabajando sobre biología o física, hay relatos recopilados en antologías editadas por Isaac Asimov que son una maravilla (fáciles de leer, y con un montón de potencial para debatir en clase). Recopila materiales que puedan unirse al temario de tu currículum para tenerlos a mano. Para poemas sobre cualquier tema, recomiendo los volúmenes escritos o editados por Pie Corbett.

Use drama-based activities, such as describing an initial scene, and inviting students to imagine what they would do in that situation, and write a dialogue to perfom the scene. No sé qué haría sin mis drama-based techniques. Crear diálogos que respondan a situaciones concretas es una técnica que podéis emplear en cualquier asignatura. Si no habéis trabajado con guiones de teatro antes, incluir una fase previa en la que los estudiantes puedan familiarizarse con el género. Una buena fuente de ideas es la página de Dominic Streames, efltheatreclub.

Espero que el post os haya resultado interesante. No dudéis en comentar 🙂 See you next time!

One report, multiple perspectives. Educational assessment (Part 2)

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In this post I will deal with the PISA 2012 report as analysed by different media. It is my purpose to show how one single report can be interpreted from different perspectives depending on the source of information we are using. Let’s start!

PISA 2012 and the UK. I googled these words and came across a BBC article describing PISA results. The main worry here is that the UK is falling behind other countries and it is no longer a member of top lists. The Chinese educational system seems to produce more fruitful results and it is seen as a powerful rival. As the information is focused on top or bottom countries, Spain does not even appear…

What about top PISA country, Finland? Its interpretation of the test is very similar to the one carried out by the UK. They also consider their scores have declined dramatically and are concerned about the reasons why this has happened. In fact, the article I read mentions that it is important to get all the educational community involved in improving school quality, and highlight the importance of motivating students and making schools learning-friendly. No doubt their vision of education as something that goes beyond the classroom walls and their awareness of children’s needs and emotions make them be at the very top, no matter what PISA says this time.

And what about Spain? The digital edition of the newspaper ABC analysed the report emphasising that Spain is scoring below average in Maths, reading comprehension and Science. However, later in the article they mention that, in comparison with PISA 2003, students are scoring similarly in Maths and have improved in the other two areas.

In the same line, El Pais presents us with a ranking where Spain is in the bottom part of the list. Concerning the reasons why we are failing, and they state that improving is almost impossible, they report on opinions given by stakeholders who mention teachers and schools, although they do not indicate how to improve these scores.

Finally, the newspaper EL Mundo argues that Spain’s low scores can be explained because of the lack of investment in education. PISA results are considered a failure and a shame for Spain (literal words translated). They are also concerned about the educational level young people reach, as many of them only hold basic qualifications.

What’s my view after this analysis? Quality in education is a culture, and I consider that Spain has much work to do to make people aware of their part in this. It is not a question of blaming teachers or official budgets, it is everybody’s responsibility. We won’t change this in a day, but I bet that if we start the movement working hand by hand with educational centres, teachers and teacher education undergraduates, quality will be an everyday must-have.

What do you think about this? How is PISA viewed in your country? You can also follow this discussion here: @preguntasPISA

Sources:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-25187997
http://www.minedu.fi/OPM/Tiedotteet/2013/12/pisa.html?lang=en
http://www.abc.es/sociedad/20131203/abci-informe-pisa-espanoles-201312031110.html
http://www.elmundo.es/elmundo/2012/01/28/espana/1327772278.html
http://sociedad.elpais.com/sociedad/2013/12/03/actualidad/1386063448_866928.html

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Image taken from infotecarios.com

Learning about international educational assessment

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Hi there!
Today I’ll be covering the topic of international educational assessment. The reason is that I’m completing a MOOC on this issue, and have considered this info can be of your interest, apart from being part of the assignment of the course :).
Let’s start!
PISA is probably the best known educational assessment study. Its name is not honouring the famous place in Italy, but it is an acronym standing for Programme for International Student Assessment. Spain participates every three years in this comparative study. It is focused on measuring 15-year-old students’ competences in relation to reading comprehension, mathematics and Science. Next study will be carried out in 2015.

TIMSs stands for Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study. It measures learning progression in terms of Mathematics and Science. It is not only interested in learning outcomes, as it also gathers information about curriculum contents and implementations, methodologies used, resources and more.

PIRLS Progress in International Reading Literacy Study. It is intended to be used with children aged 9-years as this is a crucial stage in their reading development. Decoding is now fully automatised and students can enjoy reading. One interesting detail about the study is that it comprises both literary and informative tests.

From the myriad of tests left, I have chosen two I didn’t know which are focused on measuring students’ linguistic competence in a foreign language. The first one is the European Survey of Language Competences, which offers very useful information regarding the percentage of students reaching basic and independent user levels, according to the European Framework, in L2 and L3.

Finally, the ETLS is a computer-based survey on the teaching and learning of English as an additional language. It is not just focused on language competences but also in language use and attitudes, among other variables. It will be launched in 2017.

Once I’ve described the most relevant tests in my field, it is time to reflect on the use of these tools. Are they used for formative assessment? Do political stakeholders use correctly the information produced in the reports following these tests? Does the inclusion of these tests lead to a washback effect? If we are supporting a change in school practices, gearing towards more active and participative methodologies, shouldn’t we design assessment tools accordingly? Over to you…

My tweet for this module: Sabías que el estudio ESCL proporciona info sobre competencias en L2 y L3 en Europa? #preguntasPISA

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Image taken from blog.vocabularynotebook.com

What’s the role of English in Higher Education?

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What’s the role of English in Higher Education? This was the main topic of an event which took place in Segovia (Spain) last week, as reported by the University World News. The British Council, in collaboration with the IE University organised this international meeting where universities from different countries worldwide and experts from the British Council and the European Commission were involved. The key issue of the meeting was to discuss the implications of offering English courses and programmes at university and to reflect on the quality of this academic offer.

It is no surprise that most universities are pursuing EMI (English as a Medium of Instruction) programmes as a way to increase their reputation. EMI programmes attract international students to their institutions, and improve undergraduates’ profiles to match the needs of an increasingly demanding labour market. According to the UWN article, many institutions are aware of the need to implement the ‘mother tongue + 2’ objective set by the European Commission, and consider EMI programmes to be an opportunity of improving the quality of university teaching. However, there is still much debate on how this can be achieved in a short period of time.

From my point of view, we are mixing two ideas. One is that English should become ‘a lingua franca’, and the second is that English should become THE language of higher education. In my opinion, all university students should be helped and trained to have a good command of English, as this will help them not only in their professional but also everyday lives. That said, the way we are going to improve students’ communication skills in English is another debate, however I don’t consider a completely monolingual programme to be a valid option. It is not how often you teach in English, it is how well you do it, and here we deal with the issue of methodology. Is EMI good just because we are delivering subjects in the English language? Are all EMI programmes successful? I’m afraid not.

Will English become the lingua franca in HE?
Will English become the lingua franca in HE?

From the meeting held in Segovia, issues were raised on two main areaspolicy implications for successful delivery of EMI courses, and “practical implications of EMI: methodology, quality and assessment’. In the first session, participants raised awareness on the danger of launching EMI programmes without prior training and preparation. Obviously, many institutions want to rush to offer the same academic degrees their counterparts are implementing, but organising a good EMI programme means a minimum training period of 1 year, according to my own experience. Also, participants mentioned the need to embed administrative and academic structures to support EMI projects. This is essential, as the EMI programme is a University academic proposal, in which everybody is involved in some way or another.

Regarding the second session, on the practical implications of EMI. Participants considered that this could be a ‘tool for improving the quality of teaching’. I couldn’t agree more. I consider that pedagogy has been disregarded in Higher Education Institutions. Many lecturers are leading experts in their fields of specialisation, but don’t know how to create knowledge in their classrooms. If we help these people to communicate more effectively, to work on higher-order thinking skills, to scaffold their input, etc, we are going to get better, long-term and more effective learning. Also, they will be provided with a set of teaching tools which are easily transferable to their classes taught in their mother tongue.

Another issue raised in the second session was the difficulty of establishing shared policies regarding language testing, and the need to compensate EMI teachers for this extra work they are doing. Bilingual projects in Spain have chosen Cambridge ESOL and Trinity Exams to assess students’ performance in terms of language competence. However, this is making many academic programmes suffer from the so-called washback effect. Besides that, I wonder what would happen if we measured the success of EMI programmes in terms of the 4Cs proposed by Do Coyle: Cognition, Content, Communication and Culture. Language performance is just a leg of EMI programmes.

All in all, I’m confident about the work Universities are doing to provide students with better instruction in or through English. The main issue that should be raised is that everything starts with the training provided to teachers. If head departments are happy just checking the English competence of their lecturers, EMI programmes will not be making the most of this opportunity of improving teaching-learning quality in Higher Education.

If you are interested in knowing more about how  our CLIL teacher training degrees are organised, please visit this link.

Note: Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ http://www.freedigitalphotos.net.

XXVII GRETA CONVENTION

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GRETA ANNUAL CONFERENCE
GRETA ANNUAL CONFERENCE

The English Teachers Association of Andalusia announces the celebration of its XXVII Curso Anual para la Enseñanza del Inglés (GRETA Annual Conference), which will take place at the Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, University of Granada on 17th, 18thand 19th of  October 2013.

The contents of our sessions will be organised in four main lines of work:

  • ·        Developing students skills successfully in the XXI Century: Practical examples of effective teaching and classroom management, use of new technologies and task based learning.
  • ·         Pragmatic proposals for the Infant, Primary and Secondary Classroom.
  • ·         English for Specific Purposes in Vocational Training Courses.
  • ·         CLIL Methodology in Bilingual Programmes, ELT and Content teaching, tailor-made courses for specific teacher training needs.

Registration is now open and available here: http://www.gretaassociation.org/web/guest/curso-anual-2013