I reviewed two recent edited volumes related to language teaching and learning in higher education, one focusing on telecollaboration or virtual exchange (O’Dowd & Lewis 2016), the other on languages for specific purposes (LSP), especially English and French (Sowa & Krajka 2017).
Online intercultural exchange: policy, pedagogy and practice
Robert O’Dowd and Tim Lewis (eds.)
New York: Routledge, 2016
ISBN : 978-1-138-93287-6 (hardcover)
ISBN : 978-1-315-67893-1 (ebook)
Innovations in Languages for Specific Purposes – Innovations en langues sur objectifs spécifiques. Present challenges and future promises – Défis actuels et engagements à venir
Magdalena Sowa and Jaros
law Krajka (eds.)
Bern: Peter Lang, 2017
The first collection focuses on different types of intercultural exchange made possible by technology:
“Online intercultural exchange: policy, pedagogy and practice, edited by Robert O’Dowd and Tim Lewis, deals with telecollaboration or virtual exchange at university level, including online exchange projects in foreign language education, research findings, pedagogical and technological guidelines, and practitioner case studies. Part of the Routledge series on language and intercultural communication under the direction of Zhu Hua and Claire Kramsch, the book includes three introductory and concluding chapters by the co-editors, and 14 chapters from 16 contributors both in Europe (UK, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, and Spain) and beyond (US, Canada, Australia, and Brazil)“. Alsic review
In my review I noted three interesting oppositions raised in several chapters
- individual versus institutional initiatives: who is responsible for creating and maintaining online intercultural exchange?
- actual versus virtual exchange: is study abroad necessarily preferable to telecollaboration?
- successful versus conflictual exchanges: how can critical incidents shed light on important factors for effective teaching and learning?
The second volume gives an overview of teaching and learning French or English for specific purposes:
“The articles are organised into six sections: cross-linguistic dimensions, course design, tasks and skills, teaching resources, digital tools, and assessment. Each includes two to four chapters in French, English or both, for a total of seventeen articles (eight in French, nine in English) by twenty authors including practitioners, researchers, and teacher educators […] The authors in this collection are concerned with a variety of specific purpose domains, including business, law and social sciences, medicine and technical sciences, and academic or teacher preparation papers.” ASp review
In this review, too, I selected three common themes of interest to a wider readership
- the essential role of the teacher in LSP, and the challenges of balancing language and content requirements;
- a new focus on learner autonomy, particularly with respect to corpus linguistics approaches involving data-driven learning;
- evaluation and assessment, which are important in course design and for institutional reasons, but also in LSP classroom practice.
Both books are recommended reading for those involved in language education at tertiary level for the wide range of practitioner voices which they include, and for their treatment of a broad spectrum of approaches, objectives and tools, raising interesting questions for colleagues working in different contexts and for stakeholders in this important area.