A pilot of a new model of English-language education for bachelor’s students and the teaching staff was introduced at the SUSU Department of Foreign Languages. The program uses breakthrough teaching technologies, and a system of international certifications was introduced for both students and teachers, giving them a chance to take the IELTS exam successfully.
The release of this project was dictated by a few reasons. First, today, SUSU graduates have a chance to continue their education by choosing a dual degree program, for example, a master’s program at Clark University, and also at different international universities. For this, of course, excellent knowledge of foreign languages is needed. Second, it became obvious that continuous language training was necessary, since master’s students had to “remember” their English after a two year break.
Advanced student language training
Students of the Higher School of Electronics and Computer Sciences, the Faculty of Power Engineering, and the Polytechnic Institute were the first participants of the SUSU advanced language training program. Today, more than 1500 students in first and second year of study and 35 professors of the Department of Foreign Languages are participating in the program.
“Mastery of new techniques allows us to increase the qualifications of English professors in real, practical work. The development of level-based textbooks and a virtual education space using the mastered technology allows us to evaluate the program’s results according to international standards,” says Kseniya Volchenkova, head of the Department of Foreign Languages, which is the leader of the program.
The project’s main goal is to increase bachelor’s students level of English language mastery to a level sufficient for the successful participation in international science and academics.
“There is a global goal before us and the students – for students to reach the level of English mastery which would meet the standards of and be supported by international certificates: KET, PET, IELTS. An international certificate, in turn, would give students a chance to participate in academic mobility programs, dual degree programs, participate in international conferences, and participate in scientific programs with our university’s leading researchers,” says Ksenia Volchenkova.
Education in the pilot groups is being held with level-based Touchstone textbooks, developed by native speakers using the newest achievements of corpus linguistics and publicatiosn by CambridgeUniversityPress. The technique of mixed education is used within them. In mixed education, the students have support for mastering English in both lessons with professors and in the self-teaching processes, since their independent work is completed in a virtual academic space. Students can also receive consultations, instant evaluations of their completion of tasks, and feedback. The textbooks are freely available at the SUSU Scientific Library.
“In September we held an entrance test for students, after which they were separated into groups according to their language mastery level, which was determined by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), which creates the most comfortable conditions for the successful continuing mastery of a language,” continues Kseniya Volchenkova, “Where earlier, students studied foreign languages over 4 semesters, they now have a chance to study English for 8 semesters.”
Program coordinators completed training at NUST MISiS (Moscow), where they got to know the experience of creating an English-language space at partner-universities of the 5-100 Project and studied the principles and methods of realizing mixed education in detail. The main focus was on teaching techniques for IELTS.
English for the teaching staff
In the last few years at South Ural State University the academic mobility of both students and professors has increased. A high level of language mastery is needed to develop new academic programs and offer lectures to foreign students. More importantly, intensive international cooperation requires both the mastery of project management skills for participation in cooperative international projects and the creation of proposals seeking international research, professional, and education grants in a foreign language. SUSU researchers and graduates got the chance to intern at an international university or work in an international company, for which they also need verification of their level of English mastery, that is, an international certificate.
For this reason, the SUSU Department of Foreign Languages has prepared a project for teaching English to the teaching staff and key personnel at the university, entitled “Implementation of the best practices of language training for Project 5-100 universities.”
“The foundation of this program is a course of advanced linguistic training for university research staff, Lingva-PNR, which was started in 2006, acquiring popularity among SUSU’S prospective post-graduates, doctoral students, degree-seeking students, professors, and researchers. It is recommended as an effective, long-term, level-based, modular course for increasing qualifications,” says Kseniya Volchenkova, “Over the course of 10 years, more than 300 program participants have completed training within this program, which allowed for increased publishing activity for university staff in international journals of the Scopus and Web of Science databases, develop lecture programs in work-related subjects in English, and increase participation in international internships.”
The program offers gradual mastery of English in 6 levels in an interactive classroom format (from A2-C1 by the CEFR). In addition, for those wishing to take this course but who do not have the necessary level of language skills, an online course is offered – English for Beginners.
For more advanced levels, beginning with B1+, program participants can choose a course as they wish, or gradually master all the following educational courses: English for Scientific Presentations, English for Conference Participation, English for Professional Communication in Academics, English for Holding Discussions, and English for Giving Lectures.
“We offer the unique chance to complete an online course together with the EMI Cambridge University Course to master English for teaching general and special university courses,” says Kseniya Volchenkova, “The program founders considered the necessity of international certificates and developed special courses for taking international tests: IELTS (International English Language Testing System) and TOEPAS (Test of Oral English for Academic Staff)."
In 2020 it is planned that 10% of all SUSU graduates will pass the IELTS international test thanks to the advanced language training program. This will allow them to have a successful career in both our country and abroad.