About language teaching

Last week was busy. Ironically, it was also my last working week of the 2015-2016 academic year, but more of that later. Last week deserves some mention; for the first time in the history of the Faculty of Foreign Languages (and probably one of the few times in the history of TSU) we had our largest international group yet of teachers – in this case, 41 teachers of Russian from Germany. More significantly, though – at least for me – I was responsible for them. Fully responsible, in the sense that they asked me to organize their visit, plan their timetable, their classes, etc. For these German educators weren’t just coming any bog standard course for language teachers. No, they were coming for a course focusing on Storyline and creative foreign language teaching. But what is Storyline?

For those who don’t know, in a few words, Storyline is a student-centered method based on constructivist principles (think Dewey, Vygotsky, et al.) where the teacher and learners co-create a story within a given context, with the students creating characters and taking on their roles, and the learning takes place within the set context. Storyline has been used to good effect in foreign language teaching, but this was to my knowledge the first time that a course had been designed in the target-language country for international professionals. It goes without saying that planning such a course entailed a great deal of work and some sleepless nights, but it all proved worth it in the end. How did it go?

Well, to quote Barbara Vinz, one of the group leaders who gave an interview to news channel Russia24, Storyline will be form part of her teaching practice from the next academic year. Indeed, all the participants spoke very positively of their learning experiences and of their desire to implement their newly-acquired knowledge in the nearest future. Special thanks of course must go to the teachers who worked so closely with me to develop the right course for our German colleagues. It’s wonderful to see such talent at our university and to see it appreciated by foreign guests. I’m no less grateful to our hardworking students, two of whom spent their last week taking care of our German guests’ every need. Already I’ve received confirmation from Germany that they would like me to arrange another course next year, and in September I’ll fly to Germany to sort out the relevant details. It all goes to show how able our lecturers are and how important it is to appreciate our own local talent. TSU has every chance to become renowned for its Storyline research school, which I plan to develop based at the Faculty of Foreign Languages. This year will already see the publication of a collective monograph on Storyline by Cambridge Scholars Publishing. This is only the beginning of Storyline – the Story is to be continued…

And what I am going to do now the academic year is over? In lieu of well-earned relaxation, I’ll be leading an educational expedition to Central America, to be precise, to Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Belize, and then a week in Cuba. But if I do find time to relax and write a few lines, I’ll be sure to let you know. Enjoy your summer!