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The future of language education in the light of Covid
Lessons learned and ways forward

The initiative explores how the ongoing Covid pandemic has affected language education, and looks at ways in which the skills and insights gained may bring about beneficial lasting changes in the teaching and learning of languages.
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Case studies

Following a survey in February 2021 and a think tank held in May 2021, several teachers from various countries submitted brief case studies on their professional experiences during the Covid emergency. In the case studies they described a project or teaching experience, then reflected on what they learned from this and how their teaching has changed since the emergency began. 

The 16 case studies received before November 2021 are summarised below, and links to the full case studies are provided. Some were featured during a Colloquium held in December 2021: Francesco Imparato presented his case study live, and the authors of four other case studies, Eva Lorencovičová, Susan Starbuck, Heather Kretschmer and Alina Pisica, contributed short videos which were shown during the event.

Following an ECML-EC RELANG training workshop on assessment practices In November 2021, seven further case studies were received from teachers in Cyprus. These focused on experiences of language assessment during the pandemic and are summarised separately.

Language teaching professionals are invited to contribute additional case studies on their language teaching and/or teacher education experiences during Covid emergency using the template provided here.

Leaflet

Download in English or French

Seven case studies on assessment from teachers in Cyprus

In November 2021 an ECML-EC training workshop on relating language curricula, tests and examinations to the Common European Framework of Reference (RELANG) was held in Cyprus. The experts involved, José Noijons (the Netherlands) and Evelyne Bérard (France), invited participants to submit brief case studies on their experiences of assessment during the Covid emergency. Seven case studies were submitted by teachers of English from a range of educational sectors. Their case studies paint a vivid picture of the assessment and testing challenges encountered, the inventive measures adopted to address these challenges and the implications for the future of language education and teachers’ professional learning.

Setting

Brief description

Author

Lower secondary school (students aged 14)

Use of MS Teams to run a quiz online: students were able to adapt quickly to the new style of assessment. These can be of value during face-to-face teaching.
Download the case study

Therapoula Constantinou

Secondary school (students aged 15-16)

Reading comprehension test at B2 comprising three texts with different tasks. Texts and tasks were uploaded and students had to write their answers and photograph these immediately after the time limit and send to the teacher. The need for teacher flexibility.
Download the case study

Vasiliki Hadjinikola

Upper secondary school (students aged 16)

Project-based assignment: groups produced posters based on an environmental theme, followed by peer-assessment. Some students were hindered by lack of equipment. Concern about the difficulty of organising groupwork but several positive insights.
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Louiza Loizou

Upper secondary school (Lyceum)

Group work on Teams to develop presentations on the theme of water as a necessity for life. Generally successful but the challenges for teachers of the sudden need to teach online and the need anyway for teachers to continue their professional development are explored.
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Antonis Themistocleous

Upper secondary school

The challenges of assessing students’ oral skills online using MS Teams due to bad internet connections and distractions in the students’ home environment. The implications of this for ongoing training in autonomous learning.
Download the case study

Elena Lambrianou

Technical/ vocational school

Formative assessment of students’ writing at B1 level: the difficulties initially encountered in receiving and providing feedback on written work during lockdown, and the need for teachers to identify suitable means of doing this and to ensure that students can use the selected technology/platform.
Download the case study

Mariangela Pishili

Higher education

Dealing with mid-term and final exams online with first, second and fourth students studying a range of disciplines. A combination of open-ended questions focusing on reading passages using Word, and quiz items on Moodle were used, and colleagues worked out over the two years how to select options suited to their students.
Download the case study

Androula Athanasiou

Focus

Brief description

Author

Using interactive writing tasks as a means of preparation for a high-stakes exam

Adapting to written work online: the surprising willingness of students to adapt early in lockdown depended on motivation and the example of the teacher. The study highlights the importance of teacher self-confidence and communities of practice among colleagues
Download the case study

Alina Pisica (RO)

Progression from monologue to dialogue, with cooperative feedback
(case study in French)

University level students did preparation online for the oral part of their C1 exam in French. This involved opportunities for intensive work in distance mode, and provided insights into students’ independent learning when aided by technology
Download the case study

Bettina Imgrund (CH)

Novel practices in pre-service teacher education focusing on use of online technology

The case study describes a course for 22 student teachers run, due to the pandemic, as a Hackathon Challenge with the title “Put language learning in the service of a social purpose”. Links are available to six reports on the team projects, as well as other resources
Download the case study

Katerina Zourou and Evangelia Mousouri (GR)

Creation of numerous videos to support the teaching and learning of French early in lockdown

The videos are bilingual and feature instructions for tasks and examples, such as illustrated figures with speech bubbles modelled by one speaker, often with translation into Croatian.
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Kristina Pirs (HR)

Mediation activity based on simulation involving paraphrasing a Croatian e-mail in French (upper secondary)

In online lessons, students had to explain the contents of the e-mail orally in French and record their explanation on Vocaroo . Assessment criteria (‘task achievement’, ‘accuracy’ and ‘adaptation to communicative context’) at three levels were then applied. Ideas for exploiting online tools for teaching French were exchanged via a designated platform organised by the Ministry of Education
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Loreana Selišek Butina and Kristina Pirs (HR)

The personal problems faced by year 10 students during early lockdown

To relieve stress and promote wellbeing students of English identified a personal problem due to lockdown, then role-played in pairs - one as client, the other as ‘psychologist/counsellor’. The case study also highlights the usefulness of professional networks
Download the case study 

Luljeta Malaj (AL)

Symptoms of Covid and guidelines for avoiding infection and protecting oneself and others

A project done with second year high school students to carry out research on the causes and symptoms of Covid 19 and to design a guidance leaflet for use in the school. The effect of the project was positive in terms of motivation and the leaflet produced was effective.
Download the case study 

Luljeta Malaj (AL)

Creative work in early primary, and recording of descriptions to be exchanged online

In their online English class, children were asked to design a poster, and then record their description of their posters and their feelings about them. The usefulness of CLIL methodology and the Importance of teachers’ focusing on emotional aspects of learning are highlighted, along with the special potential of language learning to aid the broadening of horizons.
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Sandra Gil (ES)

Storytelling and reconstruction as light relief using digital media

The lesson with adults at B2 level in English Involved dictation, text reconstruction, summarising and recounting fairy tales, as well as written work. The Importance of sensitivity and response to affect in lockdown and of identifying motivating tasks to lift mood are emphasised. The fact that technology needs to be seen as no more than a tool in communicative language teaching is also highlighted
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Susan Starbuck (IT)

Debate among students on the effects of lockdown on mental health

Following preparation, the online debate involved year 8 students of English from different groups. The value of online group activity for learning rules of debating and exploring mental health issues at a difficult time is emphasised., and the case is made for a better balance between online education and live lessons beyond lockdown
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Vilda Kiaunytė (LT)

Practising use of conditionals and commenting on invented ‘mottos’

collboard was used with by a group of upper secondary students of English for joint sentence writing. Another group of students watched a short video on writing mottos at home and then did creative work in groups. Students then commented on each other’s work, thereby enhancing motivation. Learning to use a wide range of on-line tools and reflecting more on the importance of social contact and active communication in groups are highlighted.
Download the case study 

Eva Lorencovičová (CZ)

Business simulation towards a virtual ‘trade fair’ (business students in HE)

Over a semester, business students at a university worked on developing a fictitious company profile and a booth and presence at a virtual ‘trade fair’ using technology in Zoom breakout rooms creatively, then shared their work. The implications for lockdown and post lockdown situations are discussed.
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Heather Kretschmer (DE)

Medieval English ballads as compared to modern pop songs in an online unit with positive results

The lessons involved Input, discussion then live creative work on medieval ballads as compared to modern pop songs, Students shared and commented on each other’s blog posts via Padlet. This was followed by explanatory discussion of students’ creative choices and exchanges on this. This yielded good language practice combined with a motivating marriage of the traditional literature lesson and creative interactive work, enhanced by technology.
Download the case study 

Carla Tosoratti, (IT)

Study of and responses to Shelley’s ‘Ode to the West Wind’, with spontaneous reference to students’ feelings about the pandemic

A ‘flipped’ approach was used with upper secondary (year 4) students working on this poem. The teacher’s input video was released 4 days ahead of the online lesson. Students were asked to react publicly with comments and questions via Moodle. In the follow up online lesson, there were spontaneous personal reactions to the Covid situation drawing parallels with the sense of the poem. This was followed up with a Moodle writing assignment (assessed).
Download the case study 

Mara Zordan (IT)

Online oral interaction in Chinese, then English, with Taiwanese peers

After a lengthy period of preparation, online meetings were organised between groups of Italian upper secondary (year 3) students of Chinese and peers learning English Taiwan. Group work based on prepared descriptions of small towns in Italy (history, attractions etc.) were prepared and exchanged with similar descriptions in English provided by the Taiwanese. The focus was on successful interaction, including pronunciation, engagement etc.
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Francesco Imparato (IT)

Written interaction with peers: students exchanged points of view on specific topics in Chinese in short messages

Students at upper secondary school (year 4) responded in a set time (5 minutes) in Chinese to a question set by the teacher using spiral.ac. All students could see each other’s answers. The teacher then organised a debate on the topic based on further questions and each other’s responses.
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Tommaso Rossi (IT)