Introduction to communicative language teaching/Introduction to English language teaching

Students are introduced to theoretical and practical issues in foreign language teaching. They compare research findings about second language acquisition and their implications for foreign language teaching with their own language learning experiences. The most common approaches to foreign language teaching are briefly introduced and attention is drawn to ways of teaching grammar, vocabulary, and the four skills within foreign language pedagogy with a communicative orientation. Specifically, this course covers the following topics:

  • Characteristics of good language learners
  • Language learning in early childhood
  • Foreign language learning
  • Individual differences in second language learning
  • Explaining second language learning
  • Teaching receptive skills: reading and listening
  • Teaching productive skills: speaking and writing
  • Teaching vocabulary and grammar

Innovative approaches to language teaching and learning

In this course teacher education students are introduced to alternatives to common teaching practices in Austrian EFL classrooms. After a brief review of previous and current methodologies, they explore innovative approaches to English language teaching in small groups by researching the existing literatureon a related topic of their choice. The topics may include but are not restricted to the following list:

  • Learner autonomy and self-directed learning
    • humanistic teaching philosophies (e.g., Freinet, Montessori, Dalton Plan, etc.)
    • learner-centred teaching materials (e.g., carousel activities)
    • COOL (CoOperatives Offenes Lernen)
  • Neue Mittelschule:
    • pros and cons of team-teaching
    • introduction and integration of Bildungsstandards
  • CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning)
  • The lexical approach
  • CALL (Computer Assisted Language Learning)
  • Self-help guides for learners (and parents?)
  • Diversity: Advantages of heterogeneous groups

Each team conducts a small empirical research project of their own. The research projects require professional communication and close cooperation between the team members at all stages in the process, i.e., planning, data collection, data analysis, and presentation of the results. Each team writes and presents an outline of the planned research as well as a project report that includes a literature review and the findings of their study.

Communicative language teaching in practice/Lesson planning

This course discusses practical aspects of diversity and inclusion in the English as a foreign language (EFL) classroom. It involves students in discussing and solving issues concerning EFL teaching and offers guidance in lesson preparation and material development. The student-oriented teaching methodology of this course, problem-based learning (PBL), provides a supportive framework for cooperative and constructive learning. The students play central roles in the development of knowledge and skills required for EFL teaching. The course instructor functions as a facilitator of collaborative learning processes. An online learning platform is used in this course for information and material sharing, for instance, by uploading the minutes of each class meeting and the outcomes of assignments.

Focus on language and the learner: Global skills

This course deals with questions related to global skills in English language teaching (ELT), such as

  • What are global skills and why are they important?
  • How can teaching activities that support the development of global skills be integrated into ELT at Austrian secondary schools?
  • What should teachers consider when planning and teaching global skills in English?

True to the motto „practise what you preach,“ the teaching methodology of this course is blended learning with approximately 50% face-to-face time on campus and 50% online class meetings. Students engage in collaborative project work and display the outcomes on self-designed websites. The projects concern the following topics:

  • The evolution of education
  • The relevance of global skills
  • Emotional well-being
  • Intercultural competence

In addition to the abovementioned topics, which students consolidate in collaborative self-study, they receive further information in the form of presentations by the course instructor about critical and creative thinking, digital literacies, literature research, and empirical research methods. The students’ websites must contain images (free downloads or own designs/photos), text (e.g., blog entries, longer essays), and links to other sources (e.g., websites, files). Fact checking, quality assessment of external sources, and excellent team-work are paramount in this course.

Focus on language and the learner: Games and activities

This course employs a student-centred teaching approach that fosters students‘ self-regulation and cooperation. It aims to teach students how to

  • develop games and activities for teaching English as a foreign language (EFL),
  • give clear instructions for games and activities in EFL lessons,
  • effectively conduct games and activities in EFL lessons,
  • critically evaluate and give feedback on games and activities for EFL teaching, and
  • reflectively revise games and activities for EFL lessons.

In addition to discussing content-specific literature in class, students prepare short classroom segments that contain games and activities for teaching EFL. The games and activities may be created from scratch or adapted from existing ones. Throughout the semester, each student prepares three games or activities, each one belonging to one of these categories:

  • Online learning;
  • Board game, card game, or game show;
  • Training a specific skill or learning specific content.

Based on constructive feedback from their peers and the course instructor, the students revise the presented games and activities and include their descriptions in the term papers.

Focus on language and the learner: Language learning strategies and cooperative learning

In this course, pairs or groups of students conduct empirical studies related to strategic language learning and learner cooperation. As empirical research is new to most participants, the course instructor provides much information and guidance regarding potential research topics, research methodology, and academic writing. Students conduct small empirical research projects (individually or in pairs) and collect data at an excursion to a COOL school in Upper Austria (BBS Rohrbach), where they further receive detailed information about COOL and related topics by the students and teaching staff there.

Current developments in the research of foreign language learning and teaching

The participants in this course learn how to plan, conduct, report, and present research related to teaching and learning English as a foreign language (EFL). They explore different methods for data collection and analysis, including research methods for action research and grounded theory.  They learn about important aspects researchers in the field of education must consider (e.g., research ethics) and receive many practical tips along their first research journey. The teaching methods in this course include presentations by the course instructor; guided reading and writing activities; individual and group tasks; virtual class meetings; and small-group learning in breakout rooms.

The course brings together the essentials of theory and methodology for research about learning and teaching EFL and provides an opportunity for gaining research practice. The participants learn how to plan, conduct, report, and present research about topics related to their future profession such as the acquisition of foreign language skills (receptive, productive, complementary, and nonverbal communication skills); classroom management; feedback and assessment; social aspects; psychological aspects; teaching methodology; course materials; and digital teaching.