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Foreign Language Medium Studies in Tertiary Education: Opportunity for Language Learning and Gateway to European Mobility 

The  seminar organized  in VAMK Vaasa University of Applied Sciences 10.9 - 11.9.2007 attracted participants from many Finnish universities of applied science and  from some from science universities from all parts of Finland as well as international guests from the following countries: Lithuania, Austria, Switzerland, Cyprus and USA. The interest shown in the event indicates a genuine demand for an international forum on the topic of FL-medium instruction with focus on tertiary level learners.

The linkage between the European dimension with the emphasis on Higher European Education Area was discussed in many presentations. The topic was introduced by Sauli Takala in an in-depth review to European language policy. 

Some of the key issues in many presentations appeared to be  including   a language-specific  learning target in the FL-medium teaching units in tertiary level education and  the possible changing role of the LSP teacher. The most radical presentations  proposed that the learning goal in L2 was to be achieved within the framework  of mere content teaching, thus  liberating more resources  towards teaching L2, L3 etc. (Antroulla Papakyriakou, University of Nicosia). The need to standardise the terminology  related to various implementation models, addressing the relative emphasis between  language and content,  was emphasized in Lotta Saarikoski's presentation. The need became evident in the course of the seminar:  eg. the term CLIL (Content and Language Integrated learning) was defined differently by different speakers.

Research and empiracal experience on learners participating in FL-medium programs on tertiary level  were discussed in  several presentations: 

- Heini-Marja Järvinen (University of Turku) reported on a survey made in Scandinavian  countries.  Problems had appeared because the special needs set by the use of L2 had not been considered sufficiently. Suzy McAnsh (University of Oulu) presented an experiment of integrating a course on academic writing to an FL-medium course in chemistry.
 - Esko Johnson ja Maija Rukajärvi-Saarela (KPAMK, Central Ostrotnia University of Applied Sciences) and    Lotta Saarikoski and Eeva Rauto (VAMK, Vaasa University of Applied Sciences) presented reports on content and language integrated projects and the practical implementation models and empirical observations  Most experiments in the  project  included also surveys and follow-up on language development, according to which  it seemed  that participating in short FL-medium  teaching units was an encouraging experience for the students. The presentations were given in a form of a new kind of dialogue between the language teacher and the subject teacher. Another interactive item on the program was a panel discussion, with student and teacher representatives from different faculties of VAMK, where eg. cross-cultural aspects were discussed. 

- An interesting model experimented in the USA was presented by Katherine Horwinski-Healy (State University of Lousiana): simultaneous acquisition of several languages within the framework of FL-medium instruction.    

Ideas for development were discussed in Heini-Marja Järvinen's (University of Turku)  and Ritva Aho's(Finnish Army Academy)  presentations. The former presented strategies taught in CLIL -oriented teacher education in primary education, applicable also in tertiary education,  and the latter dealt with aligning content, methods and assessment with the purpose of achieving more effective language programs in tertiary education.

Language  development in FL-medium learning environments  from the individual learners' viewpoint was discussed in Eeva Rauto's presentation in the light of SLA literature. According to input and interaction theories a learner  with a fairly advanced proficiency level is an effective receiver of  language input provided by  FL-medium instruction. The language learning process can, however, be further enhanced by (language) teacher intervention.

Besided creating networks between the participants, the seminar resulted in the following projects: 

1. A network consisting of five European countries (Austria, Cuprus,  Finland,
     Lithuania and Switzerland) the purpose of which is to arrange: 
- Reseach co-opertation on the basis of the VAMK/KPAMK format presented in the seminar
- Rotating conferences

2. A publication consisting of articles based on the seminar presentations. The publication will initiate a publication series of Vaasa University of Applied Sciences.

3. Guidelines to VAMK language strategy as follows:

-  English/L2 -medium modules/teaching units  should include a language learning target - following the CLIL model established in FL-medium instruction on primary and  secondary level education in Finland.

- providing some Finnish-medium courses to international students participating in English-medium degree programs as well as offering English medium options to students participating in mainstream Finnish-medium programs.

The powerpoint slides and a summary of the panel discussion are accessible from the seminar website: