Innovation and projects
The Language Centre aims to offer high-quality courses. We therefore participate in various local, national as well as international projects to make sure that we continually stay up-to-date with the latest developments and trends in language teaching and language acquisition.
Gerrit Krol Award – essay competition
The Gerrit Krol Award was established by the UG Language Centre and Faculty of Arts in 2019. The essay prize honours Dutch as an academic language and offers a stage to fresh talent. Students from Dutch-speaking regions are invited to submit an essay, in Dutch, of a maximum of 2,000 words. An expert jury then decides which submissions are eligible for nomination, and then selects the winner. This year, the jury comprised Louis Stiller (writer), Ellen Krol (the daughter of Gerrit Krol) and Ronald Ohlsen (writer and Language Centre teacher).
Pamela Wolters has won the 2021 Gerrit Krol Award! In her essay ‘Cad a dhéanfaimid feasta gan adhmad?’ (What would we do without trees?), the UG English Language and Literature student proves that she has an original and challenging future vision and knows how to word this in a text that sparkles with ingenuity. The theme ‘scenarios for the future’ is approached in this essay in a critical yet hopeful manner. The future is sketched out as a harmonious place, in which the unnatural urge to prune trees is pushed back creatively. The jury hailed the winning piece as ‘a beautifully written, artfully structured literary essay’, in which ‘perspective is offered in the midst of despair’. The essay by Pamela Wolters has since been published on Tzum. The other nominees were Klaske Berger, Thomas van Essen, Danae Marchal, Sofie Renap and Eline Santema.
The award ceremony featured a guest speech by Koos Dijksterhuis, a writer and columnist for the newspaper Trouw, after which writer and jury member Louis Stiller read out the jury report and announced the winner. The radiant winner ended the ceremony by presenting her essay. As well as possessing a talent for writing, Pamela is also a singer. During the ceremony reception, she treated guests to a lovely Irish song. She’s one to watch out for!
The University of Groningen Language Centre has developed an e-learning pilot for the academic communication skills of ‘writing’ and ‘holding presentations’. The Centre for Academic Communication Skills Online (CASCO) is available to all who need to present and write at an academic level: Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD students and academic staff. The portal Academic Communication Skills available in both English and Dutch.
New and existing study material will be made available via CASCO and Nestor, the University’s electronic learning environment, to help the target group better understand what academic writing and holding presentations entails. The material will include videos and assignments with automated feedback, peer feedback and lecturer feedback.
The material on the website and in the electronic learning environment is based on the HACV (Handboek Academische Communicatieve Vaardigheden; Manual for Academic Communication Skills), a manual that was originally developed by the Dutch department of the University of Groningen in response to growing concern about the general level of graduates’ communication skills. The HACV is currently managed by the Language Centre.
In addition, the MAGICC Conceptual Framework (EU LLP 2011-2014) also serves as a source of information. The MAGICC project focuses on multilingual and multicultural academic and professional communication skills in higher education. The Language Centre was one of the nine European partners involved in the MAGICC project.
As a result of the move towards the European Higher Education Area and the internationalization of higher education, students and lecturers alike form much more heterogeneous groups than ever before. They speak a wide range of languages and represent many different cultural backgrounds.
2 trends can be distinguished in this regard:
- An English-only environment where English has become the foreign language of choice, and where degree programmes are offered in English
- A renewed interest in learning foreign languages
Aims of the Project
The IntlUni project primarily focuses on the 1st of the 2 trends described above, and has 3 major aims:
- To map the linguistic, cultural and educational trends as they develop across Europe
- To identify reference points that define the quality of programmes offered within the context of these developments
- To establish what should be done in order to provide quality teaching and facilitate quality learning in this relatively new and complex learning space
Background of the Project
The IntlUni Network originated as a Special Interest Group (SIG) on the Multilingual and Multicultural Classroom, established by the European Language Council in late 2009. Under the auspices of this SIG, 2 workshops were held in 2009/2010, followed by meetings of some of the potential project partners. The IntlUni Network thus comprises partners from previous projects (launched from within the membership of the European Language Council), members of the SIG and other experts working in this field.
Dutch language and culture year programme
Since 2013, the Dutch section of the UG Language Centre and the department of Dutch Studies of the UG Faculty of Arts have cooperated with the department of Dutch at the Communication University of China.
Once every four years, third-year Bachelor’s students of the CUC take part in an intensive language and culture programme at the University of Groningen. The programme consists of lectures on Dutch language and society, Dutch literature and culture and language acquisition. Furthermore, many excursions are jointly organized by the Spatial Sciences department, the Language Centre and the Dutch Studies department.
The programme is intensive: throughout the year, students have approximately 20 contact hours per week. In January, students also participate in an intensive language course that prepares them for the State Examination in Dutch as a Second Language (NT2), Programme II. The starting level of the course is B1 and the attainment level is B2/C1, following the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR).
The programme was offered in the academic years 2013-2014 and 2017-2018.
The Language Centre was involved in the Life-long Learning project MAGICC (2011-2014), funded by the Council of Europe. The main aim of this 3-year project was to create modules for the Bachelor's and Master's levels, through which students learn to work in a variety of languages and with different cultures simultaneously, building up skills and competences relevant to the workplace they will find themselves in after their studies.
Make it in Groningen
The ‘Make it in Groningen’ (MiiG) project aims to develop a Dutch platform for distance language learners. The project will consist of two parts: an ‘appetizer’ and an online course. The appetizer will introduce students to the Dutch language, the University of Groningen and the city of Groningen, whereas the course component will comprise a basic course in Dutch.
The project is based on the ‘Make it in the Netherlands’ project, which was initiated by Education, Culture and Science Minister Bussemaker and is coordinated by NUFFIC. The project aims to stimulate talented people to come to the Netherlands and build up a long-term relationship with our country. One of the success factors in this is learning the language early on in the process. The University of Groningen aims to promote the University and the city to foreign staff and students, for example by enabling them to learn Dutch at an early stage.
MiiG ultimately aims to encourage staff and students who are considering coming to Groningen to actually take that step.
The project will have two components:
- An ‘appetizer’, which will enable people to familiarize themselves in advance with the city of Groningen, the University of Groningen and the Dutch language. This ‘appetizer’ will take the form of a website with introduction videos about Groningen and the University and a language introduction in the form of audio, video, text and a quiz. This website will also be linked to the Language Centre’s Facebook page.
- An online Dutch course in Futurelearn. This free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) will enable students to learn Dutch up to CEFR level A1.
Skype Collaboration Groningen-Padua
Students often wish to practise their speaking skills more regularly, but they are sometimes reluctant to take the initiative to talk with their own classmates in English. This project provides learners of English at the universities of Groningen and Padua with assignments to structure their discussions with other learners at approximately the same language level. Using Skype as the medium for communication, the project lowers the threshold for students to speak English with other learners outside the classroom.
Skype was installed in the language labs at both universities, together with a programme to record all the discussions on video. Furthermore, an electronic learning environment was created through which the students could find descriptions of the assignments as well as instructions for the various tools they were expected to use. After recording the assignments, students were asked to assess their own performance using the assessment tool WebCEF. They then received teacher feedback on their self-assessment. Students were generally enthusiastic about the exercise and enjoyed the opportunity to practise their English outside the walls of the classroom. We aim to continue this exchange not only with learners of English, but also with learners of Dutch and Spanish in the near future.
The Blended Learning project was set up in cooperation with the Niedersächsisches Landesamt für Lehrerbildung und Schulentwicklung (NiLS).
Target Group and Aim
The target group consisted of 15 German teachers of Dutch who had to be trained from level B2 to level C1 in terms of the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR). The Blended Learning Project was developed in May 2006 to prepare them for the final examination, the Profiel Academische Taalvaardigheid (PAT) of the CNaVT (Certificaat Nederlands als Vreemde Taal; Certificate of Dutch as a Foreign Language).
The following Language Centre staff members were involved in the project:
- Ms B.L.A. de Boer (teacher/coordinator)
- Ms B.V.J.M. Lijmbach (teacher)
- Ms A.M. Dijk (project manager)
Our German colleagues in the project were:
- Dr H.C. Facklam (NiLS departmental head)
- Mr H. Hülsdünker, MA
- Dr B. Kasper-Heuermann (course leader/teacher)
- Ms C. Wittstruck (teacher)
Blended Learning Method
Blended learning is a teaching method consisting of various components:
- Face-to-face contact: determining the starting level of each individual student
- Distance learning: developing an electronic learning environment
- Workshops in Germany and the Netherlands
- Individual distance supervision: individual feedback on writing assignments
The Embed Project (2009-2012) addressed the need for local samples of academic writing at the B and C levels of the CEFR by filtering student essays through a series of internal and external (international) panels of experts. This project shows the value and the feasibility of CEFR standardization procedures for teacher training purposes. The project has also shown the importance of making such materials available online, as busy teachers are not always able to attend all standardization sessions.
The key to the Embed Project has been to develop a structure whereby the generic CEFR descriptors are made meaningful at the local level. Examples of language from the samples gives teachers tangible evidence of positive and negative language features at various levels of the CEFR. Teachers can then make a direct relation between the language exhibited in the samples at a given level and the language used in the writing of their own students. The project defined language in the sample essays that typified Range, Accuracy, Coherence and Argument. These elements are dealt with in detail during standardization sessions with reference to these and other local samples.
The Language Centre uses these samples when delivering CEFR familiarization and standardization workshops at the University of Groningen and at other institutions.
A selection of Embed samples is also available online at www.erk.nl/docent/training/Engels.
2 articles have recently been published about this project:
- Haines, K.B.J., Schmidt, N., Jansema, P.N. and Lowie, W.M. (2013). EMBEDding the CEFR in academic writing assessment: a case study in training and standardization. Dutch Journal of Applied Linguistics 2, 1, pp 77-91.
- Jansma, P.N., Jager, S., Lowie, W.M. & Haines K.B.J. (2011). De beoordeling van Engelstalige essays: het ERK in het universitair schrijfvaardigheidsonderwijs, Levende Talen Tijdschrift, 1, pp 15-25.
- Lowie, W.M., Haines, K.B.J. & Jansma, P.N. (2010). Embedding the CEFR in the academic domain: Assessment of language tasks, Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences, 3, pp 152-161.
Speaking is one of the most difficult skills to master when learning a foreign language. Formal second language and foreign language teaching often does not provide enough opportunity for all learners to practise their oral skills and in online foreign language courses, speaking usually comes second to other language skills such as writing, reading and listening.
Aim of the Project
Together with ICTOL, the Language Centre participates in SpeakApps, a European project that aims to improve speaking production and interaction skills in accordance with the CEFR by means of IT. SpeakApps enables language teachers and learners to practise and evaluate oral skills at a distance and outside the physical classroom. The activities and tools provided in the SpeakApps project are designed to be used both within face-to-face courses and as the main speaking activities for online courses.
The project started in January 2011 and will run for 2 years.
By 2013 we will have developed learning activities and materials, as well as learning tools and a user platform for teachers who would like to use these activities in their courses. SpeakApps and all its content will be made available in 6 languages: Catalan, Dutch, English, Irish, Polish and Swedish. The Language Centre will be responsible for the Dutch component, the content and the pilots to be conducted during this period.
The project is funded by the Life-long Learning Programme, KA2 Languages 2010.
The project is coordinated by the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (Spain). The other participating universities are:
- Dublin City University (Ireland)
- University of Jyväskylä (Finland)
- Jagiellonian University Krakow (Poland)
- University of Groningen (The Netherlands)
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