Translating research into disseminated good practice: the case of student residence abroad

Coleman, James A. (2002). Translating research into disseminated good practice: the case of student residence abroad. In: Macdonald, R. and Wisdom, J. eds. Academic and educational development : research, evaluation and changing practice in higher education. London, UK: Kogan Page, pp. 87–98.



For very many years, at local and national level, efforts have been made by both generic staff developers and disciplinary specialists to enhance the quality of the student learning experience in modern foreign languages. The series Current Issues in University Language Teaching, for instance, published jointly since 1992 by the Association for French Language Studies and Centre for Information of Language Teaching and Research, has been a major instrument for dissemination and discussion, recognizing that the primary loyalty of university staff is to their discipline, and thereby foreshadowing the recent adoption by the university funding councils of a discipline based approach to quality enhancement (in TLTP, FDTL and most recently LTSN). Yet the relative failure to persuade departments to innovate, to incorporate pedagogical research findings into their teaching, or to adopt the best available practices, has been quite frequently lamented, not least by the present author. The reports arising from HEFCE Quality Assessment (HEFCE, 1996), which for modern languages took place in 1995/96, fairly early (phase 2) in the cycle of subject assessments, confirmed that existing good practices were not necessarily widespread, and that a number of key quality issues remained unresolved.

This chapter discusses the particular challenges which the FDTL (Fund for the Development of Learning and Teaching) Residence Abroad Project, coordinated by the present author from Portsmouth University, faced in addressing one key feature of language degrees. It describes the strategies adopted and the relative success and failure of different approaches.

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