Research into practice. Quality assurance and the future of university language teaching

Coleman, James A. (2003). Research into practice. Quality assurance and the future of university language teaching. In: Voss, B. and Stahlheber, E. eds. Fremdsprachenunterricht auf dem Prüfstand. Beiträge zur Fremdsprachenforschung, 7. Berlin: Pädagogischer Zeitschriftenverlag, pp. 17–30.


The title ‘Research into Practice’ is deliberately ambiguous. Firstly, there is the problem of translating research fndings in Second Language Acquisition and foreign language pedagogy into actual classroom practice. Secondly, we need to know what really happens in the language classroom, who our learners are and what benefits they may derive from language learning. Both issues are important for the quality of the learning experience and the effectiveness of foreign language learning. Taking Higher Education in the UK as an example, the paper will review some models of quality assurance and enhancement with regard to both teaching and research. For this it will draw on the speaker’s work as coordinator of the European Language Proficiency Survey – the largest ever study of university language learners - and on his wide experience of course validation and review, external examining and national Teaching Quality Assessment. It will also draw on his experience as a member of one of the panels in the 2001 Research Assessment Exercise, delivering judgments of research quality on which the allocation of £4.5 billion of state research funding depends. Reviewing these and other facets of the European context, the paper will reflect on the effectiveness of quality assurance processes and tentatively propose a model for (university) language teaching in the twenty-first century.

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