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An Overview of Language Teaching at Kaunas University of Technology

Author(s): Regina Petrylaite
Institution/Organisation: Kaunas University of Technology, Lithuania (LT)

1. DESCRIPTION OF THE SUCCESS CASE

1.1 Scope of the initiative

This case study presents the initiative undertaken within Kaunas University of Technology, Lithuania, to ensure that all students have access to language learning.
The initiative targets 1st cycle students during the first two years of their 1st cycle programme.
A set language policy is applied to all the faculties of the University. Language learning is an obligatory component in the 1st cycle programme comprising 8 credits (corresponding to 12 ECTS - one KTU credit is equal to 1.5 ECTS). This applies not only to daytime/full time department, but also to evening and correspondence. Foreign language modules at Kaunas University of Technology are arranged according to the requirements of general university education. The fundamental students’ competence in L2 is determined at the beginning of the first semester. Students with inadequate basic competence in the language are to study in the remedial courses and achieve level B2 in their first L2, and then seek for level C1.
By the end of their 1st cycle programme, students have to achieve level C1 on the CEFR in one L2, otherwise they are not granted a Diploma when finishing Bachelor studies. In order to achieve the required competence and level C1, L2 is studied 1, 2, or 4 semesters, respectively.  
After achieving it, students may study alternative language courses either by starting to study new languages or further developing the first L2 competence for specific purposes: International negotiations and Correspondence, Business Language, Introduction to TOEFL. The Centre of Foreign Languages provides language teaching to students of all the faculties of the University.

1.2 Range of languages learned

English, German, French, Russian are taught as compulsory languages (levels B1, B2, C1). The rationale for the choice of the imposed compulsory languages: by the end of the first-cycle programme students are to achieve C1 in the first L2, i.e. the language they have studied and passed the state exam at secondary school. Thus, the focus is on improving the first L2 competence acquired at secondary school by studying it for specific purposes.         

Students can freely choose one of the electives: English, German, French, Russian, Italian, Spanish (levels A1, A2, B1, B2). 

The Centre of Foreign Languages also offers visiting Erasmus students courses of Baltic studies or Lithuanian at basic and intermediate levels:  Introductory Lithuanian Studies Course, Lithuanian Studies.  Furthermore, they may join Lithuanian students studying L2 from basic to advanced levels or L2 for specific purposes (academic and professional language) in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian.

1.3 Learning outcomes

C1 is the target level of language achievement in the four skills (reading, listening, speaking, writing) developed by integrating language learning with their mainstream academic subjects of the technical university. By the end of the study programme students can:

  • understand academic and professional L2;
  • read specialised articles and technical instruction relating to the field of the studies;
  • employ professional language terminology in their oral/written language when giving descriptions on specialised topics related to students’ mainstream study programme.

 

1.4 Practical realisation

ECTS weighting for language learning
One KTU credit is equal to 1.5 ECTS credits. 12 ECTS are allocated to foreign languages (English, German, French or Russian) in the 1st cycle programme, language learning being an obligatory component of the programme. A mixed type of learning is implemented, i.e. both formal classes (with both general and specific purpose orientation depending on the basic L2 competence level) and independent learning is provided, integrating e-learning to meet the learner needs. In the curricula, the ratio of time allocated for independent learning and classroom hours for the first cycle students is the following: independent learning per semester: 96 hours for full time students, and 136 hours for correspondence students; formal classes per semester: 62 hours  for full time students, and 24 hours for correspondence students.

Language learning as an obligatory component of students’ programme
(cf. 1.1) During the Introductory session, all the 1st year students are divided into 3 streams according to the results of the state language exam taken at secondary school or according to the set university ‘diagnostic’ test which fully corresponds to the requirements of the state exam.  After the test, students with inadequate competence in their first L2 are provided with the possibility to improve it studying the remedial language modules.  The obligatory language modules: French, English, Russian, and German. The compulsory language modules are fully state funded for the first cycle students.

Language learning as an optional but credited component of students’ programme
After achieving level C1 on the CEFR, first-cycle students may choose to study one L2 from the electives: French, German, English, Russian, Spanish, and Italian.  In order to continue language studies in their 3rd and 4th academic years, students must have available/free credit points or they have to pay for their language studies according to the fixed university rates. However, out of 8 (12 ECTS) available credits devoted to elective modules, 4 (6 ECTS) credits are not to be exceeded for the second L2. Elective L2 modules are fully funded, partially funded and non-funded, it varies from faculty to faculty, and it depends if a student has free credit points in his study programme available.

Integration of language learning with students’ mainstream academic subjects
The compulsory language modules of English, French, German and Russian are directed towards reading authentic technical texts, learning to write reports, essays, developing academic writing skills,   writing research papers in the field of their major studies. The course-books for studies for levels B2 and C1 cover authentic material.

Teaching of academic courses via an L2
Academic courses for undergraduate students are delivered in the Lithuanian language with the exception of one faculty: International Studies Centre, where all academic courses are delivered via L2. At the International Studies Centre, Bachelor’s programme in Export Engineering is intended to provide studies in the field of Electromechanics - Mechatronics with the stress on the ability to communicate in a foreign language (English, French, German and Russian) on a professional level. After two years of fundamental and general courses in the foreign language, students either continue their studies in Lithuanian in the chosen branch in a relevant faculty at KTU or they may apply to study at any of eight Western European universities in accordance with the mobility programmes.
The University provides the following Master programmes in English: Industrial Engineering and Management, Environmental management and Cleaner Production, Control Technologies, Ultrasonic Material Characterization, Mechatronics, Clothing and Polymer products Engineering, Applied Chemistry, Marketing Management, European Integration Studies. The complete list is available at: http://internet.ktu.lt/en/scriptas1.asp?meniu=virsus2.html&pirmas=studies/menu.html&antras=studies/knyga2007/title.html)   

European/international partnerships: The University has cooperation links with foreign universities, research institutes and companies based on bilateral agreements, projects carried out by departments or research groups in the frame of international programmes. This academic year the university has been involved in the following programmes: LLP/Erasmus, Intensive programme, LLP/Leonardo da Vinci. Last year, i.e. academic year 2006/2007 there were 157 agreements signed with 130 partner institutions. In this regard, 35 teachers from partner institutions worked at KTU last year. During the same year, 161 students of KTU went on mobility programmes, while only 54 students from partner institutions arrived at KTU.

Collaboration with cultural institutes, embassies
KTU has maintained long-term cooperation (since 1993) with the French Embassy. Since 2003 KTU has been the host of the Robert Schuman Centre, which has been organizing events for the academic community, students and the wider public. The Resource Centre of the British Council has also been holding seminars and workshops. The Centre of Foreign Languages at KTU is engaged in cultural activities organized the German embassy as well (German minority cultural centre, Bobrovsky’s German Library). The German language fans’ club has been meeting once a month (people who wish to refresh their German language skills.

Introduction of novel learning environments (ICT, a self-study centre, etc)
Computer labs are accessible for language classes once every other week and classes in a computer lab are scheduled in advance. For this reason, WebCT 4.0 product has been used as an outcome of the project for distance learning course development. Furthermore, a course ‘Academic and Professional English’ was created. In addition to this, Nicenet virtual classroom (www.nicenet.org) is frequently applied as a useful environment for class maintenance, student discussion management and relevant task display, employing various internet sites and links.  The main target groups are first and second year students of daytime, evening and correspondence departments. Methodological recommendations for the programmes were prepared by a group of teachers, a balanced combination of independent work  and laboratory time was worked out and the computer programmes became an integral part of different language courses.

Language projects linked to cultural activities
Since 1999 several KTU students’ groups have participated in successful communicative projects: SIMULAB www-based communication project in which students communicated with their Polish, Norwegian and Danish partners. Later Internet-based collaborative learning continued within the framework of Gruntvig project ECOLE in which students of KTU discussed intercultural issues with students from Denmark, Germany, Norway, Sweden and Portugal. In February of 2008, 6 students from the faculties of Humanities and Social Sciences took part in the intensive programme ‘Borrowed identities’ which took place in Achill Island, Ireland and brought together 40 learners from all over Europe. International mix in workshops contributed to their intercultural learning, gaining experience in international leadership and teamwork in a community project under time-pressure and in a foreign environment. The programme was sponsored by the European Commission under Socrates ERASMUS programme.

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