Implementing the European standard in foreign language teaching through cooperative and collaborative learning

The main purpose of learning a foreign language in higher education in the current conditions of development of higher education, is the development of communicative competence of students, as a result of which the future specialist should master communicative language competencies for the needs of their future practical activity. In particular, teaching English, which has become the language of world communicative interaction, is still characterized by the traditional principles of teaching reading, writing, speaking, listening, called in the methodology “communicative-oriented and person-oriented”.

It should be noted that there are theoretical and practical developments in the development of foreign-language communicative competence, which are in line with modern research of both European and domestic theorists and practitioners. The modern didactic concept is created by such approaches as programmed, problem-based learning, developmental learning (P. Galperin, L. Zankov, V. Davydov), cognitive psychology (J. Bruner), pedagogical technology, pedagogy of cooperation of the innovative teachers of the 80s. Currently, in the field of didactics of foreign language teaching, the attention of domestic scientists is directed to the problems of implementing the European standard in teaching a foreign language. And it requires new approaches to the professional activity of the teacher for successful interaction with the learner, in the conditions of new innovative strategies in foreign language teaching.  

Innovative methods are primarily aimed at teaching students active ways of acquiring new knowledge, at mastering a higher level of social activity, and at stimulating students’ creative abilities. Thus, bringing learning closer to the practice of everyday life through the creation of such conditions when students cannot fail to learn, and they form not only skills, knowledge and abilities in the subject, but also an active life position. This is ideally the case.

It should be emphasised in particular that higher education institutions in the Kyrgyz Republic are studying according to the Bologna system. This means that foreign language teaching should also be based on the new principles of foreign language teaching, as is customary in European higher education institutions that are part of the same system.

  In almost all EU countries foreign language teaching is based on standards that develop the basic principles of European competences (A Common European Framework of Reference for Languages Learning, Teaching, Assessment. Strasbourg, 1986. P. 94). Consequently, textbooks from various European publishers are oriented towards these standards. Using Oxford University Press and other world leading publishers’ teaching and learning packages, teachers widely use this system of teaching aimed at effective communicative skills development for children and adults. And, accordingly, the system of control and testing of communicative skills and competences is subordinated to these standards.

 Each country works according to its own educational state standards of teaching, its own curricula, textbooks and has a varying degree of material and technical provision. Therefore, it is not correct to talk about the full implementation of European standards in teaching foreign languages in our general secondary schools and higher educational institutions, the common European competence in foreign language teaching. We can only speak about the possibilities of using some elements of these standards, because in general these competences have also been developed by domestic scientists and practitioners, but in a different terminology and on the basis of other approaches (see the history of development of didactics and foreign language teaching methodology in the Soviet time, post-Soviet time in the CIS countries; state standards in education). 

         As of today, the English language teaching methodology has accumulated quite an extensive variety of books and manuals dealing with different aspects of the theoretical aspects of teaching. At the same time, there is an acute shortage of practice-oriented textbooks and teaching materials that would provide effective assistance to the beginer teachers, particularly English teachers, in mastering the didactic foundations for teaching basic communication skills and the skills of writing, speaking, listening. 

       Also. Our country is entering a new paradigm of education (academic freedom, the credit-hour system, integrated courses, the system of teaching quality assessment and other innovative approaches, orientation towards practical mastery of communicative skills), which requires improving the educational system in accordance with the new realities of the economy and politics. This applies, above all, to the content and methods of training in higher education institutions. Perhaps a gradual reorientation to a new role of the teacher as a subject in the educational process, owning new innovative technologies and training strategies in the role of teacher-consultant, teacher-tutor, teacher-facilitator, teacher-moderator – will be an effective mechanism for transition to the new paradigm of education. That is, it is a question of re-training a teacher who would correspond to the new approaches of learning. The special peculiarity of which is the reproductive way of cognizing objective reality. It cannot be said that teachers do not use certain modern technologies in the process of teaching foreign languages. So, one of them to some extent finds its application (acquisition, generalization, systematization, transformation and application of knowledge of abilities, skills and competences) – RP-technology of pedagogical interaction, or otherwise, corporate culture of a teacher.   

      But, now European scholars argue that technologies are being replaced by learning strategies [see materials of the Council of Europe for Education], with the learning process itself being aligned in the following steps: 1. Analysis – analysis of the learning environment, learners and learning objectives. 2. Design – making a plan for developing pedagogical activities. 3. Development – designing the pedagogical activity. 4. Implementation – implementation of the strategy. Evaluation – evaluation of the performance of the learners and the effectiveness of the strategy. Consequently, the determining factor in the strategy is – to produce learning outcomes, i.e. to produce learning. (*Notice in our methodology, learning is – to provide, support, facilitate the acquisition of new knowledge (cumulative system). 

       The introduction of new learning strategies in which the student becomes the main active subject and who with the help of a teacher-moderator (tutor, etc.) has any set of actions, steps, plans for receiving, storing, accessing and using information (learning) is still going on fragmentarily (so far only in short-term language courses). This strategy has accordingly its own organisational chart, system of roles and incentives, technologies and methods, tools and new communication networks. The educational process itself is based on the Experiential Learning Model proposed by David A. Kolb and his colleagues at Case Western Reserve University in the professional activities of project organisations. Kolb’s (1984) cyclical model is based on the idea of “learning by doing”. Learning consists of repetitive “doing” and “thinking” phases, as one cannot learn anything effectively by simply studying theory or listening to lectures, but neither can learning where new actions are performed mindlessly, without analysis and debriefing. Specificity of the model: any of the 4 processes (experimentation, reflection, theorising, action) can start a cycle of learning.

       Therefore, special ways of implementation are needed for such strategies.

       Cooperative learning (achievement of intellectual autonomy of the student/learner and developed social competence) is an effective way of implementing a partnership learning strategy. The second most important strategy is collaborative learning (knowledge as consensus) based on the concepts of knowledge management. These strategies act as oppositions to the adopted domestic methodology, a trained result due to a highly structured learning situation (artificial). 

The essence of modeling cooperative learning of English is to implement the following fundamental components of the Numbered Heads Together technique: the first component is positive interdependence. Every student who received his or her part of the task realised that the good result achieved was the result of the cooperative interaction between every member of the group. The second component of cooperative learning is structured individual responsibility. Explanation of each student’s own text. The third component is students encouraging each other’s success (helping, supporting, facilitating, approving). Emphasis is placed on the way the problem is solved. The fourth component of cooperative learning is teaching students the necessary social skills and how to use them. Successful cooperative efforts require the development of social skills such as leadership, trust building, and decision making. The fifth component is to ensure that students have time to engage in the group process (minimising time spent presenting topics).

Collaborative learning strategies are based on the following components: collaboration, individual responsibility for their own learning and that of their teammates, social constructivism, and a point of interaction that creates the opportunity for collaboration in a given course context. Didactic methods: Strategy for describing the flow of the process. In the first phase, students work on a process flow description strategy and learn how to do it properly. Then there is a stage of development of students’ collaborative work. Then the collaborative learning technique “Exploration” is involved. To begin with, the teacher explains to the students how to conduct research. The main aim of this technique is to impart the skills of collaboration, cooperation, mutual understanding and compromise, common ground, development of communication competences, speaking and listening.

Thus, the teacher does not present knowledge in a finished version, but it emerges as a result of the students and the teacher working together. 

As a result, the teacher is an equal member of the educational process, unlike cooperative learning, where he or she plays a more significant role.

Abdrakhmanova Raisa Dzholdoshevna, 

Professor of the Department of Linguistics of IUCA, PhD