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The Countryside


Making the Most of Educational Trips and Exchanges

Richard Bolt, the summer school Director of Studies, gives some advice on how to make the most of trips and exchanges.

Trips and exchanges are two of the best ways of getting inside life in Britain and exploring the links between culture and language. If such an opportunity comes your way as a teacher, an intercultural investigatory approach (perhaps in the form of a project) may well be the most successful.

Why investigatory? An investigation is an open activity which requires students to find and present what they can – not fixed answers which could be right or wrong. The students will then be exploring the other society through grappling with and resolving real language issues. They cannot fall back on the teacher or books because the answers will not be found there. All students would achieve something if the investigation is sufficiently open-ended, and the learning through the process would be as important as any finished product (like the extended programme of the new matura).

In this section you will find an example of an investigation based on Starbienino which could be used as a model for a comparative one in the UK.

Exchanges give different opportunities and require intercultural perspectives implicitly as before any activity is undertaken the exchange school must be taken into account. This puts intercultural activities into the centre. The possibilities opened by an exchange with examples of student work can be found in the Bodzentyn and the Cotswolds exchange.

The methodological background to both these approaches is based on ethnography and a review of Teachers as Ethnographers in these pages gives some detail of this approach, as does the article by one of its authors, Celia Roberts, which is reproduced in our academic angle.

Ewa Komorowska, a teacher from Warsaw, also gives an account of how she organised a Culture Study Tour for Teachers to the UK as part of the INSETT programme for the Warsaw region.

Making the most of a trip

One of the best ways of finding out about Britain is to go on a trip. Often, however, visits to Stratford, Oxford and London produce plenty of contacts with Japanese, Americans, Italians, Poles and so on, but very little with British people. One very good way to maximise the learning potential of your trip is to stay with a host family, where you can learn a great deal (and often in surprising and very unexpected ways). Not everyone has this opportunity though. The ideas suggested in these pages should give good results both for those staying with host families and those who are not.

Trips are strongly motivating for language learning and can improve student attitudes in the classroom on the return. In addition imprinting is very strong; both you and the students will recall sights and language, often in great detail, long after the trip is finished and when more recent everyday events have been forgotten. By allowing students to undertake investigations advantage can be taken of the potential of this long-term memory store to give lasting benefits to their language work. It also means that a great deal can be done on the return as the both your own and the students’ memories will still be full of what has happened.

There are three stages to a trip:

1. The preparation

2. The trip itself

3. The follow up

The first and third tend to be done almost exclusively by the teacher while all too often the students even take a passive role during the trip itself. The key stage is the preparation and your decision to actively involve your students throughout.

There are several reasons for involving the learners:

¨       it gives them a sense of ownership of the trip with their views being taken account of and a stake in its success

¨       it allows a trial/ pilot of any investigatory activities or projects e.g. interviews, questionnaires, so as to find out any problems and allow more sensitive and realistic planning and then present them in English

¨       such a trial gives an excellent opportunity for an intercultural comparison on returning after the trip if care is taken to undertake the investigation in an equivalent way with equivalent people in equivalent places

¨       the students will be involved with real language activities throughout which require their active communicative involvement. In an investigation in Poland the students have to try to resolve the language issues involved in trying to present the Polish situation in English comprehensible to a non-Polish audience

As the summer school took place in Starbienino we decided to take full advantage of that and produce a series of materials based on the centre and the village. These you could use yourselves to investigate comparative attitudes in the British countryside (or as a comparison with your own Polish region).

We are very interested in your experience of trips and exchanges - if you have done some work of an investigatory nature (perhaps interculturally) please contact us and maybe we can make use of it in the future. This is an area where almost nothing is published and the sharing of experience could be very useful to those wanting something more than the usual tourist itinerary or those thinking of taking their students for the first time. E-mail us at

Links for Exchanges and Visits to the UK

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