British Studies Web Pages
Summer School Approach and Description
The most important thing about the summer school is about something which it is not. The summer school is not something put on by one group of people (trainers) for another group (participants) but aims to “be a community of trainers and participants working together towards common goals” as we put it on our application form. So in a sense the summer school was not a course. The role and responsibility of the trainers was to use their experience to create and manage ‘spaces’ where we could all work together toward the common goal of the Heritage edition of the BS Webpages.
We drew on the lessons we learned last year at Starbienino and you can compare the two summer schools by visiting our Countryside edition.
The summer school was set up and managed by the BC Culture in ELT project and thus reflected its goals:
“Our aim is to support the introduction of intercultural approaches in teaching English - in response to the changing role of English in the world and the needs of Polish learners -through:
- providing space and a welcoming atmosphere for exploring culture in ELT
- encouraging open, investigatory and intercultural attitudes within language learning
- producing materials and activities with a variety of learner outcomes - giving teachers, learners and trainers greater choice in the classroom”
We hope we achieved these during the summer school and reflected them on the Heritage webpages.
This ‘community’ philosophy underlay the whole of the summer school: its background sessions, its social activities, its fieldwork and trips, and its practical work in creating individual webpage items. The programme was not intended to be rigid and its evolution during the summer school was a measure of the success in giving participants an active role in determining its direction. The boundaries between sessions were blurred in the preparation phase with trainers attending each other’s sessions, and in the production phase when participants, in conjunction with their item tutors, decided their own timetable.
Believing that it is the participants who are the most valuable resource without whom the summer school would have been considerably (and needlessly) impoverished was fundamental. Their input of ideas, knowledge, experience and above all themselves as active cultural beings was essential to any success the summer school could claim. Our role as trainers was to bring this out, direct it, integrate it into the school as well as involving ourselves in the same way. The result of this can be seen throughout the Heritage webpages.
As an international summer school the emphasis at the beginning was on activities that culturally integrated us e.g. generation and occupation as well as awareness of family and regional identities rather than nationality. Only later did we have a participants evening where the international dimension became explicit. The international effect however was noticeable throughout as English was the social language of the whole 10 days and not only used in sessions.
Methodologically we tried to be a model for such methods as: learning by doing, intercultural approaches, learner autonomy, task-based learning, project work, experiential learning and so on. Original sources (from whatever culture) were valued very highly, as well reflective and critical thinking based on them. The aim was that participants by experiencing these methods could then consider their use in their own classrooms.
Ethnography also underpinned our work from the cultural side, and was developed in sessions on interviews and fieldwork in order to give some understanding of the discipline involved. Its value to language teachers is discussed in our academic angle and further articles appear in our intercultural reader in the Teachers’ Forum.
Participants were confronted with the need to:
· find the raw material (from which selection and then adaptation can be made to produce webpage materials and activities)
· put it into English (if it was from fieldwork or Polish sources)
· produce webpage materials and activities (encouraging learners to use the methodological approaches that they had themselves e.g. investigatory, ethnographic and intercultural)
· present them effectively as a webpage item
A wide variety of teacher skills for the classroom were thus being practised and these were reflected on our end of school certificate statement.
An issue was how to balance attention to ICT production skills with attention to providing intercultural outcomes for the classroom. How not to become so fascinated with the techniques that these goals are lost sight of as it is easy to dress up past approaches in modern technology to give an appearance of contemporaneity. Hopefully the pages will demonstrate our success in achieving this balance.
As participants were the key element in the summer school, and voices a key element of the webpages, it is appropriate that they should be brought together and included here. See Comments from some course participants.
Preparation phase (see programme)
This involved a series of sessions first on the background to the webpages, intercultural approaches (see Intercultural Reader) and the theme of heritage (see Meaning of Heritage). This was followed by sessions on a variety of different heritages e.g. musical (e.g. The Beatles), everyday (e.g. through oral history see Heritage websites), city (e.g. Liverpool), museums (e.g. the National Gallery) and popular through fashion. Finally there was the practical preparation with computer skills such as ‘hot potatoes’ for producing quizzes and crosswords of which you will see several examples (e.g. Don’t forget your past) and a session on internet skills perhaps best exemplified by Food, Identity, Heritage and Natural Heritage in Danger. There was also a session on fieldwork and interview skills (e.g. Consuming Heritage and Maria Szyszkowska). It is planned to write up these practical skill sessions on the How to… part of our Teachers’ Forum so they are available for everyone.
Trips and fieldwork
These were planned to combine pleasure with an opportunity to explore real local examples of Heritage and our trips took us to Kazimierz, Nałęczów, Kozłówka and Janowiec. Fieldwork played an important part and interviews were made with those involved in the Heritage industry (e.g. the director of the Zamoyski Palace Museum), tourists and those running souvenir stalls were talked to (see Consuming Heritage) and the wide variety of photographs used throughout the edition were taken (see Gallery). Some participants even took advantage of their free time activities and interviewed musicians at a local jazz festival (see A Jazz Tribute to Polish Music of the Past and "Dreams Factory")
Production phase (see programme)
The first part was organised and the participants divided into two groups. In the production phase however participants organised themselves into groups and each web tutor took on two or three groups to guide through to finished items. The process of choosing themes however had been discussed from the first day and by the time this stage began a considerable amount of research had already been done.
The timetable became very loose, some participants would be out conducting interviews while others were searching the net. On at least one night many participants were working until midnight. This period was very intensive for our ICT experts who were trying to code in HTML as much a possible before the end of the summer school as well as give advice. On the last Friday afternoon the computer room was closed for their protection. The social activities also became increasingly participant-organised as a way of releasing the tensions of their hard work.
The success of this phase represented the success of not only the preparation phase but the whole summer school. To a considerable degree we had teacher autonomy and a community of teachers and trainers self-motivating, organising their own time and working to common goals. You can see the results throughout the Heritage webpages.
There was a participants’ evening with participatory activities from different Polish regions and the different countries present. Food was a popular theme, in the break we had some Hungarian cold cherry soup, followed later by Bulgarian sausage, and we were finished with Lithuanian mead. Other events included a barbecue (a farewell party for Michael Houten), a realia-based quiz and a very popular blues evening put on by Simon Gill. Informally, trips were organised to Lublin and Kazimierz as well as visits to the local jazz festival and several ‘roof’ parties.
For a summary of the evaluation of the participants see the evaluation report which will speak for itself.