ASMCF-funded project report: Queen University Belfast’s A-Level French Day
On 25 January 2019, 150 AS-Level pupils and their teachers from across Northern Ireland participated in a major outreach day hosted by French Studies at Queen’s University Belfast, funded by the ASMCF’s Schools Liaison & Outreach Activities Fund. Demand for this event greatly exceeded supply and numbers unfortunately had to be capped due to building works on the QUB estate and difficulty booking a large number of rooms in term time. The number of responses we had testifies, however, to the interest that schools and teachers have in participating in these outreach events.
Colleagues from French at QUB organised a variety of talks and workshops designed to inspire a new generation of language-learners about why it is both important and enjoyable to learn French. QUB undergraduate and postgraduate students and ambassadors were also involved in leading sessions, giving them valuable opportunities to refine their presentation and communication skills, and to reflect on the importance of their own experience to date as students of French. The sessions included a translation workshop, a listening activity on final year students’ experience of the year abroad, ‘taster’ sessions (on French linguistics, contemporary French cinema, understanding illness and healthcare through literature, and French music and popular culture), a showcase of student research projects, a short presentation on how studying lanugages has opened professional doors for graduates, as well as an informal social event with the French society and CPD sessions for teachers. More information on the structure of the day can be found here.
Feedback collected at the end of the day was unanimously positive. Pupil feedback centred on three aspects of the day: the ‘taster’ sessions, which opened their eyes to some of the opportunities available to them if they continued with French beyond A-Level; the year abroad, which was not something to put them off doing a degree in languages; and the opportunity to speak to our students, which showed them that the combination of personal, professional and cultural development opportunities associated with studying French provided a strong preparation for entry to the workplace. Teachers reported that it had encouraged them to see their pupils so inspired and engaged in the workshop activities we put on; that the sessions were ‘perfectly pitched’; that the variety of activities organised was important; and that the
opportunity to come together, as professionals, and discuss some of the challenges of language teaching in a CPD session was important. School teachers and university staff also discussed how research findings from Open World Research Initiative research programmes can be used to inform teaching, and are currently looking at how they can work together for an upcoming conference on language teaching at QUB.
The deadline for submission for the next round of the Schools Liaison & Outreach Activities Fund is 31 August 2019.