University of Graz
The English Language Teaching Research and Methodology (Fachdidaktik Anglistik) unit is one of the constituent units of the Department of English Studies (Institut für Anglistik) of the University of Graz (Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz), one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in Austria. The University of Graz is a large (>32,000 students) university with a dual focus on teaching provision and research activity. The university’s core research areas for the coming years include personal development (Learning, Education and Knowledge) and social integration (Heterogeneity and Cohesion), and are thus highly connected to the aims of this project.
The English Language Teaching Research and Methodology unit is responsible for providing Initial Teacher Education for future teachers of English, In-Service Training, in cooperation with the school authorities, and also for conducting research into all aspects of foreign language teaching and learning. The unit is headed by Professor Sarah Mercer, and (in addition to her) consists of two researchers, six teaching fellows, an administrator, a part-time administration assistant, and two contractual pre-doctoral assistants.
By virtue of its location in Austria, the partner organisation is very well placed for refugee-related work. As of June 2015, there were an estimated 61,000 documented refugees residing in Austria and approximately 31,000 asylum seekers (data provided by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49e48e256.html#AUSVI). In addition, Austria is a major transit point for refugees travelling towards northern Europe from the Balkan peninsula. The border state of Styria, where the University of Graz is located, receives a large number of these migrants, who enter Austria from the neighbouring countries of Slovenia and Hungary.
Activities and experience for this project:
The ELT Research and Methodology unit has considerable expertise working with professionals in the field of education. The unit is currently engaged in several professional development projects, which involve needs analysis and targeted interventions. Enhancing the professional competence of teaching professionals, and empowering them through extra-mural projects is a priority for the unit. Activities of relevance in this category include two school-based INSET interventions, and a planned Action Research programme to enhance teachers’ autonomy.
In addition, the ELT Research and Methodology unit is experienced in designing, implementing and evaluating educational programmes. The unit is staffed with highly experienced educators, who have considerable expertise in developing curricula, learning materials, procedures and practices for education. Current projects, which are presented by way of example, include the production and piloting of materials aimed at enhancing empathy and social intelligence among learners and teachers as part of a British Council funded project.
Finally, the unit is developing experience in working with vulnerable populations including refugees. This involves conducting research into resilience of teachers, with a view to ultimately designing and implementing interventions aimed at increasing their ability to cope with adversity. Moreover, in response to the refugee crisis, the unit has joined up with Caritas, an Austrian charity, to set up a language support programme for refugee children and their parents, which aims at facilitating their integration in their post-migration surroundings. This project, which will also provide data for at least one MA thesis, involves about 18 trainee teachers and members of staff who are voluntarily providing their time and expertise.
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