Азербайджан, бывшая республика Советского Союза, официально присоединилась к Болонскому процессу на Четвертой конференции министров стран-участниц в Бергене (Норвегия), состоявшейся 19 мая 2005 года. До сих пор страна, которая поставила перед собой цель интеграции в Европейских образовательных ценностей, предприняла ряд важных шагов в рамках этого процесса. Принимая во внимание важность этой задачи, эта статья производить исследование, каким образом метод проектов преподавания английского языка может способствовать интеграции Азербайджана в Европейском пространстве высшего образования установленных Болонским процессом.
Azerbaijan, a former Soviet Union Republic, officially joined the Bologna Process at the Fourth Conference of Ministers of participating countries at Bergen (Norway) meeting on May 19, 2005. So far, the country, which set the goal of integration into European educational values as a priority, has taken important steps within the framework of this process. The Parliament (“Milli Majlis”) has recently adopted a new Law on Education. According to this Law, higher education has three pillars (Bachelor, Master, and Doctorate) instead of previous 4 pillars (Bachelor, Master, Aspirantura, and Doctorate). The country has the target to integrate Azerbaijan’s higher education into European brands. Taking into account the importance of Azerbaijan’s integration into the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), this article inquires how the project method of EFL teaching can contribute to upbringing global citizens and how it can fuel Azerbaijan’s integration into the EHEA set by the Bologna Process.
The Bologna Process, with the aim of “constructing and launching a European Higher Education Area by 2010” is a pan-European project, “without precedent in the history of the continent” [2, p.5]. The Sorbonne Declaration on May 1998, the Bologna Declaration (June 1999), and further two ministerial conferences in Prague (May 2001) and Berlin (September 2003) have served as the theoretical basis for this aim. According to the Bergen Communiqué, signed at the Bergen conference in 2005, all participating countries took responsibilities to bring their higher education systems in balance with the pan-European while keeping fundamental values and diversities of national education systems set by the Bologna Declaration (1999). The 2007 Ministerial conference in London, insisted on the crucial importance of the involvement of students and academic and administrative staff into the Bologna Process making the participating governments responsible for provision of framework conditions as appropriate. (Bologna Process: London, 2007). The last Ministerial Conference of the Bologna Process hosted by the Benelux countries (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg) on 28-29 April 2009 in Leuven and Louvain-la-Neuve (Belgium), shed clear light to the substantial role played by the academic community in the achievement of the Bologna goals .
The Bologna Process calls upon member states to make corrections into their national education in accordance with the new demands towards the knowledge-based economy and to prepare learners seriously for these demands. In this light, the globalization process is an important factor to consider. Under the influence of this process, national borders are losing their previous importance and impermeability, with increasing cross-border movement of capital flows, trade, and employment [14, p.3].
The development of the EHEA demands a new academic environment, in which both students and teachers have a certain role to play. In this regards, the skills like cultural understanding, teamwork, problem solving, research gathering, time management, information synthesizing and utilizing high-tech tools are identifiable communicative skills which are necessary for global citizens to find themselves in multilingual and multicultural settings. These skills as a form of active interaction should also to take place in a language which is not the mother tongue of many participants of the globalization process, which potentially speeds the communicative dynamics in a number of ways. This is especially the case with the English language, which has an increasingly dominant and important role in the globalized world, including in the EHEA area.
This ultimate goal can be achieved through learner empowerment. An empowered learner has the quality of interaction and the learning of languages rather than being simply a person who has acquired a certain level of competence in a targeted foreign language. The learner empowerment would make language learners able to distinguish their strengths and weaknesses with respect to specific situations of language use, to evaluate what they need to learn in order to meet their objectives, and to make informed decisions about how to go about achieving these goals [13, p.6]. In other words, the learner empowerment enables learners to acquire transferable learning skills which go beyond the confines of a given level of competence in any one language.
Empowered learners may incorporate themselves into two main pedagogical processes. In the first process which can be referred to as learner training, language learners are initiated into the processes of language learning. This, in the first place, involves helping learners to realise that they can in fact play an active and self-directive role in their own learning. The second stage intends a gradual shifting of decision making from teacher to learners and, in this way, increase learner involvement in the learning process itself [14, p.5]. The shift of decision making from teacher to learner can operate at many different levels, from fairly simple grammar exploration activities to project work involving the gathering and sifting of learning materials in the target language .
Academic mobility within the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) calls for a potentially wide range of communicative skills which arise out of the various tasks which students, academics, and administrative staff may have to perform in a foreign language. The more obvious communicative situations and skills which these actors are likely to encounter include the following.
The new time, new conditions of professional activities demand reconsideration of both general methodology and specific methods and techniques of teaching English language. The rapid integration of Azerbaijan into the international community, the integration processes in various spheres of politics, economics, cultures, and ideologies, intensive interrelations among peoples and languages in the light of the globalization process, raise the issue of intercultural dialogue, mutual understanding of the global actors belonging to different cultures.
Naturally, all this affect the methods of teaching English language, raise new problems in the theory and practice of teaching English. It should also be noted that with the development of high technologies, the role of information and knowledge is increasing at all levels and in all spheres of social development.
Furthermore, it is important to note that it is no longer enough for any specialist to own information in his/her native language only. Third, he/she needs to be aware of the global development of his/her area of expertise. Consequently, UNESCO has announced the XXI century as the century of polyglots.
The growing importance of learning English and the formation of communicative competences are emerging of this trend. Therefore, the problem of teaching and learning English as a means of effective communication becomes an urgent priority in the contemporary methodology of EFL teaching.
In recent times the focus is placed on this type of learning, which stimulates the intellectual and moral development of learners and increases their potential to critical thinking. Development of communicative abilities in the maximum level is an important, promising and challenging task standing before English language teachers and teacher trainers. It requires, on the one hand, to learn new teaching methods aimed at developing all four types of speech activity (speaking, listening, reading and writing) and formation of linguistic, sociolinguistic and pragmatic competences, and on the other, to create fundamentally new educational materials through which to teach learners how to communicate an effective English.
The modern specialist - is a well-educated person having fundamental training in a specific area of expertise, capable of continuing professional development. For the modern specialist knowledge of English is a necessary precondition for his/her professionalism, allowing him to work with the information available in the global level, as well as to communicate with his/her colleagues in different countries.
Thus, the problems of training specialists in different fields include the high-level proficiency of the English language which can be considered as the basic language of the globalization process that, in turn, requires the use of new teaching methods and techniques.
The central idea of teaching English should be based on activity approach, which means that learning should be as maximally related to the learner’s future professional occupation. Working with information in the English language requires the development of certain intellectual skills: the ability to analyze information, select the necessary facts, building them in a logical sequence, and the ability to put forward arguments and counterarguments.
Usually, educated specialists in Azerbaijan when dealing with foreign colleagues often face with the necessity of solving problems of theoretical and practical significance, which requires precise and clear thinking and the ability to articulate ideas verbally or in written English. Therefore, the process of learning English can be effectively actualized through a problem-oriented educational process with the use of information sources.
Preparation of high level professionals having creative abilities, critical thinking, professional competence and able to develop and take decisions in rapidly changing and unsustainable situations necessitates the use of methods of intensive and problems-oriented language teaching. Another problem of learning English emerges in the process of selecting information for educational purposes and while contacting with native speakers through comparing the cultures of the native and English language, which allows to form, along with the communicative and pragmatic, socio-cultural competence.
Project Method of Teaching English
In recent years the role of foreign language as a means of communication has increased significantly. As the main purpose of foreign language teaching is to teach students to use the foreign language as a means of communication, the methods used in teaching the language should be linked with the real situation of communication, and training itself should take place directly in a team.
It should be mentioned that the project method of teaching was developed by J. Dewey (1859-1952) at the end of XIX and beginning of XX century. Having stressed the necessity for an exploration of thinking and reflection, he argued that thinking is a solution to problems, i.e. the "problem solving" [1, p.3]. He defined it as “active, persistent, and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it and the conclusion to which it tends.” [1, p.9]. Reflective thinking, according to Dewey, emphasizes the consequences of ideas and suggests future physical action to confront and to solve a variety of personal and professional obstacles [5, p.25]. In the teaching and learning processes, reflective thinking cultivates meaningful learning and helps students and educators alike to develop expertise in their areas of professionalism.
In How We Think (1910), Dewey describes six phases of reflection: 1) an experience, 2) spontaneous interpretation of the experience, 3) naming the problem(s) or the question(s) that arises out of the experience, 4) generating possible explanations for the problems or questions posed, 5) ramifying the explanations into full-blown hypotheses, and 6) experimenting or testing the selected hypothesis [1, pp.27-44]. These phases were the bases of the project method proposed by Dewey.
E. Polat has given the definition of the project method as follows: “The project method deals with a certain set of educational and cognitive techniques and actions of learners which allow solving one or another problem as a result of independent cognitive activities and presuming the presentation of their results in the form of a concrete product of activities. If approach to the project method as a pedagogical technique, it presumes a package of research, exploration, and problem-oriented methods” [17, p.4]. Using this method is efficient as it affords an opportunity for learners to concentrate not only on the English language but also on a problem, to transfer the accent from linguistic aspects to the content, and to explore and take into deliberation the solutions to the problem in the English language.
The project method can be considered as a nonsimple but an efficient stage of critical thinking formation. The project method differs from other problems-based methods in a sense that as a result of certain research, exploration, and creative work, the learners not only arrive at a decision of the given problem but also create an actual product showing possibility and ability to put the obtained results into practice, while making this product.
In the course of a project work learners independently (individually or often, in small groups), unassisted by the English language teacher or with her minimum help, define the problem from a problem situation, break it up into sub-problems, hypothesize their solutions, research the sub-problems and relations among them, and then come back to the basic problem and offer their solutions. In the next stage, the offered solutions are extensively discussed in English. Therefore, participants are required abilities to argue in favor of their own viewpoints, to put forward counterarguments to opponents, to keep up discussions, and to agree to a compromise. All these abilities reflect the know-how of communicative competence. If to add the knowledge concerning the speech etiquette of native speakers and the sociocultural aspect of a discussed problem, the productive character of the project method, which meets the peculiarities of modern understanding of English teaching methodologies, becomes obvious. The design method allows generating at trainees skills of independent conducting research in the set area that will help them to realize further more difficult projects in their professional work.
Project method enables learners to form abilities of self-study in a given area, which will help them continue to implement more complex projects in their future professional activities.
Thus, a project has been accepted as an effective tool which aims to enhance the cognitive activities of learners towards the development of critical thinking.
The project methodology is an uneasy combination of forms and methods of teaching the English language. Therefore, it is necessary to prepare students, who get accustomed to the illustrative, explanatory and reproductive type of learning in order to work on a project.
Discussions in English play an important role in teaching English with the project method. Ability to lead a discussion in a form of a dialogue or a polylogue is a necessary condition for successful and joint project work of students in small groups. Debates in the targeted foreign language serve as the greatest promoter of effective forms of sociolinguistic and pragmatic competence. In this sense, discussions in the learned foreign language reveal the contradictions of socio-cultural plan and put forward the arguments and counterarguments and build the logic of evidence to the speaker's position. At the same time, students learn to consider the problem from all sides, discuss and formulate their viewpoints in English. However, the learners need to be precise of what is required from them, i.e., findings on learned problems, not of facts, arguments and concise answers and not vague reasoning, where no visible effect. These requirements are the responsibility of the talk that, although not all at once, create a culture of speech, for example, listen to the interlocutor to the end without interrupting, asking him questions, refuting his opinions, or, conversely, disagree with them, developing the idea.
The project method of teaching English enables learners to consciously approach to the targeted problems and create active discussion environment, speech culture, and orientation towards identifying the causes of problems and their efficient solution in the future. It has an important principle of shaping critical thinking in students. Language, therefore, is both the goal and the learning tool in the project method framework. Furthermore, the project method is very helpful not only in terms of enabling language learners to master all four types of speech activities (speaking, listening, writing, and reading). It also grants necessary skills to students to define the causes of the emersed situations against problems in the sociocultural sphere and even try to solve them. Here, the interest of learners to solve problems is a self-motivation, which acts an impetus of the cognitive process.
Thus, application of the project method into English language classes helps to activate the cognitive activity of students, their independence, creates a culture of creative operatory thought and conditions for the use of personal experience and prior knowledge to master new skills. Since discussions and problem solving occurs in a form of group communication, project participants obtain abilities to act in the interests of the group and respect the interlocutors which, in turn, leads to formation of the collective thought. Due to this, the project method enables learners not only master and think in English, but also be an expert in different areas and easily orientate into rapidly changing information flow.
One of the efficient techniques of enhancing cognitive activity in foreign language learners in the framework of the project method is role-playing games. Such games in EFL classes can enable the learners to solve problem situations of different degrees of complexity. This technique can be used both independently and in the context of the project method, especially as a specific form of project implementation. Learners use their accumulated knowledge, experience, and research results in the process of working on a project in order to play socially significant roles. This technique of modeling the situations concerning professional, business and cross-cultural communication helps language learners to get used to different situations of future activities, with which they might encounter in real life.
Problematical role-playing game is implemented through a simulation of situations in which a problem can find its solution. Playing the role, the learner solves problem situations, while showing the full communicative competence and offering practical solution. This technique should be adequate to the studied issue. It is important that communicative competence was formed in real acts of communication, in which English is a means of shaping and formulating ideas. Thus, language learners, based on skills, formed through the project method are able to apply and develop these skills in concrete situations of communication, performing socially significant role and defend their position in challenging situations.
The project method enables language learners to focus on the subject of discussion, rather than on linguistic form. This method reflects the specific form of communicative competence and intercultural communication. In this regard, it would be useful in the formation of learners' critical thinking to organize English language classes in accordance with the growing requirements to training global citizens. in phases, to begin forming the basic skills of reasoning, reasoning by the method of discussion, then, continuing on this basis to develop an active role in the implementation of social roles through role play, and then through the project to achieve the highest degree of autonomy in the student organization of its future activities.
It is necessary to consider how to organize learning activities of students in the group, where the number of students is larger? Many teachers face with this problem, feeling that small groups could work much more successfully. The working experience with large groups using the project method proves that the collective learning activity makes learning easier, more interesting and much more effective than the traditional way of language teaching. The project-based work best reflects the principle of motivation and the principle of practical application of the language. Activities of language learners within project work is always motivating, as it is based on personal and public interest in the studied subject, joint activities and achieving goals. In the process of teaching a foreign language an active interaction of students occur, which indicates that the project method enables the learners to effectively use the targeted language in a natural situation.
Therefore, project learning significantly changes the nature of foreign language lessons, while maintaining the dominance of learners’ spoken language and allowing them to help and learn from one another. In order to organize the EFL teaching classes on the basis of the project-based learning, several techniques to minimize the negative effects of working with a large group should be used. First, it is necessary to group students. When the whole class is divided into subgroups, it becomes possible to use a variety of activities that may be unachievable in the whole group, for instance, when students are required to solve a concrete problem. It can be argued that a group of no more than four learners are most successful in the project work, as all participants in a group rely on one another. Therefore, the fewer people in the group, the higher the productivity of the joint work are, provided that the aims and objectives are clearly defined by the teacher and presented to learners for solution. However, while dividing students into small groups three potential consequences should be initially considered.
1. In one group there might be students so-called potential troublemakers who disturb the teacher.
2. Students tend to communicate due to their abilities, i.e. more clever students strain after clever colleagues and the weak remain with the weak. The language teacher should take this into consideration and prevent a subordinate, inferior position in the group.
3. The teacher should be careful in order to prevent the isolation of a learner or several learners from the whole class. However, if there are those who can work independently and very eager to, the teacher should allow him/her.
Each subgroup should necessarily have a leader, and all assignments should be equally distributed among the members. Regarding the role of the teacher, he/she should wish to share his/her powers with students in order to reinforce the learning process. The foreign language teacher should be more akin to a music teacher or swimming instructor than to a teacher of history or philosophy, as the latter focuses on the development of practical skills. The EFL teachers who not only instruct and advise, but also inspire and encourage and are themselves involved in different tasks can be considered the most effective than those who still prefer working with traditional methods, like the grammar-translation method.
On the basis of monitoring students’ activities while working on a project, the project method makes it possible to increase the time spent for oral speech practice, and also enables favorable conditions for creativeness of learners and development of their active self-expressions. Despite the fact that the obtaining necessary knowledge and skills is a quite individual process, it can be arranged in such a way that students can study the material together, in conditions of mutual control, mutual assistance and exchange of information.
In this regard, less confident students can apply their knowledge of foreign language in a relaxed atmosphere, without being subject to direct criticism by the teacher. Being an active method of learning, the project method contains elements of competition, increases the motivation to teaching, and shapes students' sense of responsibility in front of the group.
The project method is one of the most effective and appropriate teaching methods in the globalization period because in most cases, the information is no longer introduced by the teacher, but is demanded from students to obtain it on media, Internet and other sources. It means that searching and processing the information rests upon the learners themselves. Thus, in this method the process of obtaining the set goal is much more important than the final result of the project.
1. Basic requirements for use of the project method are:
Existence of problems which are significant for research and in creative plan and require integrated knowledge and research for its solution;
2. Practical and theoretical significance of the expected results (for example, report to the appropriate services, a joint publication of newspaper, etc.);
3. Independent (individual, pair, and group) activities of students in the classroom or out-of-school hours.
4. Structuring the content of the project (with incremental results and the distribution of roles).
5. Using research methods which include:
· identification of problems arising from her research problems;
· hypothesizing their decision;
· discussion of methods of research;
· presentation of final results;
· Data analysis;
· Summing up;
· Findings (using the techniques of “brainstorming ", "round table", creative reports, project defense, etc.).
Hence, the stages of development and implementation of project can be defined:
1. Introduction of a situation which enables to identify one or more problems on the issues discussed.
2. Hypothesizing a solution for the identified problem (brainstorming). Discussing and motivating each hypothesis.
3. Discussing the methods for testing hypotheses in small groups (one hypothesis for each group) and possible sources of information to verify the hypotheses. Discussing the obtained outcomes.
4. Group work in order to find the facts, arguments that confirm or reject hypothesis.
5. Project defense (hypotheses for problem solving) by each of the groups meantime acting as opponents to others.
6. Advancement of new problems
Typology of Projects
The dominant types of project-based learning are as follows: research projects, creative projects, role-playing, practice-oriented, etc.
These projects are based on doing small research which has its structure completely or partially coinciding with authentic research (argumentation for the relevancy of research topic, problem definition, its subject and object, the designation of research problems in the logical sequence, definition of research methods , sources of information, hypotheses to solve problems, identifying ways of their solution, discussion of results, conclusions of studies, the designation of new problems for further studies).
Creative projects suggest presentation of obtained results. Such projects, as a rule, do not contain any detailed structure of joint work of participants. Presentation of project results demand clearly elaborated structure in a form of video film scenario, drama, holiday programs, articles, reports, designs and newspaper rubrics, almanac, album etc.
In such projects, participants undertake certain roles, according to characteristics and contents of the project and peculiarities of the resolving problem. They can be literature characters or made-up heroes, imitated social or business relations, and complicated situations. Results of such projects can be outlined at the beginning of the project, and can be silhouetted only in the end. The creativity level is very high in such projects. However, the dominant type of activities is the role-playing or adventurous.
This type of projects are initially aimed at data gathering on a certain topic, to familiarize the project participants with these data, their analysis and sum-ups intended for the wide public. These projects like creative projects demand a well-planned structure, possibilities for systematic corrections in the course of working on the project. The structure of such a project can be defined as follows:
· Aim of project;
· Object of data search;
· Data resources (Mass Media, databases, including electronic, interviews, questionnaire, including foreign partners, “brainstorming” etc.);
· Means of data processing (analysis, generalization, correlation with known facts, argumentative conclusions);
· Results of data search (article, annotation, summary, report, video material etc.);
· Presentation (publication, including in the Web, discussions in teleconferences etc.) [19, p.11].
These projects distinguish the clearly defined results of activities of project participants. This result is necessarily oriented toward social interests of the participants (a document obtained from research results on different topics, actions plans, recommendations, background material, house designs, projects etc.).
Number of project participants:
· Personal (between two partners in different schools, regions, countries);
· Pair (among pairs of participants);
· Group (among groups of participants).
Duration of projects:
· Short-term (small projects can be developed in several lessons on the program of a single subject or interdisciplinary);
· Middle-term (one –three months);
· Long-term (up to a year).
The middle-term and long-term projects are ordinary, telecommunication, domestic or international projects, which are usually interdisciplinary and contain a rather big problem or a sum of projects. These projects are, usually, carried out in outside regular hours, but can be traced through language classes.
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