INNOVATIONS IN PRACTICAL TRAINING WITHIN THE BILINGUAL GRADES OF AN EDUCATION DEGREE
The notion of ‘bilingual modality’ in higher education is a new way of teaching that arises in the European Higher Education Area where some of the subjects are taught in English. In this new modality of teaching it is considered crucial to strengthen the communicative competence in English of undergraduate students, as much within the classroom as outside it. In furtherance of this aim a series of ‘internships’ within English schools has been developed. This productive experience forms the basis of this paper which presents the experience of an agreement between the Faculty of Education (University of Granada) and the Department of Teacher Training (Bradford College) (UK) to promote internships in English Primary schools.
The collaboration between the two universities was established two years ago and since then the guiding principle has been that students are fully immersed in an English-speaking environment. In fact, Spanish students must participate, under the direction of the class teacher, as de facto teaching assistants whose role is to support students in all classroom activities and participate fully in the life of the school. These placements in Bradford schools occur within two distinct frameworks (forming, respectively, a ‘long’ and ‘short’ placement). The first ‘long’ placement occurs within the auspices of the well-known ERASMUS program. In this case the students, in addition to completing their academic studies, undertake practical training at primary schools in Bradford over one academic year completing over 384 hours of classroom contact. An innovative aspect which has been implemented under this program is that undergraduate students have the ability to perform research work which is presented as final degree project and is supported by tutors at Bradford College. Usually, only four students each year are able to undertake this long placement.
Forming a corollary to this year-long placement a specific agreement between the two universities has enabled students to have the opportunity to practice in primary schools in Bradford during a shorter period. Because of its limited duration this ‘short’ program is able to accommodate a greater number of participants; in the current academic year 10 students have participated, and in future years an expansion of as many as 20 or more is anticipated. Due to the bilateral nature of the agreement Bradford students are also able to can undertake internships in schools of Primary Education in Spain.
The experience of the trainees which is facilitated in each of these distinct experiences brings many positive impacts, not only for the students themselves but within wider society. Needless to say, the enhanced language competence of the trainees which results from these immersive experiences is the main attraction for them. Yet, the time on placement permits so many rich insights into the philosophies and ethos of the English education system and the contrasting nature of its schools, especially with regard to the English primary and early years curriculums and the underpinning pedagogical practices. Students return to Spain with enhanced language competence and, perhaps as a result of their own ongoing research into comparative education, the ability to reflect even more profoundly on the nature of teachers’ and schools’ role in the education and learning of children. The main results as a result of this experience are discussed and suggestions for improvement are offered.