Technology-Integrated Teaching and Assessment: ESP at the University of Bucharest

Technology-Integrated Teaching and Assessment: ESP at the University of Bucharest

Lorena Clara Mihăeş (University of Bucharest, Romania)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2933-0.ch011
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The information revolution has enhanced the role of English as the lingua franca of global communication and has dramatically increased the demand for academic English courses which focus on discipline-specific knowledge. The present chapter examines the current state of teaching and assessing English for Specific Purposes at the University of Bucharest, Romania. Against the wider background provided by language education policies and digital initiatives within the European Union, the chapter presents how technology-integrated teaching methods have begun to shape both the content and the delivery format of the specialised English class and to renew the task-based framework on which the course is developed. The assessment, however, is more indebted to the traditional type of evaluation. The undergraduate English for History course will be given as an example in point.
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A renowned theatre in Bucharest was recently forced to close down because the building was too old and represented a potential threat to the theatre-goers. As it began to organise its performances in various other places, an announcement was placed in the window of the old building: Our company’s headquarters have moved online. This announcement seems emblematic of the world we inhabit, the virtual merging with, or even replacing the physical. The change is evident everywhere, from the way we communicate daily to the way we work or study. Technology has made the world smaller, work easier, and learning more accessible and affordable. It has also made the acquisition of a second language a more enjoyable experience. As a matter of fact, the study of foreign languages has always been ahead of its time compared to other school subjects, because it has taken advantage of the benefits of technology, in the past and even more so at present. Many people remember, for sure, the heyday of the cassette recorder, which was used for listening activities in the foreign language classes, or the overhead projector and the more appealing VCR, which combined the image with the sounds and brought, for the first time probably, a touch of authenticity to the class. Not to mention the old language laboratory equipped with heavy devices, such as enormous headsets, where several students simultaneously performed listening tasks at their own pace (a real achievement for those times). Those days are gone, as the new technologies have replaced the old equipment with easy-to-manoeuvre computing infrastructure. The compatibility between foreign language teaching and technology, especially in its digital format, can be explained by the former’s ceaseless search for authentic immersive experiences that can simulate real-life situations, and by the latter’s inexhaustible resources of authentic materials, together with many possibilities of practicing and enhancing practically all language skills. The use of computers in the process of language learning has a name—Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL)—and has been around us since the 1960s (Warschauer & Healey, 1998).

The present chapter looks at a branch of Language for Specific Purposes - English for Specific Purposes (ESP) in the digital age. With English becoming the lingua franca of education and of research nowadays, there has been an increasing demand for academic courses that support the acquisition of English with a focus on discipline-specific vocabulary. The discussion will be contextualised by referring to the situation of ESP in Romania, in particular at the University of Bucharest, against the larger background provided by post-Bologna European higher education systems and the European Union’s language policies and language education in universities. Both teaching and assessment practices will be presented within the task-based framework, with an emphasis on the way the adoption of new technology has begun to shape the once traditionally-taught ESP course. The case of the undergraduate English for History course will be provided as an example in point. The conclusion of this chapter is that, if technology-integrated ESP teaching is a thriving, still not fully exploited area, the assessment procedure is more at ease in a traditional environment, where the computer is used mainly for listening comprehension and searching for appropriate texts on the Internet to devise various reading and speaking tasks.

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