On 1 March, an opening session of a two-day international scientific conference “Innovations in modern language education” was held in the main building’s conference hall. Rector Dmitry Endovitsky welcomed all the participants and guests and pointed out, that considering the global processes in our modern world, such scientific conferences are of great importance:
“Today the notion of professional competence includes both linguistic and language aspects. It’s a must for every young specialist to be able to speak at least one foreign language, irrespective of their specialisation or field of interest. Our university is actively promoting the Russian language abroad. Our online platform for learning Russian was successfully introduced in Spain. Recently it has also been adapted for learners in China. Our teachers give lectures in foreign languages and employ bilingual methods of teaching. Thus, everything that happens in our education system results from the necessity to take on the challenges of the global world.”
Then, the rector awarded Dr. Susan Garton, Professor and Head of the Department of Master's Degree Programmes in Linguistics at Aston University (Birmingham, the UK), with a gown and the title of the Honorary Doctor of Voronezh State University. Dr. Garton was awarded this honorary title for her great personal contribution to strengthening Russian-British relations and international collaboration between VSU and European universities, as well as to elaborating professional language education programmes.
Dr. Garton is Chair of the Standing Committee for Research of the International TESOL Association, a full member of the Higher Education Academy of the UK, laureate of the National Teaching Fellowship Award, and the author of great many books on language teacher education. She is well-known at VSU, as she is the supervisor of the TEMPUS project that our university was participating in from December 2013 till March 2017, namely the project "Modernising European Language Teaching through the Introduction of Online Technologies in the Process of Teacher Training" (544161-TEMPUS-1-2013-1-UK-TEMPUS-JPCR Aston University "Developing the Teaching of European Languages: Modernising Language Teaching through the development of blended Master Programmes"). In 2015, Dr. Garton assisted our university in making a huge step towards innovations in the sphere of teacher education. Thanks to her help, a new master’s degree programme “Foreign Language Teaching with the Application of Online Technologies” was introduced, and seven course syllabuses were developed.
In her response, Dr. Garton expressed her gratitude to VSU for the honour that she received. She also thanked the participants of the project’s work teams for their professional attitude and dedication that provided for the success of the project, and the students who were pioneers of the new master’s degree programme.
In her presentation about "Innovations in Higher Pedagogical Education: from Theory to Practice of Implementing Tempus Project", Dr. Garton considered the notion of “E-learning”, described the transfer process from distance learning to a blended learning approach (i.e. including both distance and interactive learning), and talked about the advantages and disadvantages of the latter. The advantages of the blended approach are the following: it is person-oriented, independent, and encourages students to be initiative and develop their own working pace. Blended learning helps to implement the so called backward approach, when students obtain knowledge at home and practice this knowledge in the class. The approach, however, has its own drawbacks which include low reliability of online platforms, slow internet connections, and certain difficulties in assessing student progress.
The opening session also included the following presentations by the conference’s keynote speakers: “Methods of Enhancing Intercultural Competence within the Framework of University Education Programmes” by Rumia Tangalycheva, Director of the Institute of Eastern and Western Societies at St. Petersburg State University, and “New Pedagogical Reality and Active Teaching Methods (Case Study of French Grammar Teaching Techniques)” by Natalia Loseva, Associate professor at Moscow State Institute of International Relations. The conference also included panel discussions.
On 2 March, the second day of the conference, workshops and master classes were held at the conference hall of the main building by our colleagues from Aston University, Moscow, and other Voronezh universities. The conference was attended by over 170 people from seven countries and seven regions of the Russian Federation.