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What I learnt from colleagues in the Czech Republic

Education, Communication and Society

27 November 2019

Dr Jane Jones is a senior lecturer in Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) Education in the School of Education, Communication & Society (ECS). She recently spent time at Charles University in Prague, meeting academics and discussing their means of assessment.

Dr Jane Jones talks about her trip and what she learnt from her Czech colleagues.

What was the purpose of your visit?

I was invited by Dr Jana Stará, Head of the Primary Education Department, to discuss the assessment arrangements on their primary teacher education programme. It was the suggestion of Dr Hasan Selcuk, who obtained his PhD at King’s four years ago under my supervision with Dr Mary Webb in the School of Education, Communication & Society.

Dr Stará is not totally satisfied with the current assessment, especially the final state assessment that gives a choice of a portfolio or a 15 minute presentation on a choice of topic from a list of 27 topics. She organised a series of interviews with staff from the programme and with two students who have just graduated on the programme, a five-year course resulting in an MA and teaching qualification.

Charles University buildings

What did you find out in the interviews and discussions?

There was unanimous agreement that the portfolio was the best way for the student teachers to record their development over time, but that it needed better structure, support and criteria. Some tutors thought that the presentation would suit some students better and, if well prepared, could be as useful for those students not keen on creating a portfolio.

This was confirmed by two student teachers. One thought the portfolio provided an opportunity to show professional and personal growth. The other disliked the ongoing 'burden' of the portfolio and preferred the on-the-spot topic presentation. I took some samples of UK primary teacher training teacher portfolios loaned by primary colleagues that Czech colleagues found impressive.

What were the outcomes of the meeting?

At a meeting with Professor PaedDr Radka Wildová (Vice Rector for Conception and Quality of Education) and Dr Stará, I suggested that both modes – portfolio and topic presentation – be more fully integrated into the course. A choice could remain for the final assessment, although the portfolio would be a requirement for all.

Professor Wildová's concern was for equality between tasks and a better correspondence between the course and the assessment. Lunch was lobster soup with an astonishing addition of a lobster on the side of the plate that left us, briefly, speechless.

And what next? What are the potential benefits for ECS?

My report will be acted on. I will continue a dialogue with colleagues on assessment as part of knowledge sharing and the development of international collaboration. The Vice Rector has also invited me to co-supervise PhD students as an external and to contribute to the Faculty Journal Pedagogika.

In a second link, I spent time working with Dr Hasan Selcuk and Dr Hana Vonkova, senior lecturer and researcher of re-known in the Faculty. In October, she was granted 7,000,000 Czech korunas (£230,000) for a three-year project to investigate the motivation of secondary school learners of English as a foreign language (EFL). This starts in January 2020. My role as an external expert will be to help with the creation of research tools, field work, data interpretation and writing.

I also had a meeting with Dr Miroslava Cernochova, Vice Dean and Head of International Relations. She had met several colleagues from King’s over the years and was very keen to strengthen links between us and Charles University. Colleagues from King’s are assured of a warm welcome in Prague. Both Miroslava and Vice Rector Wildová said that whatever happens with Brexit, that collaboration and friendships are about people not politics and will continue to thrive.

As a final word, I would like to emphasise how much their collaborative and collegial culture was much in evidence. I found our Czech colleagues to be very generous, enthusiastic and also modest. They write together all the time, always collaboratively and no colleague is left out. They are very inclusive in all they do, bidding for project funds, sharing, supporting and celebrating as a team.

It was a lovely atmosphere, in beautiful old buildings in a great city. For five days, I was honoured to be part of it and pleased to know this will continue.

Jane Jones with Czech colleagues

In this story

Jane Jones

Jane Jones

Senior Lecturer in Education

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