The Community Based Learning course teaches university students about language acquisition and language learning, lesson planning and teaching techniques for modern languages. Following the successful completion of the academic course, students teach Italian classes to school pupils in local primary schools. This initiative aims to foster positive attitudes towards language learning amongst university students, and to provide local schools with the opportunity to study a foreign language.
Various Primary Schools in Galway including Scoil Bhríde, Shantalla; Scoil an Linbh Iosa, Francis St; Scoil Iognáid, and Galway Educate Together NS, Newcastle.
Community-based learning/research activity
This module teaches university students about language acquisition and language teaching methodologies before arranging for them to teach introductory classes in Italian in local primary schools. During the placement in the schools, the students develop a teaching portfolio and reflect on the experience of community based learning. Due to the nature of the practical work, there is a strong emphasis on language acquisition through fun and games. Primary school pupils see that language learning can be fun and learn about a new culture and language. At the end of the Italian course, the pupils come to the university for ‘Italian Day’, during which they are presented with a certificate to mark their achievement in learning a new language.
On average over 320 pupils from schools in Galway city and county participate each year, with up to eight different schools involved annually. To date almost 20 primary schools and 3,000 children have benefitted from this initiative, which has won a prestigious European award for teaching innovation (European Language Label).
It is a proactive collaboration with external community partners for mutual benefit, and, through the Community Knowledge Initiative, has pioneered a new form of community-university partnership. The initiative gives students practical applications to their learning, boosting civic engagement and supporting local organisations. It opens the campus to the wider community by bringing the primary school students to NUI Galway annually for Italian Day and promotes the engagement of pupils with the university education. The impacts of this course are multiple: the university student benefits by learning about language acquisition, gaining practical teaching experience, transferrable skills and also enhanced community involvement; primary school children benefit from increased exposure to modern languages and the university benefits from increased links with the community and the enhanced profile of modern languages within schools. The courses are embedded within the university curriculum in a community based learning framework which ensures continuity and longevity. The initiative also involves DEIS schools, which increases engagement with a diverse cohort of children and gives them the opportunity to learn a language and to engage with the university, thus promoting and advancing civic, social, and cultural inclusivity.
Student learning outcomes
- To teach classes in Italian in a primary school.
- To be creative in the development of teaching material and classes.
- To develop organisational skills in class planning and tandem teaching.
- To integrate the theory of language teaching into practice.
- To reflect on the teaching experience and to learn from the process.
- To reflect on the service learning experience.
- To enhance interpersonal skills in working in pairs and in collaboration with schools.
- To enhance communicative and intercultural abilities.
The initiative allows community partners to benefit from free language tuition and exposure to a new language and culture. It encourages a professional collaborative learning approach and a sharing of expertise. The community based learning programme promotes positive attitudes towards the study of languages in the community and gives children the opportunity to explore new language learning experiences. The university students become language ambassadors in the community, fostering intercultural communication and exchange. By bringing the primary school pupils onto campus for the Italian Day ceremony, the programme introduces the pupils to the university campus and celebrates their learning achievements.
School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, NUI Galway
Dr. Anne O’Connor, NUI Galway