Barbara Guidarelli, Lecturer in Italian
School of Modern Languages
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
What did you do?
The Newcastle Calls Project is a collaborative teaching project crossing the boundaries between teaching and learning, teachers and students, UG and MA students and different subjects taught at Newcastle University’s School of Modern Languages (e.g. foreign languages, translation studies, film practice). It aims to foster inclusiveness, student engagement and innovation in teaching and learning.
This year, the students of Italian at intermediate level (SML 4004) led, supervised by module leader Barbara Guidarelli, remote interviews with Italian researchers at the Antarctic base Mario Zucchelli (January 2020) and with an Italian theatre actor (March 2020).
Image from the Newcastle Calls documentary
Students had the chance to ask their own questions, actively engaging in the activity, speaking with Italian professionals in the foreign language, fully co-shaping the learning experience, and thus co-creating the learning materials based on their interests.They learned about life in the Antarctica, discussed climate change with experienced researchers who live in such an extreme environment, life as a theatre actor in today’s Italy and life in Italy during the lockdown (as the second interview took place during the unexpected COVID-19 outbreak).
Receiving the NUTELA Small Grants Fund in the academic year 2019/2020, supported us to pilot the second stage of the project, that is the actual creation of learning material for teaching and wider purposes within SML. First, Italian into English and English into Italian MA Translation students worked collaboratively to create one of the interviews’ subtitles into English. Second, a Film Practice MA student edited the material to create a first documentary.
Who was involved?
Barbara Guidarelli, Lecturer in Italian, SML
Dr Cristina Peligra, Teacher, SML
D. Carole Moore, Teacher, SML
Italian students, intermediate level (SML 4004)
Italian into English and English into Italian Translation MA students (to translate the interviews)
A Film Practice MA student (to create the documentary)
Italian researchers at the Antarctic base Mario Zucchelli (being interviewed)
An Italian theatre actor (being interviewed)
How did you do it?
In the first stage, Italian students at intermediate level participated in the above mentioned interviews in class, the first one carried out via Skype and the second one via Zoom. Students were able to prepare their own questions and to direct the conversation based on their interests, thus actively co-creating the teaching material.
As interviews were recorded, students later had access to the recordings to analyse the material in more detail and keep practising at their own pace and in their own time. The interviews were integrated in the course material (and exam).
In the second stage, a Translation workshop was organised (remotely, due to the COVID-19 outbreak) to translate the interview text collaboratively into English. Finally, a Film Practice MA student edited the video and created a documentary that can now be used as teaching material.
Introduction footage from Newcastle Calls documentary ( staff/student log in required to view)
Feedback from UG and MA students has been collected and will be used to review and improve the project structure and delivery. Students have also been asked for suggestions on topics for future interviews, which will be taken into careful consideration to make sure the material proposed in the future is relevant to them.
Why did you do it?
Nowadays, there is an increased awareness of the need for innovation in teaching, which we believe can be provided by such a project, introducing not only innovative technology but also an innovative approach aiming at co-shaping the learning experience and learning materials.
The project was designed with the following goals in mind. We wanted to:
- restructure and challenge the traditional foreign language learning listening exercise, allowing students to confront (and challenge) themselves with real-life, authentic communicative situations, as for example an interactive interview in the foreign language. This allows students to self-assess their own listening skills, and, specifically, their ability to use interference in real-life interaction in a foreign language.
- enhance students’ engagement and boost their confidence in speaking. Italian students at intermediate levels asked questions directly, thus learning about aspects which interested them.
- enhance students’ professional skills, with particular regards to MA students who created the subtitles or the documentary. This will provide them with evidence of their skills and abilities and will help them boost their CVs as well.
- foster collaboration among colleagues and students.
- start creating an archive of up-to-date teaching material reflecting the changes in today’s world (e.g. climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic).
Does it work?
This is what students have said:
“[…] I really enjoyed both interviews, I felt that they were a fun and engaging way to improve my Italian language skills, whilst the topics of the interviews were really varied and interesting. From science in the Antarctic to theatre work in a pandemic – there was something for everyone!” – Student feedback, UG Italian intermediate
“[…] Despite the vocabulary issue, I was shocked that I could understand at least 70% of the interviews which made me more confident with my Italian.” – Student feedback, UG Italian intermediate
“[…] I have little professional translation experience and I feel as though this will improve my career prospects immensely. […] I really enjoyed this project and hope the university are able to continue work like this in the future.” – Student feedback, MA Translation
To conclude, we would like to point out that, as the project aimed at fostering technology-enhanced teaching and learning, it definitely put us in an advantaged position during the COVID-19 outbreak. As interviews were carried out remotely, switching to online teaching did not disrupt the delivery of the project, but rather showed the strength and importance of technological innovation and tools in modern teaching and the need for digital learning resources.
This approach develops the following attributes:
- Digitally capable
Colleagues can find out more about the Graduate Framework on the University intranet.
Barbara Guidarelli, Lecturer in Italian, School of Modern Languages