THE INITIATIVE PROMOTER’S PERSPECTIVE
My UniSpace matched pupils (mentees) aged 14–18 (Years 10–13) in schools and colleges with university students (mentors) who interact with them through online communication or 'e-mentoring'.
There were three main objectives as far as mentees were conerned:
- To support and motivate mentees and to encourage those in years 10–11 to progress to AS/A2 and those in years 12–13 to consider studying a language at University
- To give pupils an insight into life as a (language) student in Higher Education. This could be achieved by providing the opportunity for mentees to ask their mentors questions about university
- To develop mentees’ language skills by encouraging them to correspond with
their mentor in the TL.
There were also objectives for mentors:
- To give mentors experience of working with young people in a languages-related field
- To offer mentors the opportunity to enhance their employability
- To encourage mentors to improve their own language skills through supporting younger learners
Through e-mentoring (i.e. not through face-to-face meetings) mentors provided a friendly sounding board for pupils considering various options for their future. They were able to give mentees information about the personal and professional benefits attached to studying languages and to provide advice on language courses, universities and careers.
For pupils applying to universities,mentors might offer tips on personal statements and interviews.
Feedback was sought on the scheme via questionnaires to the 88 mentees and 49 mentors in the project's first year. 83% of the mentees responding said that the project had helped them to imporve their communication skills in the language, and about half stated that their confidence had also improved.
Over half also said that they felt more positive about the idea of studying languages at university.
Among mentors, a majority felt that the experience was something they would refer to in job applications, and many said their written communication skills and their skills in the foreign language had improved as a result of the project.
To give wider prominence to the scheme (thought to be unique in the field of languages) and to recognise the work of those involved.
An extensive article in Language Learning Journal and various items in the local press
It gave wider prominence to the scheme both among universities and among schools with which they worked.
Ensure that methods of gathering feedback from project participants are thorough
THE NELLIP NETWORK’S PERSPECTIVE
'EU language policies aim to protect linguistic diversity and promote knowledge of languages – for reasons of cultural identity and social integration, but also because multilingual citizens are better placed to take advantage of the educational, professional and economic opportunities created by an integrated Europe. The goal is a Europe where everyone can speak at least two other languages in addition to their own mother tongue'. This project clearly supported the second of these policies - universities need to keep producing languages graduates who can go on to be teachers and perhaps teacher trainers.
The 2008-2009 priorities were related to intercultural dialogue and languages for business. This project served to further especially the second of these priorities: not only did mentors gain experience in the foreign languages that might help them seek employment after university; mentees too were encouraged to take up languages at university level and potentially 'as a career'
THE NATIONAL AGENCY’S PERSPECTIVE
What are the three most impressive aspects of this project?
• Impressively managed system for setting up secure e-mail links between university students and school students
• Positive impact on undergraduates, both in terms of their ‘employability skills development’ and improving their own language skills
• Programme includes plans for expansion and further evaluation of the project’s impact
How does the project meet the judging criteria?
• Innovative – E-mentoring allows school students to access help from students at university without the issues of travel or release from study
• Replicable – easily replicable using online E-mentoring software packages. Any university or other institution could replicate the project. The project is being replicated by Portsmouth University next academic year
• Effective – we felt there was not yet enough evidence of impact on pupils’ language learning. Perhaps the project should be re-submitted next year with further evaluated evidence of impact on, for example, examination performance
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