University of Warsaw Poland 1 National Background



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University of Warsaw - Poland

1.1 National Background

Compulsory foreign language learning begins in Poland at the age of ten, although many primary schools offer language teaching for learners younger than this. Teaching programmes of all institutes of higher education, colleges and universities include a compulsory course in a foreign language. Students in foreign language faculties are also obliged to study one additional European language. There is currently great demand for teachers of foreign languages in Poland.


Before 1989-90, there were no specific institutes for the education of foreign language teachers in Poland. A 1990 reform established a network of more than 60 teacher education colleges throughout the country. At present, the teacher education colleges fall into two categories: some of them have full university status, and receive funding through the usual university channels; others (usually those outside major cities) have a non-academic status and are overseen by the philological faculties of the major Polish universities. They are funded by local education authorities. In practice, they function like affiliated institutions whose curricula and diplomas are accredited by the universities. Teacher education programmes are also provided by the philological faculties of the universities themselves, and this is often considered to be the most prestigious way into teaching.
In areas of Poland where there are large Lithuanian, Belorussian, Ukrainian, Czech, Slovak or German groups, schools provide education in these languages as well as courses for Polish speakers who live there.
1.2 Initial Teacher Education

There are a number of initial teacher education options in Poland. Studying at the teacher education colleges takes three years, and leads to a B.A. equivalent teaching qualification valid for all levels of education from primary to secondary. In practice however, it is often considered necessary for those who want to teach at secondary level to undertake a follow-up 2 year M.A. at an academic faculty. The M.A. is usually a subject-related academic M.A., and for this route would not involve any additional teacher education units.


Initial teacher education is also provided by faculties of modern languages at the country’s main universities. In this case, trainees undertake a five year integrated M.A. course with a teaching qualification. Candidates for this degree must meet the statutory requirements set by the Ministry of Education concerning school-based practice. Teacher education has the status of an optional element which candidates for this M.A. are able to choose. The emphasis of this route into teaching is often on deepening one’s subject knowledge and language proficiency.
1.3 Continuing Teacher Education (in-service)

In-service teacher education is not compulsory for qualified teachers in Poland, although it is difficult to gain promotion without it. There is a wide range of opportunities available for continuing teacher education. It comes from a number of sources such as the CODN (the National In-service Teacher Training Centre), local education authority networks, universities and teacher education colleges. Continuing teacher education is also provided by organisations such as the British Council, the Alliance Française and the Goethe Institute.


2. Case Study Context

This case study will examine the three teacher education colleges of English, French and German at the University of Warsaw. These provide three year B.A. equivalent degrees for foreign language teachers. Primary and secondary teachers follow the same education courses, with specific units providing education in specialised areas (primary, secondary, adult learning and so on). Although the Institutes of English, French and German (the foreign language faculties) provide the usual five year M.A. with teaching qualification at the university, as well as the two or three year follow-up M.A. for graduates of the teacher education colleges, in practice there is little specific collaboration between the colleges and the institutes.


2.1 Organisation of Institution

The teacher education colleges were founded in 1990 and were amalgamated in 1998 to form the Centre for Foreign Language Teacher Training and European Education. Of approximately 1000 trainee teachers at the centre, about half are based at the English College, the rest divided between the French and German Colleges.


The centre was formed in order to give teacher education a stronger platform at the university. At the time, it was felt that teacher education was under threat in many of the country’s universities. The formation of the centre was a strategic move to ensure the survival of each of the three colleges within the university setting, and an attempt to gain increased cooperation and recognition from other faculties of the university. In addition, the new centre was able to highlight the European dimension of its teacher education programmes. One of the recent moves in this direction has been the involvement of the Faculty of Education in providing a compulsory course on European education systems for the centre’s trainees.
With the increased recognition of teacher education through the formation of the joint centre came a certain loss of autonomy for the individual colleges. Cooperation between the colleges at present seems to exist more at the financial and administrative level than in terms of exchange and collaboration between teaching staff.
All trainees sit a competitive examination for entry to the centre. The most successful candidates have access to free funding financed by the state. In order to provide more places than state funding allows, the centre also accepts an equal number of fee-paying trainees.
When the colleges were first formed, there was a great deal of European collaboration organised through the Tempus programme. Exchanges and periods abroad are currently coordinated through the Socrates programme, and there is a significant level of involvement with the European Centre for Modern Languages (ECML) at Graz.
Many of the teacher educators at the centre’s colleges have a wide network of European contacts and are involved in a number of European initiatives. They also organise and develop provision in in-service education. Staff at the centre play a key role in national and European-wide consultancy and research into language teacher education. In addition, the heads of the English and French Colleges have cooperated with the ECML on the Ja-Ling Project in Poland on awakening learners to languages. Further details of these projects can be found below. The French College has specific links with the French Embassy in Warsaw, while the German College often works in partnership with the Goethe Institutes in Warsaw and Munich, which organise workshops at the college.
2.1.1 Structure

The teacher education courses at the Centre for Foreign Language Teacher Training and European Education last three years. There are few courses in common between the colleges, since teaching takes place in the target language of English, French or German. One exception is the European dimension course, delivered by the Faculty of Education in Polish. The trainees from the French and German Colleges follow these classes together, since the two colleges are at the same site. (Related item: 13). The English College has a separate course at its own site.


All three colleges offer courses over the three years in four main areas: language proficiency, language pedagogy and methodology, educationally oriented subject-based courses (including literature, cultural studies and linguistics) and supplementary courses (such as the second foreign language, ICT and European Educational Issues).
Experience of teaching in a classroom context is limited to the third year for legal reasons. In the first and second year, trainees observe in schools, while in their third year, they engage in teaching practice. Over the three years, trainees have 150 hours of observation and teaching practice in total. Alongside their practice, a major component of the third year of the course is the Diploma Project, a year long dissertation based on foreign language teaching methodology. Over the course of the three years, trainees gradually make the transition from class and seminar-room based activities to more practice-oriented approaches to teacher education. Many graduates of the colleges will go on to do a follow-up M.A. at the corresponding university faculty, or in a department such as American Studies or Translation and Interpretation.
2.1.2 Content

The course for the English College is outlined below. Similar, although not identical courses are offered by the French and German Colleges:




  1. The Language Curriculum: phonetics and grammar, oral skills, academic reading, academic writing, writing the Diploma Project, Pronunciation;

  2. Language Pedagogy and Methodology: Psychopedagogy, Teaching the Language, Teaching Language Skills, Pedagogical Skills, Young Learners, Developing Teaching Skills and Teacher Advancement;

  3. Educationally-oriented, subject-based courses: Linguistics, Cultural Studies, British History and Culture, Literature (American and British), History of English;

  4. Supplementary courses: Second foreign language, ICT for teaching, European Education.

The 150 hours teaching practice is divided in the English College as follows: in the first year, 20 hours including one week’s observation in primary schools; second year, 20 hours’ observation in lower secondary school, 30 hours organising extracurricular activities at school, 20 hours’ observation in upper secondary school; third year, 40 hours’ observation and teaching under mentor’s supervision, while researching the Diploma Project, 20 hours’ teaching and observation while writing the Diploma Project.


3. The Profile Elements Exemplified
3.1. Structure

3.1.1 A curriculum that integrates academic study and the practical experience of teaching (item 1)

This occurs in three forms at the Centre’s colleges. The first relates to the organisation of methodology seminars. These are often composed of a mixture of theoretical teaching, using examples from books, and the use of interactive workshop techniques such as group work, presentations and micro-teaching. This active part often requires trainees to produce and use teaching materials for specific purposes and is often videoed or tape-recorded.


Secondly, since school observation occurs over all three years, there is an organised framework for ongoing feedback during methodology classes about the trainees’ experience of observation. This occurs after each semester in which there has been school observation.
Thirdly, as part of their third year, trainees write what is known as the Diploma Project, worth one third of their final mark for the entire course. The Diploma Project is based on their observation and teaching practice in the third year. The aim of the project is to investigate a pedagogical issue from both theoretical and practical perspectives. Trainees develop their topic in close correspondence with methodology teachers and their specialisations, with topics ranging from the European dimension in teaching, Young Learners and Assessment and Testing. The project is divided into a theoretical part, analysing aims and teaching context, and a practical part that includes three lesson plans with justification, reflection and evaluation. Teaching for this begins in large groups discussing general issues and problems, and afterwards, trainees meet their tutor to discuss the project individually at least once a month for 90 minutes.

3.1.2 An explicit framework for teaching practice (stage/practicum) (item 3)

Since Polish trainee teachers are not allowed to teach in their first and second years, this period is taken up with classroom observation, which is linked with an end-of-semester feedback session. There are specific tutors for teaching practice. Trainees also write reports on their observation experience. As far as possible, tutors aim to visit their third year trainees in the classroom to give feedback and advice. In addition, teaching practice is split so that trainees observe different age ranges of learners, from primary to lower and upper secondary.

3.1.3 Working with a mentor and understanding the value of mentoring (item 4)

Tutors organise a course for mentors at the English College, which also funds it. The aim is to introduce mentors to new teaching methodologies. Course tutors liaise with their trainees’ mentor, and former trainees are encouraged to become mentors for future trainees. Every year, there is a meeting and workshop for mentors focusing on issues such as multimedia in foreign language teaching. During their school teaching practice, trainees discuss their experience with their mentor after every lesson.




3.1.4 Experience of an intercultural and multicultural environment (item 5)


In the French College, trainees are explicitly encouraged to become involved in the European dimension of the college’s initiatives. The college makes use of its French Erasmus exchange students, who work with certain trainees in order to exchange information about cultural and educational differences. The colleges also make use of bilingual schools in Warsaw that teach subjects in foreign languages as a way of allowing trainees to experience multicultural environments. In the German College, classes by native speakers, sometimes from the Goethe Institute, are available.
3.1.5 Participation in links with partners abroad, including visits, exchanges or ICT links (item 6)

The French College had a ten year partnership with the IUFM in Alsace. Trainees were involved with organising correspondence between classes, teacher educator exchanges took place, and trainees taught classes in parallel with their French counterparts.


3.1.6 A period of work or study in a country or countries where the trainee’s foreign language is spoken as native (item 7)

Through Erasmus, four to six trainees per year from the French College spend time at French IUFMs. For ten years, a special exchange programme existed with the IUFM in Alsace that allowed the exchange of teacher educators.


3.1.8 Continous improvement of teaching skills as part of in-service education (item 10)

The centre’s colleges play an integral role in the networks that run in-service language teacher education in the Warsaw region. At the English College, the course in teacher advancement prepares trainees for their professional careers, showing them how to create the in-service education portfolios integral to their future promotion. The educator who offers this course is also responsible for identifying the in-service needs of language teachers in Warsaw and its suburbs. Awareness of in-service education is a particular priority at the centres because this is often the means for teachers to become specialists in certain areas and evidence of in-service education in certain areas is needed for promotion.


3.2. Knowledge and understanding
3.2.1 Training in the development of a critical and enquiring approach to teaching and learning (item 15)

The emphasis in all three colleges is on collaborative seminars and group work in order to build a critical attitude into teacher education. Ungraded micro-teaching is frequently used to encourage trainees to assess different teaching styles and strategies and give constructive criticism.


3.2.2 Training in information and communication technology for pedagogical use in the classroom (item 17)

The French College has a multimedia workshop for trainees. Trainees are also involved in producing materials for the college website. They recently produced an online series of annotated bibliographies.


3.3 Strategies and skills
3.3.1 Training in ways of adapting teaching approaches to the educational context and individual needs of learners (item 22)

Trainees often have the chance to do some of their classroom observation in a primary school and some in a secondary level school; methodology seminars teach them how to adapt materials accordingly. Special needs education is one of the topics encouraged in the Diploma Project. Trainees in the German College distribute questionnaires to the pupils of their third year teaching practice classes asking them to explain why they are learning the language. This allows them to see the variety of reasons learners have for learning languages.


Since trainee teachers at the college do not specialise in different ages groups, there is much emphasis on adapting teaching materials to different teaching contexts. In one course on young learners, trainees are asked to present the same topic as it might be taught to young, primary, secondary and adult learners.
3.3.2 Training in methods of learning to learn (item 24)

A key element of the Teacher Development and Enhancement course introduces teacher trainees to learner-centred as opposed to teacher-centred pedagogy, important in the context of Poland’s previous reliance on the latter. This module teaches trainees strategies such as brainstorming, how to elicit learner involvement and interactional teaching and learning.


3.3.3 Training in the development of reflective practice and self-evaluation (item 25)

Trainees always write reports after their experience of classroom observation. They also develop learners’ portfolios that assemble one task for each teaching outcome they want to achieve. These are presented in seminars as part of group work. Part of the Diploma Project involves a questionnaire distributed to school pupils on how they responded to specific lessons they were taught by the trainee. As part of the Teacher Advancement course, trainees are taught constantly to evaluate their own career and experience with a view to gathering proof of this in their professional portfolio. This course also asks them to compile a reflective diary with a peer.


3.3.4 Training in the practical application of curricula and syllabuses (item 28)

As part of a course dealing with teacher advancement and professional enhancement, the centre’s trainees have specific classes on recent technical and national educational reforms in Poland. As part of their third year methodology course, trainees are taught how to evaluate curricula (Related item: 20). In the German College, this focuses specifically on how trainees implement task-based elements of curricula in the teaching of listening, speaking, reading and writing. At all stages, trainees are aware of the curricular requirements set down by the Ministry of Education.


3.3.5 Training in peer observation and peer review (item 29)

The centre does not have a specific framework for peer observation and review, but it occurs in many areas. Trainees work together to produce group reports and work in groups when organising extra-curricular activities for schools as part of 30 hours of their school observation period. Extra-mural trainees often observe other trainees teaching.


3.3.6 Training in action research (item 31)

Action research is part of the skills developed in the Diploma Project, focusing on one specific area of teacher education and assessing how to improve this. Some of the methodology classes arrange mini-case studies on a whole range of subjects from exam planning to dyslexia.


3.4 Values
3.4.1 Training in the diversity of languages and cultures (item 36)

Trainee teachers at the Centre have to learn another language in addition to their main one. These language classes are now taught at the corresponding college, where before they were taught in-house. This has led to increased exchanges between trainees.


Staff from the centre have been involved in the ECML project Ja-Ling that aims to sensitise children to other languages and cultures.
3.4.2 Training in the importance of teaching and learning about foreign languages and cultures (item 37)

The new European module at the centre, taught by the Faculty of Education and compulsory for all trainees, involves 90 hours of teaching. It was introduced to highlight the European dimension in language teacher education, to encourage cooperation between university faculties, and to bring trainees from different languages into contact with one another. For this module, trainees study the different education systems in European countries, learn about the European Union and the issues and problems, such as multilingualism, that face Europe as a whole. They also learn about European history and economics. The trainees from the French and German Colleges are taught together.


In the German College, there is a special focus on issues such as links and differences between different German-speaking European countries. In addition, trainees work on themes such as the presence of Austrian German speakers in Poland.
4. Points to note
4.1 The formation of the Centre for Foreign Language Teacher Training and European Education

The centre was founded to give teacher education a higher profile within the university context. By collaborating, the three colleges were able to give teacher education greater legitimacy and to award their own degrees as a result of having the required number of university professors and staff with doctorates. The addition of the European module had the positive effect of gaining cooperation from the university’s Faculty of Education. In addition, trainees were encouraged to focus on the European dimension of language teaching as Poland was on the threshold of accession to the European Union.


4.2 The different routes into teaching in Poland.

As a result of the collapse of Communism, great efforts were made to increase the numbers of foreign language teachers in Poland. The teacher training colleges were founded very quickly, and this has led to a certain amount of complexity in the system. Recently, the university colleges have come under threat since they often do not have the required number of professors and staff with doctorates to award their own degrees. Another point is that the different routes into teaching, i.e. via the university faculties’ M.A. (with teaching qualification), via the autonomous university colleges (which have been the focus of this case study), and via the non-autonomous cluster colleges (whose degrees and curricula are overseen by the philological faculties), vary greatly in prestige.



5. Summary
Main strengths:


  • A firm foundation in language teaching methodology;

  • A high degree of staff commitment to innovative teaching methods and European initiatives;

  • A structured approach to practical teaching experience, well integrated with theoretical analysis and reflection;

  • The Diploma Project as a major tool in promoting trainee autonomy, reflective practice, action research, bridging the gap between theory and practice and self-evaluation;

  • The creation of the European module as a compulsory component for all the centre’s trainees;

  • The trainees’ awareness of the needs of different age groups and the reasons why pupils learn languages.



Areas for further consideration





  • Extending cooperation between the three colleges beyond the administrative level, especially through the European module and the second language teaching classes;

  • Extending peer observation and peer review;

  • Integrating the European dimension of language teacher education more explicitly into methodology classes.


6. Contacts
Hanna Komorowska, Monika Galbarczyk, Emma Harris, Hanna Kijowska, Anna Murkowska, Ludmila Sobolew, Dominika Szmerdt, Magdalena Szpotowicz, Przemyslaw Wolski, Janina Zielinska, Aleksandra Drogon, Justyna Lawadaka, Paula Sofulak
Website: www.test.uw.edu.pl/en/

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