Focus groups

A Focus Group is a gathering of informed individuals or experts

A Focus Group (FG) is a gathering of informed individuals or experts who wish to share their point of view and experience on a topic or problem in a specific area. 

Focus Groups are mainly self-organised interest groups concentrating on research, exchange, and development on topics of interest to the CercleS community. CercleS promotes more active participation among its member institutions and their staff via Focus Groups. These groups help members to: 

  • learn from each other with the aim to further develop ideas, 
  • enhance the quality of our everyday work, and 
  • stimulate innovation and involve more CercleS members in the daily management of our network. 

CercleS offers organisational and financial support for Focus Group meetings. CercleS members are invited to express their interest in and commitment to working in any of the activities listed below.  

Please note that this is not an exhaustive list and there are many other activities CercleS could focus on. Ideas and suggestions are very welcome. If you are interested in joining a CercleS Focus Group or suggesting a new one, please contact the General Secretariat at generalsecretariat@cercles.org or the relevant FG coordinator. 

 

FG Associate Members 

So far, Associate Members have not played a central role in CercleS and do not always feel they are a part of our confederation at the same level as full members. In some cases, they are not in a position to create a National Association. With this Focus Group, we would like to invite Associate Members to become more active in CercleS by discussing their specific problems, their needs and their potential, sharing with us their experience and competencies. 

FG coordinators: Androulla Athanasiou (androulla.athanasiou@cut.ac.cy) and Eleni Kakrida (ekakrida@aua.gr)   

 

FG Autonomy 

Since CercleS was established in 1990, language centres have offered their learners various ways of improving their language skills. They are often innovative places where new pedagogical approaches and devices for language learning are proposed. Among the different learning possibilities offered to students in language centres, some aim at facilitating the development of learner autonomy. Some language centres indeed offer tools such as self-access centres, and language advising facilities that enable learners to take more control of their learning to support autonomisation. The purpose of this Focus Group is to investigate the relationships between learner autonomy and language centres. It will also try to clarify the concept of autonomy, which, although widely used in language learning publications these last 30 years, is complex and open to various interpretations

FG coordinators: Giovanna Tassinari (giovanna.tassinari@fu-berlin.de) and Justine Paris (justine.paris@univ-paris-diderot.fr 

 

FG Conference and Event Management 

This Focus Group will develop guidelines for the organisation of CercleS conferences and events, i.e. develop a framework for CercleS conferences, CercleS seminars and workshops, and events organised in co-operation with CercleS. This comprises structural and budgeting aspects, the use of languages, the question of follow-up activities, etc. 

FG coordinator: María del Carmen Arau Ribeiro (maricarmen@ipg.pt)

 

FG CLIL in Higher Education 

This Focus Group aims to bridge the learning experience in CLIL up through higher education (HE) so that content and language integrated learning is not limited to English-medium instruction. With cutting edge research that draws upon the potential of technology for terminology-based growth and advances in classroom management and scaffolding that places the learner at the center, the FG examines how to deal effectively with staff training and certification for HE teachers who have not previously trained to teach through another language, administrative objectives for internationalisation, and the roles that language centres can play.  

FG coordinator: María del Carmen Arau Ribeiro (maricarmen@ipg.pt) 

 

FG Language Policy 

The aim of this Focus Group is to cover a wide variety of themes and to leave room for various activities and initiatives. The following questions were discussed in the past:  

  • What language policies have universities in Europe adopted so far? 
  • What form should or could a suitable university language policy take? 
  • Is there a need for language centres to have a language policy? 
  • Do the individual National Associations have their own clearly defined language policy? 
  • Guidelines for Defining a Language Policy for Institutions in Higher Education (Berlin, 2013)  

Another important point of discussion is the CercleS Language Policy for all levels of activities. In all the CercleS conferences and meetings, this has always been a point of discussion and a controversial issue. 

It remains a great challenge to communicate within a large community of people with so many different language horizons – without resorting to “only” English. Therefore, the following questions will continue to bother us: 

  • What language policy should CercleS adopt? 
  • How can we contribute to creating plurilingualism within CercleS and at CercleS events in order to reach our members that are not confident in English? How can we convey information across the different languages? 
  • How can languages become a bridge rather than a barrier within CercleS? 

For a couple of years already, the coordinator has been looking for new members and also for a future ‘successor’ to coordinate the group with new ideas and answers to new needs. 

FG coordinator: Regina Mügge (regina.muegge@sprachenzentrum.uni-halle.de) 

 

FG Language Testing and Assessment 

Language teachers, test developers and testers within the CercleS community are invited to engage in a lively discussion on how language testing and assessment at university should look and could be developed further in the future, how tests could be made more authentic and engaging for the test-taker, how they could be more in line with the underlying action-oriented approach of the Council of Europe’s CEFR (2001) and its Companion Volume (2020), and what new approaches might be promising.  

The FG Language Testing and Assessment was set up in November 2009 in Toulouse, and has met again in 2010 (Messina), 2011 (Madrid), 2013 (Barcelona), 2015 (Brno), 2018 (Poznań), 2019 (València), 2020 (in Göttingen; and – online meeting – in Brno) and 2021 (Göttingen – online meeting). 

As an outcome of this Focus Group, a series of workshops on language testing (and teaching) has been initiated that took place at ZESS at the University of Göttingen in 2009, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2021. The programme and the outcomes of the online workshop which took place in October 2021 can be found here: https://www.uni-goettingen.de/de/649909.html. 

Finally, the different providers of university language certification systems within CercleS have started closer cooperation in 2015 leading to the creation of NULTE – Network of University Language Testers in Europe – in 2018. Further information about NULTE is available at cercles.org/nulte/

FG coordinator: Johann Fischer (johann.fischer@zess.uni-goettingen.de) 

 

FG LSP 

Over the past few years, a number of individual initiatives have led to the organisation of several Languages for Specific Purposes-related events across Europe, demonstrating the growing interest in the subject. This Focus Group aims to integrate and sustain those efforts in order to establish and develop a dynamic network of LSP practitioners, representing the broadest possible range of languages and disciplines. 

Our objectives are

  • to provide and foster a forum for reflection, informed by theory and/or classroom practice; 
  • to support colleagues new to LSP; 
  • to encourage colleagues working in LSP to disseminate their work (for example in the form of conference papers or publications based on the above); 
  • to identify areas for collaboration such as resource creation/sharing, exchange of best practice or cross-border projects; 
  • to organise and/or support LSP-dedicated events; and 
  • to maintain regular communication on all of the above with the members of the Focus Group. 

FG coordinators: Benoît Guilbaud (B.Guilbaud@sussex.ac.uk) and David Tual (dhpt2@cam.ac.uk)  

 

FG Management and Leadership 

The Focus Group is a low commitment network for directors and managers within language centres to share opportunities, challenges and questions, and to provide collegial support in management and leadership across the CercleS membership. The aim of the Focus Group is to develop discussion, activities and projects according to shared strategic interests. Membership and participation in the Focus Group and its activities are intended to be fluid according to specific interests of individual members. 

The Management and Leadership Focus Group also supports the Aspire to Inspire training programme. This is a key element of support for existing, new and future leaders of language centres and language programmes, and is delivered by experienced colleagues from within CercleS. 

FG coordinator:Mark Critchley (mark.critchley@durham.ac.uk)  

 

FG Multilingualism 

In many ways it seems obvious that university language centres and departments are multilingual institutions par excellence: they bring together speakers of different languages, work to increase individual speakers’ ability to use more languages, while many members of staff are experts on how languages and their speakers relate to one another. And yet, it is not at all clear how language centres could best develop this potential to facilitate and manage their own institutional multilingualism, while also contributing to inclusive and progressive language policies at their own universities and beyond. 

Two seemingly contradictory trends can be observed in the multilingual landscape of Higher Education (HE) in Europe today. On the one hand, internationalisation has led to an increasingly rapid process of “Anglicisation” in which English is being institutionalised as a common (second) medium of instruction at many European universities. This follows on from its establishment as the unrivalled lingua franca of academic research and publishing over the last 40 years or so. On the other hand, internationalisation and increased mobility also mean that more and more multilingual and multicultural students and staff arrive at our universities. Many issues and questions related to how language centres should react and could possibly guide and influence these processes remain open, for example: the issue of acknowledging and certifying individual multilingual repertoires, the positive use of students’ and teachers’ multilingual skills in the language teaching classroom, the maintenance of academic knowledge and skills in languages other than English, or the question of how to relate meaningfully to multilingual communities outside of our universities.  

The Focus Group on multilingualism would like to function as a platform for the exchange of ideas for colleagues who are interested in finding, researching and documenting institutional responses to the sociolinguistic changes and challenges affecting higher education. The first aim would be to develop a consultation paper with a work programme focusing on the situation and issues within HE as well as wider linguistic developments in our societies. 

FG coordinator: Peter Skrandies (P.J.Skrandies@lse.ac.uk) 

 

FG Teacher Training, Teacher Education, Staff Exchange 

European universities, CercleS members, represent a heterogeneous picture of language programmes provided within tertiary educational institutions in terms of a) various languages, b) at various CEFR levels, c) the number of contact lessons required, d) limits set on the number of students attending the lessons, e) language teacher profiles, f) language teacher qualifications requirements, etc. 

To make sure that teachers are adequately prepared for their positions, the Focus Group: 

  • cyclically collects the information on the above-mentioned aspects of language teachers’ posts 
  • cyclically collects the information on the training provided to language teachers at individual member universities 
  • enhances the cooperation and networking of language teachers at member universities in the above-mentioned areas 
  • enhances the cooperation in joint projects among member universities in the above-mentioned areas
  • enhances pedagogical resource sharing 
  • “lobbies” for the sake of the language teaching profession in HE in governmental, non-governmental and employers’ bodies 

FG coordinator: Helena Šajgalíková (helena.sajgalikova@euba.sk) 

 

FG Translation 

The Translation Focus Group aims to find ways of sharing ideas and expertise among colleagues in HE language centres working in the area of translation, whether they form part of stable dedicated units or are simply involved in this activity on a more ad hoc basis. Particularly (though not exclusively), we are concerned with working together in order to produce and disseminate HE-relevant translation resources that directly benefit day-to-day work in the field. 

FG coordinator: David Owen (David.Owen@uab.cat)