Plekhanov Russian University of Economics Winter University 2018
University of Tomorrow: Innovative Pedagogy and Methodology
by Jasmin B. Cowin, Ed.D., Associate Professor of TESOL and Bilingual Studies
Graduate School of Education, Touro College, NY
It was a distinct honor to be the keynote speaker and workshop facilitator for the XIX Winter School, Plekhanov Russian University of Economics in Moscow. Thematically, Plekhanov’s Winter University focused on “Current Global Trends in Teaching English.” The Head of the Foreign Languages Department, Irina Ekareva, Ph.D., Associate Professor, a highly regarded scholar of historical sciences, founded the yearly conference in the spirit of the importance of lifelong learning. Collectively, the department instructors passed international professional exams and participate on a regular basis in international conferences and grants. The Foreign Languages Department is actively introducing and using the latest interactive technologies in teaching foreign languages through meetings and hiring international specialists for workshops and conference presentations.
Prof. Ekareva’s overarching conference theme was on the urgency to adapt to a rapidly changing world while creating agile mindsets in students and facilitators. She opened the conference with her observations on the acceleration of change domestically and globally. Her remarks crystallize a common global theme on the far-reaching disruptors within the education landscape and the dynamic developments in regards to career pathways for the iGen and Gen Alpha generations. Both Generation Alpha and iGen are the first smartphone generations in our history to be immersed from birth in the super-connected social networking and gaming landscape.
The daily workshops designed and facilitated by Prof. Dr. Cowin were: Current Global Trends in Teaching English; Developing Materials and Resources in Teaching English – Methodology; E-learning & Micro-Methodology in Teaching English; and E-Resources Discovery and Analysis. As a final project, participants submitted online learning modules for their EFL courses focused on content-based instruction while incorporating the flipped classroom model.
While designing the workshops, it became clear that many of the communicative activities and teaching approaches would require participants to step outside their comfort zone. Over the course of five days, the workshop attendees were challenged to incorporate new teaching approaches based on communicative, student-centered components and activities. Through using Harkness method strategies which encourage open classroom dialogue, the workshops were transformed into “Think Tanks” emphasizing a nurturing environment. This anxiety-free, collaborative approach supported risk-taking, opening up within the group, and personal initiation of hands-on activities and projects.
Upon reflection, the four C’s: communication, cooperation, creativity and critical thinking are culturally transferable and as relevant as ever in engaging teachers and students to become agile thinkers, leveraging learning for continuous improvement.