TweetLast Thursday and Friday I attended the sixth biannual Forum on Curricular Issues meeting at Özyeğin University’s new campus in Çekmeköy. This was the first time I had attended the event, mainly because it was set up by members of my university’s curriculum team and therefore they were, naturally, the participants in the earlier events. It was a really fruitful couple of days and I greatly enjoyed working with people from the other attendees. What I’m going to do today is list a few of the things I learned from the event (as this was FOCI VI, I’ve gone for 6 things). Before I do that, I’ll first briefly explain what FOCI is.
What is FOCI?
I’ll keep this brief, as you can learn a lot more about FOCI at the official website (which I’m responsible for curating). Basically, FOCI was set up as a meeting place for the those working on curriculum issues in universities across Turkey (and Northern Cyprus) to come together and discuss common themes from differing perspectives. Starting in May, 2010, each successive meeting is hosted by a different university. This format has proven so successful that the event has gone from strength to strength, with the next five FOCIs already scheduled.
So, what did I learn from FOCI VI?
1. There’s life outside my campus
Like everybody else who works in any job anywhere in the world, I kind of get set in my ways. The daily routine gets repetitive and you start seeing the way you’re doing things as perhaps being the only way to do things. Consequently, spending time on a different university campus talking with people doing a similar job to me but in different institutions was refreshing and invigorating. While it can be easier said than done, I’d recommend to anyone going and having a look round another educational institution every now and again! Basically, it’s good to get a fresh perspective on what you’re doing, so thanks to all of the participants who gave me new ways of looking at curricular issues.
The main part of the event requires people from different universities getting together to prepare a presentation on a particular issue. This required a lot of discussion about what we wanted to include, which in turn meant us drawing on our own experiences to come up with workable solutions to the task in question.
3. Modular curricula may not be for the best
As I mentioned in point one, when you work with one system every day for eight years, you kind of get into a frame of mind in which that becomes not only reality but the only practicable way of doing things. I’ve been working with a modular curriculum all that time. What I mean by modular is that a student does a course at, say, intermediate level, completes the necessary assessment requirements to fulfill the requirements and then moves on to the next module of study, i.e. upper int. I’ve been working in such a system for so long that it genuinely came as a bit of a – pleasant – shock to find that other institutions in a similar position to mine do nothing of the sort, rather they teach students English until they have learned it and then allow them to proceed with their academic studies. While this wasn’t a full-blown revelation for me, it was refreshing food for thought.
4. We might be responsible for the assessment obsession
A lot of those who talked about modular curricula noted that they had the tendency to create an assessment dominated system: in order to pass from one module to the next, a student has to show they are ready to do so, which means being assessed. Given my dislike for a lot of formal assessment, this was one of those ‘take a long look in the mirror’ type moments when you realize that you might have been at least partly responsible for the creation of Examstein’s monster!
5. People are considering the use of technology and online platforms
Having recently given a talk at the Yıldız Technical University on the importance of using technology in classrooms with Generation Y learners, it was great to see that many universities are attempting to address this issue from a curricular perspective. I was happy to see the considered use of online platforms in supplementing curricular objectives is becoming fairly commonplace.
6. The working environment makes a difference
As regular sufferers to this blog will know, I’ve been doing a bit of research recently into what makes the perfect classroom. What I noticed about the rooms we were working in at the Özyeğin campus was the positive effect of having lots of natural light and also having a nicely colored wall as a backdrop. These factors made for a pleasant working environment that I rarely experience in all white rooms with lots of electric lighting. I know there’s little we as teachers can do to manipulate such aspects of our physical teaching environment, but it was a nice reminder of the importance of making the most of daylight and of trying to spruce up the walls with colorful pictures as and when we can.
All in all, I had a great time at FOCI VI and would like to thank the organizers and the participants, who together made this a memorable event. If you’re in Turkey and you’re intrigued by the idea of the Forum, please visit the website, which contains detailed rationale as to the event’s aims and objectives, as well as details of all previous events and a calendar of future meetings.