Reflections on MOCA 2021 by Selda Gümüş Şambel & Ulvi Karimli
Conference Title: Perspectives towards Intercultural Awareness in EFL Settings
Participants: Selda Gümüş Şambel, Ulvi Karimli (ScOLa student)
Brief information about MOCA
MOCA was initiated by Ege University School of Foreign Languages in January 2017 for the students and teachers of the English Prep Class, which offers a one-year Intensive English program prior to students’ academic studies in their faculties. Building upon the belief that learner voice has the potential to create change and provide improvement on a wide scale, the MOCA team would like to move away from conversations that often exclude learners and to instead offer a platform where learners and teachers can:
- collaborate to discuss any issue regarding learning and teaching, including curriculum, testing and assessment, technology use, autonomy, and so on;
- share experiences, practices and views on teaching and learning;
- learn from and with each other as partners;
- develop mutual trust and a better understanding of each other; and
- build shared responsibility and a community of learning and practice. Intended Outcomes These gatherings of learners and teachers will create an active and supportive community of stake holders with a greater sense of ownership. It is also hoped that inviting learners to the table as partners will act as a framework for all participants which constructs new spaces for teacher reflection and expands opportunities for learners to participate in decision-making. Procedures MOCA holds a one-day event every year, preferably in spring.
▪ Events are hosted by different universities in Turkey.
▪ Events are organized by the MOCA Coordinator in collaboration with host institutions and are structured to allow for the exchange of views and practices in focus-group, whole-group or panel discussions.
▪ Places are limited to two representatives, one student and one teacher, from each institution to provide room for thorough and efficient sharing.
Within the last few decades, global use of English has led to the emergence of different “Englishes” spoken by different people around the world who utilize and modify it in accordance with their cultural values, norms and perspectives. Such globalization of English has raised a lot of questions challenging the “ideal native speaker” notion in the field of English language teaching. It has been widely argued that due to the current role of English as an international language, English language teaching is expected to expose learners to different varieties of English rather than endorsing native speaker norms. With the globalization breaking down barriers among nations, the aims of language teaching and learning have now involved promoting the understanding and acceptance of other cultures and one’s own. Bearing this in mind, it is put forward that students need to be encouraged to acquire intercultural awareness while learning English in order to communicate successfully in multicultural situations. MOCA 2021 aims to obtain valuable insight into the perceptions of English language instructors and learners towards intercultural awareness in preparatory school classes with regard to ownership of English, teaching and learning culture, classroom practices to enhance intercultural awareness, challenges and suggestions concerning the matter.
Brief information about focus groups
MOCA 2021 organized 6 different focus groups aiming to create an opportunity for the sharing of expectations and experiences of English prep school students and instructors in Turkey on the concept of ‘intercultural awareness in EFL settings’ with respect to curriculum, teaching methodology and assessment of learning and related dimensions, possibilities and opportunities.
In the morning sessions, students and instructors worked in mixed groups, brainstorming and discussing the following topic areas as questions:
- How do you define intercultural communicative competence?
- To what extent are your courses designed to help learners become intercultural communicators?
In the afternoon sessions, focus groups, worked in mixed groups, brainstorming and discussing the following questions:
- How should intercultural communicative competence be integrated into the language curriculum? Challenges, solutions?
- What would be the benefits of such curriculum/classroom practices/etc.?
Highlights from the conference
The collaborative discussions with the contribution of the instructors and the students were really beneficial and effective in terms of having similar perspective towards intercultural aspects of learning a second language. People from variety of cultures learning English adds another perspective to making the language more global and shared.
It was a great opportunity to see that English is the Lingua Franca through which billions of people communicate and interact in the modern world today. Therefore, the dominance of one culture should not be a matter of question. English itself is a global language already due to its high importance in education, economy, politics, science, trade, etc.
While teaching this language, it is a good idea to integrate more communication with other students from different cultures and the lessons should be planned together with those schools abroad since we are teaching online. The distance education is a beneficial factor in accessing different cultures and broadening horizons.
Our student Ulvi Karimli also shared his ideas as:
It was a really interesting conversation between teachers from other universities and students. Topic was about’ “How should intercultural communicative competence be integrated into the language curriculum? Challenges, solutions?”. It was a complex topic from a structural way of view. There were many things to talk about, and my group in my opinion completely answered these questions. After conversation, we met with all 6 groups and begin to discuss whom answers and decisions are true. I got a lot of experience from MOCA. Thanks to the university giving me a chance to participate in this event.