Portrait Irena Vodopija-Krstanovic

English Language Teaching Today: Trends and Challenges

Guest professor Irena Vodopija-Krstanovic has many links to the University of Klagenfurt. She is an alumna, had a guest professorship in the English Department in 2014 and co-organized an Alps-Adriatic-Adriatic-Anglistics conference with a colleague of the Department in Klagenfurt. We had a lot to talk about, including her current guest lecture “English Language Teaching Today: Trends and Challenges”.

What was your motivation for coming to University of Klagenfurt to teach at the Department of English?

I think my motivation was influenced by my overwhelmingly positive experience as a guest professor in the English Department in 2014. As an alumna of the University of Klagenfurt, I am honored to have been offered the opportunity to return to my alma mater, and work with students. Furthermore, as I have lived and studied in different countries, I highly value international experience, which is central to today’s globalized higher education.

What are your links with this specific department?

In the years since I graduated, I have tried to maintain links with the Department of English and my supervisor Werner Delanoy, and have also established links with colleagues who have succeeded those who taught me so well.  Department members have been involved in mobility between our institutions. With Nikola Dobrić I co-organized an Alps-Adriatic-Adriatic-Anglistics conference, and I have published papers in volumes edited by members of the Department in Klagenfurt. I hope we may continue to strengthen the cooperation in the future.

How does this Alps-Adriatic context relate to your guest lecture?

At the University level, both the University of Klagenfurt and the University of Rijeka are members of the AlpsAdriatic Rectors’ Conference (AARC), and there are close ties between our institutions and the region. In the course, I try to relate my teaching to the Alps-Adriatic context as I think this will help the students make meaningful connections between prior knowledge and new knowledge. However, I also try to elicit my students’ knowledge about the Alps-Adriatic context, so this is a learning experience for me as well.

What is your main research focus?

My research has always focused on the multifaceted field of TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). More specifically, my research interests include English-medium instruction, English as an international language / English lingua franca and ELT (English Language Teaching), intercultural communication, L2 English-speaking teachers, and higher education language policies and practices.

What is the main content of your – course „English Language Teaching Today: Trends and Challenges“?

The common thread running through the course is ELT, but we examine it with respect to the changing role of English as the global lingua franca, learner needs, and emerging trends in the globalized world. We critically analyze English-medium instruction, ELT and intercultural communication, English for specific purposes, and CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning).

How do you see the importance of hands-on activities and microteaching sessions for conveying the subject matter?

Microteaching as a practical training technique provides students with opportunities to recognize, develop, and reflect on essential skills for novice teachers. Experiential learning and reflective practice are key to successful ELT, and we should thus strive to connect university courses with actual classroom practice and create opportunities for our students to integrate theory and practice.

How can we teach young people to be aware of trends and challenges? And more importantly: How do they keep up to date on their journey to becoming expert “old hands”?

There can be no one recipe that is effective for all students in every context. What we should bear in mind is that educational success no longer hinges on accurately reproducing content knowledge. We should encourage students to take a critical stance, examine topics from multiple perspectives, and make connections between fields and ideas that might seem unrelated. By using scaffolded instruction, collaborative learning and peer support, we can guide our students to notice inconsistencies and understand and appreciate different perspectives. Learning through dialogue, experiential learning and reflection are key strategies for developing learner autonomy and helping our students become life-long learners.