Workpackages

There are 8 workpackages in FluenCi.

Workpackage 1

The Management workpackage will be led by the project proposer DIT which is charged with managing the consortium on a day-to-day basis. Meetings will rotate between the partners, starting with the Kickoff meeting in M1. Thereafter meetings will be held on average every 6 or 7 months. DIT will draw up a report on the main decisions made at these meetings and these will be internal deliverables which will be quality assured by the other partners. Financial Management also belongs in this workpackage and there will be a financial section to each post-meeting report. The middle three consortium meetings will have an appended focus group (organized by the hosting partner) to inform the development of the project and to act as a dissemination conduit. As the project will produce concrete, marketable language learning end-products, WP1 will also draw up a detailed Intellectual Property Rights agreement. In outline, all partners may freely use all assets produced in the lifetime of the project as they see fit. If a partner modifies an asset they did not produce after completion of the project, then a licencing agreement will be entered into with the partner(s) who produced the asset at favourable rates.

Workpackage 2

The Quality workpackage will be led by CUP, which has wide experience in assuring a uniformly high quality in its commercial outputs. Internal and external deliverables will be quality controlled by CUP before being finalised and posted to the project website. In return, DIT will undertake the internal scrutiny of any deliverables due in workpackages led by CUP. The main deliverable of this WP will be a Quality Handbook, whose outline will be agreed by the Consortium, but which will be produced by CUP and posted on the project webpage. This workpackage is concerned with quality assurance of the performance of the partners, not with the quality of the end product. This latter is dealt with by workpackage 6, Evaluation.

Workpackage 3

The Specifications/Design workpackage will be led by DIT since this will help to integrate pedagogical and technical strands. This is a stage of the project which will be most intensively addressed by all partners at the start of the project, and before any learning materials are written or produced. The workflow for determination of the phrases to feature in the PHRASeCON will be decided as will the linkages to the structured learning materials (SLMs) to be produced for each target group. Decisions made on the desired learning outcomes will determine the nature and scope of each exercise type to be embedded in the SLMs and how to optimise the link between these and the PHRASeCON. Integration into stand-alone delivery systems, distance and blended learning, teacher training will be decided upon before the actual materials are produced, as will a suitable type of assessment. The main deliverable will be a specification document in M7.

Workpackage 4

This workpackage will produce the audio and transcripted assets which constitute the PHRASeCON collection of phrases which are important in informal speech, as spoken in the workplace or in informal social settings. The PHRASeCON contains the phrases selected from the CANCODE corpus of spontaneous spoken English, which is part-owned by CUP and was created by the linguist they are subcontracting to work on FluenCi. From this corpus of some 5 million words will be abstracted the phrases to be exemplified in FluenCi. These will be agreed by all partners for inclusion in the structured learning materials to be used with the various transversal target groups. They will then be grouped into categories and prioritized for recording within the agreed timeframe. It is envisaged that somewhere between 200 and 500 phrases will emerge. The selected phrases will then be embedded (in transcribed form) in realistic dialogic contexts which will illustrate their use in informal, native-to-native interchanges to reveal their normal communicative effect. To these neutral, transcripted contexts will be added other, expressively marked versions to illustrate how the communicative effect of these phrases changes depending on the interactive environment and the manner in which they are spoken – i.e. their intonation pattern and prosody. Both sets of transcripts will then be recorded at normal speed, and in addition slowed down using DIT-Call technology to enhance intonational appreciation. A user-friendly markup system will be developed to help the end users with the visualisation and categorisation of the marked versions of the recorded phrases. This will include an indication of stressed lexical elements and intonation patterns, since these are the main obstacles to correct interpretation of the intended communicative effect. The PHRASeCON will be quality assured by Prof. McCarthy and will be integrated with the Structured Learning Materials of WP5.

Workpackage 5

The PHRASeCON constitutes the audio and transcribed assets of the FluenCi project, but its use must be placed in a learning context. These Structured Learning Materials (SLMs) will be produced by DIT and UNED to suit the transversal groups chosen, and CUP will investigate the modification of their Touchstone to integrate with FluenCi. The end users in Dublin will be immigrant second-level pupils (using iTouch devices), and in Spain undergraduate distance-learning students, trainee teachers of English and adult prisoners. While the PHRASeCON phrases will be the same for all users, each target group may require differing contexts in which they study the phrases. The authors of the SLMs will include phrases contained in the PHRASeCON when constructing their own learning materials. Exercises and instructional materials in the SLMs will help users practise the phrases and sensitise them to the role of intonation in interpreting communicative intent. Reference in the SLMs will then be made to the fact that these phrases can be studied further and the resources of the PHRASeCON made available. The PHRASeCON in its own right is a powerful resource, but it cannot simply be used out of context. Most learners of a new language inherently believe that proficiency consists in accumulating a sizeable vocabulary and mastering basic grammatical constructions. But there is much more than that to spoken, dialogic interaction where up to 38% of the speaker's communicative intent is communicated by intonation and prosody. The SLMs will therefore have to raise the awareness of all user groups, appropriately, to the functions of these features of spoken language and train them how to use the visualisation markup methodology employed in the PHRASeCON. Where appropriate, both PHRASeCON entries and the SLMs will be benchmarked against CEFR levels. This will make it easier for materials writers to productively link their exercises to learners at a particular level of linguistic ability.

Workpackage 6

This project was deliberately chosen to extend over 30 months in order to allow for 2 tests of the PHRASeCON/SLM (Structured Learning Materials) interaction, with sufficient time in between to effect any changes deemed necessary. While CUP leads this workpackage, all partners are equally engaged in it. DIT and UNED will conduct tests with their respective target groups, and the nature of these tests will be agreed by the consortium as a whole. In addition to CUP's in-house expertise in evaluating English language performance, advice will also be sought from regulatory bodies such as the Advisory Council for English Language Schools in Ireland (ACELS) which has expertise in the field of assessment. The Irish Department of Education and Science, in conjunction with the ACELS, has drawn up a new examination to meet the need to assess interactivity in the use of English in an academic setting. This Test of Interactive English (TIE) therefore specifically recognises the dialogic nature of third-level learning, and tests accordingly. The consortium will engage (by way of subcontracting) Jeanne McCarten, an expert in assessment of spoken language and materials development, to adjudicate on the effectiveness of the FluenCi materials and methodology and this expert will also be used as a consultant in the Specification workpackage (WP3). Any changes recommended by the consortium as a whole following the report on Test 1 will be implemented in the second part of the project and re-assessed in Test 2. While testing specifically for FluenCi target groups, the partners will be careful to consider possible adaptations which might prove necessary in any transfer of technology project to languages other than English which might emerge after the FluenCi project has been completed. In this regard UNED is well positioned to represent the needs of Spanish as a foreign language.

Workpackage 7

Each partner has a website on which the aims and objectives of the FluenCi project can be advertised and updated as the project develops. UNED, with some 200,000 distance learning students, is particularly well placed to exploit this potential. CUP's site is also well visited as this partner provides materials for the Cambridge examinations which enjoy world-wide popularity. All these sites can continue to publish information on the programme after the funding has ceased. Electronic flyers will be provided to national associations of teachers of languages other than English (starting with Spanish) in order to raise awareness of the possibility of extending the FluenCi methodology to other EU languages. It is also proposed to present at internationally well-regarded conferences such as IATEFL, EuroCALL, MATSDA, and BAAL. These associations represent language teachers at all levels, researchers and materials developers and are therefore ideal vehicles for dissemination. EuroCALL in particular addresses teachers of all languages interested in the use of IT, and there is a subgroup specially for corpus matters. The fact that one of the targeted test groups consists of EFL teachers makes realistic the hope that the FluenCi methodology might eventually become part of the training programme of all teachers of foreign languages. The partners intend to include a workshop at every meeting of the consortium, to which local language stakeholders, decision makers and publishers may be invited. The hosting partner will organize the invitation of the most influential guests in its country including the education officers of internationally trading companies, education authorities, and immigration authorities. It is anticipated that these workshops can also function as focus groups to provide timely feedback which might be incorporated into the developing body of structured learning materials. The focus groups can also be circulated with reports on the two planned tests.

Workpackage 8

The concrete goal of the FluenCi project is to produce innovative learning materials. This makes it an ideal vehicle for commercial exploitation. There are already two publishing interests present in the consortium. CUP has a well-deserved reputation as a leading educational publisher, and is itself a potential user of a product it will have helped design and produce. It is heavily engaged in the Americas and China. UNED also acts as a publisher to its approximately 200,000 students, with the potential to also reach the American markets. CUP's involvement means that other international publishers will facilitate the extension of FluenCi to other publishers and other languages. As a commercially driven enterprise, CUP is well placed to enable the consortium to develop appropriate business strategies for exploiting the assets available at the end of the project and for building further on these. UNED, as a partner actively involved in creating assets for the English instantiation of the FluenCi approach to oral communicative skills, will be heavily involved in mapping out guidelines for the extension of the project deliverables to other languages, starting with its native Spanish. These materials can then be sent to all language publishers potentially interested in participating in new funded projects to carry on the work of FluenCi. Another potential exploitation route will be offered by DIT in establishing linguistic and pedagogical links between the scripted assets of FluenCi and the unscripted materials being developed in its Dynamic Speech Corpus. This in turn will be of interest to publishers wishing to upgrade their offerings in the area of spoken skills. Since representatives of national and local authorities coping with the problems of integrating immigrants will be represented at the workshops, their professional international networks too can be used to raise interest in extending the scope of FluenCi to languages other than English.

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