On 11th June 2021, the international symposium „Fostering and Assessing Oracy in Foreign Language Education: Perspectives from Practice-Oriented and Design-Based Research”, which was organised by the TEFL department of the WWU, was held online. Led by Jun.-Prof. Dr. Julia Reckermann and Dr. Philipp Siepmann, the event shed light onto two significant developments in foreign language research: firstly, it addressed the importance of oracy in foreign language learning and teaching, and secondly, it highlighted the potential, and increasing significance, of practice-oriented and design-based empirical research in foreign language education. The virtual format allowed 36 participants from five countries to participate in a lively and highly productive exchange.
The three keynote lectures by internationally acclaimed experts provided important impulses for the further development of both fields. Prof. Dr. Anne Burns (University of New South Wales, Australia) underscored the use of Action Research for lifelong, research-based learning of practitioners and for systematic reflection and development of classroom practice. Her talk was complemented by Prof. Dr. Susan McKenney’s (Universiteit Twente, The Netherlands) contribution, which demonstrated the potential of Educational Design Research for oracy research and was rich in practical illustrations. The final keynote speech by Prof. em. Dr. Bärbel Diehr (Bergische Universität Wuppertal) put a spotlight on the need to foster oracy from the beginning and provided an insight into various empirical studies that underlined the importance of teaching speaking and listening comprehension in the primary school English classroom.
The six talks of the two parallel sessions offered an impressive overview of the variety of research foci and methodological approaches to oracy in foreign language education. The contributions ranged from conversation-analytic approaches to assessing speaking (Prof. Dr. Barth-Weingarten & Susanne Reinhardt, University of Potsdam) to a design-based research study of genre-based development of speaking competences using methods of drama pedagogy (Dr. Katharina Delius, University of Göttingen).
The innovative format of the keynote coffee, which was organised via the video conferencing platform Wonder.Me, allowed for animated discussions between the participants and the three keynote speakers despite the great distance. Out of these conversations, inspiring impulses were provided for the further development both of oracy research and the methodological discourse in foreign language research. One of the most important take-aways from these discussions was that cooperation between researchers and practitioners makes a valuable contribution both to practical classroom development and to the development of usable theory.
The proceedings of this symposium will be published in an anthology. In the meantime, the conversation about the potential of design-based methods for foreign language research will be continued at the symposium „Bottom-up statt top-down in der empirischen Fremdsprachenforschung: Educational Design Research als Weg zur gelungenen Theorie-Praxis-Integration?“, which will be hosted by Julia Reckermann, Philipp Siepmann and Michael Rogge at this year’s congress of the German Association for Foreign Language Research (DGFF) at the University of Duisburg-Essen.