The Miniconference continues to grow

The Language Centre’s fourth annual Miniconference took place on Thursday, 26 November 2015 for the second time in collaboration with Aalto University’s Language Centre. Like last year, the conference venue was the Otaniemi Design Factory, and its unique, adjustable facilities again inspired a high number of Language Centre staff to participate as both speakers and listeners.  

From the very beginning, the Miniconference has aimed to provide a low-threshold forum for colleagues to share their research results and ideas for developing teaching. In accordance with the philosophy of the Miniconference, inviting to the conference only employees of the organising language centres and, in line with the snowball sampling technique, colleagues at other language centres kept the threshold for giving a talk low. Thanks to the tradition already in place, the snowballs obviously flew far, and participants arrived from a number of institutions.

Collaboration with Aalto University has provided excellent opportunities for the “cross-pollination” of views and working methods. This time, nearly 100 people attended the conference on the research-based development of language learning and teaching.

International themes and visitors

The 2015 Miniconference effectively anticipated the expansion of the event. Several students participated in this year’s conference by introducing the thematic session organised by Tiina Laulajainen and Sinikka Karjalainen on the topic of Language learning through students’ eyes. Suvi Sistonen talked about her unfinished Master’s thesis on the future of using Swedish, whereas Linda Sivander described her own story as a language learner, from her school years to extramural language learning in England and Uganda. The third speaker at this session was the Italian exchange student Giulia Pernisi, who provided the perspective of a course assistant on language teaching.

Alena Hradilova, who visited the University of Helsinki’s Language Centre from Masaryk University in Brno in the Czech Republic, brought an additional international perspective. Her talk focused on the new matrix management structure of her university’s language centre and highlighted several areas in which the centre had emulated our Language Centre in developing its operations. One of these areas was the regular allocation of Thursday afternoons to joint development seminars in the annual calendar. The same practice also enabled the extensive participation of our staff in this conference.

The students who gave talks at the conference praised the event as both speakers and listeners. “The atmosphere was inspiring and I gained valuable experience of public speaking. I really appreciated the fact that students got to present their views,” Suvi noted. Linda also had good words to say about the Miniconference as a forum: “Particularly memorable was the dialogue I had with teachers − something I had not experienced before. Student views’ of language learning were taken into account in a different way, and I felt we really made a difference.”