In this teaching and assessment activity, students work in pairs to create a filmed interview in the style of a TV chat-show. This requires them to research, listen, speak and present ideas and arguments in Mandarin Chinese, based on current affairs subjects of their choosing. Over the five years of the project, students have stated that the activity improves both their language abilities and their transferrable skills.
Students studying Mandarin Chinese at LSE.
Students research and create a TV chat-show style short film on a current affairs topic of their interest. The short films all share the same structure:
- Part one includes an introduction to the series and to the subject of the episode.
- Part two, prepared separately, introduces the key vocabulary related to the students’ chosen topics, including sample sentences.
- Part three is a lively discussion in Mandarin Chinese between the students and a host (in this case a teacher) on the chosen topic for about 10-15 minutes. Whenever a keyword is mentioned a pop-up overlay appears, with the word in both Chinese characters and Pinyin form.
Students are assessed on four aspects:
- Grammar and vocabulary 20%
- Writing skills 20%
- Presentation and communicative skills 20%
- Final performance and interview skills at the filming 40%
A range of related activities are implemented throughout the term so that different skill sets can be practised.
The finished videos are available to view publicly through the LSE website and official LSE YouTube channel.
In order to allow more LSE students to benefit from the videos and promote further independent learning, a Moodle course site for the ‘Current Affairs in Mandarin’ project offers self-study activities relating to the videos.
The project began in 2013-14, and was supported by a development grant from LTI (the LTI ‘Spark’ grant). In the first pilot year, there was no formal assessment of the project, and participation was voluntary. The positive experiences led to the project being introduced to the UG Degree Option course the following year.
Supporting technologies were improvised during the first two iterations of the project, maturing over time to make use of the more professional setting of the LSE Media Studio.
The aim was to include more authentic, ‘life-like’ tasks in assessment. There is a growing body of literature on authentic learning through use of student generated digital video (Potter 2005; Parker 2002; Burn & Reed, 1999; Coleman, Neuhauser & Zwaag, 2004).
In addition, video has often been used as a medium for teaching languages, and (with the growth of more active, constructivist approaches to language teaching) it seemed appropriate to shift into students as video creators. Goulah (2007) found that digital video production engaged students extensively in language-based tasks and cultivated collaboration and creativity.
Highly positive student feedback indicates that the project does offer real world relevance and personal meaning to the learners, and develops many transferable skills. The project also incorporates the distinctive nature of LSE as a social sciences institution; learners investigate contemporary and emerging issues across the social sciences.
Moreover, the project generates a growing collection of open educational resources. A total of 33 videos have been produced. UK universities including Manchester and Leeds have included the videos in their recommended learning materials for student self-study.
The project has inspired further student produced video projects in the LSE Language Centre, such as ‘iFilm project’ for lower level students and ‘Global Perspectives via Documentary’ in higher levels.
One of the areas I am exploring is to engage students more closely in the editing process. The idea is that students can participate in the editing process and also reflect on their interview skills, presentation skills as well as overall language use. This allows them more opportunity to engage with the discussion and consolidate their language skills.
A critical part of the success of the project was to achieve a level of authenticity about the process of researching, preparing and conducting the recorded interviews, such that students would prepare differently than they would for, say, a regular class presentation in front of their peers. Achieving this level of authenticity was challenging and relied heavily on equipment and skills resource from within LTI in the first instance.
Any video production project has to be built into the assessment effectively. The project cannot be successful if the performance on the filming day is counted as the only grade. Different stages and varied tasks of assessment enable students to be more engaged and confident.
Students should also be actively involved in the editing stage of the project, to help develop their digital literacies.