Kris Van de Poel et al.: Mind the (language) gap


Kris Van de Poel
Ward Peeters
Elke Ruelens
Marina Vulovic

Presentation focus

When students make the transition from secondary to tertiary education, they make the transition from a (more or less) controlled environment to an environment where they are expected to take responsibility in adjusting to new academic and social expectations. Students who fail to successfully make this transition will under-achieve throughout their studies or maybe even drop out. Teachers play a pivotal role in preparing and supporting students to adapt to the new environment, and in helping them bridge the gap between secondary and tertiary education. In this workshop we will highlight the different challenges which students experience and exchange tips and tricks – paying special attention to social learning, autonomous learning and collaborative learning.

Filling the social learning gap: Who’s afraid of social (media) talk?

Due to growing student numbers, creating time and space for peer interaction in every-day teaching practice is often considered a challenging task. We, therefore, have to look for new ways to facilitate peer interaction and collaboration beyond the classroom walls. We will first explore the concept of social learning through social media talk, with a focus on how to build an effective network for learning online and what implications it has for learners of a foreign language, as well as for those who teach it.

Filling the autonomous learning gap: Supporting students’ self-reflection and self-regulation skills

One of the greatest challenges that students face when transitioning from secondary to tertiary education is the demand to be more autonomous. In this segment, we will report on the challenges associated with supporting students in developing (more) independent learning skills and L2 academic literacy. We will pay special attention to the pedagogical implications of this approach, relevant for secondary education teachers who search to create (more) autonomous learning opportunities for their students.

Filling the collaborative learning gap: Keeping learners focused in “The flipped classroom”

The classroom is a reflection of ‘real life out there’. Teachers can build on and benefit from what learners are good at. We will ask ourselves: What can we learn from social talk and how can learning benefit from it? How do we support the development of autonomy? How do we ensure proper collaboration, even when students do not want to collaborate? We will exchange some strategies, tips and tricks to make classes more interesting by making learners co-owners of the learning process. We will facilitate reflections and experiences based on examples from an academic writing class.


Kris Van de Poel is an applied linguist (University of Antwerp & Edinburgh University) with a background in teaching and research in, among others, Scandinavia, Scotland, England and South Africa. She has coordinated and audited projects in Eastern and Central Europe, Asia and Africa and has coached many generations of young and mature language students.
Kris’ research is data-driven and firmly embedded in the domain of Language for Specific Purposes with a primary focus on academic and professional contexts.

Ward Peeters is a PhD researcher in applied linguistics at the University of Antwerp (Belgium) and is a teaching assistant at the department of English Studies at Ghent University (Belgium). He studies social network impact in foreign language learning and has conducted research projects in both Belgium and South Africa as part of an extensive study on computer-supported collaborative work. As part of his teaching experience, Ward teaches courses in linguistics at Ghent University, as well as courses in academic English and Dutch at the University Language Centre (UCT) at Ghent University.

Marina Vulovic originates from Montenegro. She is a graduate of the University of Belgrade and, currently, she is doing a PhD in applied linguistics at the University of Antwerp (Belgium). Her research interests include raising first-year students’ awareness of reading and writing in the context of their academic literacy development in L2. Moreover, Marina is interested in needs analysis, course design, and metacognitive development. She has presented papers at conferences held in Finland, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Belgium. Marina has experience in the fields of both foreign language teaching and translation.

Elke Ruelens is doing a PhD in Applied Linguistics at the University of Antwerp (Belgium). Initially, she trained to become a language teacher, and pedagogics remains one of her major interests. Elke’s current research relates to the relationship between self-regulation and language learner autonomy; she is examining whether strategy-based instruction can be integrated in academic literacy courses to target both students’ literacy skills and their autonomy.