ALGORITHMS FOR DEVELOPING PERSONALIZED TRAINING PROGRAMS FOR EFFECTIVE TEACHING ENGLISH IN A CORPORATE ENVIRONMENT

АЛГОРИТМЫ РАЗРАБОТКИ ИНДИВИДУАЛЬНЫХ ОБУЧАЮЩИХ ПРОГРАММ ДЛЯ ЭФФЕКТИВНОГО ПРЕПОДАВАНИЯ АНГЛИЙСКОГО ЯЗЫКА В КОРПОРАТИВНОЙ СРЕДЕ
Bondareva N.
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Bondareva N. ALGORITHMS FOR DEVELOPING PERSONALIZED TRAINING PROGRAMS FOR EFFECTIVE TEACHING ENGLISH IN A CORPORATE ENVIRONMENT // Universum: филология и искусствоведение : электрон. научн. журн. 2023. 9(111). URL: https://7universum.com/ru/philology/archive/item/15952 (дата обращения: 03.03.2024).
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ABSTRACT

Despite the relevance and importance of teaching foreign languages, there are no ready-made and universal corporate training programs for adults today. In addition, each corporate environment requires specific foreign language skills, which may make the task of building a one-size-fits-all program impossible. In addition, the modern didactic principle of individualized learning states the need to follow personal learning paths. All of the above actualizes the problem of developing new methods, technologies and tools for personalized training of specialists in a foreign language and teaching methodology (for foreign languages in the context of the corporate environment.

АННОТАЦИЯ

Несмотря на актуальность и важность преподавания иностранных языков, не существует готовых и универсальных корпоративных программ обучения для взрослых на сегодняшний день. Кроме того, каждая корпоративная среда требует определенных навыков владения иностранным языком, что может привести к невозможности создания универсальной программы. Более того, современный дидактический принцип индивидуализации обучения гласит о необходимости следовать индивидуальным траекториям обучения. Все вышесказанное актуализирует проблему разработки новых методов, технологий и инструментов для персонализированного обучения специалистов иностранному языку в контексте корпоративной среды.

 

Keywords: English language, corporate training, educational program, teaching technology, teaching methodology, blended learning, competence.

Ключевые слова: английский язык, корпоративное обучение, образовательная программа, технология обучения, методика преподавания, смешанное обучение, компетенция.

 

In the contemporary landscape of education and professional development, the notion that university graduates are not fully prepared specialists upon graduation is gaining traction. Rather, they are seen as individuals with the potential to become competent professionals through a continuous learning journey integrated into their professional responsibilities [6, p.18]. The rapid pace of technological advancements and evolving industry demands has made lifelong learning a necessity. While higher education equips graduates with fundamental knowledge and skills, the ability to stay updated and adapt to new developments is crucial. Graduates must engage in ongoing learning to remain relevant and effective in their chosen fields. Practical experience often enhances and refines theoretical knowledge. Upon entering the workforce, graduates encounter real-world challenges that require the application of their acquired skills. This hands-on experience not only deepens their understanding but also exposes them to practical problem-solving and critical thinking, fostering professional growth. The corporate environment provides a unique setting for developing essential soft skills, such as communication, collaboration, conflict resolution, and time management. Graduates who navigate these dynamics learn to work effectively in teams, manage relationships, and understand the nuances of workplace culture.

The acquisition of a foreign language has emerged as a pivotal aspect of professional development for individuals seeking to excel in today’s interconnected world. The ability to communicate effectively in a language beyond one’s native tongue has become a valuable skill in various professional domains, ranging from international business and diplomacy to academia and cultural exchange. In response to the growing demand for language skills in the workforce, there has been a heightened focus on optimizing and modernizing educational programs for adults. These programs are designed to cater to the unique needs and learning styles of adult learners, who often have specific goals, time constraints, and prior experiences that shape their approach to language learning.

Despite the extensive research and pedagogical advancements in foreign language education, there remain several unresolved questions in this field. For instance, the most effective methodologies for teaching adults, the role of immersive experiences, the integration of technology, and the interplay between language and culture continue to be areas of exploration and innovation. The corporate world,  in particular, has recognized the significance of language skills, especially English, as a tool for effective communication in cross-border business interactions. This recognition has given rise to corporate language training programs designed to enhance the language proficiency of employees, enabling them to engage confidently in international business contexts.

Within the realm of adult education, the concept of “andragogy” has emerged as a specialized field. Andragogy focuses on the principles of teaching adult learners, acknowledging their self-directedness, life experience, and motivations for learning. This pedagogical approach recognizes that adults bring a wealth of prior knowledge and experience to the learning process, which can be harnessed to facilitate meaningful and applicable learning outcomes.

In the Russian context, the emergence of research in the field of andragogy as a whole and foreign language education, in particular is driven by the country’s transition to a market-based mode of functioning in the socioeconomic system during the post-restructuring period [11, p.3]. The expansion of companies into global markets, and the broadening of diplomatic, commercial, academic, and cultural ties, all these factors have significantly elevated the importance of foreign languages within corporate environments. The ability to engage in foreign language communication has become a professionally vital skill for specialists across most industries [7, p.107]. 

Before presenting the algorithm for developing personalized educational programs for effective English language learning in a corporate environment, it is essential to define the key categories of this subject area: educational program (curriculum), personalized learning, and teaching methodology (for foreign languages), and pedagogical technology.

An educational program, in a broad sense, can be defined as a systematic series of educational activities organized according to established pedagogical principles and methodological approaches, aimed at achieving specific educational objectives. It can also be said that a curriculum encompasses the content and scope of foreign language learning, comprising a combination of methodologies and technologies [7, p.110]. The methodology of teaching a foreign language, in turn, is characterized as a comprehensive set of systematized strategies, principles, and pedagogical approaches that are scientifically grounded in linguistic, psychological, socio-cultural, and pedagogical aspects. These approaches are oriented towards the effective acquisition of language skills and competencies by learners. The methodology of teaching foreign languages may emphasize different approaches to language instruction, such as communicative, functional, interactive, contextual, intercultural, and more. The implementation of a methodology relies on pedagogical technology as the instrument.

In corporate training, pedagogical technology represents a “clear sequence of scientifically grounded actions aimed at creating an individual authorial language learning program for each corporate learner group in accordance with the group’s individual goals and learning conditions, ensuring the successful achievement of these learning objectives” [8, p.17]. Pedagogical technology refers to the practical application of instructional methods and strategies in a systematic and organized manner. It includes the tools, techniques, materials, and approaches used to facilitate effective learning. In the context of foreign language teaching, pedagogical technology encompasses the integration of multimedia resources, interactive exercises, language software, a virtual learning environment, and various teaching aids that enhance the learning experience.

The implementation of an educational program can occur through various models of learning, including group settings, small groups, and individual instruction. Moreover, teaching English to adults can also take place in a mode of personalized learning, which combines both group and individual approaches. Personalized learning is a pedagogical approach that focuses on tailoring the educational process according to the unique needs, interests, learning styles, and pace of knowledge acquisition of each learner. Within the framework of personalized learning, diverse methods are employed. These include differentiated assignments, individual and group consultations, online platforms, and technology that allow learners to choose paths of study, learning paces, and formats based on their preferences and needs. A crucial component of personalized learning is the continuous assessment of each learner’s knowledge level and progress, enabling real-time adjustments of educational strategies. This approach promotes a deeper understanding of the subject matter, greater engagement, and more effective knowledge retention, as learners are actively involved in shaping learning experiences.

By incorporating personalized learning into corporate language training, organizations can enhance the effectiveness of language acquisition for their employees. Customized learning experiences that address individual strengths and weaknesses, preferences, and professional goals result in a more motivated and empowered workforce. Furthermore, the integration of technology and online resources facilitates flexible learning pathways, ensuring that each learner’s journey aligns with their unique requirements and contributes to their success in both language proficiency and their respective roles within the corporate context. 

In the development of personalized educational programs for effective English language learning in a corporate environment, these components - educational program, personalized learning, teaching methodology, and pedagogical technology - play interconnected roles. By carefully designing the curriculum, tailoring it to individual learning styles and needs, selecting appropriate teaching methodologies, and utilizing modern pedagogical technologies, organizations can create impactful language learning experiences for their employees, ensuring the acquisition of practical language skills and competencies aligned with their professional roles.

Having defined the key concepts within the author’s research topic, let’s delve into the stages of constructing corporate educational programs. The initial step in developing an educational program involves setting the goal and objectives of the educational activities complex, which will subsequently determine the substantive aspects of program implementation. Typically, the primary goal of corporate training is to enhance the quality of employees’ work within a cross-cultural context. This applies to companies and professionals who directly interact with representatives from other countries and need to engage with them systematically. However, in some cases, the objectives of corporate English training can differ - encompassing team building, catering to employees’ hobbies, or providing incentives. For instance, there are cases where companies offer optional courses, such as teaching Chinese to their employees [10]. The endeavors reflect the diverse range of objectives that corporate training can address, extending beyond language proficiency to fostering team cohesion, promoting employee well-being, and aligning with the company’s values.

It is important to note that the articulation of clear and specific goals is pivotal, as they serve as guiding points throughout the program’s design and implementation. These goals determine not only the content of the program but also the methods, materials, and assessments used to achieve the intended outcomes. By adapting the curriculum to the unique needs and objectives of the organization, corporate training programs can deliver targeted results that align with the company’s strategic initiatives and enhance the professional capabilities of its workforce. This tailored approach ensures that each program serves as a valuable investment in employee growth and organizational success.

Some researchers discuss two universal goals of foreign language learning: the development of language communicative competence and the development of intercultural communicative competence [9, p.19]. Undoubtedly, the nature of a specialist’s occupation and the industry in which a company operates are directly linked to the goals of learning the English language. For example, employees of an international trading company would be equally interested in developing both language and intercultural competence. It can be said that the objectives of English language learning can be determined according to the competencies required to be developed in the employees of an enterprise (Table 1):

Table 1.

 Spectrum and content of competencies developed during English language learning (corporate training):

Note: Original development based on materials from [9], [11]. and others.

Type of competency

Components of competency

Knowledge, skills, abilities

 

Foreign language communicative competence

Verbal

Possession of communicative skills in the four models of speech activity: speaking, listening, reading, and writing.

Linguistic

Mastery of language tools (phonetic, orthographic, lexical, grammatical, punctuation, stylistic) in accordance with the theme, field, and situation of professional communication.

Sociocultural competence

Immersion in the culture, traditions, and realities of the countries where the studied language is spoken within the context of professional topics and communication domains.

Compensatory

The ability to navigate situations of language resource scarcity when receiving and conveying business information.

Educational-cognitive

The ability for independent language and cultural learning to enhance professional communication skills and increase work productivity.

Professional

The ability to read and comprehend texts in one’s field of expertise; the ability to interpret the content of professional texts.

 

 

Possession of intercultural communicative competence

Cultural

Understanding the principles and characteristics of uniting individuals into various cultures, as well as the ways of interaction among representatives of different cultures.

Communicative

Knowledge of communication methods, and the ability to identify and resolve intercultural conflicts. The skill to select linguistic units, speech, and social behavior in accordance with the cultural specifics and value orientations of the communication partner.

Psychological

Readiness to understand a different culture, altering one’s perspective on stereotypes, showing empathy, adaptability, receptiveness, and a tolerant attitude towards business partners.

 

Once the overarching goals and specific objectives of the corporate training program have been established, the next crucial step is to tailor the program to the individual needs and professional roles of the employees. This process involves conducting an initial assessment of each learner’s existing knowledge, language proficiency, and familiarity with the subject matter. This diagnostic phase serves as a baseline to gauge the starting point of each participant and to identify areas that require focused improvement. The assessment process can involve language proficiency tests, interviews, and self-assessment surveys. By gauging the employees’ current language skills and understanding of relevant industry concepts, the training program can be customized to effectively address their unique learning gaps and requirements.

In parallel, delving into the professional profiles of the participants is equally vital. Each individual within the organization has specific responsibilities, tasks, and interactions that involve the use of the English language. For instance, sales representatives might need English for negotiations, while technical teams might require language proficiency to understand specifications and collaborate with international partners. By outlining the specific roles and contexts in which English will be applied, the training program can be contextualized to ensure its relevance and applicability to the learners’ daily tasks. With this comprehensive understanding of each employee’s linguistic skills and professional roles, the training program can be meticulously designed to cater to their unique needs. This approach not only enhances the relevance and effectiveness of the training but also promotes a more engaged and motivated learning experience. Employees can see a direct connection between their language learning effort and their job responsibilities, fostering a sense of purpose and ownership in their development journey. 

Effective corporate individualized training is only possible by taking into account the strengths and weaknesses of a specific age group of learners from an andragogical perspective [5, p.265]. It is necessary to consider the individual differences among adults, cultivate autonomy (the ability for self-directed learning and reflection) for each of them, and strategize on how to emphasize certain aspects of the educational content while addressing the identified knowledge gaps. Understanding the diverse backgrounds, learning preferences, and motivations of adult learners is central to creating a successful individualized training program. Adult learners come with unique life experiences, prior knowledge, and varying levels of familiarity with the subject matter. Recognizing these differences allows instructional designers to tailor the content, pace, and methodologies to suit the needs of each learner, promoting engagement and effective learning outcomes.

Fostering learner autonomy is another crucial aspect. Unlike traditional educational settings, where the teacher’s role is more directive, andragogical approaches emphasize empowering adults to take responsibility for their own learning journey. Encouraging self-directed learning and reflection helps learners identify their specific learning objectives, choose relevant resources, and manage their progress effectively. Additionally, addressing knowledge gaps requires a strategic approach to designing the content. Identifying areas where learners lack proficiency allows for the creation of targeted learning materials, exercises, and assessments. This way, the training program is designed not just to cater to what learners already know, but to systematically fill in the gaps in their knowledge and skills.

At this stage of developing the English language training program in a corporate setting, understanding motivational factors becomes a crucial task. As it was pointed out earlier, each learner may have different motivations and goals, that serve as effective levers for their active engagement [7, p.108]. Understanding and accounting for these motivational factors allows for the creation of more effective and personalized educational programs. For example, for one employee, financial rewards might be the key motivation. In this case, the training program can be oriented toward developing specific skills that will increase the employee’s market value. For another employee, the desire for career advancement might be essential. Training, in this scenario, can be designed to develop the skills and knowledge necessary for more responsible positions within the organization. A third employee may aim to avoid awkward situations when communicating with foreign partners. In this case, the training program can focus on practical communication skills, including role-playing and simulations, to boost self-confidence when interacting in a foreign language. 

Personalizing motivation can also involve monitoring and feedback. Continuous analysis of which motivational factors are at play for each learner allows for real-time adjustments to the training program. Ultimately, a personalized approach to motivation within corporate English language training not only boosts motivation but also improves learning outcomes and the application of new knowledge in practice.

The next stage of the algorithm is the selection of the optimal mode of learning. Classroom training (face-to-face sessions) is traditionally considered the classic mode of learning. It has both advantages and disadvantages, which have been extensively discussed in modern scientific literature. In recent times, the focus has shifted towards distance learning and the increasing role of ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) in the implementation of new pedagogical technologies [2]. In the author’s opinion, in the context of personalized corporate courses, a blended learning mode would be the most optimal. Blended learning allows employees to have flexibility in their learning schedules. They can attend the classroom sessions, which might be held during work hours, and then complete individual assignments at their convenience. This flexibility is especially beneficial for busy professionals who may have varying workloads and commitments. Individual assignments can be tailored to address the specific needs and gaps of each learner. This personalization is a key factor in the success of corporate training because it ensures that employees are acquiring skills and knowledge directly relevant to their roles. The knowledge and skills acquired during classroom sessions can be immediately applied in the workplace. Learners can practice what they have learned in real-world scenarios, which reinforces their understanding and makes the training more practical. Moreover, blended learning supports the concept of lifelong learning. Employees are encouraged to take ownership of their learning journey by completing online modules, seeking out resources, and participating in discussions beyond the classroom sessions.

In the blended mode of education, the group will participate in common sessions in a classroom, while individual assessments will be given for self-study. These individual assignments serve two main functions: (1) addressing the specific knowledge gaps of each learner and (2) developing the competencies that are more relevant to each learner’s professional field (e.g. writing business emails in English for specialists in foreign trade or office managers, oral communication tasks for those conducting negotiations on behalf of the company, etc.). It is well-known that combining face-to-face and online learning leads to improved learning outcomes. Blended learning allows you to leverage the advantages of both group classroom learning and individual online learning, which is why this mode is frequently encountered in corporate training [3, p.90].

At the stage when the goals, objectives, competencies, learning mode, and characteristics of the learner group have been defined, it is time to proceed with the selection or development of educational content. In the development of educational programs for learning a foreign language for specific purposes, the units of instruction considered are speech functions, definitions, situations, topics, and communicative tasks [1]. The nature of corporate English language training itself demands special attention to content selection. Corporate English language training is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. The content must align with the specific needs, goals, and industry of the company and its employees. This often means that off-the-shelf language courses are not sufficient. Educators must create content that directly relates to the roles and responsibilities of the employees. The content should mirror real-world scenarios that employees are likely to encounter. This makes the learning experience practical and immediately applicable in their daily work. Case studies, role-playing, and simulations can be valuable tools here.

Moreover, corporate language training often involves dealing with international partners and clients. Content should include cultural nuances, so employees not only understand the language but also the cultural context in which it is used. This helps in effective cross-cultural communication. It is important to mention that the education should not be static. The content needs to be dynamic, allowing for updates and improvements based on feedback and changing business needs. Regular assessment and adaptation are crucial. Content should be engaging and interactive as well as well to maintain learner interest. This can involve multimedia elements, quizzes, group activities, and opportunities for discussion. Gamification elements can also be incorporated to make learning more fun.

Considering the absence of comprehensive materials for corporate training, professional-oriented English courses can draw upon various resources to provide effective learning experiences. These resources include:

- utilizing existing English for specific purposes textbooks, or their individual components, particularly multimedia elements, can be a valuable starting point. For example textbook: ”Business English” by Paul Emmerson can be adapted for marketing professionals. In this adaptation, specific chapters from the “Business English” textbook can be selected to focus on marketing terminology, communication with clients, and digital marketing strategies. Additionally, multimedia elements like TED Talks on marketing trends or case study videos from successful marketing campaigns can complement the content.

- incorporating English-language media content that is relevant to both the industry’s particular characteristics and the learner’s job roles. This can include integrating documentaries, news segments, or expert interviews, which can provide real-world context. For example, for students working in the healthcare industry documentaries on medical breakthroughs, healthcare system comparisons, or profiles of renowned medical professionals can be shown. News segments discussing healthcare policy changes, patient case studies, or medical research findings. Experts interviews with doctors, nurses, and healthcare administrators.

- engaging with professional publications written in English. Accessing articles and publications from professional journals or magazines that focus on topics relevant to the learners’ industry can provide valuable insights and vocabulary. For example, for students working in law firms, we can read such journals as “Harvard Law Review” which discusses articles on legal theory, law cases, regulatory changes, and legal analyses.

- leveraging podcasts related to specific industries. For example, in architecture, design, and construction firms, podcasts like “Life of An Architect”, “99% Invisible”, and “The Curbed Appeal” can offer valuable insights. Similarly, when training employees in event management agencies, podcasts like “Event Tech” and “Turn of Events” can be highly relevant.

- incorporating authentic professional documentaries in English. This may include real-world documentaries such as specifications, financial reports, and more. These materials can help learners become familiar with the language in their specific field.

By making use of these resources, professional-oriented English courses can provide learners with materials that are directly applicable to their industry and job roles. Tailoring the choice of materials to the specific needs and interests of learners within each corporate context is crucial for effective training.

The selection of content should take into account several key criteria: materials should be relevant, professionally oriented, rich in cultural context, and authentic [7. p.111]. Furthermore, it should correspond to the learners’ level of proficiency according to their knowledge and skills. Additionally, it is important to consider which target audience the employees most frequently interact with and, based on this, choose the variant of English that is most prevalent in their communicative environment. Many Russian companies engage with both native and non-native English speakers (India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Singapore, and African countries), many of whom have their own unique variant of English, known as “New English” [9, p.21].

In the final stage of developing an educational program, it is imperative to determine how the learning outcomes are to be documented and applied. While the fundamental achievement of a corporate program is undoubtedly the ability to effectively communicate in English, there is often a demand for more tangible, practical learning results. These may encompass technical glossaries, scripted call plans, business document templates, phrasebooks, and personalized materials. In many instances, corporate education involves the creation of written materials that can be practically applied in the workplace. The absence of such materials significantly diminishes the course’s utility, as employees will lack the necessary resources to navigate and effectively engage in a communicative process based on the available materials [4, p.50]. It is vital that learning outcomes are tailored to the specific needs of each employee and the nature of their work to ensure maximum effectiveness and relevance. Thus, the generalized algorithm for developing a personalized corporate English language training program can be presented as follows (Figure 1):

 

Figure 1. The algorithm for developing a personalized corporate English language training program

 

References:

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Информация об авторах

Master's student, University of the People, Pasadena, USA

магистрант, Народный университет, США, г. Пасадина

Журнал зарегистрирован Федеральной службой по надзору в сфере связи, информационных технологий и массовых коммуникаций (Роскомнадзор), регистрационный номер ЭЛ №ФС77-54436 от 17.06.2013
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