Dr Solène Inceoglu is an applied linguist and a Lecturer in French. Upon her arrival at the ANU in 2016, she used her research expertise in Second Language Acquisition to develop The Sounds of French: Pronunciation and Phonetics to teach pronunciation in ways that cater to every individual student.
With the goal of making pronunciation visible, she regularly uses software programs that combine audio recordings with visual displays of features of speech (spectrograms and pitch contours). She also incorporates innovative activities with ultrasound technology to display internal articulatory processes and facilitate the explanation and understanding of how to pronounce challenging sounds. Dr Inceoglu became a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy in 2018 and received an ANU Vice-Chancellor's Citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning in 2019.
In 2019 Solène was a recipient of an Australian Award for University Teaching - Citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning. Read more
Q: What do you enjoy most about being a teacher?
I love being in a classroom (face-to-face or online) and love teaching languages. When I was in school in France, my favourite subjects were languages (I studied English, German, Italian, and Japanese, and am a heritage learner of Turkish), so somehow teaching French now is a continuation of what I have always enjoyed doing. I really enjoy getting to know my students, exchanging with them on a variety of topics (in French!), and sharing my culture (the bonus of teaching my language!). As a researcher in Second Language Acquisition, I am also very interested in seeing them improve their language proficiency and helping them develop skills to become autonomous learners. I am here to facilitate their learning of French and when a student significantly improves, they (alone) deserve the credit; still, I find it very gratifying and I am proud of all the efforts and time they invested in learning a second (third, fourth) language.
Q: How do you motivate, inspire and engage your students in and out of the classroom?
Speaking in a foreign language can often be intimidating, so first and foremost I always strive to create a secure and positive environment for my students, where they enjoy learning together and from each other. In practice, I always make sure students get to know each other (with ice-breaking activities on campus or by constantly moving them around in Zoom breakout rooms) so they do not feel uncomfortable speaking in a foreign language in front of a large group. In terms of content, in my Advanced French courses, the topics we discuss are contemporary societal issues (climate change, sexism, social media, etc), which allow students to create connections between what we learn in class and what they know from outside the class (including from other courses). In addition, because students have different centres of interest, I let them choose the topics for their research papers and final oral projects; this allows them to work on something they are interested in and keeps them engage in their readings.
Q: What qualities do you need to be an outstanding teacher in higher education?
It might sound too simple, but I believe that great educators care deeply about their students' learning experience, reflect on their teaching practices and ways to improve their courses, and are not afraid to try out new activities (even if the outcome is not what they had in mind). I also think it is important to always remember that students are in our courses for a few years (at most!) before they graduate. Accordingly, I believe that it is of the utmost importance to link what we do in class to the world outside of academia (so we do not teach "in a bubble") and equip students with tools and strategies they will use in the future: critical thinking, presentation skills, autonomous learning (that latter being critical for language learning), etc.
Q: What are the ongoing challenges in developing your teaching practices?
We often have groups of 20-25 students in courses with 3.5 contact hours per week; for a language course-where communication is central-this means that speaking opportunities can be limited. Ideally, we should be able to offer language courses with groups capped at 15 to create more meaningful interactions between the instructor and the students (e.g., allowing for personalised and continuous feedback) and among students (e.g., facilitating a feeling of cohort and reducing the common anxiety around speaking in a foreign language). In addition, classroom setups can also either help enhance learning or quickly become a challenge. I was lucky to be able to teach in the Marie Reay Teaching Centre in 2019 and I loved how flexible the classroom was. Just the mere fact of having students sit in small groups facing each other, with the ability to easily move their chairs and look at other groups, changes the whole class dynamic and enhances the learning experience.
Q: Tell us about an approach you have taken in the classroom of which you've been proud
I love innovation and technology and I constantly modify my courses in order to try out new activities. For instance, in 2018 and 2019, I brought an ultrasound device in my Sounds of French (FREN3515/6515) course. Ultrasound imaging has usually only been used in speech lab settings with very small group of participants, but thanks to the increasing portability of ultrasound systems, I saw the potential they could have in my courses as an innovative way to teach pronunciation and provide highly personalized feedback to the students. Every student in the course got to use it and receive feedback, and they loved it! Now that I have to teach this course online, I will not be able to use the ultrasound, but I am excited to explore how Automatic Speech Recognition dictation practice can enhance autonomous learning and help students monitor their speech through the provision of written feedback.
Q: If the VC asked you how you would change teaching and learning at ANU, what would you tell him?
Teaching Awards already exist, so it shows that the University values teaching excellence. However, putting more emphasis on Education, for instance on promotions, would encourage people to innovate and increase teaching quality and learning experience. This is even more important now that the tertiary sector is dealing with the Covid crisis and students' learning experiences are disrupted. Other changes that would help improve teaching and learning at ANU: reducing the size of tutorial groups (particularly needed for some languages; teaching groups of 20-25 might be cost-effective but is detrimental to language learning) and decreasing the administrative load on academics (esp. ECRs).