Scholarship Circle “TEFLising EAP”

Today was the inaugural session of our new scholarship circle “TEFLising EAP”*. (You can read more about what a scholarship circle is and what it does here.) The idea behind this one is that EAP lessons can get a little dry – learning how to do things academically is not necessarily the most exciting thing in the world even if it is essential for would-be university students – and for the students’ sake (as well as our own!) it would be great to bring in more, let’s say ‘TEFL Tweaks’ – things that we used to do when we taught at language schools abroad (warmers, personalisation, fun activities etc!) and have got out of the habit of doing in the EAP context but that could actually be adapted for use here without losing the all-important lesson content.

The plan is to look at the lesson materials for the following week (all of the courses here except for the highest level one have a very structured week-by-week, lesson-by-lesson syllabus and materials) and share ideas for how to breathe some life into them. We shall be doing this between 12 and 13.00 on a Friday and all in all, we will be aiming, through some most excellent collaboration, to avoid this** happening in our EAP classrooms! 😉


*not necessarily the official name!

**substitute ‘lesson’ for ‘lecture’!

Here are some of the ideas that came out of today’s session:

  1. For a listening and note-taking lesson: when you want students to work in pairs to use their notes to answer questions, make it impossible for them not to (or they won’t!) – you could do this by setting up the activity with clear stipulations i.e. one student to close their folder and one to read out the questions that they then work on together to answer. This avoids students getting buried in their folders, which is the tendency.
  2. For a citation and referencing lesson: students may be good students but may not be familiar with terminology that we take for granted, such as “semi-colon” or “bracket”. To ensure that you start the lesson with all students clear about the language you are going to use in teaching the lesson content, take that terminology (e.g. semi-colon, italics, brackets, et al etc) and use it as the basis for a backs-to-the-board game. This enables you to check that students know the terminology before you use it.
  3. A pronunciation warmer for working on minimal pairs: Minimal pairs phone numbers. Number the board vertically from 0-9 and give each number a word within which is a minimal pair sound. Here are the examples we had: 0-Annie, 1-any, 2-rise, 3-rice, 4-fool, 5-full, 6-light, 7-right, 8-sit, 9-seat. (Adapt it according to the sounds that your group of learners tend to struggle with) You read out your (invented) phone number by saying the word that corresponds with each number. So 989 would be sit seat sit. The students have to write down your phone number by deciding which word you have said and writing down the corresponding number. They can then do it in pairs. This gives them practice in both recognition and production of the minimal pairs.
  4. Do a speaking ladder at the start of the lesson based on the lesson content: It takes some time to do it, but the benefits range from giving the students (who have very long days at the college) an energy-levels boost, get them mingling, get them thinking/speaking in English and make them focus (as it generates a lot of noise, they have to listen very carefully to concentrate on “their noise”). It also gives them some bonus fluency practice.
  5. (This one was mine!) A warmer for a nominalisation lesson: Make a grid of academic verbs, one verb per square. Put students in groups of three and give each group a grid, counters and dice (they can use a phone app and the change in their pockets if needs be!). The aim of the game is to “collect” as many squares as possible by turning the verbs into nouns. To do this, students roll the dice and move their counter the corresponding number of moves. If their square has not been claimed, they can claim it by giving the correct noun form. If they are correct, they draw their symbol on that square. They can move in any direction that gets them to an empty square (backwards, forwards, diagonally, vertically etc) in any combination. They continue until all squares have been claimed or the teacher calls a halt. The winner has the greatest number of squares when the game stops. You can then get the students to group the nouns they have made according to the different suffixes used to create nouns and then try to think of any more verbs–>nouns they know that work in the same way.
  6. Academic style: When the activity requires students to edit sentences to make them more academic, here is a fun way to do it in groups. Write each sentence at the top of a blank piece of paper and make sure you have enough for each student in each group to have a different sentence. They write their edited sentence at the bottom of the sheet and fold it over to hide it. They then pass their paper to one student and take a sheet from another. Repeat this until all the students have written their edited version on each of the sentences going round in their group. At the end, as a group, they can look at all the different versions and collaborate to make a final “best version”, combining their ideas, and write that best version in their folder.
  7. Working with a text: take out ten key words, do a few rounds of backs to the board; once all words have been guessed and are on the board, get students to use them to predict the possible content of the text.
  8. Summary-writing tasks: get students to record it rather than write it for a change! Put them in pairs and give them time to make notes, discuss what they want to say and decide who will say what, then get them to record that. They can send you the recordings to listen to and give some feedback on.

The hour went by very quickly, it has to be said. Looking forward to more next Friday! 🙂 (I am planning to share the ideas here regularly but marking 30×3000 word essays [in chunks of 1 and 2000 words] is likely to get in the way somewhat! Hopefully I will catch up eventually though. )


Pronunciation tweaks for familiar activities

I wrote this post during the summer of 2015, when I was working on the 1o week pre-sessional programme at Sheffield University. (However, it is relevant for for anyone who does regular vocabulary review and wants to integrate pronunciation into such activities.) I have finally got round to publishing it some 8 months later! Better late than never…!

I’ve been doing a lot of pronunciation work with my Social English students recently. (Social English class is a class for students on the 10 week pre-sessional programme at Sheffield University, who have unconditional offers from their departments for degree courses starting in September-October this year.) I’ve also been doing quite a bit of vocabulary work. (Spaced) review is a regular feature of our classes, so I am constantly on the look-out for different ways of doing this, in order to keep things interesting. Part of the pronunciation work done with these students was an introduction to the phonemic chart, which I reviewed in a subsequent lesson using a phonemic chart version of Connect 4. Since then, I’ve also been trying to integrate review of the sounds into vocabulary review activities. This has the benefits of linking the work done on sounds to our target vocabulary and of making vocabulary review that slight bit more interesting and challenging. Here are a few familiar activities that I have tweaked, in order of increasing level of challenge…

Board Race

In board races, learners race to write something on the board in response to a prompt from the teacher (e.g. a clue for a target word as vocabulary review.) Here are a few pronunciation based board races. For all these races, learners are put in teams and team members take turns to race to the board.

(The more complex versions may  be kept for when learners are more comfortable with the sounds and symbols in recognition and production.)

  • The phonemic chart is projected onto the whiteboard. The teacher makes sounds and one learner from each team races to touch the correct sound on the chart. First person to touch the correct sound wins the point.
  • The teacher calls a sound and one learner from each team races to write that sound on the board.
  • The teacher gives a clue for learners to guess an item of target vocabulary; learners race to write it on the board in phonemes.
  • The teacher gives a clue for learners to guess an item of target vocabulary and they race to write the word AND stress pattern on the board.

The letters game

In its traditional form, I was introduced to this game during my CELTA course at Sheffield Uni. Each group of learners has a set of letters (multiple examples of each letter) and the idea is that the teacher provides clues to elicit a target word, which the learners must race to spell out using their letters. Turns out it works equally well using sounds instead of letters! And once you have made your sets of sounds, of course they are a resource you can use over and over, with different groups etc, meaning that after one job lot of preparation, it becomes a zero prep game. To warm learners up with an easier start, make sounds for the learners to find, before calling out words for them to sound out, and then graduating to clues for words.

Two sets of sounds

Two sets of sounds, ready to go!


Nothing new to anybody about Hangman, it can safely be assumed, in fact I think it has mostly gone out of fashion as a waste of time. However, it does work quite well if instead of using letters, you use sounds. So, instead of each __ __ __ being for individual letters of target words, they are for individual sounds (which of course won’t necessarily be the same number as the number of letters in a given word). I had my students in two teams, and the teams took it in turns to make the sound they wanted to guess. Within the teams, students took it in turns to be the one who made the sound but they collaborated first in deciding which sound they wanted. Once learners are familiar with the game, you could round it off in a later class by doing an utterance and then once it is on the board, in symbols, perhaps write the words underneath and then in a different colour pick out what happens in connected speech vs. in individually pronounced words.

Backs to the board

Instead of writing a target word on the board in letters, write it on the board in phonemic script. Teams have to decide what the word is before helping their teammates at the board to guess what it is. Once those at the board have guessed the word, you could award bonus points if they can write it on a mini-whiteboard in phonemic script.


The teacher draws a target on the board (or you could pre-prepare and project onto the whiteboard to save time) and puts sounds in all the gaps. Students are in two teams, and take it in turns to throw the ball at the board (1-4 times per go, depending how challenging you want to make it) and should then try to use the 1-4 sounds hit in a single word. You could add even more limitations, e.g. it can only be words that you have studied this week or something, to bring in an added vocabulary element. (In my case, the teacher did prepare a target but she left out a couple of sounds – no problem, the students identified the missing ones and the teacher drew those on in board marker. 🙂 ) (Can you see which sounds are missing?)

Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 21.11.38


Banana dictations

In this activity, traditionally learners, in pairs or small groups, have a mini whiteboard between them and the teacher says a sentence with a word gapped out – the ‘banana’ word – which the learners race to write on their mini-whiteboard. To bring in sounds as well as vocabulary, why not ask them to write the word in phonemic script? To do this, in their groups, they will be sounding out the word and looking at the chart for help, so it reviews sound-symbol relationships.

… This is clearly not an exhaustive list! Can you think of any more to add?

IATEFL 2016 What is this thing called Academic English Language Proficiency? (Dr Pamela Humphreys)

Pamela works in Australia at a University in Queensland, in the area of in-sessional support. She also has many years of pre-sessional experience.

The number of students studying in English language contexts has increased massively since 1975 (0.8m) – in 2012 it was 4.5m and rising. “All the known world has a second language for advanced education” (Brumfit). English language proficiency is a critical factor for academic performance according to Cho and Bridgeman.

Let’s start with communicative competence, term coined by Hymes in the 60s but it was the work of Canale and Swain in the 80s that gave us this framework. Conceptual frameworks in academic education draw on this framework. In Canale and Swain, grammatical competence is joined by discourse competence, sociolinguistic competence and strategic competence. Since then, the framework has undergone several iterations. Bachman takes strategic competence out, subdivides the competencies into organisational (grammatical and textual) and pragmatic competence (illocutionary and sociolinguistic).

What’s quite interesting is that despite the fact we have 30-40 years of knowledge of these competencies, we don’t know how they interact or the relative weightings, of importance. Pamela also wanted to find out how they interact with academic english proficiency.

Cummins came up with Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS)  and Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP).


He shows that the latter takes longer to develop and that there is little transference between the two. This was talking about children. Pamela wanted something similar for adults in higher education. A conceptual or theoretical model for Academic English Language Proficiency. She couldn’t find anything. Though there is a lot of information relating to academic discourse. We know a lot about it. EAP/ESP/ESAP, genre analysis, discourse analysis, corpus linguistics and academic literacies.

“Academic writing is not a single undifferentiated mass but a variety of subject-specific literacies” (Hyland, 2002:352)

She found four models.


Murray has a tripartite system. Academic literacy is not just study skills or socialisation but a plural literacies about social practice and making meaning, about identity and power. Professional literacies are what they need once the move into their working environment post-study. English language proficiency is something that can be cashed in to develop these other skills. Is there a threshold that students must surpass before they can develop these other literacies?

This vertical conception of academic literacy was criticised, of course. Harper, Prentice and Wilson include the same notions but with no threshold, they can be developed concurrently, not necessarily equally, but concurrently. They believe there is a core that can be used in all three contexts, everyday, professional and academic.


O’Loughlin and Arkoudis (2012) take a different approach, dividing it into entry into higher education, time spent in education and the exit. The student lifecycle option. At entry they need a general academic communicative ability but as they go through their degree they need to develop more specific communicative language ability, specific to the discipline and by the time they graduate they need to have developed the language and skills necessary for their future trajectory.


Mahboob in his Language Variation Model is talking about how language varies in different contexts with different uses.


So he talks about the uses, the user and the mode. Uses can vary from the everyday to the specialised (including academic). Mode can vary from written to oral. Another dimension not shown is time. This gives rises to 8 different domains. Probably all of the last four apply to academic contexts.


In terms of a summary, if we draw on all these frameworks, we know that language requires multiple competences, that there are varying contexts of use and proficiency should/can change over time. Pamela wanted to bring it all together to make one conceptual framework. (The frameworks we have looked at are conceptual not validated.)

She comes up with:


She has three competences, three contexts of use (seen quite a lot in the academic frameworks) and they all intersect. She doesn’t think the lines are solid. The third aspect is proficiency, as we hope it will improve in the course of doing a degree.

It can show different levels of development:



It can show change over time:


So that is her conceptual framework. How can we use it? It can be used for key stakeholders in the industry who are not experts, people who don’t understand what language is about but need to. Could also be used with teachers and students. It could be used to help in curriculum development, to track what has been included. What you tick or want to tick will depend on your context e.g. pre-sessional may not include the professional tick. At least it would be a principled decision. With students, you could use it as means of finding out what students feel confident and less confident about.


Of course language is very complex, so underlying this 3×3 is the complexity of what we have already see, so we can unpack this. So we as linguistics can unpack the different aspects involved in each square.


Here are Pamela’s references:


IATEFL 2016 Demanding higher in EAP – silently (Michelle Hunter)

Michelle Hunter’s talk is about demanding higher in ELT – silently! She asks us how we have been getting on so far with the conference. This is a talk, she feels like it is more a case of talking between us all rather than death by powerpoint. The belief system she is growing within herself is that we are all equals despite being diverse and so it’s let’s share ideas!

She is a firm believer in silence although she is not always very good at it. She has experienced the power of being silent in the classroom and hopes higher level thinking goes on in that quiet space. She will explain what she means by silence – does not mean The Silent Way, but a silence that is full of attention and generative listening. Silence with a purpose. She got her ideas from a person called Nancy Klein who demonstrates her belief system in the way she communicates. NK has been around for 25-30 years now.

She used silence to demand higher of her students, by not jumping in and offering an answer but giving students more time to think for themselves. She is going to tell us how she learnt to do that. She is also going to share some examples from her teaching context (in Germany at one of the universities).


This applies even more so to doing things in another language. Michelle noticed in the world of academic English that it is less about perfecting your English and more about learning how to think academically. (This was on a 6 week pre-sessional) Students need to be able to be critical, evaluate, think at the higher order levels of Bloom’s taxonomy, have rigorous and coherent arguments and come up with really good, strong ideas. How do you come up with an idea if you can’t sit and think about it quietly? Or with a teacher to sit and listen to those ideas and help you further them? So Michelle has a group of people who need to think rigorously in a second language and she wants them to do that by pushing them further.

Michelle discovered that lots of people have looked into giving people more time to think, it has been around for quite a while as a concept, and wondered why we don’t do it more often. In a lesson observation, Michelle held silence for 20 seconds possibly longer. She did some further research into the topic and discovered that Stahl changed the word from wait time to thinking time. Then in Scott Thornbury’s A-Z blog, there is a post on silence which deals with 7 different writers, one of whom looked at the pros and cons of silence. Silence can be activating is one that caught her eye.

Michelle shows us Nancy Kline and asks us to substitute ‘teaching’ for ‘coaching’. She says ‘Equate coaching (teaching) with generative attention not just input’. ‘For coaches (teachers) to create the conditions for independent thinking….they first of all have to be interested…in where the client will go next in their thinking.’ Michelle has shared her video on the website that we can access on

The basis of Michelle’s silence in the EAP classroom, and her ability to do think time rather than jump in, breaks into ten components.


Attention is probably the most valuable thing we can give to another human being. Totally focused, uninterrupted, non-judgemental with generative listening. Through that attention, a brain can work and function, knowing it’s not going to be interrupted and come up with great ideas. Somehow your brain knows that I am curious, interested etc. If you wait, you can see the cogs turning and the thinking happening, so that someone can come up with their own answer to a question.

Ease is an important element in the classroom. If you create ease, then there is a safe place to work in and the brain doesn’t get frozen by emotion.

Appreciation (example of a teacher who was reported as spending ten minutes telling each child how special they are, in a special needs classroom). 3-1 is great. 5-1 is better. 13-1 is overkill. In terms of positive to negative feedback. So give positive feedback more often than negative feedback. Neuro pathways open up when you feel appreciated. So your brain works better. Not empty praise, but appreciation. E.g. thank you for coming.

Michelle wanted to test out something more concrete in her classroom. She tried out Thinking Rounds in Class. You use it in the opening and closing of a class. Sit in a circle and the stipulation is, everybody has a chance to speak, about a question asked at the beginning. E.g. Share something about something positive that  happened to you last week. This sets up an atmosphere of positivity in the room, which opens up the brain and that creates a more constructive working environment. The feedback from this process was very positive – that everyone got a chance to speak and knows they wouldn’t be interrupted and could finish their thought to the end. A form of equality. The closing round was one round to say what went well and then the appreciation round (Saying what you appreciate about the person next to them in the round). One group did it really well, one group was a bit giggly. To round off the whole process was a writing exercise – how you see a thinking environment and what do you think it could bring you. (The lesson on the thinking environment will be on the website)

Michelle was aiming to adapt what she learnt about coaching to use in her teaching. She hopes we can find something useful in what she has shared, some elements to take away. She finished by introducing herself!! She lives and works in Germany, has done some pre-sessionals at Bristol University.

IATEFL 2016 Learner Sourced Visuals: A higher level text’s best friend (Tyson Seburn)

Tyson is from the University of Toronto where he teaches on an EAP programme where students take a bunch of courses leading into their undergrad courses. This is the context for this talk but the things discussed in the talk can be adapted depending on your learners.

Images can be impactful for learners to help them understand what’s happening in the text. Tyson is going to demonstrate this to us.

We look at a common phrase: stop to smell the flowers.


What does literally mean? We actually stopped to smell the flowers as vs. slowing down life. This illustrates the meaning of the word literally. So if you have already taught the meaning behind the phrase “stop to smell the flowers”, then you can use that to get at the meaning of another word in the text, in this case “literally” through using a visual.

Higher level texts contain challenging concepts for students that they can’t fully grasp. What tends to happen is that students have a very surface level understanding of the vocabulary in a text. When they put the words together to understand the concepts behind the words, they flounder a little bit. In EAP programmes, students tend to be faced with text only, often several pages that are quite dense, and they have to remember things from earlier in a text as they proceed. It can be a bit overwhelming. Main and supporting points may get lost as they read the text as they can’t visualise what was happening. So if you ask them about these, they won’t be able to explain. There are also cultural references embedded in the text that students may miss. A visual can helpfully demonstrate these to the student.

We all use visuals to a certain degree but even in EAP classes we want students to recognise different parts of the text in a different way. We want students to be able to look for a visual that represents a concept in the text so that they better understand the concept and can explain it to others, as this backs up their own understanding and comprehension.

The visualiser role:


Students might find a chart, make a timeline, find a photo, a political cartoon, something that represents something in the text. Something that helps their understanding and would be easy to explain to another person. So they need to find or create two distinctly different graphics. This is to avoid the default to Google images. Could be two visuals for the same concept or for different concepts. Because it’s an EAP programme, for digital literacy skills they should keep a record of where the graphic came from. They also need to be able to explain how it relates to the concept in the text. In a subsequent group discussion about the text, the student will introduce a graphic, where they found it and how it relates to the concept. They also have to produce a handout/google doc with the images, a short description of why it’s useful and some references.

Task 1


What might learners find confusing? Phrasal verb “to be off”, “den door”, “smugly”… If we look at a vocabulary level rather than an argument which doesn’t exist here, you are probably starting to visualise what is happening in the text but if a student lacks the vocabulary, that becomes difficult, they lose the meaning of the text. A picture can help.


Lou being super-smug! 🙂

This picture illustrates what is going on in the text, illuminating the meaning of the text:


So what we’ve got here is a simplistic text but the same concepts will apply to more complex texts as we will see.


Looking at the above statements, “Disneyfication” won’t be in a dictionary, it’s a made up word. What characteristics do you think of for Disney? Goofy, princesses, light-hearted, cheery. What visuals might be useful to get the students to realise?


You can see, the above is not disneyfied, but this is:


Taking a character that is rough around the edges and disneyfies it!

Again, if we watched a video of Family Guy, we can see its violent/rough.


But in one episode, they turn into disney characters and they sing about how lovely it is to eat pie. So in a disneyfication process, you go from something realistic and gritty to something tht is whitewashed a little bit, happier, more cheerful, not the real thing. Whatever the real thing was becomes more cheerful than it actually is.


Considerations for students:

  • Does the visual represent what is in the text, the aspect or feeling in it? Not just “apple”.
  • What concept in the text does the visual help explain? Does it help explain or is it just lip service?
  • Does it elaborate beyond vocabulary? (In a lower level text you might just do vocabulary but you might look for concepts rather than just words)
  • Where does the visual come from? Important skill for students when sourcing images is to know the source and reference it correctly.


With the above example, Tyson wanted the students to find things that represent this. But learners are not automatically good at this (e.g. they might just find two flags one of which is for Quebec and one for Canada), the more feedback given, the better visuals they can find:


Here is another example text:


This demonstrates the value of public spaces in a city and why they might be useful. We want to illuminate why they might be useful.


The righthand pic shows this better than the left-hand pic. It shows that businesses near public spaces will benefit from them.

We look at a further example:


What types of visuals would work for this? A google map might help to show what is situated on that street and where it is. An image of cyclists protesting against the bike lane reversal, shows opposition. A political cartoon can illustrate the emotional side of Toronto in relation to this issue. VS a street sign or just a bike lane in a random city doesn’t work. You can’t just pick random visuals, you have to dig a little deeper.


Important considerations:


Each of these things are separate lessons but when we pull them all together this role becomes more key for students when they are reading a particular text.

Tyson then went on to show us more examples of visuals that students had found to illuminate elements of different texts, before bringing this very interesting talk to a close.


IATEFL 2016 Moving EAP students to metacognition and autonomy (Michelle Tamala)

Michelle has been involved in English language intensive courses for overseas students for about 20 years. She is a regular speaker at learner autonomy events.

This talk is a narrative. She is going to tell us about a journey she has embarked on, originally started as an idea for some action research. With research, once you start… Michelle has come up with more questions than answers.

Students: upper intermediate level, university pathway college in Australia, trying to get their English to move up by .5 of an IELTS band in ten weeks, learning academic skills as they go through. Autonomy is a strong theme in Australian schooling from primary to university, seen as being important. Michelle’s belief is that if we can get ss to use indirect learning strategies (metacognitive) to decide what cognitive strategies to use, when completing a task, they will be more effective and successful learners. Students will move from being taught to actually learning. Requires a big shift for them and for how teachers approach their teaching. Michelle wants to move away from practising for an exam to actual learning.

The starting point for the research was a student survey on student learning – to complement the other surveys that have to complete at the end of a ten week course. She wanted to find out if students at different levels were more less reliant on their teachers to inform what she needed to do.


In terms of self-assessment, students mostly thought they had improved. Superficial results but a place to start. In terms of problem area identification, the lower level students were teacher reliant, the post-grad students were more able to work it out themselves. One teacher has been quoted as saying “I know what my students need, I tell them what to do”…needs a bit of re-education.


Michelle’s plan was to get both the teachers and students involved in her action research, through learner journals and through take up of change/meetings/reflective writing for the teachers. Students had two major writing tasks – short report and longer problem/solution essay. She did a learning survey in week 2 and 9, students are invited to join a closed class FB page (generally successful and sought after by ss). The students fed back that they didn’t understand the purpose of the report, they had trouble writing questions…because the task was designed to give them autonomy as to what went into the report and they had to reflect on it on a weekly basis in their journal. Michelle created an FB page for discussion and sharing of ideas among teachers and wanted meetings to focus more on task design, learning strategies and indirect metacognitive strategies used in daily classwork (rather than just administrative stuff).


The changes made

Another survey showed the following positive changes between early on in the course and late on in the course.



Their journal entries relating to the various aspects of Michelle’s project also showed positive feedback:



Teacher engagement during the project was mixed:


In terms of future directions, Michelle is looking to build on what has been done so far…


The product to process is because most teachers favoured a product approach due to time limitations but Michelle wants to explore alternatives.

IATEFL 2016 How to optimise EAP tutorial time: introducing the 20-minute fix

David Jay is from Anglia Ruskin University and will talk about EAP tutorial time.

In this 20 minutes, David is going to tell us a story. A story of the last 5 years and insights from that, which will be followed by a ten-minute discussion for adapting the ideas to our context.

The story begins in 2011, when David was asked to look after the in-sessional support service which at that time was a drop-in service that took place 2 hours per week. Any students who needed help with Academic English and skills were welcome, including undergrad and postgrad students from three different faculties.

It tended to go wrong in two different ways. A load of students would arrive at once, all wanting help, from a range of backgrounds and with a range of needs. Meaningful support was difficult to offer. Otherwise, one student would turn up with an essay and ask him to proofread it. He felt he was ending up marking their work but the input was superficial as only surface errors would be dealt with in the time available. It was also too teacher-centred.

The first change was to make it appointment-based with one appointment per week limit. Where possible, work would be sent in advance (with a maximum of 500 words at least 24hrs in advance of the appointment). Student feedback was positive. Not a very original system, he says. (And indeed, yes, we have something similar at Sheffield Uni ELTC!) 

David settled on 20 minutes as a good length of time for tutorial as it provides enough time for 1-1 consultation, in terms of diagnosing problems and giving clear guidance. Crucially, it’s not long enough for it to end up being proofreading. He structured it as follows:


How does it work in practice? The introductory tutorial:


The length of time and focus on identifying resources that will be used encourages autonomy.

Good resources:


Another resource:

A writing consultation:


David thinks that 20 minutes is the right length of time as the sessions help develop learner confidence and practical training in personal agency which will help with future using office hours effectively. For tutors, it is enough time for diagnosis and support but maintains focus on autonomy. For other stakeholders, it optimises service uptake.

Twitter: @cambthink