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).

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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 http://www.demandhighsilently.com

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.

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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.

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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:

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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

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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.

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Lou being super-smug! 🙂

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

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

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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?

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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Here is another example text:

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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.

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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:

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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.

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Important considerations:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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The changes made

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

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

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Teacher engagement during the project was mixed:

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

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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:

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How does it work in practice? The introductory tutorial:

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

Good resources:

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Another resource: www.griffith.edu.au/englishhelp

A writing consultation:

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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.

david.jay@anglia.ac.uk

Twitter: @cambthink

IATEFL 2016 You tell me! Practical ideas for student-led tasks in ESAP (Anne Heaton)

Well, I had been planning to go to the ELTJ debate about teacher training, after lunch, but then my interview slot with IATEFL Online clashed with the start so instead I am attending Anne Heaton’s talk on student-led tasks in ESAP. Anne is Associate Director of Pre-sessional English Courses at Coventry University.

Anne starts by talking about the general to specific continuum. You could use this activity in an EGAP class to get students used to the idea. Start with some gaps in the chart for the students to fill in:

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Thinking more specifically about general to specific in my subject we are going to take “EAP” as our subject. We are going to look at the same activity.

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The best way to do it is using post-it notes which they can then freely move around. This means you can add in different layers/categories to the spectrum/chart. We tried it out:

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These are the principles of the tasks we are looking at today:

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Where Ann works, there are 8 intakes a year and within that 1000 student enrolments. They have two large pre-sessionals, one pre-September and one pre-January. Students have a wide variety of destination subjects (60). As there are so many students, tutors with a wide range of experience end up working there at busy times. Until 2014, the courses were EGAP institution generic courses. There is an even split between postgrads and undergrads. The majority are from China, followed by Middle East. BA in International Business is the biggest subject and B.A. in Business-related subjects make up the majority of students. Same with the post-grads.

Ann outlined the differences between EGAP and ESAP:

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It is set up as a dichotomy but the two co-exist in reality. In 2014 they decided to make a move towards an ESAP approach. Not to lose the EGAP but to sit ESAP alongside it. Difficulties included establishing collaboration with subject specialists but information is needed from them as we aren’t experts; dealing with ‘odd’ subjects; deciding how to group students when there is a mix of undergrad and postgrads; managing the issue of teachers feeling underprepared to teach.

They have re-named it EIMS (English in my subject) to emphasise it is language not content. This is a typical timetable:

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They use a parallel structure so that the same task type or skill will be introduced across all EIMS groups but it will be tailored content-wise to the specific subject. As much as possible, they get students to generate the ideas, students positioned as experts in their subject. Students can tailor an activity to their specific interests.

Our next task was:

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Different reporting verbs can be used to indicate the writer’s stance in relation to what is being quoted. Agreement and disagreement are introduced and continued differently. In the ESAP classroom students would have looked at a similar activity in their EGAP lessons and might do something like this in relation to their own subject to practice it and make it more motivating. All the teacher has to do is find a contentious view within the specific subject and it can generate a lot of discussion. The teacher can also get the student to come up with the view as well. It works well set as homework so that students have time to think about it. Students within a subject will come from different backgrounds. Students can be allowed to put forward their own views or from the literature. They write it on a piece of paper, teacher collects them all and redistributes so that students respond to the view using reporting verbs.

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One thing that they are looking to do more now from this year is to look at different genres of academic writing. The pre-sessional course focuses almost exclusively on essays because they occur in all disciplines and are the most frequent genre overall. Most EAP lecturers tend to come from a background where they are familiar with essays. Therefore they are easier to teach and to test. But Ann wants to move to a wider genre focus. The approach is to use the students as “chief investigator in their discipline” (De Chazal).

This is what students will have to do:

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Students can look in the British Council writing for a purpose website to find out more and there are activities to help them. They are also encouraged to use corpus tools to help inform themselves, such as Sketch Engine, where searches can be narrowed by text type:

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Student feedback has been positive so far.

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IATEFL 2016 Supporting postgraduate EAP students: teaching tips and technology tools (Angela Smith)

My intention in attending this session was to answer the question that sprang to mind when I saw the title and abstract in the programme: I wonder if  there will be anything that David hasn’t told us yet? (David Read is in charge of technology and technology focused TD at the ELTC!) Then lo and behold, who should turn up at the session but David?! 🙂

This session is focused on teaching tips and technology tools for supporting postgrad EAP students and will be delivered by Angela Smith of the University of Bradford. The room is pretty small and it’s very full too! Angela is an EAP lecturer and a technology enhanced learning coordinator.

She is going to tell us who her learners are, what postgrad EAP learners want and how to meet those needs. The students come from more than 150 different countries (those on campus attending face to face). Mainly Nigerian, Iraqi/Libyan, China, Japan and South Korea.

The extra things that are offered at Bradford Uni are:

  • drop in sessions (6hrs per week)
  • one to one support sessions (for PhD students, advance booking)
  • online support via Blackboard (materials on a shared area and a specific PhD student area in collaboration with academic skills)
  • small group tailored support sessions (faculties have been networked with and when issues arise, they will send small groups of ‘supervisees’ for help);
  • regular timetabled classes in academic skills.

The challenges that postgrad students face cover all four skills within which there are particular issues. E.g. oral/aural – discussing complex subjects with classmates, supervisors, presenting in seminars or at conferences: need appropriate language and levels of formality. With reading, there is the volume of material, the speed required, taking bits out and making valid notes. If students take poor notes, the output will be poor as well (e.g. presentations and pieces of writing). Note-taking and note-making are something that students have had little training in. Writing includes things like articles, literature reviews, annotated bibliographies and lab reports. Students know their subject but can’t communicate it effectively to the wider audience. Self-management is another area, about meeting deadlines and managing time without handholding. They also have to work with a supervisor which can cause a lot of angst. Supervisors are great but may be short on time and can come across as abrupt or not interested even if it is not the case. Students may feel scared to approach the supervisor.

There are some common difficulties that students face:

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Another issue is language appropriacy in emails…

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Students try to be very respectful and polite but wind up being completely inappropriate. This is an example of pragmatic incompetence. They don’t know the words to use with the correct level of formality. They overuse hedging language etc. and it turns out to be waffling:

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What do the students want?

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Well, a lot of it comes from written work e.g. summarising and paraphrasing, synthesising resources from different areas. Cultural misunderstanding can occur. So what do we do?

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Angela gets examples from faculties of what students have to produce. Using this kind of subject-specific model motivates students. She also makes sure that the syllabus matches their needs at various times, again by liaising with departments.

By adopting these kinds of activities, you can help learners become more adventurous.

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Shared note-taking – all students look at the same article and make notes, then share their notes on a platform and then the notes can be compared.

Angela explained that there are a lot of things that are done to help students become more autonomous:

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For example, she has also set up a help desk. Students can post a question in one of the three categories – Grammar, Vocabulary, Assignment title. If one person posts a question, probably a whole other group of students finds it useful, has the same question. It’s grown enough that 2 members of staff are needed. 2 day response guaranteed.

Angela emphasises the importance of the teacher in the role of guiding the students in developing autonomy.

Next, she moves on to the tools they use.

  • Foxit.reader: can be used to annotate/manipulate texts
  • Scribl.com: You can take a webpage and students can use different tools to work independently or together to deconstruct a text.
  • Mindmeister: a mind-mapping tool. Free and simple to use. You register with an email address and input students’ email addresses and they get access to what you send. Then you can see what students are doing and when in the mind-mapping process.
  • Notes.io: You can make a note then generate a web address which you can give to students and they can see it and edit it. Students can share multiple sets or work on a smaller number in groups.
  • Classtools: You can make a crossword with an associated link. Students create them in class and then work on one created by a peer-group. Good for consolidating knowledge in areas of difficulty.
  • Markin: enables text to  be marked using a code. You highlight and click on the code you want. You can also put comments in. (A little like Turnitin without the plagiarism element, so, the feedback element!) Good for highlighting problems but the student has to do something about it, as vs. proof-reading. So that students have to edit their own work.
  • Padlet: good for brainstorming. Free and easy to use. Generates a link and students can see and post notes. Good for initial planning etc.

There was a handout with all the links to the above on it but it disappeared like snow in sunshine… nevertheless, Uncle Google is your friend!

A.Smith22@bradford.ac.uk

 

 

 

Making general EAP more specific – academic writing

The 10-week pre-sessional programme at Sheffield University is an English for General Academic Purposes course rather than an English for Specific Academic Purposes course. This means that students learn general academic skills and vocabulary rather than subject specific. However, even working with a general EAP course book, like Oxford EAP, it is possible to tweak a lesson so that it links in with students’ academic fields, and, in my experience, this has a very beneficial effect on students’ engagement with the (often rather dry) lesson content, as the relevance and usefulness is clearer to them and the content more meaningful. I managed just such a lesson tweak in my most recent academic writing lesson (yesterday). Though far from being rocket science or anything particularly special, a few simple tweaks made a big difference, so I thought I’d share what I did here…

The aim of the lesson was for learners to be better able to write comparison essays, in terms of structure and complex comparison sentences using subordinators. The Oxford EAP spread was logical:

  • dividing a list of ideas corresponding to a given essay title by perspective (e.g. financial, social…)
  • focusing on the overall structure by getting students to match block and point-by-point outlines (with no content) to descriptions
  • matching outlines with content relating to the beginning essay title and evaluating the clarity of each
  • producing an outline for another essay title (using notes given to help)
  • identifying the chosen outline in a paragraph of text responding to another essay title and using this as a springboard for focusing on subordinators (highlighting, analysing, controlled practice)
  • writing a comparison essay (in response to another title)

My students are approximately 50% medicine, 50% dentistry in terms of field, so for this lesson I got them to sit grouped accordingly. Before starting on the above sequence, I encouraged them, in their groups, to brainstorm a list of comparisons they might make in their field. For example, in dentistry, they might compare systemic fluoridation with topical fluoridation (as I have discovered in the course of the project thread of this programme!). Once they had generated their lists, I asked them to look at each item and think of at least two perspectives from which they could compare their items. So, for the above example, it could be from a financial perspective or a health perspective. These are M.A. students to be, so they are interested in what they are going to study. Thus, starting the lesson in this way immediately grabbed their attention because it was fully relevant to them.

Having done that, with relevance of comparison essays established, we moved onto the OUP EAP sequence and worked through it up till the end of the controlled practice activity for subordinators. Then we returned to the information generated in the above-described opening sequence, from which they selected a comparison and produced an outline (choosing a block or point-by-point structure) based on that, thus linking the learning back to their field. They also wrote some complex sentences, using subordinators, comparing their chosen items from their chosen perspectives. This was far more engaging than writing sentences in response to a random essay title that they didn’t really care about. Obviously in an EGAP course these are inevitable, but even on such courses it definitely pays to be on the look out for ways of linking the general content back to the specific disciplines. (Without needing to be an expert in those fields, of course!)

Next week we are looking at problem-and-solution essays: hopefully I can make these as engaging as comparison essays turned out to be!

Yay, writing! ;-)

Yay, writing! 😉 (Image licensed for commercial reuse with modification)