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Differentiation in the EAP classroom

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1 Differentiation in the EAP classroom
Liz Stratton Academic Success Programme Manager Swansea University

2 Outline Background – setting the scene
Background – EAP and study skills Questions from me Academic discourse communities Teacher’s perceptions – qualitative research study Challenges arising from results of research Possible solutions Developing best practice Future directions

3 Background In-sessional teaching
Teach academic study skills to all university students from Foundation level through to PhD General timetable Some discipline-specific classes International students only classes (M level) Mixed classes of native and non-native speakers Mixed genres Mixed levels Mixed needs

4 My questions How can we address the challenge of teaching such a diverse range of students? How can we meet the needs of such a diverse range of students? To which discourse community/communities do these students belong? How can we best help students to become comfortable within these communities? How can I help my staff to become effective teaching members of these communities? Or across these communities? How can these questions inform our in-sessional programme?

5 EAP and study skills Move away from traditional conceptions of EAP
Diverse range of contexts within university today Increase in number of students from non-traditional backgrounds, such as mature students, ethnic minority Modular degrees – move between genres Practice based courses such as nursing, paramedic science Study skills approach There are common reasoning and interpreting processes underlying communication which help us to understand discourse. Focus on interpretive strategies and competences

6 EAP and study skills Focus on skills.
EAP detached from purely language issues: “...meant that EAP became relevant to native English-speaking students as well as second-language learners, as many new undergraduates were unfamiliar with the requirements of the tasks they faced in this new learning context.” (Hyland, 2006, p. 19) Target genre approach: discipline-sensitive/discourse-based approach – learning as an induction into a new culture/discourse community. Led to point 3

7 Academic discourse communities
Hyland (2006) – discourse and knowledge construction: “...learning a discipline ...means learning to communicate as a member of a community.” (p.38) Particular purpose for a particular setting. Key concepts of a discipline are defined through and by language. Concept of community – Swales (1990) collective goals or purposes. Place discourse communities – groups who have a sense of their common roles, purposes, discourses and history (Swales, 1998).

8 Academic study skills discourse community
Is there an academic study skills discourse community? Who belongs to it? Are there separate academic discipline study skills discourse communities? Is there a native speaker study skills discourse community? Is there a non-native speaker study skills discourse community?

9 Academic study skills discourse community
Academic study skills discourse community – texts and practices in common...within that class then transfer skills to wider academic discourse community of discipline. Swales & Feak (2012) - Advantages of multidisciplinary class over monodisciplinary one – “rhetorical consciousness raising” (questions of rhetoric and language). This type of class creates a “tolerant and light-hearted community among its members” (since students are not competing with others from their own departments). Swales & Feak (2012) Academic Writing for Graduate Students

10 Teacher’s perceptions

11 Questionnaire What were your perceptions of in-sessional teaching before joining the ASP team and how have these changed since you have been working here? What do you see as the difference between teaching pre-sessional international students and in-sessional international students? What do you think the synergies are between the needs of home and international students? What are the challenges of delivering to these students? Give Q for discussion first then feedback on slides

12 Questionnaire What has been your biggest challenge moving into in-sesssional teaching? Have you altered your teaching practice since becoming an in-sessional teacher? What are your views on materials for in-sessional teaching?

13 Q. 1 Mostly to do with teaching home students.
Assumed I’d have to teach to a much higher level but often it’s very basic points that need explaining. Focus now on home students. Not as scary as I thought it would be! Home students are not as confident as I thought they might be. Subject matters are interesting as students bring something new every day. I didn’t think it would be different from teaching pre-sessional EAP but it is vastly different.

14 Q.2 International is naturally a lot more grammar focused. Home students seem to have structural issues but often grasp a point quite quickly once explained.   Less language – more skills. Exam focused; short termism.  Not really very much! Most of the international students I have encountered so far still need more language support than they probably think they need. A move from language based content and focus on exams to what students need for their courses.

15 Q.3 From teaching the undergraduate writing course, it seems that both sets of students appreciate detailed word function explanations. For example, when and how to use linkers like although, nonetheless etc. Also referall words like pronouns. This might be because they cross the grammar/structure divide. Some skill sections are synalagous although language can sometimes slow down a class. They all need study skills particularly essay writing and essay planning. Critical thinking skills, structuring essays, understanding what is required in terms of argument.

16 Q.4 Adopting to the needs of home students.
The motivation of students is higher. They are not generally forced to attend. Accepting it is ok to be less ‘TEFL –like’ but then realising how useful TEFL techniques can be! The continuing process of how different disciplines have preferences on how essays are presented. E.g. opening paragraph which starts immediately with the argument rather than leading up to it. Trying to keep home and international students motivated when there are some very different needs.

17 Q.5 More content in a lesson and more focused on a larger goal. E.g. writing a good introduction instead of writing a good present perfect sentence. Yes. More content focused and more reactive to students needs; more flexible in the classroom. Material is more subject-specific where possible. Genre analysis is extremely important. Yes.

18 Q.6 I make sure there is plenty of individual work time so I can cater to individual needs. If/where possible group students with similar abilities, although it can be effective where appropriate to mix this up too. By keeping everything task and outcome focused. Many of these tasks transcend levels/needs/boundaries and so can be applied. It depends on the course. Sometimes students will be grouped by discipline, sometimes by my perceived idea of their needs in terms of support. So far, at ASP, I haven’t grouped students by level but I could imagine a scenario where PhD students could benefit from being separated from undergrad students. A.Try to have extension activities. B. Know that not everyone needs the same explanation and rather than explaining a point to the entire class give 1:1 feedback while monitoring (easier with small classes). C. Get students to relate content to own discipline and come up with examples for their own context.

19 Q.7 Difficult because of the range of abilities and needs. Some TEFL type activities are too dull for home students. Lecture type presentations at start more appropriate here. However, activities still need to be guided towards eh final goal – in my experience just expecting students to do something correctly once being told is not enough. They have been mostly focused on international students. Examples given are often relevant to internationals. It is enjoyable and challenging to create made to measure subject specific material for students. Ideally there would be good communication and collaboration between subject teachers and ASP tutors to be able to discuss/access authentic materials and discuss needs of students. Difficult to find materials that are appropriate for home students – lots of ‘how to write’ books but not many that include exercises for class teaching.

20 Overall...challenges Teachers a bit ‘scared’ of teaching home students. Teachers feel that they should teach to the home students and pitch it at their level. Challenge of addressing different generic needs. Challenge of meeting different student needs within a class. Confusion over what is ‘acceptable’ across different subject areas. Language difficulties can slow down a class. To TEFL or not to TEFL?

21 Possible solutions Outcome/task focused lessons. Transferable skills.
Individual supervision time in class/ extension activities. Level specific classes? Separate home / international classes? More subject-specific classes Greater collaboration with colleges – proven success. Collaboration with other departments – library, careers.

22 Common areas between students
all elements of essay writing planning language linking devices critical thinking structuring an argument academic style essay structure

23 Developing best practice
Learning outcomes Focused skills based learning Student focus groups Teacher observations Establish a community Teacher training Increased collaboration with departments

24 Liz Stratton ASP Manager 01792 604515

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