2 Context Imperial Value Added Materials Degree Core knowledge The HE processContextImperialMaterials DegreeCore knowledgeTransferable SkillsIndustryPG ResearchOther (finance/ etc)Maths & Physics ‘B’English required31% overseas SE Asia /ChinaemploymentValue AddedadmissionsgraduationResearch led university (rewards)Many overseas staff and visiting staff
4 Writing SkillsKey points Our students find writing the most difficult of the communication skills. BUT over 95% of the marks in our degree course are associated with the assessment of written work by academic staff (so what are we assessing?). Outcome = Knowledge*Skills*Writing ability AND Employers (and most parents) expect our graduates to be able to write well after 17 years in the education system!Potential Problems are:UnderachievementPlagiarismFailureDamage to institutions reputation
5 Strategies for Improving Writing Skills Objective:To put in place a sustainable support system to demonstrate to each student the need for high quality written work, to identify weaknesses, and to provide the appropriate assistance.
6 The Challenge Students are: not aware of the importance of writing skills to their degree and to their subsequent career;convinced that the technical and numerical content in their work is all-important;tend not to allow time to read through their work and correct it.
7 The Challenge Academic Staff: Many do not consider the teaching of written English to be part of their jobSome are not suitably skilled to teach EnglishApply different policies and penalties in their marking schemes
8 Assessment and Clinic1st Year students (66) were assessed on the basis of a report they wrote on their first lab “Introduction to Materials”. Common faults:
9 Categories a Good overall, only very minor points need attention. b Good but needs more attention to detailc Quite good but too informal/clumsy needs more care and thoughtd Careless - sometimes lacking in coherence, logic. Sometimes repetitive. Disruptions to the flow.e Needs some help with English although not too bad. Sometimes misunderstands.f Needs a lot of help with the English language both in expressing and in understanding
10 Categories Comment on Admissions Criteria IELTS and TOEFL scores did not map precisely onto the test resultsHOWEVER… Most of the students in the lowest ability groups did have low IELTS and TOEFL scoresRaising the IELTS and TOEFL bar will ameliorate the problem
11 Questionnaire Students’ suggestions for improving: reading more writing moregreatervocabularyattendingEnglish classesRating
12 Recommendations - targeted Extra assistance for students that have problems through:small-group tutorials given by specialists from English language Support Programme;one-to-one advice from a member of staff or another departmental championpeer tutoring
13 Recommendations - general Marking and feedbackEnhances student’s motivationChallenges:- staff inclination- staff ability- must be consistent- can be a negative experience
14 Recommendations - general workshops to increase awareness1st Year: no marks allocation but good feedback2nd Year: Up to 25% may be deductedAlternative:return any reports without marking if English is not adequatestudent required to correct and resubmit work
15 Workshops 1st Year Workshop: half-day Introduction including video clip:Exercise 1 (Write a letter of Application)Exercise 2 (Précis – summarise 400 words in )
16 Exercise 1Write letterGroups of eightLook at each letter in pairsMake written changes and commentsGroup chooses a representativeRepresentative records good and bad pointsRepresentative presents points to rest of class
17 Overall Conclusions on Written English Raise student and staff awareness of the issueAssistance embedded in the course through assessmentExplicit assistance through workshops, ELSP and departmental championConsistent staff approachDepartmental championRaise entrance requirements (cannot learn English and Engineering in parallel)Useful Books before entry ?Eats, Shoots and Leaves – Lynne TrussTen Steps to Perfect Punctuation – Jenny Haddon – September 2006
18 Support for current work Imperial College London:Research GrantUK Centre for Materials Education:Teaching Development Grant