Value Added Imperial Materials Degree Core knowledge Transferable Skills Context graduation admissions employment The HE process Maths & Physics B English required 31% overseas SE Asia /China Industry PG Research Other (finance/ etc) Research led university (rewards) Many overseas staff and visiting staff
Key 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! Writing Skills Potential Problems are: Underachievement Plagiarism Failure Damage to institutions reputation
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.
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.
The Challenge Academic Staff: Many do not consider the teaching of written English to be part of their job Some are not suitably skilled to teach English Apply different policies and penalties in their marking schemes
Assessment and Clinic 1 st Year students (66) were assessed on the basis of a report they wrote on their first lab Introduction to Materials. Common faults:
Categories aGood overall, only very minor points need attention. bGood but needs more attention to detail cQuite good but too informal/clumsy needs more care and thought dCareless - sometimes lacking in coherence, logic. Sometimes repetitive. Disruptions to the flow. eNeeds some help with English although not too bad. Sometimes misunderstands. fNeeds a lot of help with the English language both in expressing and in understanding
Categories Comment on Admissions Criteria IELTS and TOEFL scores did not map precisely onto the test results HOWEVER… Most of the students in the lowest ability groups did have low IELTS and TOEFL scores Raising the IELTS and TOEFL bar will ameliorate the problem
Questionnaire Students suggestions for improving: reading more writing more greater vocabulary attending English classes Rating
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 champion peer tutoring
Recommendations - general Marking and feedback Enhances students motivation Challenges:- staff inclination - staff ability - must be consistent - can be a negative experience
Recommendations - general workshops to increase awareness 1 st Year: no marks allocation but good feedback 2 nd Year: Up to 25% may be deducted Alternative: return any reports without marking if English is not adequate student required to correct and resubmit work
Workshops 1 st Year Workshop: half-day Introduction including video clip: Exercise 1 (Write a letter of Application) Exercise 2 (Précis – summarise 400 words in 100)
Exercise 1 Write letter Groups of eight Look at each letter in pairs Make written changes and comments Group chooses a representative Representative records good and bad points Representative presents points to rest of class
Overall Conclusions on Written English Raise student and staff awareness of the issue Assistance embedded in the course through assessment Explicit assistance through workshops, ELSP and departmental champion Consistent staff approach Departmental champion Raise entrance requirements (cannot learn English and Engineering in parallel) Useful Books before entry ? –Eats, Shoots and Leaves – Lynne Truss –Ten Steps to Perfect Punctuation – Jenny Haddon – September 2006
Support for current work Imperial College London: Research Grant UK Centre for Materials Education: Teaching Development Grant