An integrated Approach
Jun 5, 2017 English for Special Purposes (ESP) 555 Views
~~An Integrated EAP approach
The article is about a successful collaborative project within the Computer Science department. It shows how by working together with the department, the library and the study skills centre ESAP can have its profile raised and can make a real impact. It suggests that this collaboration can integrate the support the students receive, show them how the univeristy is connected and that ESAP is an important and relevant part of the university support network.
Academic English is often seen as an odd on to departmental classes. Academics often do not see it as a valuable integrated part of their programmes. As a result of this students also neglect to see its value and often believe that as they are on their courses that those courses should get their undivided attention. This makes the role of the EAP practitioner extremely hard and we can often feel like we are facing an uphill struggle. However, where there is cooperation and when the role of EAP is given its rightful status then it makes our job a lot easier and the benefits are there for all to see.
I teach on a number of in-sessional courses and in many departments. Some courses are for credits and some are not. Each department gets an allocated 50 hrs of free support and then they have to pay for any additional hours. This means that the vast majority just take the allocated 50 hrs and divide this over both semesters.
In one department (Computer Science) I have been involved in a very integrated course for two years and the department has reaped the rewards of its proactive approach. The students in the department as in many write up their dissertations from Easter time onwards. In previous years many of the professors had commented on the poor writing that they receive from many students including home students. EAP classes in the department were originally poorly attended with the usual worried well coming and those who needed the support staying away and struggling.
It was decided that as part of one of the modules there would be six key sessions- three from the department, one from the library, one from the study-skills provider at the university and one from myself with regard to academic English. The sessions were only 50 minutes long and consisted of the whole cohort of students (last year this was 50 and this year 70). The professor on the main module took the first three classes and the library, study skills provider and myself attended when we could and informed ourselves of the content. It also showed the students who we were and gave us some cognitive authority.
The first three sessions were delivered and recorded, then uploaded to Blackboard. Then the fourth session was delivered by the library and they gave information about searching for sources and databases. This was informative for the students but also for myself as I learnt more about how this related to the students. The fifth session was based on study skills and poster presentatons which would be useful for students later in the semester. Again this was useful for me to attend and also see how these are used in the department. I then delivered a session where I focused on key areas of academic writing which were theme and rheme (given to new information structuring), linkers, sentence length and grammatical accuracy. I called them the ‘ Rules Of Thumb’ and only chose four as these I agreed with the department seemed to be the biggest problems. I got students to analyse other students work before introducing the rules. Finally, I gave an assessment where the students had to pick two dissertations from previous years and analyse them based on the four rules. They then had to write a 1,000 word response on how effectively the dissertations were written. I then had to mark their responses based on how they analysed and also how they used the rules themselves. I had several hours of the allocated provision to mark the students work, with help from another tutor to ensure quality assurance and accurate marking.
Students often contacted me between setting the assignment and also the deadline. The number of questions showed that as this was an assignment for credit and as their tutor had shown his appreciation of research, study and academic language skills it gave my position authority. I returned the assignment as I had done the previous year and was pleasantly surprised by many of the essays and the fact that the students seemed to have generated a real awareness after a one-hour session. The real proof of success of this type of support was the professor’s comments last year when he said that he had noticed some real improvement and in the dissertations the same errors shown in the ‘ Rules Of Thumb’ were not so frequent. I am hoping that this year’s cohort also make real improvement and can face their dissertations with more confidence and also greater awareness of how to write in a clear and coherent manner.
After many years of working in EAP and in several higher education establishments I am amazed that this type of course and support is not more common. I feel though that this is a model that can be copied across many departments, faculties and universities. The only drawback is the amount of marking, but the feedback seems to suggest that it is worthwhile.