Archivo de la categoría: teaching

English as Medium of Instruction (EMI) and Methodological Change

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Teacher talk in a foreign language – Use with caution!

Several years ago, a Spanish colleague who was teaching International Law to Spanish-speaking students in a university in Madrid, challenged my belief that instruction in EMI requires adapting one’s own teaching methodology.

“What do you mean I should scaffold the readings?” she asked. “I set the relevant texts, and it’s their students’ problem, not mine, to make sense of them.” Que se busquen la vida was the Spanish way of putting it.

In short, she saw the challenging of overcoming the language barrier as the students’ responsibility, exclusively, and found no need to teach her EMI course differently from how she would teach it in Spanish, both her and her students’ monther-tongue.

This short text provides a number of counter-arguments to this view, which I find is quite commonplace in EMI lecturers. It is based on my own experience teaching EMI courses and coordinating a team of EMI teachers. It is also supported by research in the field, by authors such as Emma Dafouz and David Lasagabaster.

The bottom-line is that traditional teacher-focused methodologies and instructional styles are less effective in EMI contexts than when lecturer and students are working in their L1 or a language they fully master. And, for this reason, it is my belief that most lecturers in most academic fields would gain from moving toward more learner-centered, collaborative learning methodologies that shift the attention away from teacher talk. Here are some reasons why:

1.- Teacher talk is less effective in English than in L1. Several studies have questioned EMI lecturers about the main obstacles of EMI, and many have identified the difficulty of interacting “naturally” and “spontaneously” with students.

Tellingly, one of these lecturers claimed that “for me, the biggest difference when teaching in English is that I find it hard to be spontaneous and (I believe) fun […] I can’t joke with the students, which for me is a way to keep them engaged.” (Dafouz, Núñez, Sancho y Foran 2007; cited in Dafouz 2015). Understandably, teaching styles that follow the “sage on the stage” paradigm will suffer more by switching to a foreign language.

2.- Teacher input is limited from language standpoint, and must be supplemented with materials produced by native speakers.

This is not merely a linguistic point, as it overlaps with the need for students to speak and write fluently and correctly about the subject content. This requires, for instance, effective use of academic vocabulary, lexical collocations…which are hard to master for non-native speakers.

Examples:

  • The use of the verb “conduct” together with the nouns “research” or “an interview” (lexical collocations)
  • The specific use of academic verbs such as “discuss”, “argue”, “implement”, “assess”, etc.

Teachers often share with students their own notes and Powerpoint presentations. This may come as an adequate support of content acquisition, but I believe that, for students to obtain the full benefits of EMI instruction, the course design should also provide ample opportunities for engaging with authentic and non-authentic texts (written and aural) produced by native speakers of English.

These texts can range from less to more technical, including newspaper articles and video reports, documentaries, news stories, textbook chapters, journal articles, lab reports…In turn, work on these texts should promote a more learner-centered instruction that will offer opportunities for discussion, problem-solving and so on.

3.- More profoundly, as Emma Dafouz argues (2015), courses are taught and learnt in a given disciplinar and academic culture, that might not be identical with the culture of the same course as it would be learnt and taught in L1. This is how the author represents it graphically:

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Source: (Dafouz, 2015)

 

In my experience as an EMI lecturer, it is worth it to offer students the chance of reading, say, academic essays and scientific reports published in English, as their genre requirements and conventions differ from the Spanish ones, and acquaintance with such genres are “a part of” learning those academic contents in L2. More so if we expect students to be able to speak or write in those genres as part of their coursework.

For instance, if we want students to write a Biology or Chemistry lab report in English, it makes sense that will have read, discussed and analyzed samples of lab reports published in English-speaking contexts, and not merely “translate” a lab report the way they would be done in the L1 contexts. The same is true of other academic / disciplinar genres such as debates, presentations or academic essays.

For all these reasons, as Dafouz (2015) argues, EMI lecturers would gain from promoting a more learner-centered teaching methodology, enhancing the role of the teacher as mediator of information. And offer a number of explicit scaffolds to support learners in mastering the course contents in a language neither them nor the teacher is fully proficient in. In another article I will be discussing what some of these scaffolds can be.

 

References

Dafouz Milne, E. (2015). Más allá del inglés: la competencia lingüística multi-dimensional como estrategia para la enseñanza en la universidad internacional. Educación y Futuro, 32, 15-34. The full text is available here: https://cesdonbosco.com/documentos/revistaeyf/EYF_32.pdf

 

 

 

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A Teacher Training Workshop in Bangkok, Thailand

CLIL and EMI is not only big in Europe – it seems to be on the rise everywhere. This is what I found during an intense and exciting day at the School of Liberal Arts at King Monkut’s University of Technology, where I conducted a two-hour workshop on Scaffolding Techniques in CLIL/EMI, and most important, had a chance to meet with lecturers, Masters students and Secondary school teachers who are interested in EMI in Secondary and Tertiary education.

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The workshop was organized as a taster of the more intensive training I offer EMI lecturers at Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, and sought to engage participants in reflecting on the rationale of scaffolding learning when teaching through a foreign language, as well as applying a number of reception, transformation and production scaffolds suited to the learner’s language and subject competence.

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I am particularly grateful to the faculty at KMUTT, especially Richard Watson Todd and Ornkanya Yaoharee, for their invitation and for making the workshop possible.

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Brainwriting colaborativo en CLIL

En esta entrada quería compartir con vosotros una estrategia que he implementado este año en algunas de mis clases. Se trata de utilizar la técnica del Brainwalking para generar ideas de forma colaborativa y añadiendo, además, la peculiaridad de realizarlo fuera de clase. Esta actividad se realizó en dos clases, con la finalidad de generar ideas para consensuar una rúbrica de evaluación para un trabajo de curso. (Los detalles sobre esta forma de evaluación están en esta otra entrada.)
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¿Qué es brainwalking?

El brainstorming o lluvia de ideas consiste, como es bien sabido, en generar ideas de forma oral, aunque puedan registrarse por escrito. El brainwriting introduce el matiz de que cada persona o grupo elabora un texto o anotación que luego circula y es a su vez fuente de reflexión y más input escrito por parte de los demás autores. Pues bien, el brainwriting añade un matiz kinestésico al proceso: son los participantes, y no el papel, quienes circulan.

¿Ventajas?

  • Optimizamos la exposición a las ideas de los demás, fomentando además la lectura activa: no se trata solo de leer, sino de comentar.
  • Rompemos la rutina habitual de realizar tareas grupales en el aula, o de que siempre hablen los mismos en el momento de la puesta en común.
  • Generamos un clima de trabajo más relajado en el que los miembros del grupo pueden adoptar roles diferentes a los habituales, a veces más activos y responsables.
  • Seguramente hay estudiantes con un perfil más kinestésico que piensan mejor de pie o con la posibilidad de caminar cada pocos minutos.
  • Mandamos un importante mensaje simbólico: el aprendizaje no es algo que tenga lugar exclusivamente en el aula.
  • Del mismo modo, generamos un ambiente de centro más abierto, donde el trabajo de una clase está abierto al resto del alumnado.

 

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