This article is based on my own experience of redesigning the Italian final year language module (ITAL3010) at the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies of the University of Leeds. The changes were introduced in the academic year 2008-9 and the module is still running with the same structure today due to the very positive feedback we continue to receive from our students. At the time of the restructuring of ITAL3010 the Italian unit had been recognised by the University for the excellence of its teaching (with the award of three Faculty Teaching Development prizes since 2004) and had just received an impressive 96% satisfaction rating for its Learning and Teaching in the National Student Survey of 2007. In this very positive context the final year language module represented a problem since in the previous year the External Examiners for Italian had noted that student performance in Italian was lower in language than in ‘content’ modules. The revision of module ITAL3010 therefore became a priority of the Italian unit. In this article I will retrace the steps that together with my colleagues I took to rectify this imbalance and improve the final year students’ performance in Italian language.
An exploration of the use of technology to enhance the presentation skills of international students with reference to Puentedura’s SAMR model
Giving a presentation is often one of the more challenging tasks asked of our students and even confident speakers can give a presentation lacking in focus. Presenting in a language other than their mother tongue may cause some to feel overwhelmed. Consequently, students often dedicate most of their time to developing strategies such as preparing detailed notes; memorizing their presentation by heart, and finally, focusing almost exclusively on the content of their presentation as they strive to cover as much information as possible. Delivery often comes as an afterthought to many students with little consideration being given to the pace and timing of their presentation. While recent research has suggested that using technology more fully in the preparation and practice stages can help to address these issues for students, from a teaching perspective, making decisions about using technology in the classroom can often be a challenge for busy teachers who must select from a constantly changing array of tools and applications. However, if teachers can present a rationale for using technology based on sound educational theories, then this should go some way to alleviating the pressure felt by some to use the latest new tool simply for the sake of it. By encouraging students to experiment with and incorporate appropriate technology effectively into such a task as presenting, teachers can increase their students’ awareness of the importance of timing, delivery and visual aids. This in turn can lead to increased confidence for non-native speakers of English, and should also lead to a more engaging presentation for the audience. This article offers an overview of some of the theories which can be used to frame the use of technology for education with particular reference to Puentedura’s SAMR model and illustrates how it could be applied in the context of student presentations.
In this piece, I explore the current status of Action Research in the EAP community and suggest some reasons why it is perhaps under-utilised as a potentially emancipatory way for EAP practitioners to become researchers of their own practices and conditions. I frame these reasons as ‘risks’ that teachers investigating their own practices can pose. In order to do this, this article provides an example of my own practitioner research conducted within an Action Research framework on the assessment of writing on an EAP pre-sessional course at one UK institution. I do this not to provide an example of good research but to reinforce my central thesis that conducting research is a difficult, risky but ultimately necessary practice for the EAP practitioner.
This study explores the phenomenon of internationalisation within higher education institutions in the UK and its various effects on the identities of the international postgraduate students at these institutions. I conducted the research through focus groups and interviews with students from the University of Leeds, and extrapolated key themes relating to their particular experiences from the discussions. I argue that it is essential that higher education institutions consider these themes, such as the implications of the label of international student, the desired amount of interaction with UK students, and the motivation to attend a university abroad, when looking towards the future of international study.
The title of this thought piece indicates a dual meaning to challenging scholarship: obstacles to scholarship and contributions to scholarship. The first part of his thought piece explores a range of obstacles to scholarship: conceptual and definitional confusion; hierarchies of scholarship; the problems of impact and the influence of neoliberalism on scholarship, and the relatively low status that scholarship has in universities compared to research. This section is followed by a consideration of what challenging contributions to scholarship might entail because of and despite the obstacles outlined earlier. I consider whether there is a professional duty to make our knowledge (and doubts) available to the wider communities to which we belong. I argue that remaining silent or abstaining from scholarship carries certain risks. We are subject to and part of multiple ‘norm circles’ - norm circles regulate and endorse certain increasingly standardised practices. Scholarship is a means to shape and influence the normative structures that regulate praxis. In order to exert a degree of control over our professional lives an important dimension of scholarship is reflexive critique and advocacy. As reflexive persons and professionals we aim to shorten the gap between what is and what ought to be through articulation of our values and beliefs and praxis. By making our scholarship, however fallible, public we are attempting, through dialogue to transform. In this thought piece I also outline the cognitive capital from scholarship and to argue that there is not only social capital to be gained through scholarship: there is epistemic capital and value in scholarship. I also outline the ways in which we should reconsider the pedagogical relationship with students through scholarship suggesting they have a far more active role to play than so far appears to be the case.
Thinking the grammar: Teaching a cognitive grammar using digital tools in a blended-learning context
The teaching of certain aspects of Spanish grammar has always been challenging for both teachers and learners. Additionally traditional approaches to the teaching of grammar based on behaviourist views of learning promoting memorization and repetition have been disputed and the need to teach a cognitive grammar that responds to rules that can be understood according to the speaker’s communicative intention and should be reflected upon has been proposed. This article is aimed at showing two activities, which have been designed using digital tools with the purpose of helping undergraduates studying Spanish at the University of Leeds to reflect on the grammar. On the one hand, the digital tool Twine has been used for creating a game-like story in which learners need to reflect on the difference between simple past and past continuous in Spanish. A second task has been proposed in which learners need to watch some videos showing different uses of the modes indicative and subjunctive in context and then share on a discussion board their hypothesis about grammar use. Both these activities are intended to promote and facilitate the learner’s reflection and understanding of the grammar. On the other hand it is also the aim of this article to show that a blended-learning design constitutes the ideal framework to promote such a teaching and learning approach to the grammar based on reflection. Both traditional teaching through lectures and online tuition by using digital learning environments show benefits and constraints. However, a combination of both traditional and online tuition enhances the learner experience by facilitating the understanding of the grammar while also developing the learner’s strategies for autonomous learning.