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Volume 2, Issue 1 Spring 2014 [Type a quote from the document or the summary of an interesting point. You can position


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The International Student Experience Journal

Editorial Phil Horspool, University of Leicester Leading article: Interdepartmental observation: Opening the classroom, opening dialogue. Susie Cowley-Haselden Articles  Tips for international students’ success and adjustment. Kin Cheung (George) Lee  Social media use among international students. Holly Hall and Thillainatarajan Sivakumaran  Optimizing classroom communication: verbal scaffolding in CLIL. Sandra Strigel  Internationalization: differing interpretations and associated student experience implications. Lorraine Mighty Advertorial The Oxford Learners’ Dictionary of Academic English. Oxford University Press Reviews by: Jenny Kemp and Roxane Amaury Student article  Erasmus students’ experience at Leicester. Diego Vera Repollés, Mario Glera Hernando and Marta Cipres Garcia  The challenges and value of Booster Week activities. Ignacio Vera Izquierdo  Experiencing, learning and challenging through Booster Weekend activities. Yuefan Gao Conference review  Innovation: The key to future. University of St Andrews  Internationalization and student experience . PedRIO with University of Plymouth

ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

Editorial Phil Horspool University of Leicester Welcome to the third issue of ISEJ. When thinking of what to write in this editorial, I decided to see if I could get any inspiration from looking back at previous issues and our mission statement. Two words stood out from the screen when I did this: diversity and uniqueness. These two aspects encompass what we hoped to develop when starting the ISEJ and I believe the current issue certainly matches our initial expectations. We are still developing and positioning ourselves but, hopefully, it will be clear from this issue that the ISEJ offers a distinct and a diverse range of articles, ideas and writing genres. This issue’s leading article is written by Susie Cowley-Haselden, a tutor at the University of Leicester and a newly elected member to BALEAP’s executive committee. She outlines a project she has developed to work with one of the academic departments at her university and how this has had a positive impact on the learning and performance of the students involved. There are then four articles, all diverse in terms of content, focus and authors’ backgrounds. Firstly, Kin Cheung (George) Lee, from California, offers us a pragmatic approach aimed at helping international students to adjust to a new cultural, linguistic and social setting and educators to aid them in this process. Also from the USA, we have a joint collaboration between Holly Kathleen Hall and Thillainatarajan Sivakumaran looking at the potential of social media to support international students. Sandra Strigel, from the University of Newcastle, looks at ‘pathway courses’ and argues for the need for teachers in such programmes to help to develop students’ language skills alongside subject knowledge. Finally, Lorraine Mighty, from University College Birmingham, offers a literature review on what is meant by the term ‘internationalisation’ and the implications of three commonly accepted themes within it. A ‘unique’ feature of ISEJ is its advertorial. We are pleased that this issue is supported by OUP and that they have taken the opportunity to promote their new dictionary of Academic English. This is followed by a review from a tutor’s perspective and one from a student’s. We are also delighted to have in this issue three more student contributions which offer a fascinating insight into their personal and learning experiences. The issue concludes with two reviews of recent conferences, one in Plymouth and another in St Andrews. Both of these demonstrate an increasing awareness of and a genuine interest in discussing ways in which the student experience can be enhanced. These reviews were written by two members of our editorial team: Emma Guion Akdag, from Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, and Gary RileyJones, from Goldsmiths, University of London. Unquestionably, this issue offers both diversity and uniqueness. There are sure to be ideas and suggestions that do not match your own and we would be disappointed if we were producing a journal that did not stimulate debate and disagreement. The editorial team would once again like to thank all those who have helped to make this third issue possible. Additional support was needed as we continue to develop and expand and we have welcomed people onto our team from across the UK. Please share this issue with your colleagues and friends and encourage them to follow us on Twitter and Facebook for all the latest news.

ISEJ, Volume 2(1), Spring 2014


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

Leading Article

Interdepartmental observation: Opening the classroom, opening dialogue Susie Cowley-Haselden University of Leicester ABSTRACT This article details an interdepartmental observation programme set up between an academic department and the EAP teaching unit within one UK HE institution. While the initial impetus for the initiative was the exploration of how far normative ‘EFL’ teaching practices fostered NNS participation in learning (this certainly seemed to be the case), the more farreaching result was to be the evolution of a dialogic community of practice. This would bring together subject specialists and EAP practitioners in an attempt to improve teaching and learning habits affecting their shared student body. …………………………………………………………………………………………….......... The sort of epistemological and intercultural agility needed by the … pedagogue …comes … from the capacity to move outside the discipline because of a desire to engage a larger and more strongly contested knowledge world (McWilliam, 2008, p.268). The quality of the teaching and learning that students are engaged in (whether we are discussing international or home students if we wish to label them as such) is integral to the quality of their experience in any educational institution. It is my belief that a quality teaching and learning experience is formed from how much the student feels a part of that teaching and learning experience; central to this, is their level of participation. This paper will outline an interdepartmental observation initiative developed by the author where subject specialists and the author (an EAP practitioner) took part in informal observations across the two disciplines. The purpose of this initiative was primarily to explore how far practices rooted in EFL teacher training might be transferable to the subject seminar/lecture room to increase NNS participation in their learning. Initially this paper outlines the rationale for the interdepartmental observation programme and how it was implemented. The paper then explores the aftermath of the observations and the impact they have had on teacher training within one HE institution and, more importantly it transpires, how the observations have forged the beginnings of a cross-disciplinary dialogic community of practice.

The rationale for the interdepartmental observation programme The idea to implement an interdepartmental observation programme was the result of two catalysts. Firstly, comments from students across disciplines revealed their disappointment with a lack of participation in their seminars. This disappointment was palpable as the value students placed on participation was high. When asked what they valued most about the teaching and learning they had experienced in their EAP classes, students had the following to say: ISEJ, Volume 2(1), Spring 2014


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

I really like the way of participating in classes. Participation is more likely to be the most useful activity in class to learn, as it gives me the opportunity to communicate with other students and lecturers in terms of learning English. [Student 1] The … [department] gives more attention for participating in classes and less for lecturers to talk "teach" which is very good. [Student 2] While NNS’ reticence to participate may be bound in linguistic under-confidence, in the case of one particular student, her lack of participation in her subject seminars was at variance with her competence and confidence with the English language. From my student’s anecdotes, it seemed that her participation was inadvertently discouraged by her lecturer’s lack of training in how to effectively teach NNS. In seminars she could not understand the idiomatic language used by the home students. It occurred to me that if the lecturer had been aware, as many trained EFL teachers are, that idiomatic language use erects an often insurmountable obstacle for NNS, then perhaps this lecturer could have reformulated and ‘translated’ what the home students were saying into a more accessible academic lexis, therefore enabling the NNS to participate. It seemed that if awareness of some of the basic practices inherent in ELT could be raised (grading language use for example) then this would go some way to improving students’ often disappointing experiences of academia. Seminar rooms and lecture theatres are being ever more populated by NNS. Consequently, those trained in teaching these types of student have much to offer the wider teaching community within institutions. McWilliam (2008) astutely observes that habits in teaching can serve us well, but they can also do pedagogues a great disservice (not to mention the students). For McWilliam, “teaching and learning habits … are useful when the conditions in which they work are predictable and stable. They are deadly if and when the bottom falls out of the stable world in and for which we learn” (2008, p.263). The radical change in student demographics over recent years has rocked the stability of many long serving lecturers. Some adapt by trying to replicate an ‘authentic’ learning experience for their cohort: I think a lot of my colleagues often feel they have to replicate the ‘sit back and be told’ culture that exists in many South East Asian universities. This is often due to a bad experience in a class when a lecturer has tried to encourage interaction but with limited results. [Lecturer 3] However, this approach is directed at one particular demographic and can therefore be potentially exclusive. Adopting more ‘EFL’ inspired teaching practices (arguably simply ‘good’ teaching practices) could yield better results: I like how [the teacher] promotes ‘learning by doing’ – something that I also believe works well with international students (but requires a bit of work to convince them as they are often used to three hour straight lectures with little room for interaction with each other or the lecturer). [Lecturer 3] The interdepartmental observation initially focused on one particular department, not because students had identified any lack of inclusive teaching methods in this particular department, far from it, but because I am responsible for their ESP provision and the observation programme could also act as a needs analysis to inform the syllabus. I decided I could take an extremely crude ethnographic approach to syllabus design in the vein of Ramani et al. (1988) by sitting in on some of the sessions with my students. This was the second catalyst for this ISEJ, Volume 2(1), Spring 2014


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

initiative: it was important to garner a greater awareness of what occurred within the teaching and learning environment in the academic department the students were part of which was an intrinsic element in the meaningful design of ESP syllabi (see Benesch, 2001 for a fairly comprehensive history of approaches to needs analysis in ESP). However, it became clear, that this too was a two-way process: I enjoyed sitting in on the class, it was helpful to know how the classes are structured rather than have a vague sense of the ELTU classes ‘happen’ without knowing the nature of the content and modes of delivery. [Lecturer 1]

The structure of the peer observations Initially the plan was to complete a reflective journal of thoughts and observations pre, during and post observing a session. However, although this would have yielded interesting insights into perceptions and assumptions as to what happens in the EAP classroom or the academic seminar, it was an untenable demand on time. The journal simply became a box to be completed as suited the observers. This was completed on specially provided laptops during the observation. Most observations ended with an impromptu, unrecorded, post observation discussion. What was evident in these informal discussions was that, as has been observed in other studies, (Crafton & Kaiser, 2011, p.106) they centred around student learning rather than lesson content or teacher ‘performance’. As Crafton and Kaiser observe, “authentic and sustainable communities of practice develop around concerns that matter to teachers” (2011, p.107). The subject specialists who took part were a mix of experienced teachers and those relatively new to teaching. All were dedicated to our students and keen to engage in dialogue about pedagogy. It is worth noting that the department in question has a postgraduate suite of programmes almost entirely populated by non-native speakers of English, predominantly Chinese females. Therefore all participants in this initiative were well aware that the changing demographics of the student body in UK HE meant that new teaching skills and dispositions were called for as we have to “rework …[our] roles and identities” as teachers (Hargreaves, 2010, p.162). It seemed that reworking roles to be inclusive of elements of EFL teaching might have a real impact on the level of student participation in subject seminars. Overall, I was impressed with how much was covered in the two hour session and the level of interaction. [Lecturer 1] I got a lot out of this session in terms of seeing differences in how the students act in your seminars to what many of my colleagues report in their own (majority silence). [Lecturer 2] There is naturally a question of content to consider here. It might simply be that students are reluctant to participate in seminars due to a lack of confidence in commenting on the content and perhaps a notion of feeling inadvertently assessed by their subject specialist lecturers. However, it should be noted that the EAP syllabus for this course in particular, is content driven and students often discuss texts used on their postgraduate programmes. ISEJ, Volume 2(1), Spring 2014


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

The impact of the interdepartmental observations In 2012, The Guardian published an article online in the light of a roundtable, hosted jointly by The Guardian and the HEA, asking whether teacher training for academics was effective in improving the quality of teaching and learning in UK higher education (Swain, 2012). It is of note that this debate is attributed (in the journalist’s mind at least) to the fact that home students now pay considerable fees for their degrees and students are therefore concerned about the quality of the education they receive. It is doubtful that students did not have this concern previously, but the implication is that now they are financially invested in their education, they have a right to be judgmental (by this rationale international students have always had this right). There is then a real push within HE to deliver professional development to raise standards in the quality of teaching and learning. This should not be to the benefit of home students alone but, given the high numbers of international students on degree programmes, should benefit all learners in HE institutions. One question asked of the subject specialists observing the EAP classes was whether they felt those teaching non-native speakers within a discipline would want to attend a workshop delivered by EAP tutors looking at how to maximise NNS interaction. All lecturers said they thought this would be the case. One, who had just completed the PG Certificate in Academic Practice in Higher Education at our institution, commented: There are examples of good practice demonstrated by ELTU tutors that could be used by academic members of staff and it is interesting to see how students react to the use of ‘learning by doing’ principles in the classroom. It would also give lecturers an insight into the specific language needs of their students and how the presentation of content should be tailored to address these. [Lecturer 3] Encouraged by these comments, I contacted the unit responsible for teacher training within my institution and attached the observation feedback I had received and asked whether they might be interested in having an EAP practitioner deliver a session on increasing NNS participation on the teacher training courses offered by the unit. They responded positively and since then I have delivered sessions, alongside a colleague, on maximising non-native speaker interaction on introductory courses to teaching in HE and on workshops introducing academics (both novice and experienced teachers) to teaching at my institution. While these sessions are beneficial, and participants can be keen to explore teaching practices that lead to greater inclusion of NNS, discussions often seem ephemeral and, pardon the pun, academic. This is not to say that the participants in these workshops are not willing to engage in the topic, it is simply that as they are on the cusp of their teaching career their student body is mostly an unknown quantity for them.

Dialogic community of practice An unintended outcome of the observation programme was the initiation of a ‘dialogic community of practice’ (Crafton & Kaiser, 2011) whereby EAP practitioners and subject specialists co-operate and share knowledge and understanding of our students, with the joint aim of improving the student experience within our classrooms, seminar rooms and lecture theatres. “Participation in dialogic communities may be important for facilitating reconstructive reflection and critique necessary for change in classroom practices and norms” ISEJ, Volume 2(1), Spring 2014


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

(Pourdavood & Fleener, 1997, p.51). Such collaboration is sustainable and any change is more profound (Crafton and Kaiser, 2001). As a direct result of the observation programme activities have since taken place in collaboration; one example was the setting up of an Academic Reading Circle (Seburn, 2011) co-facilitated by this EAP practitioner and subject specialists. The idea of implementing such a scheme has been a direct result of feedback on one observation and subsequent discussions on how best to help our students. The author is also exploring new approaches to teaching EAP so it seems only natural to invite the subject specialists back into the EAP classroom for their valued input. It is invaluable to have support from respected colleagues who are pedagogically like-minded (albeit grounded in a different discipline), and this has only been possible through the comfort levels established from the observation programme. It is my hope that such initiatives will continue between our two departments. The next stage is to initiate similar programmes in other departments within our institution, bringing about further dialogic communities of practice â&#x20AC;&#x201C; only then will teaching and learning habits be fit for purpose for our truly international student body. CONTACT THE AUTHOR References Benesch, S., 2001. Critical English for Academic Purposes: Theory, Politics, and Practice. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Crafton, L., and Kaiser, E., 2011. The language of collaboration: Dialogue and identity in teacher professional development. Improving Schools, 14(2), pp.104-116. Hargreaves, A., 2000. Four Ages of Professionalism and Professional Learning. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 6(2), pp151-182. McWilliam, E., 2008. Unlearning how to teach. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 45(3), pp.263-269. Pourdavood, R.J., and Fleener, M. J., 1997. Evolution of a Dialogic Community and Teacher Change. The School Community Journal, 7(1), pp.51-61. Ramani, E., Chacko, T., Singh, S.J., and Glendinning, E. H., 1988. An Ethnographic Approach to Syllabus Design: A Case Study of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. English for Specific Purposes. 7, pp.81-90. Seburn, T., 2011. Academic reading circles (ARC). 4C in ELT, [blog] 6 November. Available at: <> [Accessed 24 May 2013]. Swain, H., 2012. Are lessons for lecturers the way ahead? The Guardian, [online] 20 November. Available at: <> [Accessed 5 Jun 2013].

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ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

MEET THE ISEJ EDITORIAL BOARD Philip Horspool - Chief Editor. Phil has been teaching English since 1988. He worked in Barcelona for 8 years before starting to work as an EAP tutor in the English Language Teaching Unit at the University of Leicester. He is now the Assistant Director of a department which has up to 1000 students on its pre-sessional summer courses and has a diverse range of in-sessional, Erasmus and Cambridge exam preparation courses. He is particularly interested in enhancing the student experience and has carried out various pieces of research in this area. Dr Chris Lima – Academic Editor. Chris has been an English language teacher and teacher training since 1995. Her research focuses on the role of literature in English language education and on teacher development. She is currently the coordinator of the IATEFL, Literature, Media and Cultural Studies Special Interest Group, the coordinator of the BBC/British Council ELT Online Reading Group, and a board member of the Extensive Reading Foundation. She teaches at the ELTU at the University of Leicester. Caroline Burns – Book and Conference Reviews Editor. Caroline Burns (B.A. Hons Spanish with French, P.G.C.E., MA Applied Linguistics) is Lecturer of English Language and Academic Skills at Northumbria University. A member of BALEAP, she has worked collaboratively with Martin Foo, of Newcastle Business School at Northumbria to evaluate their efforts to embed academic literacy within business programmes. Caroline is currently pursuing doctoral studies at Newcastle University, focussing on the Internationalisation of UK Higher Education and how students narrate their experience of this. Dr Ellie Kennedy – Students’ Contributions Editor. Ellie is enjoying a diverse career in Higher Education. After working as a lecturer in German Studies at Queen’s University in Canada, she moved into the role of EAP tutor - and sometime coordinator - at Nottingham Trent International College. More recently, she has taken up a post in Academic Development at Nottingham Trent University. Her academic interests include pedagogical issues, feminist approaches to culture, and the use of EAP techniques across the curriculum. Ricky Lowes – Book and Conference Reviews Editor. Ricky has been teaching and training teachers since 1981, and now works as a lecturer in the English Language Centre at Plymouth University. Her professional interests are academic vocabulary learning, peer learning, promoting intercultural exchanges between students, and materials development. She is currently carrying out research into the responses of Chinese students to classroom activities. She has published a number of books in the field of ELT and a website on the Academic Word List. ISEJ, Volume 2(1), Spring 2014


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

Tips for International Students’ Success and Adjustment Kin Cheung (George) Lee University of the West, California ABSTRACT Compared to domestic students, international students possibly encounter more specific challenges, such as language barriers, acculturative stress, separation from loved ones, homesickness, and discrimination. However, current literature has very limited recommendations for international students to overcome their adversity. Based on my clinical, research and teaching experience, this article categorises recommendations into three groups: cultural adjustment, language barriers and developing social relationships. The aim of this article is to suggest pragmatic ways to assist international students in their process of adjustment to a new education environment. Educators are also encouraged to share these recommendations with their international students. …………………………………………………………………………………………….......... As a lecturer who teaches and mentors international students and as a former international student myself in the United States, I am able to understand international students from multiple perspectives. Being an international student is never easy. Separation from loved ones, cultural clashes, discrimination, financial difficulties, homesickness, language barriers, legal status problems, and an unfamiliar educational system are formidable challenges that often trigger feelings of frustration, insecurity, confusion, and sadness. Researchers have addressed international students’ struggles from a variety of perspectives, incorporating ideas of acculturative stress and discrimination (e.g. Ruble and Zhang, 2013; Wei, et al., 2012). However, comparatively few studies have provided pragmatic recommendations for international students. Based on the information gathered from my personal, clinical, research, and teaching experience, I list several recommendations for facilitating international students’ cultural adaptation and academic success in the Western educational system.

Cultural Adjustment New international students tend to encounter challenges due to cultural differences in how tasks are carried out in different societies, ranging from buying food to getting a vehicle. Upon arrival in a new country, most international students go through an adjustment process that is usually referred to as culture shock (Zhang and Goodson, 2011). Being faced with multiple new tasks and roles in an unfamiliar culture and being far away from family and friends can induce feelings of insecurity, loneliness, and frustration. One suggestion for overcoming culture shock is to keep ties to one’s home culture by communicating with family and friends, watching films from one’s home country, and finding foods from one’s home culture. From my consultations with different staff at several institutions’ International Student Centres, joining student societies and building connections with fellow international students are also very helpful in the transition process. Research has consistently shown that international students tend to underutilise Student Counselling Services because of lack of awareness of their own psychological well-being, ISEJ, Volume 2(1), Spring 2014


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

language barriers, cultural stigma, fear of disclosing information to strangers, and a poor knowledge of mental health problems and services (Ellis-Bosold and Thornton-Orr, 2013; Tung, 2011). Therefore, it is important for international students to understand that utilizing mental health services is common in Western cultures. Additionally, ignoring emotional difficulties associated with culture shock may give rise to clinical mental health problems. The students should also realize that professional psychological services have a very strong emphasis on protecting students’ mental health information and any information shared by students is confidential. Some college counselling centres have bilingual therapists or therapists who are multiculturally competent and are able to work with diverse students. Therefore, international students are encouraged to turn to professional help on campus in order to address their adjustment problems. International students who are uncomfortable with individual therapy might consider joining counselling groups with other domestic or international students in the counselling centre. According to previous studies, counselling services are an effective means to facilitate the cultural adjustment of international students (Tsai and Wong, 2012). Therefore, international students should consider psychological services as a viable option.

Language Barriers Many studies have consistently identified the language barrier—including writing, reading, listening, and oral skills—as one of the most critical factors affecting academic performance of international students (Ku, et al., 2008). In particular, speaking English as a second language (ESL) in front of others can be anxiety-provoking, and this fear can limit the ability of international students to develop social relationships and participate in class discussions. Speaking and Listening For new international students with low English proficiency, it may be helpful to learn English by using the mass media of the local culture, such as television, films, and online video sites. At first, watching programmes with English subtitles can facilitate students’ English acquisition with visual and auditory stimuli. At the same time, using subtitles in students’ native languages may hinder their ability to learn English vocabulary. Once students are more confident in their listening comprehension, they can turn off the subtitles and see how much they understand. Further, international students tend to experience fear of speaking English because of their imperfect pronunciation and grammar (Brown, 2008). Results from my qualitative research on Chinese international student adjustments suggest that some of international students feel uncomfortable speaking English in front of their international counterparts, who are more likely than local students to tease or judge them (Lee, 2014). For these reasons, International Students can try some psychological interventions to overcome their anxiety, such as deep-breathing exercises and mental rehearsal (preplanning speech in their mind before saying it) before expressing their ideas. Role reversal, such as visualising a foreigner learning to speak their native language, can also help international students. For example, in the case of a German who is studying in China and learning to speak Mandarin, a local Chinese student might be likely to be patient with the German student and appreciate his or her interest in the Chinese language. From my experience, the ISEJ, Volume 2(1), Spring 2014


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same is true for local students in the USA—many report an interest in communicating with international students. Another way to reduce anxiety and increase confidence is to read self-affirmation statements, which is an empirically supported cognitive behavioural intervention (Hall, Zhao, and Shafir, 2014). Self-affirmation statements can help people improve their self-image and sense of control over the anxiety by realizing their self-worth (Pietersma and Dijkstra, 2012). Some statements can include, “My accent is just part of my style and it is fine,” “I have a right to say whatever I want,” and “I am a capable student and I know it.” Finally, although some people discriminate against individuals with imperfect English (Lee and Rice, 2007), it is important to remember that imperfect English should never be a source of shame as it takes time to develop one’s English proficiency.

Reading and Writing Some ESL international students have a difficult time reading because of lack of familiarity with English vocabulary, lack of background knowledge in a subject, a weak understanding of complex syntax and polysemous words, and lack of equivalent words between English and their native language (for example, the English word “insight” does not have any equivalent word in Chinese). Some international students find it helpful to look up the meanings of unfamiliar words in a dictionary and write them in a textbook in their native language. They may also explain concepts to themselves in their native language or use reading strategies such as SQ3R (Survey, Question, Read, Recite, and Review). While these strategies can be effective, reading skills take time to develop, and it is common for international students to go through an adjustment period to advance their reading skills, especially at the beginning. The multicultural experiences of international students can potentially enhance their creativity in academic tasks, such as writing and class presentations (Lee, Therriault, and Linderholm, 2012). However, international students may produce fractured language when trying to convey their ideas in writing. Besides learning vocabulary and grammar to improve their writing skills, international students also need to understand rhetorical differences between their culture of origin and the host culture. For example, the organizational aspects of an essay, such as an introduction, evidence to support claims, and a conclusion, can be as important as grammatical correctness. It is crucial for international students to communicate with their lecturers about expectations for their written work and to read sample papers if possible. As a lecturer, I give students an option to hand in a preliminary draft of their papers one week before the deadline. I then give them comments to guide a revision of their paper. Students who choose to participate tend to produce higher-quality papers when they turn in their final drafts. International students can try to discuss a similar plan with their lecturers. In addition, international students may use writing centre services in their universities by working with writing tutors on their papers and attending workshops on writing skills. It can also be helpful to ask for help from other students who are strong writers to edit their papers. Moreover, some International students might exchange papers with domestic students to provide feedback to each other.

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ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

Developing Social Relationships Another cultural adjustment involves social relationships. Many international students hope to make friends with domestic students in order to learn better English and learn about local culture. However, in addition to differences in English proficiency and perceived discrimination, international students from different cultures tend to have expectations that differ from local students’ concerning friendship, romantic relationships, personal space, and other social domains (Williams and Johnson, 2011). Therefore, friendships between international and domestic students tend to be somewhat rare. To understand differences in communication styles, international students can observe domestic students’ conversations in different situations, learn what domestic students usually talk about, and try to discuss similar topics. As domestic students may not be familiar with the culture of international students, they may refer to stereotypes and come across as ignorant and so international students should try to be patient in such situations. Some international students stated that they do not know how to find opportunities to develop friendships with domestic students and other international students. Perhaps international students can create opportunities to meet new friends via several routes, such as working part time on campus; initiating conversations with classmates, flatmates, neighbours, and staff; joining different interest and/or religious groups; participating in extracurricular activities such as sports and music; and socializing with students in hall of residence lounges. Furthermore, making friends with domestic students who are interested in learning another language or culture can be beneficial. For example, domestic students taking a Chinese class may be interested in making friends with Chinese students in order to practice Mandarin. Another possible barrier described by international students is lack of common topics to discuss with domestic students. Some experienced international students have suggested that new international students can relate to domestic students by discussing their disciplines, courses, films, TV shows, sports, religion, and even simple topics such as weather and food. In addition, using social network tools such as Facebook and Twitter can help international students develop friendships. Some international students have reported that they do not understand the differences in communication styles with local students, which discourages them from initiating conversations. From a sociological perspective, US culture is a lowcontext culture, which means it relies on explicit content of verbal messages to convey ideas. In contrast, many Asian cultures are high-context cultures, which use nonverbal cues and contextual references to communicate. For example, expressions such as “How are you?” “What’s up?” and “How’s it going?” usually mean a simple “Hello” unlike gestures intended to elicit a prolonged conversation. A number of international students have mentioned cultural misunderstandings and conflicts related to having romantic relationships with local students. For example, a Taiwanese international student thought that she was a Caucasian domestic student’s girlfriend because the two had held hands and kissed; however the Caucasian student thought that they were just casually dating. To understand romantic relationships in the United States, International Students need to learn cultural differences related to dating. US culture differentiates between casual dating and committed relationships. Physical and sexual intimacy can occur in either relationship, and sexual activity does not necessarily imply commitment. Many Asian cultures, including Chinese, Japanese, and Indian, tend to be more conservative with respect to dating and avoid physical intimacy before both parties are committed to a relationship. Therefore, when engaging in romantic relationships, international students may need to be ISEJ, Volume 2(1), Spring 2014


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aware of several issues. First, United Kingdom and United States have a low-context culture in which communications are more direct and explicit (Richardson and Smith, 2007). International students may consider openly asking their partners about the relationships in order to attain a mutual and clear understanding of their levels of commitment. For example, international students may ask, “what are we,” “where is this relationship going,” and “are we boyfriend and girlfriend yet”. Although it may sound simple to have such an open conversation about relationships, it can be a difficult process for international students from high-context cultures. This cultural difference in communication styles leads to the second issue of assertiveness. Many international students come from a collectivistic society which highly values conformity and obedience to their groups while discouraging being assertive for personal needs (Lee and Ciftci, 2014). In romantic relationships, international students from collective cultures may have a difficult time setting interpersonal boundaries, such as rejecting hugs and kisses and saying ‘no’ to a date. Some international students may need to develop assertive communication skills and understand that rejecting others in a polite and respectful way is socially appropriate in most of the individualistic cultures. For example, to reject a date, international students can simply say, "I'm so sorry, but I can't make it". Third, international students should have a mind-set to expect cultural differences, or even cultural clashes, when developing romantic relationships with domestic students. Besides seeking professional counselling, international students can also talk to friends who are domestic students to understand more about the local culture of dating and relationships.

Conclusion The aim of this article has been to enrich the resources available to international students and encourage educators and educational officials to present these recommendations to international students. Although international students face many challenges in their studies, they have plenty of unique strengths, such as their international perspective, independence, courage to live in a foreign country, and multilingual skills. Many international students are very hardworking and devoted to learning. The recommendations in this article may reduce the barriers experienced by international students in order to facilitate their academic success.


References Brown, L., 2008. Language and anxiety: An ethnographic study of international postgraduate students. Evaluation and Research in Education, 21(2), pp.75–95. Ellis-Bosold, C., and Thornton-Orr, D., 2013. A needs assessment: A study of perceived need for student health services by Chinese international students. College Student Journal, 47(1), pp.155–168. Hall, C. C., Zhao, J. and Shafir, E., 2014. Self-affirmation among the poor: Cognitive and behavioral implications. Psychological Science, 25(2), pp.619-625. Ku, H., Lahman, M. E., Yeh, H. and Cheng, Y., 2008. Into the academy: Preparing and mentoring international doctoral students. Educational Technology Research and Development, 56, pp.365–377. ISEJ, Volume 2(1), Spring 2014


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Lee, J. and Rice, C., 2007. Welcome to America? International student perceptions of discrimination. Higher Education, 53, pp.381–409. Lee, J. and Ciftci, A., 2014. Asian international students’ socio-cultural adaptation: Influence of multicultural personality, assertiveness, academic self-efficacy, and social support. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 3897-105. Lee, K. C., (in press). Stereotyping, acculturative stress, and intragroup conflicts among Chinese International Students. Manuscript in preparation. Lee, C. S., Therriault, D. J. and Linderholm, T., 2012. On the cognitive benefits of cultural experience: Exploring the relationship between studying abroad and creative thinking. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 26(5), pp.768-778. Pietersma, S. and Dijkstra, A., 2012. Cognitive self‐affirmation inclination: An individual difference in dealing with self‐threats. British Journal Of Social Psychology, 51(1), pp.33-51. Richardson, R. and Smith, S. W., 2007. The influence of high/low-context culture and power distance on choice of communication media: Students' media choice to communicate with professors in Japan and America. International Journal Of Intercultural Relations, 31(4), pp.479-501. Ruble, R. A. and Zhang, Y., 2013. Stereotypes of Chinese IS held by Americans. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 37(2), pp.202–211. Tsai, P., and Wong, Y. (2012). Chinese and Taiwanese international college students' participation in social organizations: Implications for college counseling professionals. Journal Of College Counseling, 15(2), 144-156. Tung, W., 2011. Acculturative stress and help-seeking behaviors among international students. Home Health Care Management & Practice, 23, pp.383–385. Wei, M., Tsai, P., Chao, R., Du, Y., and Lin, S., 2012. Advisory working alliance, perceived English proficiency, and acculturative stress. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 59, pp.437–448. Williams, C. T., and Johnson, L. R., 2011. Why can’t we be friends? Multicultural attitudes and friendships with international students. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 35(1), pp.41–48. Zhang, J., and Goodson, P., 2011. Predictors of international students’ psychosocial adjustment to life in the United States: A systematic review. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 35(2), pp.139–162. xperienceJournal

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Social media use among international students Holly Kathleen Hall and Thillainatarajan Sivakumaran Arkansas State University ABSTRACT International students often feel disconnected from their home country while abroad and they may also choose not to stay in contact with friends and professional contacts made during their foreign study experience. Social media may be a method of addressing some of these issues. Social media are being utilized with increasing frequency by students from around the world and hold the potential to support international students in relationships and connections before, during and after their study abroad experience. This paper aims to evaluate social media use by students studying abroad and specifically focuses on rural, regional universities in the United States. ……………………………………………………………………………………………..........

Introduction Recruitment of international students is a key element in the strategy of many of today’s colleges and universities in order to deflect increasing budget cuts (Choudaha and Chang, 2012). Students in today’s universities are increasingly participating in study abroad programs. The Institute of International Education in the United States reported study abroad participation rates have tripled in the last twenty years (2011). Study abroad is no longer just for the elite classes, but many students who study abroad are from countries where they have the financial ability to pay for it (Fischer, 2011). The environment is competitive, meaning universities have to be nimble and proactive when it comes to attracting students for study abroad experiences (Choudaha and Chang, 2012). Social media are seen by some university officials to be essential in marketing and recruiting international students today. When budgets are tight and slick brochures fail to draw students into study abroad programmes, social media appears to be an inexpensive and effective way to reach the target audience (Woodhouse, 2014). In addition to the use of social media in marketing and promoting study abroad programs, they can connect students, their classmates and the schools they attend. Without establishing relationships, study abroad can be an isolating experience for students. Social media are therefore also seen as a way to engage students while they are in their study abroad program. A survey in Australia noted that international students spend a third of their wakeful time on social media (Purnama, 2012). Social media can also be used as a connection point to family and friends while the students are away from home. Similarly, it can serve as a connection once the students return to their native country. Students can keep in touch with their institution and friends made during their study abroad experience. This paper will examine the role of social media by students studying abroad. Students have been surveyed to assess what social media platforms are used and how students used them before, during and after their study abroad. ISEJ, Volume 2(1), Spring 2014


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Beyond recruitment Social media has vast potential for recruiting students to study abroad programs in an inexpensive and interactive way (Social Media and Beyond, 2011). Some universities are recognizing this, but perhaps not using the medium to its fullest potential. Some universities use Facebook, for example, as a webpage with email capabilities rather than as a place for interactive dialogue (Wheeler, 2012). A company in India called Erudient tested the university social media ecosystem by sending Facebook messages to 162 universities in eight countries (Wheeler, 2012). About half of the universities responded within three days. Many of the responses simply referred the requestor back to the university website, which highlights lost opportunities for meaningful interaction (Wheeler, 2012). One suggested use of Facebook in the recruiting arena is to permit students to apply to the university directly from Facebook, allowing for automated uploading of personal information (Wheeler, 2012). The key is that the recruitment effort on social media should be a dialogue instead of a oneway conversation. Universities need to strategically decide who is delivering the message in addition to what the actual message needs to be. Too many administrative or authoritative voices on a social media site aimed at students can actually inhibit interactivity (Wheeler, 2012). For example, David Joiner, director for global engagement and leadership at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, encourages universities to use social media as a way to highlight what American university student life is all about: ‘There’s always an opportunity to tell your story. The best way to tell your story is on social media platforms… You think about how you provide international students with high quality experiences…that can be captured by cell phone cameras’ (Arnett, 2012). Brock University, in Canada, understood the need to meet students on platforms that resonate with their target audience. They created a page on Renren, the Chinese version of Facebook, where they answer questions and recruit prospective students –in Chinese - a gesture that is appreciated by the target audience (Choudaha and Chang, 2012). Using students rather than staff members to post on social media also makes a difference in the effectiveness of the message delivered. Once students reach the campus, social media take on a new realm of potential uses. Sheffield Hallam University in the United Kingdom, for example, uses podcasts to provide traveling directions and instructions for passing smoothly through immigration. Once students are on campus, social media can help them by providing real-time answers to frequently asked questions (Whitehead, 2011). A survey of international students studying in Australia noted that the top motivations for using social media were chatting with friends and staying in touch with family (Saw et al., 2012). In South Korea, however, students coming from other Asian countries were found to have small social networks and less motivation to reach out and cultivate relationships during their study abroad programme (Kim, Yun and Yoon, 2009). The students’ focus was heavily placed on a particular degree programme, and they felt reaching out to create new friendships would take too much time and effort. Their use of the internet was geared more toward gathering information to complete class assignments. The online relationships they did foster focused on getting information for daily living such as where to eat, what to do with free time and finding inexpensive ways to call home (Kim et al., 2009). In terms of using social media for educational purposes, about half of the students surveyed were at ease connecting with university or faculty social media sites (Saw et al., 2012). Some researchers have found that students who use social media are more likely to return for their sophomore year. These students were the ones who showed more connections/ followers/ ISEJ, Volume 2(1), Spring 2014


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friends and posts on their social media sites (Chapman, 2010). Engagement through social media between students and academic institutions often leads to enhanced acclimatization and a greater level of commitment to the university. Students who participate in regular interaction with peers on social media tend to be more satisfied with university life (Yu et al, 2010). Some students are very optimistic about the potential for education-related use of social media (Roblyer et al, 2010). Among the activities students suggest social media can be used for include peer mentoring (Sanchez, Bauer, & Paronto, 2006), peer-coaching (Parker, Hall, and Kram, 2008), and orientation practices (Yu et al., 2010). Methodology This paper aims to gauge social media use by students studying abroad in a rural, regional university in the United States. The university is host to students from approximately 58 different nations. A survey was administered through Survey Monkey at a rural, regional United States institution of higher education. The survey was e-mailed to currently enrolled, degree seeking international students. The survey questions gathered information about the type of study abroad program, the duration of the program, the use of social media, the effectiveness of social media to stay in touch back home, make friends in their host country as well as logistical questions such as how often they used social media on a daily basis. Responses were gathered from approximately 27 students who came to the institution from a variety of countries. Findings International students (68 per cent of the student population) studying in a rural regional higher education institution in the United States learnt about their study abroad programmes by using social media tools. Seventy six per cent of them stated that they have completed at least 1 year studying abroad. Sixteen per cent stated they had completed at least one semester studying abroad while the remaining had completed either a two-week or less programme or one month study abroad programme. Ninety six per cent of the surveyed students stated they had reliable access to the Internet to check social media sites (Figure 1).

80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% Two weeks or less

One month

One semester

One year

Figure 1: Time spent abroad

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Among the international students surveyed, 91 per cent stated that they used social media to stay in touch with family and friends back home. The most commonly used media to keep in touch with family and friends were email (79 per cent) and Facebook (70 per cent). Twitter (25 per cent) and Instagram (20 per cent) were the other two prominent ways international students used to stay in contact with family and friends (Figure 2). Sixty five per cent of the students also indicated that using social media avoided problems with their parents since they could report on activities they engaged in while studying abroad. In contrast, thirty-five per cent stated it did get generate some family concerns. Facebook and YouTube posts were the reasons they faced distress or unease at home. As for frequency of use, sixty six per cent of the international students stated that they used social media tools to stay in touch with family and friends on a daily basis. While 16 per cent stated they use it 3-4 times a week, 8 per cent stated they use it 5-7 times a week and another 8 per cent stated every other day use to stay in touch with family and friends.

90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0%

17 Facebook




Figure 2: Most common used means for staying in contact with family and friends An overwhelming majority (79 per cent) stated that they used social media to make friends in their host country. Eighty three per cent indicated that by using social media it was easier for them to communicate with friends that they made in their host country. According to 63 per cent of the participants, the use of social media helped improve their English communication skills. When asked how it helped improve their English communication skills, international students stated it helped them to understand native slang, new phrases, allowed them to communicate more frequently, and increase their vocabulary. Ninety five per cent of the international students stated that they still use social media to stay in touch with their new friends and host families once they went back home.

Conclusions While the sample size was small, and further study is needed to generalize patterns and trends, this study indicates that international students are using social media in a variety of ways to help them adjust to living in a foreign country during their study abroad experience. Social media marketing by institutions of higher education has led to international students finding information about study abroad programs through social media sites. Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are some of the ways international students are learning about study abroad programs. International students studying abroad use social media such as Facebook, email, Twitter and Instagram to stay in touch with family and friends back home. They also ISEJ, Volume 2(1), Spring 2014

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use these sites to make friends in their host country. This helps them learn common slang/phrases and provides them a convenient way to communicate with friends in their host country. In addition social media sites also allow them to stay in touch with their host country friends once they go back home. Universities should capitalize on these findings to help international students feel more welcome, to help them integrated into the community and to continue the connection with students after the study abroad experience ends. They can also use the findings to cultivate study abroad students as “ambassadors” for the university around the world. CONTACT THE AUTHOR

References Arnett, A., 2012. Social media gives prospective international college students a sneak peek. Diverse Issues in Higher Education. Available at Chapman, P., 2010. The latest stay-in-school tool for college students: Facebook. Available at from Choudaha, R. & Chang L. 2012. Trends in international student mobility. World Education News and Reviews. Available at Fischer, K., 2011. Colleges adapt to new kinds of students from abroad. Chronicle of Higher Education. Available at ICEF Monitor, 2012. Beyond Facebook: Engaging with regional and local social networks. Available at Institute for International Education, 2011. Study abroad by U.S. students rose in 2009/10 with more students going to less traditional destinations. Available at Kim, K., Yun, H. and Yoon, Y., 2009. The internet as a facilitator of cultural hybridization and interpersonal relationship management for Asian international students in South Korea. Asian Journal of Communications, 19(2), 152-169. Parker, P., Hall, D. T., and Kram, K. E., 2008. Peer coaching: A relational process for accelerating career learning. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 7(4), 487-503. Purnama, M., 2012. Social media lifeline for international students.” Melbourne International Student News Website. Available at Roblyer, M. D., McDaniel, M., Webb, M., Herman, J., and Witty, J. V., 2010. Findings on Facebook in higher education: A comparison of college faculty and student uses and perceptions of social networking sites. Internet and Higher Education 13, 134-140. Sanchez, R. J., Bauer, T. N., & Paronto, M. E., 2006. Peer-mentoring freshmen: Implications for satisfaction, commitment, and retention to graduation. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 5(1), 25-37. ISEJ, Volume 2(1), Spring 2014


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Saw, G., Abbott, W., Donaghey, J., and McDonald, C., 2013. Social media for international students: It’s not all about Facebook.” Proceedings of the IATUL Conferences. Paper 19. Available at Social media & Beyond. 2011 In The Study Abroad Connection. Available at Wheeler, D., 2012. New twists in online recruiting of international students. Chronicle of Higher Education. Available at Whitehead, F., 2011. Improving the university experience for international students. Guardian Professional. Available at Woodhouse, K. (2014, March 27). Social media and international reach key to University of Michigan’s brand in 21st century. Ann Arbor News. Available at Yu, A. Y., Tian, S. W., Vogel, D., and Kwok, R. C., 2010. Can learning be virtually boosted? An investigation of online social networking impacts. Computers & Education 55, 1494-1503.



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Optimising classroom communication: Verbal scaffolding in CLIL Sandra Strigel

University of Newcastle ABSTRACT To ease the transition into Higher Education, more and more international students enrol on “pathway” courses where subject knowledge is taught alongside EAP. This raises important pedagogical questions as these students typically have lower English skills than direct-entry students, yet they face intellectually challenging concepts and authentic academic discourse. Based on a practitioner enquiry undertaken on a pre-Masters course, this article investigates to what extent subject teachers’ language use supports this kind of Content and Language Integrated Learning. It will be argued that training is needed to raise pathway teachers’ awareness of verbal scaffolding strategies to optimise classroom communication. …………………………………………………………………………………………….......... With the increasing pressure on universities to recruit highly skilled international students the number of pathway courses that offer discipline specific training is rising. Given that students enrolled on such programmes typically have lower language skills than those required for direct university entry, pathway teachers are faced with the challenge of teaching subject knowledge while at the same time developing the students’ language skills, a setting referred to as “Content and Language Integrated Learning” (CLIL) (European Commission for Multilingualism, 2008). While the interest in CLIL has grown in recent years and effective CLIL teaching methods such as the use of scaffolding have been identified (de Graaff et al., 2007; Lyster, 2007), little is known about the extent to which such strategies are employed by teachers on pathway courses. A small-scale research project was therefore undertaken on a pre-Masters programme to explore this issue further. Particularly, it was asked what kind of verbal scaffolding strategies teachers use to manage the classroom discourse and to what extent their verbal behaviour actually creates opportunities for CLIL. Based on the findings, it will be argued that specific training is needed to raise subject teachers’ awareness of verbal scaffolding strategies in order to optimise classroom discourse and enhance international students’ learning experience.

Teacher talk and verbal scaffolding in CLIL The term scaffolding was coined by Bruner, who explained the concept as a process “that enables the child or novice to solve a problem, carry out a task or achieve a goal which would be beyond his [sic] unassisted effort” (Wood et al., 1976, p.90). This assistance, Bruner continues, is provided through six different means: by stimulating interest, by simplifying task requirements, by keeping the learner motivated and focused, by relieving stress and by modelling solutions (ibid.). While this concept can be applied to almost all learning situations, it poses a two-fold challenge in the pathway classroom where a supportive environment needs to be created that allows for deep engagement with the subject as well as for interaction and communication to foster international students’ language skills. How teachers use their language is of crucial importance as it is through language that knowledge ISEJ, Volume 2(1), Spring 2014


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is mediated and learning opportunities are created. This requires a high level of skill and language awareness on the part of the teacher and it is therefore crucial to gain greater understanding of the strategies involved. While research has been undertaken in this area – Dalton-Puffer (2007) for example highlights the importance of initiation-response-feedback (IRF) patterns and Lyster (2007) focuses on feedback and reformulations in CLIL – little is known about how such strategies are employed in HE pathway contexts with international students.

The institutional context The small-scale research project presented here focused on a pre-Masters programme at a UK university. The majority of students typically enrolled on this course are of East Asian origin and many find the transition from their previous educational experiences, which they often describe as rather didactic and teacher-centred, to the Western style of learning and teaching challenging. With regards to English language skills the students are required to have a minimum IELTS score of 5.5 (or equivalent) in each sub-skill at the point of entry, which needs to be improved to the equivalent of a 6.5 over the course of the two semester programme in order to allow them to progress to selected postgraduate courses. In addition to attending classes in English for Academic Purposes (EAP) and Study Skills, the students also take different subject modules related to their future degree course. These include a social sciences module, from which the data was collected. The content taught on the academic modules compares to the third year of an undergraduate degree and the students need an average of 60% across academic modules to progress. The improvement of language and subject skills, therefore, needs to go hand in hand if the students are to meet the progression requirements. This cannot be done by EAP teachers alone, but also requires the academic experts – i.e. the subject teachers – to support students in bridging the gap between their language abilities and the complexity of the specific academic content taught. However, not all pathway subject teachers have received CLIL training or have experience of language teaching. Insight into verbal scaffolding strategies could therefore assist in gaining greater understanding of how classroom discourse works in a CLIL setting as well as for teacher training and development.

Research questions, data collection and analysis To investigate how teachers in this context use verbal scaffolding strategies to assist their students, the following research questions were drawn up:    

What kind of verbal scaffolding strategies do teachers use in whole-class seminar discussions? Do these strategies mainly focus on content or language learning? To what extent do these strategies create opportunities for learning? To what extent do these strategies differ between teachers with and without language teaching experience?

Data was collected from two native English speaking teachers who had volunteered to take part in the research: the first a subject specialist who has had eight years’ experience of teaching international students in HE, the other a subject specialist who has also had ten years’ experience of teaching EFL/EAP in the FE and HE sector. The teachers were interviewed about their educational background, teaching experience and lesson aims, then ISEJ, Volume 2(1), Spring 2014


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two 50-minute lessons were recorded. A week before the recordings were due to take place, the students were informed about the research project and their right to withdraw from the study to ensure they gave informed consent to participate. Across the two seminar groups, 26 students were involved. Based on the principles of applied Conversation Analysis (CA), the recordings were transcribed and analysed. Such an approach is particularly well-suited for the analysis of classroom discourse as it focuses on talk-in-interaction and thus ties in with the notion of sociocultural theory that learning and knowledge are co-constructed through language use (Dalton-Puffer, 2007).

Results Both recorded lessons focused on the same topic and materials, and both teachers stated that their lesson aims were to ensure students had understood the main ideas presented in a reading and to discuss them critically and fluently. As is common in many subject classrooms (Lyster, 2007), both teachers relied heavily on IRF (initiation-response-feedback) patterns. While Dalton-Puffer (2007) argues that IRF can serve a scaffolding function due to its potential to create shared space for meaning construction in which the teacher’s utterance guides the student through a task, the microanalysis of the teacher talk revealed that the two teachers used the IRF patterns to very different effects. The subject-only teacher initiated discussion by asking an open question to allow the students to voice their comments on a text. Such open or referential questions are often described as beneficial in a CLIL context as they invite students to express their ideas relatively freely and can thus allow for the construction of longer and more complex utterances (Llinares et al.,2012). However, when the students in this particular instance were hesitant to answer, the teacher quickly changed his strategy and asked a series of closed display questions (i.e. questions that require specific, often factual answers that leave little room for students’ own ideas and are therefore very predictable for the teacher). These assisted the students in focussing on the task, yet did not require them to produce a lengthy response. The students were thus guided through the task and all the key content areas were covered. This kind of teacher behaviour was repeated numerous times throughout the recorded session, with very little evidence of other verbal strategies being used. While it could be argued that this strategy fits Bruner’s definition of scaffolding in the sense that the closed display questions simplify the task by keeping the students focused (and by modelling the correct answer should all questions fail), it has to be recognised that this discursive practice is not without problems in a CLIL context. From a language learning perspective, the closed display questions mean that discussions become very teacher- rather than student-centred as it is the teacher who undertakes most of the linguistic effort (the longest teacher utterance was 2 minutes compared to 13 seconds for students). Thus, there is only little need for students to practise oral fluency. Further, the opportunities for content learning are limited too, as the students simply resort to providing “cues” (or “labels” cf. Dalton-Puffer, 2007, p.261) for the teacher to expand on rather than engage in true co-construction of knowledge. As a result, the students engaged in little discussion and opportunities for CLIL were limited. The second teacher was not only a subject specialist but also had ten years’ experience of teaching EFL/EAP. Like in the first classroom, this teacher used an IRF pattern to manage the classroom discourse; however, the micro-analysis of the recordings revealed that display ISEJ, Volume 2(1), Spring 2014


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questions were not the only means of providing verbal assistance. Rather, there were several other features in the teacher talk that functioned as scaffolding: 

new lexical items were explicitly pointed out and their pronunciation and use in context modelled (e.g. extract 1, lines 3, 10, 15):

Extract 1 1 L1 2 3 T 4 5 Ls 6 T 7 Ls 8 T 9 Ls 10 T 11 12 L1 13 L2 14 L1 15 T 16 17

Our statement is ((reads)) Power is what is used in adversarial relationships involving conflicts between those with power and those without.= = Could everybody hear that? There was a word used there (2.8) that is probably ((writes)) °if I can spell it° [ad-ver-] [((Mumble))] [Thank you] Am I right?= = Yes, yeah= = Thanks °I’m not the best speller° ((laughs)). ((laugh)) Adversarial. That might be a new word to some of you. Could you tell us what it means? [Adversarial?] [Adversarial.] = =Against= =Clash= =Clash. Fighting. So an adversarial relationship is one that is based on disagreement and often fighting. (1.3) So ah this statement, could you tell us what you discussed what does it say about power ?

23 

words were fed in when students found it hard to finish an utterance (e.g. extract 2, l. 2) or when they were uncertain which word to use (e.g. extract 2, l. 7):

Extract 2

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8


  

Not for real it’s really hard to to (<1.0) to distribute the the power ah (<1.0) Equally= = Equally yes= =Why:? Because because the people have the the they have they are human beings they have some like greed (1.5) [they they] [Desire] = =Yeah

emphasis and stress were used to guide students’ focus on critical features such as key words and phrases (e.g. extract 3, line 2, 14); students’ linguistically incorrect or basic utterances were repeatedly reformulated and extended into more elaborate phrases (e.g. extract 3, line 11,12); such reformulations and extensions were accompanied by use of word stress to highlight that a linguistically more sophisticated alternative had been provided (e.g. extract 3, l. 12); as Lyster (2007) has shown, such use of emphasis is particularly important as students need to be made aware that an utterance has been reformulated in order for learning to take place: ISEJ, Volume 2(1), Spring 2014

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Extract 3 1 L 2 T 3 L 4 T 5 6 L 7 8 T 9 L 10 T 11 L 12 T 13 14

Ah ((reads)) power includes the ability to not act= = to not act (<1.0) that was interesting [can you] [Hmm] Yeah to not act can you give us an example of of that (1.0) Like a coup a couple of weeks ago you mentioned a black woman, (1.5) American woman she is in a low status in on that time= =Aha= =And she went to the buses but she do not want to give her seat to to white man (1.0) Mhm So so she said no= =Remember I told you that story about Rosa Parks who refused to stand up (<1.0) so she chose not to act yeah aha but in a way she did act didn’t she and she took the power mhm so power can be when we refuse to do something when we choose not to do something as well ya.

While the teacher still dominated the classroom talk in terms of turn control and length of utterances, the flexible approach to scaffolding had consequences for the classroom interaction: there were overall a greater number of longer student utterances than in classroom one, with students regularly holding the floor for considerable lengths of time (the longest being 53 seconds). The teacher contributed to the discussion and moved it on, but without taking over for disproportionate periods of time (the longest teacher utterance in the discussion was 1.10 minutes). The focus of the lesson shifted flexibly between content and language and the teacher used verbal scaffolding strategies for both. Thus, more instances of negotiation of linguistic meaning and co-construction of subject knowledge were created. Therefore, the teacher’s use of language was aligned with the lesson aim to practise oral fluency and students had more opportunities to engage in CLIL (cf. Walsh, 2002).

Discussion and Conclusion The results show that both teachers used verbal strategies to assist their students. While the subject-only teacher focused almost exclusively on content and produced a series of display questions as a scaffold, the teacher with EFL/EAP experience used a more flexible approach, focussing on both content and language and using a range of different scaffolding strategies. While it needs to be emphasised that this analysis is not intended as an evaluation of the teachers’ overall skills – both teachers were experts in their fields with long and successful teaching careers – it has to be recognised that their different verbal behaviour had an impact on the CLIL opportunities that were created. As this was only a small-scale research project, the results can by no means be generalised; however, the findings tie in with previous research in similar areas. Musumeci’s (1996) investigation of content-based language instruction found that subject teachers showed a similar focus on content matter with long teacher turns, an extensive use of display questions and few opportunities for students to engage in negotiation of meaning. Similarly, Milne and Garcia (2008), who looked at verbal repetition in CLIL, found that teachers who were trained in EFL had succeeded in providing feedback that served both content and language learning. In the light of this wider research, the results of this small-scale research project therefore highlight the need to raise subject teachers’ awareness of, and flexibility in, using verbal support strategies. For subject teachers without English language teaching experience, training needs to be provided that emphasises both the importance of co-construction of subject knowledge and negotiation of meaning in ISEJ, Volume 2(1), Spring 2014


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language learning to ensure that teachers manage classroom communication effectively. This is particularly important in the growing pathway sector to ensure that the increasing numbers of international students are best supported in their efforts to understand complex content knowledge, while at the same time improving their language skills to give them a head start in their academic progress in the UK. It is recognised that this study is limited in its scope and further research is needed to understand the role and impact of verbal scaffolding in CLIL pathway classrooms. It does, however, raise important questions about how findings from second language learning theory and best practice can be shared amongst subject and EAP staff. Equally, further research is needed to explore to what extent such shared best practice might not only enhance the learning and teaching experience on pathway programmes but also on regular degree programmes with a high intake of international students. It has even been argued that insights into pathway pedagogy can be beneficial for home students too, particularly widening participation students, as they can face similar challenges in terms of linguistic and cultural adaptation to their international peers when entering HE for the first time (Marshall, 2013). Thus, research into how teachers can use verbal scaffolding strategies to create effective learning opportunities for their students promises to enhance our understanding of an effective, inclusive HE pedagogy further. CONTACT THE AUTHOR



Dalton-Puffer, C., 2007. Discourse in Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) Classrooms. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. De Graaff, R., Koopman, G.J., Anikina, Y. and Westhoff, G., 2007. An observation tool for effective L2 pedagogy in Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL). International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 10(5), pp. 603-624. European Commission for Multilingualism, 2008. Content and language integrated learning. [online] Available at <> [Accessed 01 August 2013]. Llinares, A., Morton, T. and Whittaker, R., 2012. The Roles of Language in CLIL. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Lyster, R., 2007. Learning and Teaching Languages through Content: A counterbalanced approach. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Marshall, C.A., 2013. True internationalisation: Lessons from the IFP classroom for widening participation. Inform, 11, pp. 11-13. Milne, E.D. and Garcia, A.L., 2008. The role of repetition in CLIL teacher discourse: A comparative study at secondary and tertiary levels. International CLIL Research Journal, 1(1), pp. 50-59. Musumeci, D., 1996. Teacher-learner negotiation in content-based instruction: communication at cross-purposes? Applied Linguistics, 17, pp. 286-325. Walsh, S., 2002. Construction or obstruction: Teacher talk and learner involvement in the EFL classroom. Language Teaching Research, 6(1), pp. 3-23. Wood, D., Bruner, J.S., and Ross, G., 1976. The role of tutoring in problem-solving. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 17, pp. 89-100. ISEJ, Volume 2(1), Spring 2014

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Internationalisation: Differing Interpretations and Associated Student Experience Implications Lorraine Mighty

University College Birmingham

Abstract Although ‘internationalisation’ is now a common feature of many UK Higher Education Institutions’ (HEIs) strategic statements, it seems there is a lack of clarity on what the term means and how it ought to manifest within processes and practices in higher education. Via the synthesis of relevant literature, this paper explores a number of interpretations of internationalisation and identifies three broad themes, each with differing ideological underpinnings and associated implications to the student experience offered within UK HEIs. ………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Introduction One by-product of the increasingly multicultural context of UK higher education institutions (HEIs) is the increasing use of the term internationalisation. However, it seems with increased usage comes greater ambiguity around what the word actually means. Indeed, the range of interpretations and manifestations of the term has been widely discussed within the discipline of the internationalisation of higher education Knight (2011), a leading academic in this field, suggested that the word has become a, “catch-all phrase… used to describe anything and everything remotely linked to worldwide, inter-cultural, global or international…[and] losing its meaning and direction” (p.1). This paper reports on three differing interpretations of internationalisation which have emerged through conducting a literature review. The starting point for this comparison of interpretations is Schecther’s (1993) three goals of international education programmes which are labelled as liberal, pragmatic and civic. A comparison of these goals with similar models borne out of more recent empirical studies (Warren, 2005; Chan and Dimmock, 2008) is given, and the ideological underpinnings and student experience implications of these varied perspectives are explored.

Findings Internationalisation as a tool for westernising global education According to Schecther (1993), within international education programmes, the liberal goal is focused on broadening the minds of university students and developing their appreciation of and respect for differing perspectives in order to be able to function within a multicultural context. Although this may initially appear a noble position to take, it also raises ethical issues as the concept of one person being able to broaden the minds of others immediately suggests that there is a power relationship in play. Within the context of internationalisation, ISEJ, Volume 2(1), Spring 2014


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this may manifest as practitioners within English-speaking universities in the developed world holding the view that they are helping to broaden the less-developed minds of those visiting from developing nations. In this sense, although the liberal is internationally aware, their starting position is entrenched within their own cultural context; a phenomenon described by De Vita and Case, (2003) as ‘ethnocentric western didactism’. They suggest this approach to internationalisation is “…based on the principles of knowledge dissemination and an exclusively western cognitive learning process” (p64). A further indicator of this perspective may occur in the growing trend of transnational programmes, where western universities establish local campuses, or build partnerships with locally-based universities in other countries, yet utilise the same processes, curriculum, assessment and pedagogical practices as used in western universities. In this way, the liberal educationalist is similar to the cultural restorationist in Warren’s (2005) model who seeks to preserve traditional values and academic standards. However, Chan and Dimmock (2008) define this as the globalist approach which is driven by self-interest and focused on exporting a national/ institutional-based model to other parts of the world. This is a view shared by De Vita (2007) who suggests that this approach is staunched in an “exclusively commercial agenda” which, rather than embedding more international perspectives within curriculum and pedagogy, instead results in “the legitimisation of a discourse that treats education as a marketable commodity” (ibid, p.162). However, it seems inevitable that if education is to be perceived as a commodity, the quality of the service provided will become a crucial factor in the student experience. For example, it is argued that unfamiliar ‘western-centric’ curriculum content and teaching approaches can inhibit overseas students’ propensity to engage in lessons (DeVita and Case, 2003; Caruana & Spurling, 2007) thus potentially impeding their ability to achieve success and gain the ‘maximum return on their investment’. Therefore, in order to fully meet the needs of the customer i.e. the increasingly diverse student population, it would seem that a review and adaptation of institutional processes, formal and informal curricula and pedagogic practices would need to be conducted. Although Kehm and Teichler (2007) suggest that the significant increase in research being undertaken aimed at practitioners and policy-makers indicates that internationalisation has become a more central concern within HEIs and has moved on from “…the traditional British way of ‘internationalisation through import’” (Teichler, 1995, p.162), Caruana and Spurling (2007), highlight that there is a difference between being aware of cultural difference and valuing it. This issue appears to be evident within this interpretation which seems to be based on the presupposition that one culture is superior to another and thus, that the educational practices of one culture are more valid than those of others. They argue that the basis of this tension is between the Confucian and Socratic models of learning and that a debate around the validity of both models is required as “…without this debate ‘conceptual colonialism’ and ‘institutional discrimination’ may be the outcomes of continued efforts to internationalise the curriculum” (Caruana and Spurling 2007, p.67).

Internationalisation as a method for developing graduate employability within a global context The second of Schecther’s (1993) three goals of international education programmes is pragmatic where the focus is on developing the knowledge and skills of students for employability within the global marketplace. This is fully aligned with a facet of the models ISEJ, Volume 2(1), Spring 2014


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proposed by both Warren (2005) and Chan and Dimmock (2008). Both the moderniser (Warren, ibid) and the translocalist (Chan and Dimmock, ibid), perceive the main function of education as producing a workforce which enables graduates to compete globally. However, it should be noted that according to Chan and Dimmock (2008) the translocalist is keen to promote a strong sense of national identity within a global context. The pragmatic rationale appears to move away from the overtones of cultural superiority evidenced within the liberal approach and instead seems to strive for mutual understanding of cultural and professional practices, albeit in the interest of economic gain. This is likely to be a result of increasing interdependency driven by the globalisation of national economies, which in turn has caused a realisation that an appreciation of and respect for the way other countries conduct business, will foster greater opportunities for sustaining domestic growth. In relation to internationalisation within UK HEIs, it seems that this rationale is likely to manifest itself in the infusion approach whereby scholars recognise the importance of including international perspectives within their existing course content and adjust their syllabus accordingly (De Vita, 2007). This has led to a growth in disciplines broadening their scope to include modules focused on areas such as developing cross-cultural communication skills, foreign languages, exchange and study abroad programmes and comparative studies (De Vita, 2007). However, a criticism of this approach is that it is often adopted on an ad hoc basis and by specific faculties (such as Business) who see a direct correlation between internationalisation and their subject area (Schoormann, 1999). This links to a further shortcoming in that although the approach focuses on internationalising the curriculum, it neglects to address the review and adjustment of pedagogic processes where required to ensure that the teaching and learning fostered is culturally inclusive. This is something which is argued as pertinent to all disciplines (Schoormann, 1999; De Vita, 2007). In a globalised economy, it is difficult to argue against the relevance and importance of this interpretation, particularly as economic development continues to strengthen in Brazil, Russia, India and China (the BRIC nations) and Africa. A further motivator for UK HEIs to embrace this approach is the government’s recent White Paper (2012) which decrees that prospective students and parents should have access to graduate employability statistics to inform their higher education decision-making process. However, despite the welcoming of diverse cultural and professional perspectives that this interpretation fosters, it appears to fail to accommodate the diverse educational perspectives which a multinational cohort brings in that there is little or no focus on adapting pedagogic practices and assessments. This again raises the question of whether overseas students have an equal opportunity for success as their counterparts who have progressed through the British education system.

Internationalisation as an ethos for promoting global social justice The above discussion appears to illustrate that a common shortcoming of both the liberal and pragmatic interpretations of internationalisation is the absence of a culturally inclusive pedagogy across all disciplines which provides “…an equal opportunity for success to every student by providing equitably for the learning ambitions of all, irrespective of their cultural backgrounds” (Haigh, 2002 cited in De Vita, 2007, p.164). Stakeholders within HEIs who concur that this should be the goal of education within an international context, would be defined by Schecter (1993) as striving for the civic goal of international education which aims to cultivate global citizens who are committed to striving ISEJ, Volume 2(1), Spring 2014


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for global democracy. Both Warren (2005) and Chan and Dimmock (2008) offer a similar perspective in their models which they label as progressives and internationalists respectively. The commonality in all three interpretations of this view is that education ought to be a transformative experience that embeds global democracy and equality within all of its dimensions (Schoormann, 1999). This view of education is guided by critical pedagogy which argues that social structures and relations are heavily dominated by, “Western/Euro/U.S.-centric ways of knowing the world” emerging from a prevalence of “epistemologies of empire…and Western imperial regimes” (McLaren, 2011 p.382). As a result, rather than expect learners from differing cultural backgrounds to conform to and perform against these unfamiliar and unjust academic expectations, teachers are encouraged to reflect on the influence of these culturally situated structures and relations on their practice in order to make changes which aim to facilitate a learning environment which acknowledges and accepts difference thus striving to create a more democratic global society (McLaren, 2005). However, there are limitations to this interpretation of internationalisation in that it demands all stakeholders within HEIs to reflect on their positionality within their role and enact change to meet the global social justice agenda. Although it is argued that such reflection can enhance intercultural competence within all participants involved in the teaching and learning process (Coryell et al., 2012), the reality is that fulfilling this requirement demands significant investment in three areas; intellectual investment, whereby the ideology, pedagogy and curriculum is reframed and relevant training and development is undertaken; emotional investment, which acknowledges that internationalisation may require a refocus of and/or suspension of personal research agendas; temporal investment, which recognises that it takes time to prepare for and implement change whether that be cultural or process change (Coryell et al., 2012). Further reflection on these issues highlights additional concerns. Firstly, the intellectual and emotional investments suggest that all stakeholders would subscribe to the political and ideological stance which underpins this approach. Yet, a number of studies reviewed as part of this paper suggest that ideology is often varied both within and across disciplines and departments (e.g. Chan and Dimmock 2008; Coryell et al., 2012) and the theories discussed support this. Furthermore, the most significant of these investments is that of time, as it is only with the benefit of time that the other two investments could take place. However, time for review, reflection and improvement is often lacking within UK HEIs, and as funding constraints and the commodification of higher education continues, and teacher-to-student ratios come under the spotlight, it is perhaps unlikely that institutions will be in a position to invest the required temporal capital.

Conclusion This synthesis of texts appears to reveal a commonality amongst a range of models of ‘internationalisation’ which present three overarching interpretations of the term. Assuming that the starting point for education provision ought to be equality of opportunity (QAA, 2012), then with its income generation-focused, western-centric and culturally superior approach to offering education to a diverse student population, the interpretation of internationalisation as a tool for westernising global education presents itself as least ‘fit-forpurpose’. Yet, as the knowledge economy continues to increase and government funding ISEJ, Volume 2(1), Spring 2014


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continues to be reduced, it appears to present itself as the path of least resistance with the maximum economic benefits, as it seems to demand minimal or compartmentalised change within institutions. The interpretation of internationalisation as a method for developing graduate employability within a global context, at least moves towards a desire for mutual understanding. However, whilst its pragmatic focus on curriculum and employability skills is clearly relevant within a globalised economy, its failure to address pedagogy could legitimise pedagogic apathy within faculties which in turn could impede equality of opportunity for all learners. In an attempt to tackle this potential apathy, internationalisation as an ethos for promoting global social justice challenges practitioners to embrace critical pedagogy, recognise their positionality within their teaching and learning context, and seek to make constructive and inclusive changes with a view to elevate education from merely an economic and functional tool, to a socially transformative lever striving to provide equality of opportunity for all. The ethos is difficult to argue with, but the process of embarking upon such a cultural change is likely to pose both practical and ideological limitations. However, a useful resource for engaging with these challenges is the Higher Education Academy’s Internationalisation Resources Centre (HEA, 2014) which provides research insights, pragmatic tools and research and practice networks to assist institutions, support staff and lecturers to better understand and effectively implement internationalisation within their processes and practice. Such resources may assist us all, as key stakeholders in the teaching and learning process, to reflect on whether the environments which we create and operate within are truly meeting the needs of an increasingly diverse student population. However, perhaps more importantly, it will enable us to evaluate the extent to which we, as institutions and individuals, are meeting the QAA’s equality standards by endeavouring to provide learning experiences within which all participants’ contributions are valued and accepted.


References Caruana, V. and Spurling, N., 2007. The Internationalisation of UK Higher Education: a review of selected material. [online] Higher Education Academy. Available at <> [Accessed 7 December 2012]. Chan, W.W.Y. and Dimmock, C., 2008. The internationalization of universities: Globalist, internationalist and translocalist models. Journal of Research in International Education, 7 (2), pp. 184 – 204. Coryell, J.E., Durodoye, B.A., Wright, R.R., Pate, E. and Ngyuen, S., 2012. Case Studies of Internationalization in Adult and Higher Education: Inside the Processes of Four Universities in the United States and the United Kingdom. Journal of Studies in International Education, 16 (1), pp. 75 – 98. De Vita, G. (2007) Taking stock: An appraisal of the literature on internationalising HE learning. In E. Jones and S. Brown, ed. 2007. Internationalising Higher Education. Abingdon: Routledge. Ch.12. ISEJ, Volume 2(1), Spring 2014


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De Vita, G and Case, P., 2003. Rethinking the internationalisation agenda in UK higher education. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 27 (4), pp. 383-398. Higher Education Academy (2014) Internationalisation Resources Centre. Available at: <> [Accessed 19 May 2014]. Kehm, B.M. and Teichler, U., 2007. Research on Internationalisation in Higher Education. Journal of Studies in International Education, 11 (3-4), pp. 260 – 273. Knight, J., 2011. Five myths about internationalisation. International Focus, [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 6 January 2013]. McLaren, P., 2005. Critical Pedagogy Reloaded: Dispatches From Las Entrañas de la Bestia. Cultural Studies ↔ Critical Methodologies, 5 (3), pp. 318 – 337. McLaren, P., 2011. The Death Rattle of the American Mind: A Call for Pedagogical Outlawry. Cultural Studies ↔ Critical Methodologies, 11(4), pp. 373 – 385. Quality Assurance Agency, 2012. Quality Code - Chapter B3: Learning and teaching. [pdf] Gloucester: Quality Assurance Agency. Available at: <> [Accessed 10 December 2012]. Schechter, M., 1993. Internationalizing the University and Building Bridges Across Disciplines. In T. Cavusgil, ed. 1993. Internationalizing Business Education: Meeting the Challenge. Michigan: Michigan State University Press. pp.129 – 140. Schoormann, D., 1999. The pedagogical implications of diverse conceptualizations of internationalization: A U.S.-based case study. Journal of Studies in International Education, 3(2), pp.19-46. Teichler, U., 1995. Research on academic mobility and international cooperation in higher education: An agenda for the future. In P. Blumenthal, C. Goodwin, A. Smith and U. Teichler, eds. 1995. Academic mobility in a changing world. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. pp. 338-358. Warren, D., 2005. Approaches to the Challenge of Student Cultural Diversity: Learning from scholarship and practice. In D. Warren and J. Fangharel, eds. 2005. International Conference on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: Proceedings 2003 and 2004. London: City University. pp. 237-253.

ISEJ Editorial Panel Phil Horspool. Chief Editor. University of Leicester. Chris Lima. Academic Editor. University of Leicester. Caroline Burns. Book and Conference Reviews Editor. University of Northumbria. Ricky Lowes. Book and Conference Reviews Editor. University of Plymouth. Ellie Kennedy. Students' Contributions Editor. Nottingham Trent University


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ISEJ Advertorial

The Oxford Learner’s Dictionary of Academic English Oxford University Press The Oxford Learner’s Dictionary of Academic English (OLDAE) is a brand new learner’s dictionary aimed at students of academic subjects on English-medium courses at university or college; or for students currently on foundation or pre-sessional courses and preparing to enter a degree course. It gives in-depth treatment to the academic English that is used across the disciplines, with a particular focus on academic writing.

Why publish a learner’s dictionary of academic English? In the first place, quite simply, because there wasn’t one. Until now, the only learners’ dictionaries available to EAP students, whether in print or online, have been dictionaries of general English, such as the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary. The OALD and its rivals are mostly very fine dictionaries with wide coverage, but they do not address the specific needs of EAP students. Teachers of EAP told us there was a need for a dictionary that not only included words that had been identified as ‘academic’ but that described them from an academic perspective and presented them in genuinely academic contexts of use. Comparison of general and academic language corpora shows quite convincingly that academic language is different.

What does an EAP student need from a dictionary? We put this question to EAP teachers from a diverse range of countries and institutions and there was remarkable consistency in their assessment of the most fundamental needs. The number one challenge for almost all students is academic writing in English. Therefore, this dictionary needed to be more than just a reference work. It needed to give active help not just with understanding words and phrases but with using them appropriately. To use a word correctly and effectively in writing, a student needs to know how it behaves in context and how it combines with other words. This includes knowing its grammar, its complementation patterns and collocations, any phrases it frequently appears in and the language functions it can fulfil. Entries in OLDAE present information about all these aspects as clearly as possible for over 22,000 words, phrases and meanings. It is able to give this level of detailed help because it focuses only on academic vocabulary; and the information given is reliable because it is based on a genuine academic corpus, the 85-million word Oxford Corpus of Academic English.

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The entry for cycle only includes the meanings that are important in academic writing. This enables the academic meanings to be treated in more detail. A more precise meaning that is particular to biology is identified in a ‘HELP’ note. Cross-references indicate entries for compound words with their own precise definitions. The example sentences show genuine academic usage, based on the texts in the Oxford Corpus of Academic English. Complementation patterns with prepositions or other words are clearly signposted before the examples that illustrate them. Collocations and common phrases are shown and exemplified in a special section of the entry.

Entry for cycle noun from the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary of Academic English

What is academic vocabulary? Academic vocabulary can be divided into three broad categories. First, there is ordinary general English vocabulary. This includes all the function words such as the, and, because, for, about, as well as common verbs and adjectives and nouns for everyday things. At the other extreme, there is specialist subject vocabulary. This differs between different academic disciplines and can be highly technical; typically, students will need to learn these words as part of their subject studies, whether or not they are also learners of English. In between these two extremes, there is so-called ‘subtechnical’ or ‘general academic’ vocabulary. These are words that tend to be used across most or all academic disciplines; most are also used in general English. However, the way they are used in academic writing is often rather different, which is why these words deserve special study by the student of academic English. It is these ‘general academic’ words that are the main focus of this dictionary.

How did we make the dictionary? A core headword list for this dictionary was drawn up through analysis of the Oxford Corpus of Academic English (OCAE), an 85-million word corpus designed specifically for this project and composed of undergraduate textbooks, academic journals, and scholarly monographs and handbooks, drawn from a range of disciplines across the four main subject areas of physical sciences, life sciences, social sciences, and humanities. We also paid due attention to the work of other researchers on academic vocabulary, especially the Academic Word List (AWL) (Coxhead, 2000) and Academic Keyword List (Paquot, 2010). Detailed lexicographic analysis of these core words followed, identifying their meanings, usage patterns and collocations in different academic contexts, together with useful synonyms, antonyms and defining words. All words identified as collocations, synonyms or antonyms, or used in common academic phrases or idioms, were then added to the headword list, along with the words needed for explaining them. The definitions are mostly written using a controlled defining vocabulary of 2,300 words. ISEJ, Volume 2(1), Spring 2014


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What did the corpus reveal about academic language? Using the corpus enabled us to build up a detailed picture of key academic words, their meanings and usage patterns. It also revealed uses of particular words that other dictionaries overlook. Look at this list of noun-object collocations of introduce (verb):


From the ‘Word Sketch’ and concordance for introduce, using the Oxford Corpus of Academic English and Lexical Computing’s Sketch Engine program (Kilgarriff et al, 2004)

Bias and error are circled here because they do not easily fit into any meaning of introduce that is included in the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary or other general learners’ dictionaries. However, these are significant collocations in academic English and deserve an explanation of their own:

From the entry for introduce from the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary of Academic English on CD-ROM

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What were the main challenges in making the dictionary? The main challenge, which ran across many different aspects of dictionary policy, was how to reconcile the academic and pedagogic requirements of the dictionary. For example, the definitions needed to be precise but also learner-friendly. Sometimes this meant a ‘belt and braces’ approach. Take this definition of recession (noun):

The main definition that comes first is closely based on the definition of this word offered in the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary. However, as our economics adviser pointed out, it is not, strictly speaking, a definition at all, but a description. On closer inspection, this will be found to be true of many ‘definitions’ offered in general learners’ dictionaries, and the dictionaries in general are all the better for it. They offer learners the degree of understanding they need in a form that is accessible to them. For the EAP student, however, the case is different. The student of economics (or of history or geography or a number of related subjects) is not well-served by a mere description of a recession, when it is in fact a very precisely defined economic term. Our solution is to offer the description first, followed by the ‘actual definition’, clearly signalled as such. The tension between academic rigour and learner-friendliness was also apparent when it came to selecting example sentences. All the example sentences are ‘corpus-based’; consultation with academics and EAP tutors at the planning stage impressed on us the need for extreme caution when lifting and editing examples from the corpus. Some were uncomfortable with the idea of editing corpus text at all. However, when faced with the reality of raw corpus text, set against the practical needs of the intended users of the dictionary, it became clear that many of the selected corpus examples would need some degree of editing to render them useful and appropriate for learners. Potential difficulties with unedited corpus text were numerous: very high-level vocabulary, difficult constructions, extremely long sentences, obscure and distracting detail, general oddness. Editors also had to take into account the fact that the academic genres in the corpus – textbooks and journal articles – were not the genres that students themselves would be writing. Textbook examples were often tempting, as they were clear and accessible, but many textbooks employ a tone of ‘expert speaking to student’ that would not be appropriate in a student essay. The most useful examples are the most typical, which often means the most general: examples that are not taken directly from any one text, but are a distillation of a number of different corpus lines, all of them very similar. Other examples – the majority – do contain context derived from a particular source text; and, where appropriate, may be taken from that text unedited. This helps them to feel more authentic; nonetheless, it is important that the context does not get in the way of understanding the linguistic point being presented in the example. The examples are intended to ‘feel authentic’ but they cannot actually be authentic – even if completely unedited, they are inauthenticated the moment they are taken from their ISEJ, Volume 2(1), Spring 2014


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context and set in italic type in a learner’s dictionary. Ultimately, though, the needs of the learner trump other considerations. Learners using this dictionary are not expected to immediately start writing fluent expert academic texts; what they need to acquire is a style that approaches an appropriate academic style more closely, whilst still being accessible from the level they are currently at.

What other support can OLDAE offer the EAP student? Academic writing is obviously about more than just putting words and phrases together. Chief among the difficulties listed by teachers in our survey were planning and structuring academic texts, presenting a coherent argument and using sources correctly. OLDAE also offers support with these more structural aspects of academic writing. OLDAE’s writing supplement, the Oxford Academic Writing Tutor, offers guidance on many different genres of academic writing, from essays and case studies, through to all the components of a dissertation, with authentic model texts, analysed and annotated, and tips on grammar, language and presentation. The CD-ROM offers an interactive version of the Writing Tutor, the Oxford Academic iWriter, which both presents the model texts and offers frameworks for students to structure their own writing.

How is this dictionary really different from all other learners’ dictionaries? OLDAE is the first learner’s dictionary to be based on a corpus of academic English and to attempt to meet the specific needs of tertiary level students writing assignments in English in a wide range of disciplines. It covers a generous ‘core’ academic vocabulary, showing not only the meanings of words, but how to use them in context, and, frequently, how meaning and use may differ according to context. We hope it will be a valuable new resource for students.

References Coxhead, A., 2000. A New Academic Word List. TESOL Quarterly, 34(2), pp.213–238. Kilgarriff, A., Rychly, P., Smrz, P., Tugwell, D., 2004. The Sketch Engine. Proc EURALEX 2004, Lorient, France, pp.105-116. Available from Paquot, M., 2010. Academic Vocabulary in Learner Writing: From Extraction to Analysis. London, New York, NY: Continuum.

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Tutor’s Review

Oxford, (2014) Oxford Learner’s Dictionary of Academic English. Oxford: Oxford University Press ISBN: 978-0-19-433350-4 Jenny Kemp University of Leicester

Introduction There has long been a need for an EAP dictionary suitable for use by international students on both pre-sessional and in-sessional courses, particularly as words can often have a specific meaning and function in academic English (e.g. Coxhead, 2013) which can vary from discipline to discipline (Highland and Tse, 2007). It is therefore perhaps surprising that it has taken so long for one to appear in the UK market. The Oxford Learner’s Dictionary of Academic English (OLDAE) purports to be “the only learner’s dictionary to focus exclusively on academic English” (p. v) “bridging the gap” (p. vi) between the general English dictionaries available and the more specialist dictionaries which are not solely aimed at second language speakers. There have been other dictionaries with an academic leaning. Cambridge University Press produced the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary in 2009, but it was for the US market, and although available in the UK it does not seem to have been widely used. This is understandable: it included much more everyday lexis (e.g. alarm clock) and somewhat dated examples from the Cambridge International Corpus of which the following is just one example: Is that movie available on tape yet? (Cambridge, 2009, p. 977). The uniqueness of this latest contribution from the OUP lexicographical tradition is that it is aimed at international students of CEFR level B1 and above studying in a British higher education context, that it sticks to academic examples throughout, and also that it has a particular focus on writing (p. v). Basics The dictionary is informed by Oxford’s own 85-million word corpus of academic English, the OCAE, of sources of academic reading. This includes textbooks for undergraduates, journal articles and monographs; but it should be noted that it does not include sources of academic writing, such as essays or theses, despite the dictionary having a writing focus. When constructing their core headwords list the lexicographers “paid due attention” (p. v) to vocabulary studies, notably Coxhead’s (2000) Academic Word List (AWL) and Paquot’s Academic Keyword List (2010), but understandably misses out on Gardner and Davies’ (2013) much more recent comprehensive Academic Vocabulary List. Neither is there ISEJ, Volume 2(1), Spring 2014


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mention of the Academic Formulas List of Simpson-Vlach and Ellis (2010), containing useful phrases for both academic writing and speaking. The OLDAE lexicographers also consulted subject specialists, mainly in the Social, Physical and Life Sciences, but with two notable omissions, namely Management and Media. Nevertheless, this does not mean these fields are underrepresented in their corpus. Fortunately, words such as university, not found in the AWL as it is in West’s General Service List (1953), are found here. However, with surprisingly little collocational information: this is certainly a dictionary to help with academic reading and writing, not academic life in general. For instance, no examples in entries for the word family of supervise relate to PhD supervision. This is of course unsurprising considering the corpus used, but it does mean that it is unlikely to be a dictionary that will help a student write to their tutor or supervisor, despite the claim that the dictionary can help them write an academic email (p. AWT1) and a very useful page of general information on writing academic emails (p. AWT48). In addition to the main entries and dictionary guide, the dictionary comprises an Academic Writing Tutor and reference section, as well as a CD-ROM. These are discussed in detail below.

Dictionary entries


As is to be expected, the dictionary covers the various aspects of word knowledge, chiefly meaning(s), pronunciation and patterns of use, including collocational and lexicogrammatical information. AWL words are indicated, and there is also information regarding near synonyms and opposites where useful. Definitions are given using a 2,300-word vocabulary wherever possible (p. v). Following common practice, examples contain the most common patterns but are not extracted directly from the corpus. This adaptation is necessary to help make the sentences more useful for guidance in academic writing when the corpus itself is a corpus of reading texts. Nevertheless, examples are drawn from various contexts, to illustrate usage in different fields. One particularly useful feature is the collocation information provided. This is in bold, highlighting to students the importance of this aspect of word knowledge. Collocates are also helpfully grouped: thus comparative research/study is in a different set from comparative literature/psychology. Spelling is mainly British, but a user can search using the American spelling, as they will find the item listed with a cross-reference to the main entry. Where the predominant international usage is the non-British spelling, this is used in the main entry. However, apart from the preference for –ize over –ise, this does not seem to be consistent, the decision being based on the usage of each individual word. For example, fetus is the main headword rather than foetus; yet we do not find pediatrics but the British paediatrics. Where the non-British spelling is chosen, the reason is usually given for the choice. Thus the entry for fetus informs that foetus is found “in non-technical contexts” and not in scientific writing (p. 321). ISEJ, Volume 2(1), Spring 2014

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Where American pronunciation is different, this is given. Syllabic consonants are also acknowledged, though the diacritic is omitted: thus commercial is /kəˈmɜ:ʃl/ whereas most dictionaries opt for the somewhat confusing /kəˈmɜ:(r)ʃ(ə)l/. There is also some supplementary information. A few entries have word family boxes, but these are provided less often than would perhaps be useful. More frequent are blue ‘study boxes’ dotted throughout the dictionary: ‘language bank’ boxes expanding vocabulary on a particular theme, such as cause and effect, and reflective writing; and ‘thesaurus boxes’ comparing similar words. Although in the latter explanations are given for the differences between words, the collocation information could be much more fully exploited to increase learner awareness of differences. Supplementary resources A somewhat traditional Reference section gives grammatical advice related to different parts of speech (e.g. articles), structure (e.g. relative clauses, punctuation) and also common themes (e.g. numbers). Useful lists include geographical names, affixes and abbreviations. Yet perhaps terms for statistical analysis, a periodic table and units of measurement might have been useful additions. The research-informed Oxford Academic Writing Tutor (OAWT) forms a distinct 48-page glossy polychromous section of the dictionary. It includes general advice on topics like ‘The Writing Process’, ‘Answering The Question’ and ‘Writing A Research Proposal’ but also contains more discipline-specific guidance such as ‘Case Studies 1: Business’ and ‘Writing a Literature Review 1: Physical and Life Sciences’. The authentic ‘model’ texts are taken from sources as varied as the Journal of Electron Microscopy, Behavioral Ecology and SocioEconomic Review. Use is made of colour and highlighting to draw attention to signposting, reporting verbs and other linguistic features. There is advice on organisation and grammar as well as vocabulary. The OAWT is definitely useful, but the real appeal of the OLDAE writing package is the iWriter on the CD-ROM, which is an engaging interactive version of the OAWT. Moreover, it allows the user to write their own assignment within a chosen framework. The CD-ROM also contains the full dictionary, with sound, as well as various word lists: the vocabulary used for definitions; discipline-related lists for Humanities and Social, Physical and Life Sciences; and the AWL, for which there are also interactive exercises. Furthermore, users can create their own word lists. One drawback to the dictionary entries is that the user must select ‘collocations’ in settings for these to be visible, and even once this is done, they only appear in the left-hand side bar until clicked on. Nevertheless, once the student is aware of this, the collocation information becomes very accessible and could easily be referred to when writing an essay.

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Conclusion Overall, Oxford achieve their aim of bridging the gap in the market, as the OLDAE is a practical and accessible reference resource with a strong focus on the written academic context. Learners will need guidance from teachers if they are to exploit this resource to the full, particularly as they tend to overlook the fundamental importance of depth of vocabulary knowledge. Nevertheless, the OLDAE shows all the signs of becoming the standard, not only as a dictionary recommended to students, but also for classroom use on EAP courses. CONTACT THE AUTHOR

References Cambridge, 2009. Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary. New York: Cambridge University Press. Coxhead, A., 2000. A new Academic Word List, TESOL Quarterly, 34(2), pp.213-238. Coxhead, A., 2013. Vocabulary and ESP. In B. Paltridge and S. Starfield, eds. 2013. The Handbook of English for Specific Purposes, pp.115-132. Boston: Wiley-Blackwell. Gardner, D. and Davies, M., 2013. A New Academic Vocabulary List, Applied Linguistics Advanced Access: doi: 10.1093/applin/amt015 First published online: August 2, 2013. Hyland, K. and Tse, P., 2007. Is there an "academic vocabulary"? TESOL Quarterly, 41 (2), pp.235-253. Oxford, 2014. Oxford Learner’s Dictionary of Academic English. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Paquot, M., 2010. Academic Vocabulary in Learner Writing: From Extraction to Analysis. London: Continuum. Simpson-Vlach, R. and Ellis, N.C., 2010. An Academic Formulas List: new methods in phraseology research, Applied Linguistics, 31(4), pp.487–512. West, M., 1953. A General Service List of English Words. London: Longman, Green & Co. ………………………………………………………………………………………………….

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Student’s Review

A review of Oxford Learner’s Dictionary of Academic English Roxane Amaury University of Leicester As a French native speaker studying English (Linguistics, Phonetics, History, Literature and Translation), I am required to use dictionaries. Nowadays, online dictionaries and translators are so ubiquitous that people might think having book dictionaries is useless… I disagree. Personally, I own three book dictionaries: one bilingual (Robert et Collins Senior); and two monolingual (Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (OALD), 7th Edition and Collins Cobuild Advanced Dictionary), and I use them as much as I use online dictionaries. Translators can be helpful if you know how to use them (i.e. if don’t rely on them to give you a correct sentence but to give you an idea of a translation that you will then reformulate), but they don’t give any explanation, or context, examples, collocations…Online dictionaries are helpful, and perhaps they can and/or will replace book dictionaries in the future (e.g. the Oxford English Dictionary which is not printed anymore) but from my experience (comparing websites and books), there is most of the time less information on websites than in books (less examples, shorter definitions…), which is why I keep using my books. As an English learner, I was asked to write a review on the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary of Academic English (OLDAE). As the name suggests, it is not a classic dictionary of English, like the two I already own, but a dictionary of Academic English. It includes words of the Academic Word List, but also, more generally, any word that might be useful for academic studies. Therefore, it is a dictionary of words likely to be used in essays, or other academic works, that we, university students, are required to write. So it only contains 22,000 words, compared with 183,500 for the OALD. It also has an “Academic Writing Tutor” section in the end, which gives advice on how to write different types of academic works. I will start by talking about its appearance, and then I will talk about its content and compare it to other dictionaries. Some facts: this dictionary has about 1,000 pages, for a width of about 4 cm (compared with c. 5 cm for the OALD, and 4.5 cm for the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary (CACD)). So it is a compact dictionary, but if we consider its size compared to its number of words, compared with the OALD, it is much bigger. The reason for that is that its pages are much thicker (and therefore less fragile). It has a weight of c. 1.18 kg (compared with c. 1.3 kg for the CACD, c. 1.5 kg for the OALD and 2.5 kg for Collins), which makes it the lightest of the dictionaries I have handled. So this is a nice compromise between quality and volume, and it is compact enough to be carried in your schoolbag! The entries are presented like this: “get /ɡet/ verb (getting, got, got /ɡɒt; NAmE ɡɑːt/) HELP In spoken American English, the past participle gotten /ˈɡɑːtn/ is almost always used. HELP Get is one of the most common words in English, but people often try to avoid it in formal writing and use alternative words such as obtain or receive. 1 [T, no passive] ~ ISEJ, Volume 2(1), Spring 2014


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sth to obtain sth: When we repeated the procedure, we got the same results. […]” (p.359) There are several examples for each grammar structure. However, it is clear and we can easily find what we are looking for among long entries thanks to the bold grammar structures that stand out. For each entry we are offered definitions, but also idioms, word grammar information such as irregular forms of verbs or plurals, dependant prepositions, comparatives and superlatives of adjectives, collocations, synonyms and opposites, where applicable. There are also “help” notes which gives information about usage, and “see also” notes which refers to words with similar or related meaning. It gives derivatives of the word when there are some (for example, for the entry “geographical”, the words “geographic” and “geographically” are also indicated) (p.358). Words in the Academic Word List are distinguished by a small AWL icon. Some of them also have a box with the word family. Finally, there are four other boxes used in this dictionary: “Which word?” which explains differences between often-confused words, “Grammar point”, “Thesaurus” and “Language bank” which helps students find different and more academic ways of saying something. The “Academic Writing Tutor” section is very well-presented as well. It gives very clear methods, step by step, on how to write different academic works (one method for each type of academic works), and also includes useful chunks that we could use in our own work. It gives advice on how to well analyse a question, in order to answer it in the most efficient way, and on how to use and reference sources – always presenting different pieces of work with comments on them to show what to do and what to avoid. Compared to the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary, I would say that the Oxford Learners’ Dictionary of Academic English might contain less information about the words’ idiomatic expressions and grammar. For example, the entry for get in the CACD is four pages long, and contains 14 different meanings of get, with several definitions and examples for each, 40 idioms and 41 phrasal verbs, whereas in the OLDAE, the idioms are indicated ‘at the entries for the nouns and adjectives in the idioms’ (p.359), and there are only about 20 phrasal verbs indicated, but the essential information is there. To conclude I would say that the Oxford Learners’ Dictionary of Academic English has the advantage of being conveniently small and light for a dictionary, which is a very important quality for me, as it makes it easy to carry. The information is presented in a clear way, and it does not overwhelm you with too many details that might confuse you, but gives you the most important, the essential information, that you would need for writing an academic work. And finally, the ‘Academic Writing Tutor’ section is a real treasure, especially for students who might not know how to well organize their work, the different steps to follow before, during and after writing it. So I would recommend this dictionary to any student, and especially to those who do not usually like dictionaries because they are too big and contain too much unnecessary information, as this one does not, and will be very helpful when writing essays. I will definitely use it for my next assignments!

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ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

Student article

Erasmus students’ experience at Leicester Mario Glera Hernando, Marta Cipres Garcia and Diego Vera Repollés University of Leicester In this article, three undergraduate Spanish students attending the Erasmus* programme at the University of Leicester in the UK. The authors talk about their perceptions of their host city and the people they have met there, analyse how coming to an UK higher education institution has impacted on their study, and reflect on their learning experience as a whole. *Erasmus is the European Union's flagship educational exchange programme for Higher Education students, teachers and institutions. ………………………………………………………………………………………………… On place and people Mario: Going on Erasmus seemed to the best way to finish my degree in English, so when the opportunity arose I did not have a moment of doubt about it. In Leicester, everything was new to me: the people, the place, the language. In those first months I met so many new people that I could not even remember their names. However, as time passed by I ended up forming my own group of friends. Usually, you begin by selecting your circles and then you naturally get more attached to some of your fellow companions. Since I haven't been to university in my home town in Spain, I am quite used to living on my own, either on student accommodation or sharing a flat, so cooking by myself wasn't really a big deal, but I have enjoyed and suffered those who have never cooked in their entire lives. Culture struggle is also part of the experience. For example, the fact that shops close at 5 o’clock in the UK makes you realize that you are in a different country. You can see differences not only in the timetables though, but also in the food, clothing, partying...everywhere. Eventually you get used to it and it broadens your horizons because you are able to perceive, accept, and interact with different people who have different opinions and lifestyles. Marta: When I arrived in Leicester I found myself in a foreign country, surrounded by people from as many different cultures as there are countries in the world. And I am not exaggerating. Apart from other international students, the city itself is more cosmopolitan than I could ever imagine. A great part of the population is second or third generation of immigrants and racial discrimination here is not as common as I was used to see elsewhere. When I first heard people speaking English in Leicester I thought, ‘That is not the English I am used to hear in the listening practice in class!’ But little by little and without being totally aware of it, I became able to communicate with everybody quite well and I have made friends who I am sure will be my friends for my entire life. Diego: I soon realized how cosmopolitan the citizens of Leicester were: peoples from every corner of the world have settled there and seem to genuinely make efforts to understand ISEJ, Volume 2(1), Spring 2014


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each other, as if none of the thousands of kilometers and years of separation between them had strength enough to impede the bloom of their relationships. Suddenly, I became part of this multicultural network as my closest friends were people who one year ago I could barely have imagined meeting. Besides this social and cultural adaptation, an important aspect of this new life was the fact that it was the first time I lived on my own. This means that I spent the first months in Leicester cooking for myself. Mind you, cooking has never been one of my strengths! Months went by so fast that when I realized, I had spent three months attending lessons, playing volleyball with the University team, and partying, of course. I even became an assistant in the Spanish conversation classes at the University.

On the University Mario: The educational system in the UK is quite different from the one I am used to in Spain so I struggled to adapt to it. In my opinion, it is one of the biggest issues international/Erasmus students need to deal with. There are lots of seminars and lessons and attendance is compulsory. In terms of essay writing, lots of references are needed. Moreover, you need to go to tutorials because sometimes you do not fully understand the topic of the essays. On the other hand, getting used to a more strict educational system makes you more aware of the different parts of the assessment and you end up evolving as student and developing greater capacity of reflection and independence. Marta: At the University of Leicester I have learnt a different way of studying in which independent effort is the key to academic success. I have also realized how important it is to share knowledge with my classmates. I have learnt in practice that in literary studies there is no right or wrong arguments if they are well supported. Diego: The teaching approach at the University of Leicester is quite different from my home University. The methodology demanded much more work from me as I had to look for sources and read texts at home. In Zaragoza, we also had to do this kind of work, but the lectures were more didactic. I mean, there was a kind of combination between lecture and seminar instead of being two distinct sessions as at Leicester. This is probably because in Spain we weren’t so many people in class and the tutor could lead sessions with the whole group. Besides, in my country tutors first explain the text we are going to work on, present the historical background, characteristics, and so on, and only in the last stage of the lessons students interpret and analyze the texts. I was a bit surprised by the few lecture hours there were in each module here and how much more independent work was required from me. By the time the first term finished, I had already developed my English language skills. It wasn’t as bad as it was before coming here. Maybe I haven’t developed my speaking skills as much as I want to, but I am quite happy with it, not only because I have improved my fluency but also because I have learnt some expressions and words that are not taught at the University. You acquire quite a lot of language while going out with friends and being in a non-academic environment. So I am happy I have learnt something that I already knew in theory but I hadn’t experienced yet: that not all the wisdom is in the books or at the University, but that you can learn a lot from other people, just by talking to others, no matter their economic, social, or academic background.

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Lasting impressions Mario: To sum up, if you want to grow as person, if you want to broaden your horizons, visit places, make new bonds, learn, enjoy, and party, the Erasmus programme is something you must do. I have great memories of it and if you go for it too, you will never forget or regret it! Marta: I really appreciate the opportunity that was given to me by the Erasmus programme. I can assure everybody that these months in Leicester have changed me as a person and I know that people who have experienced something similar – being immersed in an academic environment, being on your own far from their native countries, and meeting so many different people - can understand it. So yes, I clearly invite every single student to try the benefits of it. Diego: one of the most important things I take from my Erasmus experience is the way I have grown both as a person and as a student. I truly believe that travelling is a good, if not the best way, to learn things in life because we can compare and contrast the positive and negative things we have in our home country and also the positive and negative things we see in other places. It helps you become a more understanding individual, more openminded and a better person. To sum up, I would just like to say that I am going to spend the rest of my Erasmus time in England seizing the days, trying to learn more to improve my English skills and, above all, enjoying it day by day. ……………………………………………………………………………………………….. CONTACT THE AUTHORS 47

For more information on Erasmus, visit

ISEJ, Volume 2(1), Spring 2014

ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

Student article

Experiencing, Learning and Challenging through Booster Weekend Activities Yuefan Gao (Rebecca) University of Birmingham I am a Chinese student, studying MSc Human Resource Management (HRM) at the University of Birmingham. After my graduation from Zhejiang University and two years of work experience, I wanted to gain specialized knowledge; I was quite interested in HRM, so I decided to study this further in the UK. Before taking the modules on the degree program, a pre-sessional English course is absolutely essential for international students to improve our language and study skills so that we can adapt to our new learning environment. In this article, I seek to share my experiences of the Booster Weekend activity, which is a group activity in the Business Management English (BME) pre-sessional course at the University of Birmingham. I explain reasons of choosing BME course, basic knowledge of Booster Weekend Activities, and how the issues of time limitation, language barriers, and differing learning experience provided our greatest challenges but also resulted in our most beneficial learning experience: through facing these challenges, I and my group mates emerged with stronger teamwork spirit, wiser time arrangement, and enhanced problem-solving abilities, all of which have “boosted” our capabilities to succeed on our course and beyond. The reason why I chose the 6-week BME pre-sessional is because this course was very well designed in terms of lecture content, time arrangement and diverse activities. Firstly, the course was divided into four sessions: Reading, Writing, Listening and Presentation Skills, which were consistent with the basic requirements of study. Additionally, we had a weekly Case Study Analysis class: There was a business topic set for each week, and everything we learnt was closely related to it, such as financial reports, customer service, etc. Secondly, the 6-week length felt appropriate for me to prepare for Master’s studies as well as to adapt to a new living environment in the UK. I also had spare time to discover the city on weekends. Thirdly, apart from intensive classes, the BME organized various activities, including guest lectures, day trips and themed parties to enrich our learning experiences. Booster Weekend was an exclusive activity of the BME, which I considered the most helpful part of the course. It was our first group activity on the pre-sessional, and it was also the first time that this activity had been set over a weekend instead of a week, meaning that it would be a challenge for both students and teachers. The groups were allocated randomly, so we were unfamiliar with our members at first, but we had to work with each other on the basis of mutual trust. English was the only way to communicate since different nationalities were involved. This was extremely beneficial for oral English and communication skills enhancement. The main tasks of Booster Weekend were as follows: each of the groups was assigned a case study, and we were asked to analyze the case using a business model different from the one given in the case. We had to present our analysis in two forms: the first was through an A1 ISEJ, Volume 2(1), Spring 2014


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size poster, which we had to design within only three days, and the second was through the delivery of a group presentation the following week. The only input we received from our teachers was a 30-minute briefing, followed by a one-hour class where we could pose questions after brainstorming together as a group. To be honest, none of us had ever encountered such a demanding activity; therefore most of us felt some stress, or even panic. We encountered various challenges during the whole process of preparation, but there was no route of retreat, so we had to figure out how to overcome our difficulties. Time limitation, I would say, was the biggest challenge. People felt lost and confused at the beginning: Which business model should we choose? How should we divide tasks? How do we design the poster…and so on. For example, our group’s case was Portakabin. After reading the case, five of us just looked at each other blankly, because nobody had a clue where to start. Due to our limited knowledge of the company and its background, we had to search for a large amount of information to support our arguments; so most of us stayed up late to complete individual tasks and then embraced another round of discussion the next day. The language barrier and variation in strength within the group were like a wall between us at times. How to transfer information in proper English to make our ideas understandable was quite challenging, but our members listened to each other carefully and explained patiently until everybody got the point. Besides, different personalities and learning styles occasionally made it more difficult to cooperate. For instance, some group members liked to take initiatives while others preferred to take on tasks delegated to them by others. In this case, we combined each other’s strengths to offset the weaknesses: we first analysed the feasibility of the ideas and then distributed tasks according to members’ strengths. Take our poster designer as an example: even though she was unfamiliar with the computer program, she had a great sense of style and creativity, so she was willing to try out ideas through learning by doing and finally made an outstanding poster. In spite of the challenges and hard work, our considerable achievements and the learning outcomes made them worthwhile. First of all, the most important thing we learned was to use teamwork to complete a task, maximizing members’ strengths, capabilities and potentials. Everyone within the group had to make their own efforts towards the final accomplishment; otherwise it could by no means guarantee positive results. When facing conflicts or disagreements, we analysed the current situation calmly trying to figure out the best solution for the project that everyone agreed with. Communication skills were largely enhanced whilst interacting with members, and using English as a tool to present our work made us more confident, which was also indispensable to survive in a multicultural environment. Secondly, to meet the challenge of time limitation, we prioritized tasks to use our limited time effectively, which enabled us to finish everything before the deadline. Our strategy was that the most important and most difficult thing came first. For example, PESTEL was appointed as our business model to analyze the case, so members were allocated one or two factors each, because the completion of our analysis was essential and the poster and presentation design would come later. This approach worked because, although everyone was working under great pressure during the weekend, the results turned out to be encouraging and satisfying: the poster designed by our group even won first place, and the presentation gained a lot of compliments. “All the groups accomplished the project on time and did a surprisingly fantastic job” said a member of the BME crew.

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ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

Overall, the activity gave us a great opportunity to put what we had learned into practice. Our previous lectures had provided us with some theoretical knowledge about business models, and Booster Weekend became an application platform allowing us to try out our learning and analytical abilities. Furthermore, I believe this activity was also helpful for leadership development. As our group leader, I was responsible for the equal distribution of tasks according to members’ skills and capabilities, setting the timetable and balancing different ideas. In other words, I personally gained extra valuable leadership experiences from the activity. In conclusion, the Booster Weekend was such a rewarding and interesting activity that each member gained tremendous benefits from it. In spite of the stressful hard work, we had our confidence boosted and analytical ability enhanced. Particularly, being involved in an internationally diverse group provided a great opportunity for me to practice my English and therefore develop communication skills, as well as understand other’s cultural backgrounds. Hence, the friendships formed within our group have lasted long after, as since then, we have been collaborating to overcome a lot of difficulties. Also, no matter what modules we take for our Master’s degree, the courses involve a large amount of group work, so the BME Booster Weekend activity gave us memorable lessons.


………………………………………………………………………………………………… Student article

The Challenges and Value of Booster Week Activities Ignacio Vera Izquierdo University of Birmingham My name is Ignacio Vera Izquierdo: I am a 29-year-old Industrial Engineer from Chile. I graduated in 2008 and after that, for two years I worked for a water supplier company in the public sector, mainly focused on the production of public infrastructure. During these four years, it was always my intention to continue improving my professional skills and my level of English. However, I did not make the decision to do so until an earthquake struck Chile in 2010: this encouraged me to fulfil my desire. From then, English was much more present in my daily work due to increasing communication with foreign firms, such as insurance companies and technology suppliers. Therefore, I decided to go to England to study for a postgraduate degree. The University of Birmingham (UoB) seemed to be one of the most attractive because of its prestige, world ranking position, the quality of its programmes and its location in a multicultural city with international relevance. In addition, my decision was strongly influenced by the great international approach that the Birmingham Business School has and the special focus on preparing its overseas students for successful performance in their chosen programmes. In particular, the university offered me a course called the Business ISEJ, Volume 2(1), Spring 2014


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

Management English (BME), a discipline-specific pre-sessional programme which has been the pillar for my current performance in both language abilities and professional skills. The BME aims to help students consolidate language skills such as communicating and debating ideas, and of course, the skills needed to achieve professional goals such as time management and the prioritization of tasks. Definitely, to obtain a Master of Science requires competencies that go considerably beyond language and also, these competencies need lots of training and a proper environment to practise them in. Fortunately, the 10-week BME-course fits exactly with that description, because I started the course with an intensive but effective process of levelling, and just two weeks later, I experienced the famous and hard “Booster Week”. During Booster Week, students are challenged to create a product or service with a complete business plan and also think up in a marketing strategy to convince a hypothetical a group of business people to invest or do the business together – all within five days. After one day of tough brainstorming, we came up with our idea: a Dryer Unit located in public places around the most crowded parts of Birmingham. The design was like a public toilet, which included a room to hang and dry clothing, a hair dryer, sofa, internet access and lastly a toilet. All facilities would be used according to customers’ needs and they would just pay for usage time. While I did not like the idea, I realised that this is another thing to consider within the learning process with teams: work is not always about interesting topics or total agreement, but you need to go on as a team. It was not a coincidence to have been assigned to a Booster Group with people from different nationalities; in fact, this is the Booster Week organizers’ intention, not to make it more difficult, but more realistic. From the beginning, I noticed that the coordination between people from Taiwan, China, Hong Kong and Chile would be quite complicated, and it really was! I had never before imagined that a thing such as the rhythm of everyone, the unknown expertise and cultural factors could affect the performance of the group. I was more used to working with people from my own country, which was easier because of the common language and roles already defined. And so the countdown began and there was no time to adjust everything, so eventually I dared to take control of the group. With very little information about the potential of team members, we allocated tasks according to what everyone said he or she could do well. One important and remarkable thing I have learned is that unfortunately, some cultural behaviours, such as to be extremely shy, could play against the work progress. For example, in my group a Chinese person was an expert at producing videos, but she did not say anything about that and this task was assigned to another person who was less skilful. The same happened with the Marketing Strategy, but in reverse, where another team member said that she could produce a very good Marketing Plan, but it was a very poor one. As a result, individual characteristics that could be present in individuals from different cultures such as introversion or shyness could make the task allocation process more problematic. I was amazed by all that I could learn through organizing group meetings and discussing possible ideas. Ultimately, in real life you rarely choose the people who you work with, but you need to overcome this barrier to success. Once we found an idea, defining roles within the group was a complicated job to do. Accordingly, we defined a function for everyone in order to ensure the completion of the assignment. We knew that it was necessary to have a leader, someone responsible for time ISEJ, Volume 2(1), Spring 2014


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management and another one responsible for organizing meetings and booking rooms. It seems to be easy, but here we needed to deal with different personalities. Even though we all agreed that I would be the leader, some members did not want to abide by decisions. In addition, the person responsible for time management often had trouble distributing workloads, and when the person responsible for organising meetings convened one, nobody was ready with his or her work. Therefore, to overcome these obstacles, and due to the fact that there were just two days left, we finally assigned a task to everyone and we supported each other when help was needed, omitting the laziness of some members. This situation could also occur in the real world. So, I have learned that is not necessary to always seek perfection but to assume some inefficiency, because groups are made up of people. Booster Week ended with a presentation that was even more challenging, because it was my first real presentation about business in English. The presentation was in the form of a pitch to potential investors. It is quite nerve-wracking to imagine how you will react if the professors ask you a difficult question, or how your group mates may react if you do not respond well, because Booster Week involves group work for which you share a mark. Definitely, this presentation was my starting point to learn how to present during my postgraduate studies. It also gave me the confidence that I currently have. Finally, the experience that I really enjoyed was the video that we were required to make. We showed it to the audience on the day of the presentation and here we illustrated how the service works. The commonly untold part of this task is how to select the actors, because the person who had a good English speaking level was not so confident to act, and in my case I was not afraid to do that, but my pronunciation was not the best in the group. We took advantage of the fact that technology allows you to do everything, so we recorded several versions of videos and afterwards we edited them. Having seen the videos produced by the other groups on the day of the Booster Presentations, I have to admit that our video was not as exciting as some of the other groupsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;. So, we realised that we could be more creative and that is something that I would like to improve another time. Nevertheless, we had a lot of fun doing the video and it was very helpful to get to know each other in a different setting. In conclusion, Booster Week was essential to teach me how to prioritize tasks and how to identify the different skills within a group. In addition, it definitely helped me to realise that you cannot depend on the first impression of people, as there could be more talent hidden behind a shy personality. The shyness could be attributable to cultural factors, but also language skills, so group meetings and tasks such as making a video give the group the opportunity to know each other better and then identify the real strengths and weaknesses of everyone. All these matters are things that we learned how to overcome in just one week. In summary, as well as making me a better English speaker, booster activities pushed me to be a better professional, a better human and a more flexible person when facing real dynamic problems like the ones I am facing in my postgraduate programme. Working under pressure with people from different backgrounds taught me that there is no time to know the entire personality of someone; therefore making the best decision with incomplete information is something vital, and that I take as a great lesson.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR ISEJ, Volume 2(1), Spring 2014


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

Conference Review

Internationalization and the Student Experience Conference PedRIO and University of Plymouth, 18 December 2013 Emma Guion Akdag Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh On 18th December, 2013 the Pedagogic Research Institute and Observatory, Plymouth Business School and the English Language Centre hosted a one-day conference on internationalization and the student experience in higher education pedagogy which took place in the Rolle Building at Plymouth University. Attracting 137 delegates from universities across the UK, the conference addressed some of the key factors involved with the internationalization of the higher education sector in the UK and beyond. With keynote addresses by Dr Sheila Trahar (University of Bristol) and Professor Troy Heffernan (Plymouth University), themes included; the student experience of internationalization, creating an international curriculum, Transnational Education (TNE), English language teaching and support, and also the business of internationalization: recruitment, admissions, strategies and partnerships. The conference began with Dr Sheila Trahar’s keynote speech entitled ‘Are we still struggling with internationalization?’ ‘By embarking on a more personal journey of internationalization in higher education, lives can be enhanced through learning and teaching strategies that celebrate diversity and are respectful and inclusive’ (Trahar, 2011:147). This raises further questions as to whether people want to be included and if so, included in what. Inclusivity can be fostered through the curriculum in order to promote cultural understanding and avoid cultural misunderstanding although most students (people) need to be encouraged to move out of their ‘comfort zone’ and engage with others. However, this issue needs to be addressed as the UK is second only to the USA in its ability to attract students from other countries and in 2011/2012, 16.8% of all students in UK higher education were defined as ‘international’ i.e. coming from outside of the European Union (EU). Her closing remarks focused on how becoming a global citizen is essential and how this could be fostered. The rhetoric of bland mission statements of internationalization should be challenged with less emphasis on international students and more emphasis on researchers or practitioners dealing with the cultural complexity of higher education and the necessity for reflection on their own practices in order to create environments that are more inclusive. The second keynote address was Professor Troy Heffernan’s inaugural lecture entitled ‘Transnational Education (TNE): Navigating a Complex Future’. This lecture explored the past, present and future of transnational education. According to the British Council (2013) report, the general principle of TNE is that students can study towards a foreign qualification without leaving their own country. TNE is also known as off-shore, cross-border and borderless education. Presently 124 UK HE institutions are involved in delivering TNE with around 200 international brand campuses, a number which is rapidly growing. Professor Heffernan examined the competing objectives that drive TNE and its multifaceted nature. Different types of TNE include validation, partnerships, double, dual or joint degrees and ISEJ, Volume 2(1), Spring 2014


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

study exchanges but would not include distance education programmes as these involve a different skill set. Towards the end of his lecture, he was keen to point out that Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) are also not part of TNE, noting Feargal Sharkey’s comments at the GuildHE Conference which drew parallels between universities making ever-larger amounts of their course materials available for free online, and the proliferation of online music-sharing that began in 1999 with the launch of Napster, a web-based platform that gave users unparalleled access to ‘free’ music. This Napster moment caused the music industry to remold itself into a new world. Professor Heffernan felt that MOOCs were unlikely to have a similar transformational effect on higher education in the long term. However, blended learning would become a key factor in comprehensive online courses, which would in turn change the lecturer’s role. His final comment was that TNE can transform lives, economies and even countries and that it is our responsibility to drive it properly. In addition to the two keynote addresses, breakout sessions included 30 presentations and workshops on a variety of strands focusing on research into international students’ perspectives, their experiences of acculturation and the challenges they may face and also the interaction between home and international students. Various curriculum issues were addressed including designing assessments, embedding and encouraging intercultural communication and promoting collaboration with a cross-modular approach. One of the most engaging sessions was delivered by international medical students at Plymouth University. Five first year medical students and two members of staff kept diaries for 12 weeks, reflecting on their experiences. These diaries were then collated and compared in order to stimulate exploration of issues and potential resolutions. Interestingly, what the tutors failed to take into consideration was the pressure to succeed felt by international students, the financial burden incurred and the pressure of representing family and country. Dealing with issues around the consumption of alcohol also played a major factor in their integration into student life. Further details including PowerPoint slides for this session and 18 of the breakout sessions can be found online. A selection of papers delivered at the conference will be written out as 1000 word case studies and presented as part of the PedRIO Occasional Paper series in February 2014 which also be made available on Plymouth University’s website.

References Trahar, S., 2011. Developing Cultural Capability in International Higher Education: A Narrative Inquiry. Oxon/New York, NY: Routledge

ISEJ, Volume 2(1), Spring 2014


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

Conference Review

Innovation: The Key to the Future University of St Andrews EAP Conference, 1 March 2014 Gary Riley-Jones Goldsmiths, University of London While the term ‘innovation’ has been very much associated with the role played by technology in recent years, the conference took the position that technology is not the only driver of innovation in teaching, materials development and teacher development. As a consequence, there was a focus on creative ways in which to prepare students for academic study, and to develop EAP practices. The conference was opened by the organiser, Kerry Tavakoli, followed by an excellent welcome from the Proctor, Professor Lorna Milne, who argued that EAP is not only at the cutting edge of pedagogy in the university, but also leading the way in ‘engaging with content lecturers and determining the extent to which a mutual exchange and enrichment is possible’. In the opening plenary on ‘EAP Methodology: What’s New?’ Edward de Chazal provided a comprehensive review of the key influences on methodology and consequent practical approaches to EAP. Edward’s argument was that it is only through an appreciation of these that teachers can formulate their own distinct new methodologies and practices. This was followed by Sophia Butt's 'Balancing an Innovative EAP Assessment Cocktail with Student Autonomy'. Sophia is Director of the Business Management English (BME) Presessional at Birmingham University and her presentation was based on the results of a project designed to counteract the apparent over-assessment of the presessional. The solution was a Dragon's Den 'Booster' week or weekend where students produced a video promoting a particular product. Sophia concluded that such an approach deals with many of the challenges and constraints facing teachers on presessionals, specifically the issue of assessment. Carole Macdiarmid’s fascinating presentation on ‘Encouraging Exploration and Innovation through our CPD Programme’ discussed how the University of Glasgow’s EFL Unit responded to an engagement with professional development (identified as a core competency within the BALEAP competency framework for EAP and generally recognised within the field as being of vital importance, e.g., Borg, 2010 and Mann, 2005). Carole outlined a wide range of sample tasks, including developing professional practice and peer observations, materials development, feedback on BALEAP conferences and an EAP reading group. Steve Kirk, in his visually arresting plenary ‘Lost and Found in Translation: Innovating and the EAP Practitioner’, presented his thoughts on innovation in EAP commenting that creativity and innovation in language teaching is more common than we think as a result of the changing contexts in which EAP tutors find themselves. One such context was that presented by Susie Cowley-Haselden in ‘Content “Unplugged” – A Bespoke Approach to EAP’. As part of her engagement with content-based language ISEJ, Volume 2(1), Spring 2014


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

learning, Susie presented an approach to EAP based on Academic Reading Circles (Seburn, 2011), dialogic teaching and engaging students with threshold concepts. Through interviews with participating students, Susie demonstrated the ease with which such an approach – involving the apportioning of roles to students – could be applied in the classroom and commented, perhaps controversially, that the greater the EAP tutor’s engagement with content, the greater EAP’s relevance (Donohue, 2012) . Another presentation concerned with an engagement with content was Gary Riley-Jones’ ‘An Innovative Understanding of Criticality: Consequences for the Student Experience’. Gary presented a critique of the three key understandings of ‘criticality’: critical thinking, critical pedagogy and post-structuralist critique, arguing that critical thinking (the most common understanding of criticality) has become so naturalised within the university that it is often regarded as the only way of thinking and that its assumed ideological neutrality does not take into account its historic origins within the Enlightenment (a ‘fault’ which can also be levelled at critical pedagogy with its origins in Marxism). Instead, he argued with reference to student artwork, that any understanding of criticality must incorporate Barnett’s (2000: 154) observation that criticality should ‘create epistemological and ontological disturbance in the minds and in the being of students’ which Barnett argues is a prerequisite for critical being. The online provision of TEAP was another theme. For instance, Chris Lima in ‘Delivering Training for EAP – an Online Model’ showcased the Leicester PG Cert TEAP and eloquently explained how the course has been set up. The BALEAP TEAP competencies writers in the audience seemed particularly impressed by the use of Padlet as a portfolio of evidence. In a similar vein, Tony Prince of INTO UEA presented on ‘The making of a Moodle EAP Module’, which was in fact a TEAP module. One interesting aspect of this presentation was that it seemed as if Tony had four different presentations planned and asked us what we would like to focus on. Essentially, Tony was saying that he used pre-recorded screencasts to provide feedback on questionnaires students would complete on Moodle. This meant students had instantaneous feedback, although it might not exactly be tailored to their needs; something that would come later.

PDFs of the programme may be found at,227970,en.php

ISEJ, Volume 2(1), Spring 2014


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

There have been a vast array of changes in recent years including visa issues, growth of public/private provision, distance learning and in-country provision that have affected why, how, what, where, when, and by/to whom EAP is delivered. The 2015 BALEAP conference will be an opportunity to reflect on these changes, to assess where the sector is - and where it should be going - in order to maintain the highest standards possible.

EAP in a rapidly changing landscape: issues, challenges and solutions The BALEAP 2015 Conference to be held at the University of Leicester, UK. The event will take place on 17-19 April 2015. CALL FOR PAPERS Papers will be especially welcome in the following areas:      

Plenary Speakers

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Prof Rebecca Hughes British Council - Opening Plenary

Prof Glenn Fulcher University of Leicester - Saturday Plenary

Partnerships with overseas organization Distance Learning Utilizing technology Cultural Diversity Integrating pre and in-sessional programmes Contributing to an institutional strategy on enhancing the international student experience Promoting practice-based research The impact of national policies at a local level Materials development Training the next generation of EAP tutors Balancing quality and quantity Meeting the needs of the international student The role of the private sector

Speaker proposals will be accepted from 1st June to 22 September 2014. Visit our website Prof Ken Hyland University of Hong Kong - Closing Plenary

ISEJ, Volume 2(1), Spring 2014


ISEJ, Volume 2, Issue 1 - Spring 2014