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Volume 1, Issue 1

Spring 2013 [Type a quote from the document or the summary of an interesting point. You can position the text box anywhere in the document. Use the Drawing Tools tab to change the formatting

ISEJ

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The International Student Experience Journal

Editorial Phil Horspool, University of Leicester

Articles From Push to Pull: evolving EAP support in an offshore university. Peter Levrai Bringing them together: international students and others Ricky Lowes Walking together: students helping students. Lingyuan Meng The use of exploratory practice as a form of collaborative practitioner research. Yasmin Dar and Simon Gieve

Materials and resources Show or Tell? Video for living and learning. Christopher Copland

Student article Language learning and cultural integration over a cup of coffee. Jekaterina Kockina and Demi Blake


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

EDITORIAL Phil Horspool, University of Leicester Welcome to the first issue of the International Student Experience Journal (ISEJ), a new online peer-reviewed publication produced by and aimed at those involved in the field of researching, teaching and providing services to international students in higher education in the UK and other English speaking countries. The journal warmly welcomes and encourages contributions from students themselves. The idea for a new journal with a new angle and approach was born out of the 2011 BALEAP PIM hosted by the University of Leicester and entitled „How good is the international student experience in British universities and how can we help to improve it?‟. This conference brought together a variety of interested parties to discuss the international student experience, formally through presentations and a round table discussion, and informally over coffee and lunch. One of the stated aims of organisers at the time was that the conference should be a starting point and a catalyst for discussion in this area, rather than a one-off event enjoyed by all and forgotten within months by most. Feedback from those who attended the conference showed enthusiasm for the diversity of participants which included international students and academics, as well as the idea of finding a forum to continue the discussions and debates and house the ideas and suggestions that people had brought to the conference. And thus the seed which was to grow into ISEJ was sown. The first issue embodies what we had in mind when we set out to determine what we would like to see in the journal. We hoped that it would offer a forum to broaden the discussion and make an active and positive contribution to ensuring that the question of the international student experience remains at the forefront of our thinking in a time when HE institutions are increasingly judged in terms of profit, and quantity rather than quality is often the norm. We are very excited about the diversity of contributions that the first issue contains, including two fascinating first-hand student experience accounts. The issue helps to reflect the many positive things already happening, which without a means of sharing, we otherwise might never hear about. We hope you agree that ISEJ is and will be a new unique forum in offering both theoretical perspectives and practical ideas around the area of the international student experience. Most of all we hope it makes a positive contribution in ensuring that the higher education experience for international students is exciting and rewarding.

http://www.facebook.com/InternationalStudentExperienceJournal https://twitter.com/ISExpJournal ISEJ, Volume 1(1), Spring 2013 © The Author 2013

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The editorial team would like to thank all those who have helped to make this first issue possible both directly with contributions, reviewing and revising and indirectly with ideas, suggestions and encouragement. We would especially like to thank Dan Jones and Louise Pullen from the University of Leicester for their help at the 23rd hour with proof reading. Above all, we‟d like to thank the international students who help to make our professional lives so rich and diverse. Enjoy, and we look forward to your comments and contributions to future issues. Why not comment on what you have read and share your thoughts via Twitter or Facebook:


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

MEET THE EDITORIAL BOARD

Philip Horspool. 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.

Caroline Burns. 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.

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Dr Ellie Kennedy. 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.

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ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

Chris Lima. Chris is a final year doctoral student at the Open University, UK. She has been an English language teacher and TESOL teacher training since 1995. Her research focuses on professional online interaction and on the role of English literature in teacher education. She is currently the coordinator of the BBC/British Council ELT Online Reading Group; a board member of the Extensive Reading Foundation and a committee member of the IATEFL, Literature, Media and Cultural Studies Special Interest Group. She teaches EAP at the University of Leicester, where she also works as a research assistant.

Ricky Lowes. 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.

The International Student Experience Journal (ISEJ) is a peer-reviewed online publication for those involved in the field of researching, teaching and providing services to international students in higher education in the UK and other English speaking countries. The Journal links the everyday concerns of university staff, including academics, researchers and EAP practitioners, with insights gained from related academic disciplines such as applied linguistics, education, psychology, and sociology.

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Visit our website http://isejournal.weebly.com/ Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter

ISEJ, Volume 1(1), Spring 2013 Š The Author 2013


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

From Push to Pull: evolving EAP support in an offshore university Peter Levrai University of Nottingham Ningbo/ China

ABSTRACT With the increase of non-native English speakers undertaking degrees in English-medium universities, on-going EAP support is an important aspect of the student experience, intended to contribute to academic success. Looking specifically at the context of University of Nottingham Ningbo China, this paper charts the development of on-going EAP support and its evolution from a prescribed set of workshops to a much more flexible system, blending academic consultations and online learning solutions. ………………………………………………………………………………………………

Introduction As David Graddol (2006) noted in his landmark English Next report, it is predicted that more international students will study for a UK university degree overseas than in the UK. Indeed, a report in the Guardian newspaper (Whitehead, 2011) estimated that 18% of students working towards obtaining a British UK degree at that time were doing so fully overseas. In a home-based English-medium university, international students could be expected to adapt to the local learning environment through an initial foundation EAP course and immersion in the target context, perhaps with the aid of some optional in-sessional support. In an overseas environment, a foundation course alone may not be enough and the role of ongoing EAP support becomes much more important since students would not have the potential language acquisition opportunities of those living in an English language environment.

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The focus of this paper is the on-going EAP support offered to students in the University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC) by the Academic Support Clinic (ASC) and how that support developed from academic year 2009-2010 to 2012-13. This period has seen ASC provision move from a „push‟ system, where the support students needed was predetermined, towards a „pull‟ system, whereby students can select the support they want, when they need it. Although the push/pull debate stems from the business world (see Brown and Hagel, 2005), the problems of anticipating demand and providing prefabricated solutions connected to a push system and the advantages of increased flexibility and innovation within pull systems seem particularly pertinent to when considering optional student support systems. The aim of this move to a pull system was to make ASC provision more effective and relevant to student needs.

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ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

The UNNC Context Established in 2004, Nottingham University‟s Ningbo campus comprises five Divisions (faculties): Nottingham University Business School, Science & Engineering, International Communications, International Studies and English. These offer a range different undergraduate and post graduate degree programmes, delivered entirely through English, and leading to the same degree students would have obtained studying at the University of Nottingham, UK. Language support in the university is provided by the Centre for English Language Education (CELE). The first year of degree programmes is an obligatory Preliminary Year during which students follow an EAP programme. After passing the Preliminary Year students enter their second year in UNNC, called the Qualifying Year, where they begin their degree programmes in their Divisions and formal EAP support ends. As Charles and Stewart (1991) highlight when discussing US universities, international students face problems in terms of a potentially very unfamiliar education system as well as language difficulties. The issues of academic culture shock are compounded in an offshore university context like UNNC, where students lack immersion in an English language environment and overwhelmingly share a common education background (Chinese) which differs from the institutional educational culture. While the process of academic enculturation will begin in the Preliminary Year, there can be no guarantees that all students will be fully prepared for the reality of their degree level studies when they enter the Qualifying Year. For this reason, optional on-going support is provided by the CELE Academic Support Clinic (ASC).

ASC Support - 2009-10: Determining Needs Prior to academic year 2009-10, ASC support mainly took the form of workshops and lectures. These had been developed by ASC staff, based on observed and assumed needs of the students. Since they had been developed in an ad hoc manner, and in many ways reflected the ASC teaching team‟s own interests, there was no fully coherent programme of courses and workshops available. This led to a concern that the support may not actually meet the needs of the students, the lecturers or the institution.

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To address this concern the team carried out an in-depth language audit of the MA programmes of the university, as outlined in Reeves & Wright (1996), interviewing students and lecturers, carrying out observations of lectures & seminars, while also reviewing student work and course requirements. This rich body of research gave us a much better idea of the skills required of the students in UNNC and helped us map out a series of workshops and courses which would provide students a complete pathway through the university (see figure 1), from entrance to exit.

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ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

Selecting Texts

Synthesising Texts

Using Texts to Support An Argument

Processing Texts

Summarising Texts

Creating Texts

Critically Engaging With Texts

Evaluating Texts

Reviewing Texts

Fig 1: Student Pathway (from Levrai, 2010)

Each step in the path would require different workshops to help students deal with that task. For example, when thinking about Processing Texts students would need support with aspects such as reading speed, vocabulary strategies, genre awareness, evaluative notemaking etc. While the audit revealed nothing fully unexpected, it was invaluable in terms of helping prioritise future course development. For instance, argumentation was identified across Divisions as a key academic skill the students needed help with, both in their written and oral assignments, and as such material for this went into development much earlier than might otherwise have been the case. ASC Support: 2010-11 – Developing Taught Provision

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As well as the consideration of what to teach, it was also important to determine when to teach. To enable this planning, ASC also generated a central calendar for the university, collating deadlines for assignments across the university. This proved valuable in terms of

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2010-11 saw the development of a portfolio of courses designed to meet the key issues the audit had highlighted. There was considerable debate during the process of materials development as to how subject specific the material should be, with the ultimate decision being to make the material generic. While the EGAP/ESAP debate as outlined in Hyland (2006) was discussed, ultimately the rationale for choosing an EGAP approach was not so much pedagogical as practical – the voluntary nature of ASC course enrolment meant that most workshops would be attended by students from a mix of degree programmes and, consequently, materials had to be accessible to students from different disciplines. Nevertheless, topic selection was still carefully considered, with workshops being built around issues such as multi-national business ethics, which could be of interest to students from a variety of academic backgrounds.


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

helping map ASC provision so that we could try to deliver workshops at the most useful time for students. For instance, it brought to light the need for greater sophistication in our support for dissertation students. In UNNC 4th Year undergraduate students have the option of taking a dissertation module; similarly, a dissertation is an essential part of 1st Year MA programmes. Traditionally, ASC support for dissertations started early in the Spring semester, which is when MA students generally start thinking about their dissertations. However, in some degree programmes they may have to submit their proposals towards the end of the Autumn semester, in which case the help could be coming too late. Moreover, by the start of the Spring semester 4th Year students are already well into writing their dissertation, highlighting the need for dissertation support earlier in the academic year than we had anticipated. ASC workshops and lectures were very well received and generated positive feedback from students through course evaluation questionnaires (with 90% of students finding ASC provision „useful‟ or „very useful‟ in the academic year 2009-10). There was a tension between our courses and student workload, particularly given the voluntary nature of our provision. While our courses became more targeted on specific needs and skill development, they also became more demanding of students, requiring them to do some preparation or homework. It is hard, for example, to develop students‟ synthesising skills without requiring them to do reading around a question. Even though we provided the texts, which eliminated the need for students to do research, there was still the issue of adding to the students‟ already heavy reading load. This issue of student workload also had wider implications. Attendance for ASC workshops was generally better in the first half of a semester, when the student‟s workload in their degree studies was not as heavy, with ASC workshops in the Autumn semester attracting more students than in the Spring semester. As students became busy with their studies and coursework assignments their willingness to take on extra study diminished, as did attendance to ASC taught provision. Even early in the Autumn semester when workshops were oversubscribed we could only reach a relatively small proportion of students, when considering the total university population. This led us to question alternatives to taught provision to try and meet the needs we had identified in a more efficient way.

ASC Support: 2011-12 – The Move to Advising

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This advising service proved highly popular with students, both domestic and international, receiving overwhelmingly positive feedback, with 93.4% of students finding the service „useful‟ or „very useful’ and 95.6% intending to use the service again (Levrai, 2012). Being

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The main measure taken in 2011-12 to make ASC support more effective was the launch of an academic advising service. While academic advising differs from university to university (Mozzon-McPherson, 2006) within the UNNC context it is similar to the concept of language advising, as outlined by Reinders (2008). However, rather than a student bringing a piece of work to an advisor and receiving feedback on a language related issue, ASC academic advising provides feedback to the student on higher level task achievement. In order to address the needs identified in the language audit feedback revolves around task achievement, considering issues like strength of argument, use of support, organisation and logical progression.


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

able to work through an actual assignment with a student, as opposed to their taking a generic workshop not directly related to any particular assignment, meant that the effectiveness and impact of tutor-student contact time greatly increased. Student support was not limited to advising. ASC staff also worked closely with faculty staff and developed some bespoke training workshops for particular groups of learners. This enabled the previously generic training workshops we had generated to become much more relevant to the learners. An illustration of this is a series of reading workshops requested by Environmental Engineering, which helped develop students‟ search strategies in order to answer a question. By developing these skills around the question of soil erosion and directing students to the preferred databases of their discipline we could ensure that students were developing skills and strategies that would be directly related to their current and future studies.

ASC Support: 2012-13 – Implementing A Pull System 2011-12 demonstrated the appetite in the university for support which worked hand in hand with students‟ divisional studies and this is something which should expand. In terms of taught provision there has been greater co-operation with faculty to continue the development of bespoke training courses and for this provision to be delivered at the optimal time. The advising service has also expanded and, to help keep up with demand, the use of student peer advisors is being investigated, taking into account the advantages of peer tutoring outlined in Topping (1996). Online student support is also being developed. In the Autumn semester of 2012-13 the ASC ran regular lectures and the materials for these were then made available on Moodle, the online learning platform of the university. This meant students were able to review these materials at their convenience, as well as participate in forum discussions on the topic. It is also planned to turn the materials developed in 2010-11 into online self-access materials, turning the inputs in a workshop into highly targeted mini-lectures which students can access at any time. For example, within the context of academic presentation skills, short videos will be generated around different topics such as: • starting a research presentation • starting a recommendation presentation • strategies for dealing with questions • animation in PPT.

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These mini lectures mean that, crucially, students will be able to select the support they need, when they need it. Coupled with the advising service and requested workshops this should see ASC able to provide a comprehensive system of EAP support.

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ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

Conclusion On-going support is valued by students and their feedback suggests it is valuable to them in terms of their academic skill development. The experiences of ASC would also suggest that in-sessional support needs to be as flexible and responsive as possible, as well as available to students through a variety of avenues. Rather than having a rigid support programme which is „pushed‟ on the students it is preferable to have a „pull‟ system whereby students can find the support they need, when they need it, addressing very specific concerns directly related to the assignments they are working on. While this kind of flexible on-going support has been discussed in the context of an offshore university it could also be highly beneficial in home campuses. Studying in university is going to present any student with new and unfamiliar tasks and a sophisticated pull system of options would help them deal with these ongoing challenges successfully. CONTACT THE AUTHOR peterlevrai@gmail.com

References

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Brown, J. S., & Hagel, J., 2005. From Push to Pull: The next frontier of innovation. McKinsey Quarterly. Vol 3, pp. 82-91. Graddol, D., 2006. English Next. British Council, London. Hyland, K., 2006. English for Academic Purposes. Routledge, London. Levrai, P., 2010. Developing Effective Materials For EAP. Paper presented at the ESP Asia Conference 2010, University of Nottingham Ningbo China, China. Levrai, P., 2012. Academic Advising for students in the first year of their degree level studies. ESP Asia Conference 2012, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong. Mozzon-McPherson, M., 2006. Counselling/Advising for Language Learning: Setting the Context, in Search of Identity. Independence. Winter 2006, Vol. 39, pp. 30-32. Reeves, N., & Wright, C., 1996. Linguistic auditing: A guide to identifying foreign language communication needs in corporations (Vol. 9). Multilingual Matters Limited. Reinders, H., 2008. The what, why, and how of language advising. In: MexTESOL, 32(2). Topping, K. J., 1996. The effectiveness of peer tutoring in further and higher education: A typology and review of the literature. Higher Education, 32, pp.321-345. Whitehead, F., 2011. British Universities Overseas: it‟s about more than just a piece of paper. The Guardian Online, [online]. Available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/higher-education-network/2011/aug/01/britishuniversities-overseas-piece-paper [Accessed on 03 September 2011].

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ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

Bringing them together: international students and others Ricky Lowes International Centre, Plymouth University

ABSTRACT As the 21st century progresses, the drive to internationalize UKHE is developing apace. This article looks at one aspect of internationalization – the integration of international students in a UK HEI - and describes some simple but effective initiatives we have taken at Plymouth University to bring international and Erasmus students into contact with home students and members of the local community to help facilitate successful integration. …………………………………………………………………………………………………

Introduction

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A major barrier to the integration of international students into friendship groups where English is used has been the weak level of communicative language skills of some of them. Improving their language skills is a necessary prerequisite to their learning about, understanding and forming meaningful connections with others. However, some seem reluctant or unable to make the necessary effort. Of course, the Catch 22 is that without sustained meaningful dialogue with others, language capacity will not improve. Communication is both a goal and a method of learning, and the experience of successful communication will motivate students to further develop their language skills. Learning from and with others also fosters learner autonomy (Lowes & Target, 1998, p.42), an essential skill in UK HE. With this in mind we have taken advantage of emerging opportunities to engineer

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For years educators have lamented the fact that many international students do not seem to be able to integrate into university social life and mix with home students, and so fail to make the most of their stay in the UK. Equally, home students fail to benefit from contact with other cultures, and the potential amazing diversity of cultural encounters and sharing of knowledge that could go on is largely lost. In this context the „internationalisation‟ of our universities rings a little hollow. How to prevent this needless waste of opportunities, and promote and foster meaningful contact between home and international students is increasingly the focus of a number of initiatives at universities. Against a backdrop of reports of negative perceptions of international students by home students (e.g. Woods et al, 2011; Cathcart et al, 2006) and the lack of integration of the two groups experienced in the Plymouth Business School (McMahon, 2011; Williams & Mumford, 2012), those of us concerned about the situation decided we would wait no longer to address these problems, which were evidently not going to resolve themselves without intervention. We embarked upon a number of projects, where the common element was a wish to bring international students and locals -both home students and members of the local community - together and allow them to develop relationships. This article briefly describes some simple but really effective initiatives which we have seen transform the relationships between home and international students and which can be easily transferred to other contexts.


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

and design learning activities that involve students (home as well as international) communicating with native speakers of the languages they are learning, where possible their natural peers with whom friendships may develop.

Use of Peer Mentors There is evident potential for exploiting the fruitful differences that exist between students from different cultures for their mutual benefit. Lederer and Raban (in Boud et al 2001, p.137) stress the value of heterogeneity among the students, as does Kirchmeyer (in Gibbs 2010, p.4). This kind of knowledge exchange is a perfect hybrid of „same level‟ and of „cross-level‟ tutoring (Boud et al., 2001). Since each side of the dyad is simultaneously both „expert‟ and „novice‟, the learning aims are parallel and complementary which develops students‟ roles as valuable resources in reciprocal learning relationships. The more mutually beneficial the exchange, the greater its effectiveness, as it contributes to a feeling of pride in contributing to others‟ learning as well as satisfaction in one‟s own achievements. Our peer learning initiative did not originally start with the English language needs of international students but began in 2010 in the Languages Department by bringing Spanish exchange students as mentors into Spanish classes. The focus was on providing one-to-one support in reviewing their Spanish CVs and developing the learners‟ speaking skills by practising a mock job interview. In a series of one-hour sessions, learners worked one to one or two to one with native Spanish speakers. In feedback, students were unanimously positive about the experience: „it definitely was the best Spanish lesson I have had since starting Uni. Just loved the lesson.‟ This appeared to be not only because of the intense language practice but also due to the interaction with young peers of a different background: there was excitement at bridging a divide. Some continued to co-tutor with mentors they had met in class: ‘I met with a group of Spanish people yesterday … we have arranged to meet up often.’ Continuation outside the classroom is an important goal in managing effective peer learning (Boud et al, 2011) and students were encouraged to engage in co-coaching, outside of classes. The mentors (mainly Erasmus students) also expressed a great deal of satisfaction and enjoyment: ‘About naming 3 things that I took away of this experience I would say: meeting people who are learning your own language (which is pretty interesting), learning about other processes of teaching and having a lot of fun!’ The Spanish students reported that mentoring increased their contact with home students and allowed them to develop more friendships. The final performance of the learners in the oral assessment in both years was significantly better than predicted, which mirrors outcomes reported in Falchikov (2001).

A few weeks later, an initiative was taken in the Summer School to bring in members of the University of the Third Age (U3A), an association of retired people interested in learning „for ISEJ, Volume 1(1), Spring 2013 © The Author 2013

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….and the Use of Non-peer Mentors

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Given such positive outcomes, the experience was repeated, this time using home-student mentors to support international students with their English in two sessions: preparing oral presentations and reviewing a practice written exam, and again the experience was evaluated very positively by both mentors and mentees.


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

fun‟, to converse with postgraduate pre-sessional students on a one to one basis, over a cup of coffee, in a fairly informal one-off session entitled: „10 things you simply must do while you are in Plymouth‟. This was received with such enthusiasm and worked so well that we invited the U3A members back to support pre-sessional undergraduates by listening to their oral presentations and giving them feedback. Both groups of students and the participating U3A members were extremely positive about the experience, and we teachers were gratified to see whole classes of students communicating fluently for extended periods with previously unknown interlocutors. From this initial pilot a number of other mentoring projects have developed in an on-going partnership with the U3A (discussed below). Naturally, these sessions were carefully planned and co-ordinated by the lecturers, and much of their success was due to the sessions having a definite focus and clear learning goals. This said, once the initial planning was done, they ran remarkably smoothly, like moving a heavy load on water. They also created a qualitative change in the subsequent learning atmosphere, with formerly quiet students becoming more forthcoming and showing more initiative. A parallel initiative in the Plymouth Business School, using Chinese students to mentor learners of Mandarin is described in a separate article in this issue. Again outcomes, in terms of learning and student satisfaction, were extremely positive.

The Languages Café The Café, a joint initiative of the School of Tourism and Hospitality and the English Language Centre which runs three times a week for one hour, is an experience of informal, co-curricular learning and networking between students, staff and members of the community. Students and others come together around a cup of coffee to practise the languages they are learning, forming temporary „learning circles‟. Originally conceived for foreign language practice, from 2008 there has also been an international table where English is the lingua franca.

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The Cafe has worked very effectively to achieve the twin aims of language learning and developing intercultural student friendships and has elicited some of the most positive and effusive feedback of any project we have been involved with: „amazing opportunity to improve the communication skills!‟; ‘This is an amazing arrangement. People are helping each other and having fun.‟ It is an opportunity for networking and partnerships. As Hixenbaugh (in Potter & Hampton 2009, p.5) states, „relationships are at the heart of the issue of students‟ experience of university‟ and we have seen that our efforts to facilitate contact between groups of students who might otherwise not make connections are deeply appreciated.

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Research indicates that there is an important link between place and behaviour (Jamieson et al, 2010), and we have witnessed how this informal learning space has fostered learnercentred, non-traditional learning opportunities. The Languages Cafe is an expression of the philosophy of learner-focussed teaching, where the learner is freed to engage in ways that best suit him or her (it is an entirely optional activity). This whole-person, playful, experiential learning (Rogers and Freiburg, 1994) is often the most successful kind, and much of the feedback from users has made this point.


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

The gains are many and varied, apart from the obvious benefits of students developing their speaking skills, they learn about other cultures and gain in general confidence. Students from different parts of the university get to meet each other and fruitful alliances are formed. First year undergraduates sit and chat with PhD students, and students from a range of nationalities and backgrounds break out of the silos of their home groups and socialise comfortably. Learners pair up to form tandem-learning partnerships. Some students - including international students - have taken on leading roles, becoming lead facilitators of language groups or even running sessions. ELT staff supported a Russian student to run evening sessions of the Languages Cafe independently. This year, the role has been taken up by a third year International Relations home student, who is running the sessions with enthusiasm and imagination, as part of her work for the Plymouth Award1. As this article is published, and she embarks on her Finals, a first year Business student is taking over her role.

New initiatives 2012-13 and thoughts for the future We are constantly seeking new ways to bring students together. We are fortunate to have in our faculty a centre which offers a rich co-curricular dip-in programme and so this year we added workshops on Intercultural Communication to the offer, running a series of four workshops that aim to bring home and international students together to increase mutual understanding and develop intercultural capacity. Their popularity with home students (who make up 50-60% of attendees) indicates that a significant number have a real interest in learning about other cultures. The workshops give international students the opportunity to communicate in a structured but less formal setting than the classroom, where their expertise puts them on a more even footing with home students, and they feel more confident about communicating.

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The positive experiences with using mentors have motivated us to seek more opportunities to use them and to reflect on how they can be supported most effectively. Mentor input is now a regular feature of Spanish classes. In the English Language Centre we also use mentors on a regular basis; apart from their use in lessons, we run a weekly English Club, led by a lecturer

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Finally, one of our most exciting initiatives this year, already mentioned above, is a strategic partnership with the University of the Third Age (U3A). This enterprising group has centres all over the UK and its members in Plymouth benefit from a partnership with the university whereby they may attend university events and lectures. A number of their members now volunteer as mentors for our (mainly Chinese) international students either for group activities or for one-to-one support. Our Chinese students seem to enjoy working with older people, perhaps reflecting the traditional idea of Chinese reverence for age, and so this is a particularly effective partnership. The activities are perceived very positively by the students (one student rushed up to the author in the middle of an activity and exclaimed: „This is wonderful! I am so happy!‟) and by the U3A members who have described working with our young international students as „joint activities for genuine mutual benefit‟ which they find „rewarding‟, „very useful‟ and „very interesting‟ and which make them feel valued. We are gathering feedback during this first year of the partnership that will give us a clear direction of how to proceed in the future but there is no doubt that we will continue this very valuable partnership.


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

and facilitated by five or six student mentors. We are developing strategies and support mechanisms to ensure that the mentoring system we use is effective and sustainable. The Languages Café this year has welcomed an increasingly diverse range of participants (including local school pupils and teachers) and now has a committee made up mainly of student members, who are designing ways to engage more students, particularly those less likely to attend. All these schemes require a certain amount of planning, a good deal of hard work to ensure the logistics are right, and much enthusiasm from all involved, but the benefits, both shortand long-term are clear to us and make the enterprise worthwhile. We plan to carry out research into the projects to investigate in more depth and with rigour what the benefits are for all stakeholders, and make these more explicit. We would be very interested in making contact with others who have embarked on similar schemes, and are happy to share ideas with those who are planning to.

For more on the Languages Café, please see http://www.plymouth.ac.uk/pages/view.asp?page=38801. For information on the University of the Third Age, see http://www.u3a.org.uk/ For information on the Plymouth Award, see http://www.plymouth.ac.uk/pages/view.asp?page=32288

CONTACT THE AUTHOR ricky.lowes@plymouth.ac.uk

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Boud, D., Cohen, R. and Sampson, J., 2001. Peer learning in higher education: learning from and with each other. London: Kogan Page. Cathcart, A. Dixon-Dawson, and J. Hall, R., 2006. „Reluctant hosts and disappointed guests? Examining expectations and enhancing experiences of cross cultural group work on postgraduate business programmes.‟ International Journal of Management Education, 5(1) pp.13-22. Falchikov, N., 2001. Learning together: peer tutoring in higher education. Abingdon: Routledge Falmer. Gibbs, G., 2010. Assessment of group work: lessons from the literature. ASKe, http://www.brookes.ac.uk/aske/Groupwork%20Assessment/ [Accessed 17th December 2012]. Jamieson, P., Fisher, K., Gilding, T., Taylor, T. and Trevitt, C., 2010. “Place and space in the design of New Learning Environments.” Higher Education Research and Development, 19(2), pp.221-236.

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References


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Lowes, R. and Target, F., 1998. Helping Your Students to Learn: A Guide to Developing Student Autonomy London: Richmond Publishing. McMahon, P., 2011. “Chinese voices: Chinese learners and their experiences of living and studying in the United Kingdom.” Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 33(4), pp.401-414. Potter, J., and Hampton, D. (Eds.), 2009. Students supporting students. SEDA Special 26. London: Staff and Educational Development Association. Rogers, C. and Freiburg, J., 1994. Freedom to Learn for the Nineties. Prentice Hall. Williams, J. and Mumford, J., 2012. Understanding Students’ NSS Evaluations of BABA, BABS and BSc Business Management TandSS (Tactical and Strategic Studies) March 2012. Woods, P.R., Barker, M.C. and Hibbins, R., 2011. 'Tapping the benefits of multicultural group-work: An exploratory study of postgraduate management students.' International Journal of Management Education, 9(2), pp.59-70.

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Walking together: students helping students Lingyuan Meng University of Plymouth, UK 三人行必有我師焉 Where there are 3 people walking together, there must be a teacher for me amongst them. (Confucius)

ABSTRACT Mandarin classes at Plymouth University have given a boost to the confidence and communication skills of Chinese student helpers. They are also proving to be an effective way of bringing UK and Chinese students together to enhance the student experience. This article recounts the experience of using Chinese student volunteers to assist in Mandarin classes and describes the value of this venture for those involved. ………………………………………………………………………………………………….. The first experience of teaching Mandarin Chinese at Plymouth University was when the summer pre-sessional co-ordinator decided to arrange a micro-teaching session using Chinese students as teachers and some academic and administrative staff as learners. The idea was to give the students insight into teaching methods and presentation skills, and to give the staff insight into our international students and into the experience of learning a very different language. The students revelled in their new role, and all involved had a great deal of fun. The cordial relationships established with the staff continued into the new academic year and at least one member of staff went on to take up Mandarin lessons when they were set up as part of an extra-curricular offer for staff and students the following year. Extra-curricular Mandarin classes in Plymouth University started in October 2010, after I mentioned to the Head of the English Language Centre that I had studied Teaching Chinese as a Second Language for my Bachelor‟s Degree and had about two years part-time teaching experience in China. She immediately saw the opportunity to continue and develop the experience started in the summer pre-sessional and to provide volunteering experience for our Chinese students and it was decided that Mandarin would be taught in the evenings. Since then, we have not looked back: the teaching of Mandarin has expanded steadily each year. Figure 1 shows the numbers of students and staff members who have participated in these classes in each academic year in detail.

Staff

14 15 30

7 17 18

SMU summer school students N/A 60 55

Elective module N/A N/A 8

Total 21 92 111

Figure 1: Mandarin learners at the University of Plymouth * SMU = Shanghai Maritime University. This class prepares Plymouth University students who are going to Shanghai for a month during the summer, providing basic language and cultural knowledge. ISEJ, Volume 1(1), Spring 2013 © The Author 2013

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Students

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Academic Year 2010/2011 2011/2012 2012/2013


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About half of the Mandarin learners are English students, the other half are European and international students. Nationalities have included: Jamaican, Romanian, Lithuanian, Hungarian, Moroccan, Norwegian, Thai, South Korean, South African, Spanish, French, Dutch, Latvian, and American and more. They study different subjects across different disciplines in the university, which include Business Studies, Geography, Medical Science, Art, Computer Science and other subjects. The classes are taught by a qualified teacher and Chinese students join the class as “Chinese teaching assistants” for the last half hour of the class to conduct one-to-one practice with the Mandarin learners and then to join in discussions. This is completely voluntary and the Chinese students receive a certificate at the end of the term. So far, more than 200 Chinese students have been involved in and benefited from this scheme. The classes do not just focus on pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar, but also introduce the underlying concepts of the language, the core values of Chinese traditional and modern culture and bring contemporary issues and facts into the lessons. Thanks to the tremendous cultural diversity in the Mandarin classes, sometimes the classroom turns into a „United Nations conference room‟. It is always so enjoyable to watch the learners discussing, comparing and debating during the lessons and, as this is done in English, it gives Chinese student helpers a great opportunity to improve their English by discussing topics that they are very familiar with. They participate confidently as they are „experts‟, a position they do not normally occupy while studying in the UK, and they feel „legitimized‟ in their contributions as the learners are very keen to hear what they have to tell them. The Mandarin classes took on an extra dimension when the Mandarin Tandem Scheme was introduced in 2011. The main objective of this scheme, on the one hand, is to improve the communication between Chinese and British students, as the majority of Chinese students admit that they have difficulty in meeting English students and integrating with them (McMahon, 2011; Gu, 2009). On the other hand, it is a great opportunity for the Mandarin learners to get extra practice with a native speaker on a one-to-one basis. As part of the scheme, „The Mandarin Tandem Scheme Task List‟ (Fig. 2) gives Chinese students and Mandarin learners‟ reasons and motivation to meet each other after the class to try to complete the task list; a prize being offered to the first pair to successfully complete all the tasks.

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Although not everyone can win a prize, anyone who has attempted is a winner. I witnessed many amazing stories such as two English girls cooking a roast dinner for their Chinese Teaching Assistants who had never heard of an English roast; a Chinese boy who taught his Mandarin learner to sing a love song in Mandarin; and a shy, quiet Chinese girl who said teaching Chinese to a „foreigner‟ was the most exciting experience she had had while studying in Plymouth. Some long-lasting relationships resulted from these activities, and a number of the Mandarin learners then decided to go to travel, work or study in China.

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The first tandem group to complete the flowing six tasks (before the date of the final class) will win a prize.  Go to a Chinese market together  Sing a Chinese song together  Cook for each other once  Watch a Chinese film together  Mandarin learner gives a 15 minutes presentation on a topic from Chinese history or culture Figure 2: Mandarin Tandem Scheme task list As someone who used to be an international student and now works full time to support international students in Plymouth Business School, I fully understand how difficult it can be to study in a completely different culture and to use a second language. I also understand how challenging it can be to try to improve international students‟ experiences. The experiences with the Mandarin classes have shown that one simple but effective way to do this is to create opportunities for students to come together to do something meaningful. Considerable thought and care went into creating the ideal balance of activities, but once set in motion, the students themselves carried the project forward. Although it is good to see that the number of Mandarin classes is expanding, and that both Mandarin learners and Chinese students are benefiting from these classes, this is just the beginning and there is still much more that can be achieved. More resources, better organisation and more support are definitely needed from the university in order to improve students‟ learning experience and to move the learning of Mandarin up to the next level. With China predicted to become the world‟s leading economy by 2050 (Graddol, 2010), both Mandarin classes for UK students and a greatly enriched student experience in the UK for Chinese students should be seen as an essential part of that which UK HEIs offer.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR lingyuan.meng@plymouth.ac.uk

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Graddol, D., 2010. English Next. London: British Council. Available at http://www.britishcouncil.org/learning-research-english-next.pdf [Accessed 10 February 2013] Gu, Q., 2009. Maturity and Interculturality: Chinese students‟ experiences in UK higher education. European Journal of Education, 44 (1), 37-52. McMahon, P., 2011. Chinese voices: Chinese learners and their experiences of living and studying in the United Kingdom. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 33(4), 401-414.

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References

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The use of Exploratory Practice as a form of collaborative practitioner research Yasmin Dar and Simon Gieve University of Leicester, UK

ABSTRACT In this paper, we will briefly outline an approach to practitioner research known as Exploratory Practice (henceforth EP), and will then present an EP study undertaken by one of the authors (Yasmin Dar) as part of her work as a pre-sessional EAP teacher at the University of Leicester when she became puzzled by the question „Why don‟t my students take responsibility for their learning outside class?‟ ………………………………………………………………………………………………… Exploratory Practice EP has been developed by Dick Allwright and a number of collaborators principally based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, (see for example Allwright & Lenzuen, 1997) and exemplified in a series of research articles over the past ten years, mostly published in the journal Language Teaching Research (Allwright et al, 2003). The fundamental principles of EP were continually refined in a series of published articles by Allwright since the early 1990s. It was originally developed as a form of professional development for teachers who may have little spare time to dedicate to classroom research (or, indeed, any form of continuing professional development), limited access to library resources, and a lack of training in academic research methods. This is the kind of situation in which many practicing language teachers find themselves. It was also intended as an antidote to the sort-termism and burn-out typical of many practitioner research and professional development projects.

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We will proceed by examining the concepts and assumptions embedded in the following very brief characterisation of EP:

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Over the years, it was increasingly recognised by this group that collaborative learner involvement in EP is essential to its success, and indeed that in EP teacher development is inseparable from learner development. This distinctive feature of EP is reflected in the title of the most complete exposition so far, The Developing Language Learner by Allwright & Hanks (2009), and conceptualising learners as key participants in exploring the life of the classroom is one of the book‟s most significant contributions. In this respect, it may be seen as contributing to wider movements to promote learner education (see for example Kohonen, 2001), learner agency (see for example Mercer, 2011), and learner self-regulation (see for example Zimmerman, 2002). Nevertheless, some people make use of EP simply as a form of practitioner research which is distinctive from the teacher/teaching focus and professional development goals of reflective practice, and the quasi-academic knowledge creation goals of action research.

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Exploratory Practice (EP) is an indefinitely sustainable way for classroom language teachers and learners, while getting on with their own learning and teaching, to develop their own understandings of life in the language classroom. Allwright (2005, p.361) The first key word to pay attention to is „develop‟. EP is a form of teacher development (see Head and Taylor, 1997, for a useful discussion of the distinction between teacher development and teacher training) and as such is comparable to other forms of practitioner development work, such as reflective practice (Farrell, 2007), action research (Wallace, 1997) or lesson study (Lesson Study UK, online). Yet, its goal is distinct it is to develop understanding of what goes on in the language classroom, as opposed to focusing teachers‟ awareness on what they themselves do or think (as in Reflective Practice), or solving problems (as in Action Research), or developing maximally efficient or effective lessons (as in Lesson Study). In place of a focus on teacher self-awareness, problem solving or technical efficiency, EP concerns itself with „puzzles‟ which may or may not be solvable and with shared understanding which may be concerned as much with a better classroom experience as with more efficient learning. This is not to say that enhanced understanding may not lead to implementing change in practice if a problem is indeed perceived that could be addressed. However, understanding comes first:-. it may be that the puzzle was not in fact a problem at all – or not an urgent or important one, or one faced by most classroom participants. Or it could turn out to be a problem but not one that can be addressed at the classroom or even the institutional level, but a better understanding of it may allow work in the classroom to proceed less troubled by frustration, anxiety or doubt. This is why EP proceeds from the idea of a puzzle rather than a problem. Notice that EP does not lay claim to finding generalisable truth, but to seeking localised (but shareable) understandings. In EP both teacher and learners must be involved together in seeking their own enhanced understandings; it is not something done by the teacher on, to or about either herself alone or learners alone. Whatever understanding is reached must be one shared amongst all participants for it to become useful. In this way, EP becomes a form of learner development as much as teacher development.

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We turn our attention now to the phrase „while getting on with their own learning and teaching.‟ EP is integrated into the on-going activity of the classroom, which does not stop while a researcher (albeit a practitioner researcher) makes an intervention and evaluates its outcome, whilst wrestling with the ethical problems of experimental intrusions into naturalistic settings. Neither does it stop while a teacher tries out a questionnaire that she has

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The next key word to focus on is classroom „life‟, for this is what understanding is of. The quality of the life of the classroom depends on what individual participants bring with them from their own lives when coming together in a communally shared social experience (which includes but is not limited to the work of teaching and learning). Teaching and learning takes place in individuals‟ lived experience of this shared public space which EP concerns itself with, in the knowledge that life inside the classroom is strongly affected by that part of participants‟ lives that is outside it (Gieve & Miller, 2006). The ultimate purpose of classroom life is to provide an environment in which learning is fostered. It is also a common experience of EP practitioners that the act of mutual, collaborative, engagement in seeking shared understanding also has the effect of generating a more productive, less antagonistic, communal working environment as well as a better understood one.


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designed or found, for example, in her learners‟ class time. The aim of EP in the search for understanding is to use classroom activities that would have taken place anyway, so that they form part of the on-going learning programme. Finally, let us consider the term „indefinitely sustainable.‟ While most teachers and learners are only with each other for relatively short periods, their own experiences of teaching and learning have a continuing history. They will continue to teach and learn after the class has disbanded, sometimes for many years, and while each class is a new experience, understanding can be carried forward and built on. While teacher burn-out is unfortunately not an uncommon experience, and neither is learner drop-out as well as failure, all work to better understand classroom life must support us, not place an additional burden and in this way, it becomes sustainable. In summary, the seven core principles of EP are as follows (Allwright & Hanks, 2009, pp149-154): 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.

Focus on quality of life as the main issue. Work to understand it before thinking about improving it. Involve everybody as practitioners developing their own understandings. Work to bring people together in a common enterprise. Work cooperatively for mutual development. Make it a sustainable enterprise. Integrate the work for understanding into existing curricular practice to minimise the burden.

We now turn to a description of an EP project carried out in an EAP class at the University of Leicester by the teacher in collaboration with the students in that class. The process of deriving the puzzle itself is not described here for reasons of space, but see Allwright & Hanks (2009, p.176) for a discussion of how puzzles can be derived from on-going classroom experiences.

The study

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The particular class with whom the puzzle was investigated consisted of 12 international students aged 18-30, 9 female and 3 male, from Kurdistan, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, and China, who held BA degrees from their home countries and their current language level was the equivalent of IELTS 4.5/5.0 (intermediate/upper intermediate). The author taught 7.5 hours of the weekly 21 hours of the 10 week pre-sessional course, and the remainder was shared by two other teachers. Students needed to pass 4 blocks of 10 week pre-sessional courses before they could be considered for enrolment onto their chosen MA programmes in various fields at the University of Leicester.

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The classroom puzzle that developed out of the experience of teaching a number of similar university pre-sessional EAP courses at the same institute was „why don‟t my students take responsibility for their learning outside class?‟ The institution expects students to be set homework activities and homework also tends to be requested by the students themselves. The assumption that they were not taking responsibility was based on evidence that the assigned homework and preparation for the subsequent classes were frequently not being done.


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

Why and how the principles of EP were used The principles of EP were applied to first understand the reasons for students‟ reluctance take responsibility for their learning outside class, and ultimately this led to the development of strategies to enhance the students‟ teaching and learning experience. The learners‟ personal commitment to autonomous learning was investigated so that learners and teacher together could share their understandings and identify any mismatch in expectations (Dar, 2008) before attempting to close any gap that became apparent. The collaborative exploration took the form of the pre-existing pedagogical activities of classroom discussions and homework tasks via email. At the start of each class students took part in an informal pairwork „warm up‟ activity where they were asked to share their opinions on topics that the teacher would suggest, and these were usually intended to make explicit links to learning that took place in previous sessions. At the beginning of the course, the students and the teacher had agreed that during these regular pair-work activities the teacher would be listening and making notes on both form and content for subsequent whole-class feedback. The intention was that they could practise their language skills while the teacher monitored and noted common language errors for subsequent whole-class feedback. In line with Principle 7, students were asked in the warm-up discussion to ‘ask your partner if they have completed their homework. If the answer is no, ask why?’ The same question was then discussed as a pairwork activity at the start of every session on a daily basis for about 10-15 minutes. The reasons that emerged in the discussions were surprising. For instance, it had been assumed that students had sufficient IT skills to complete some of the homework which involved logging onto the university‟s student virtual learning environment (Blackboard) to access materials, and knowledge of how to carry out online research for classroom topics that had been set for homework. Another surprise was the following student comment: I don’t have enough time for homework.. I reach home at 5pm.. my cooking take 3 hours...

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What emerged, then, was not that these students were unwilling to engage in study and preparation between classes, or that they held the expectation that it was the teachers‟ job to teach them during the lesson and this would be sufficient. Rather, it became apparent that they felt that practical reasons which had little to do with such expectations prevented them from studying between classes. The reasons were connected to constraints in their personal lives rather than expectations of how the job of language learning should be carried out. With the mutual expectation that the teacher would refer to their pair-work discussion comments in the teacher feedback stage, the main reasons given for not completing the homework were

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The teacher realised that students needed time to settle into their new environment, so perhaps unrealistic targets had been set because it had been assumed that everyone had had sufficient time and support to adjust to their new surroundings in the UK. For example, some students stated that they were trying to find a balance between their homework and domestic duties, while others were anxious about their children settling into school or leaving them at home to be cared for by their partner without the support of their extended family or housekeeper, and one student said that he didn‟t like using computers.


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summarised for the benefit of the whole class group. Subsequently, the next question for their pair-work discussions became „Can you think of any ideas of how to solve these problems?’ This question was discussed twice: first during pair-work followed by whole class feedback and discussion. In line with Principles 3 and 4, apart from increasing student talking time, an agenda was thus formed that these constraints needed to be addressed not only from the teacher‟s point of view (as she had not dismissed them irrelevant) but were also something that could be shared within the class as a mutual responsibility. This resulted in the desired outcome of peer support in terms of offering suggestions, which were similar to the ones that the teacher herself might have given, for example, to cook large quantities of food to last a few days to ease the pressure. If such suggestions had come from the teacher, this could have resulted in the opposite of what was intended – the teacher assuming responsibility for the learners‟ lives outside class, rather than the students becoming aware not only that these personal life events were constraints getting in the way of achieving their goals, but that they were soluble. Perhaps more importantly, the students‟ everyday lives became legitimate topics for discussion amongst the class as part of the formal lesson time, instead of potentially becoming part of a resistant stance against a class that interrupted their lives. The first step towards enabling a sense of mutual responsibility within a classroom community of learners that included each individual learner along with their peers and the teacher could be realised. From the teacher‟s side, she took action to make some practical changes such as tackling the IT problem by demonstrating how to access and make use of the university‟s Blackboard and email system for the homework tasks, which was then reinforced by peer teaching. She also changed the amount of homework to better suit the needs of this particular group. In addition, she reached an understanding that some students will resist taking extra language learning responsibility until they are ready to do so. As a result, as well as reducing homework expectations, she was also prepared to adjust and adapt to their changing needs during the course. The work for understanding, and if necessary, searching for solutions to problems, enabled the class to move closer to bridging the gap between teacher and studentsexpectations by listening to the students‟concerns and supporting them to take greater responsibility outside the classroom. Simply finding ways of doing assigned homework was the first step in this process, which laid a foundation on which future work might follow. Thus, for example, in week 6 of the course, one student emailed the teacher to say, „I really want extra practice in reading. As you know my exam was the worst one, so could you please help me to find extra reading practice.’ This was an indication that the student had become ready to take on extra responsibility outside the classroom (even if the trigger was the poor mid-course reading exam result). It can be become the learner‟s own puzzle („why do I have difficulty finding appropriate reading material for myself?’), and this puzzle can in its turn become one of the daily class warm-up discussion topics, shareable with other learners.

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The outcome of this EP activity brought to light some key issues that had initially hindered international students in the language class from having a positive experience in the new learning environment. The principles of Exploratory Practice enabled the teacher to take appropriate action to improve her students‟ international language learning experience, and laid the foundation for learners to regard class time, and each other, as legitimate resources for working on their learning, as well as doing the learning. Some teachers will certainly

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Conclusion


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already use this common sense approach to understanding their classroom, while others may want to try out EP as a form of doing research in their classroom. The key is to ask oneself a „why‟ question to reduce the emphasis on looking for „solutions‟ to what has been assumed to be the problem. If change is needed, it would be based on understanding the underlying issues that have been explored.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR yasmindar1@gmail.com sng5@leicester.ac.uk

References Allwright, D., 2005. Developing Principles for Practitioner Research: The Case of Exploratory Practice. The Modern Language Journal, 89(3), pp. 353-366. Allwright, D. & Lenzuen, R., 1997. Exploratory Practice: work at the Cultura Inglesa, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Language Teaching Research 1/1. Allwright, D. et al, 2003. Exploratory Practice: rethinking practitioner research in language teaching. Language Teaching Research 7(2), 113-141. NB: the whole of 7/2 is devoted to Exploratory Practice. Allwright, D. and Hanks, J., 2009. The Developing Language Learner. Basingstoke: Palgrave

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Dar, Y. ,2008. An Exploration of Puzzles in an Adult ESOL Classroom in Leicester. Unpublished MA dissertation. University of Leicester, UK. Exploratory Practice Centre, 2008. [online] Available at: http://www.letras.pucrio.br/unidades%26nucleos/epcentre/epcentre.htm [Accessed 14 April 2013]. Farrell, T. S. C., 2007. Reflective Language Teaching: From Research to Practice. London: Continuum. Gieve, S. and Miller, I. K., 2006. What do we mean by „Quality of Classroom life?‟. In S. Gieve & I. Miller (eds) Understanding the Language Classroom Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, pp.18-46. Head, K. and Taylor, P., 1997. Readings in Teacher Development. Oxford: Heinemann. Kohonen, V., 2001. Towards experiential foreign language education. In V. Kohonen, R. Jaatinen, P. Kaikkonen, & J. Lehtovaara. Experiential learning in foreign language education. London: Pearson Education, pp. 8–60. Lesson Study UK, 2012. Available at http://lessonstudy.co.uk [Accessed 14 April 2013] Mercer, S., 2011. Understanding learner agency as a complex dynamic system. System 39, pp.427-436. Wallace, M. J., 1997. Action Research for Language Teachers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Zimmerman, B.J., 2002. Becoming a Self-Regulated Learner: An Overview. Theory Into Practice, 41(2), pp.64-70.

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Macmillan.

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Materials and Resources

Show or Tell? Video for Living and Learning Chris Copland University of York, UK

ABSTRACTi Adjusting to life in a different country is a challenge for many international students and one that may be of more immediate concern to them than success in their studies, at least in the early stages after their arrival. Access UK has, therefore, been developed as an online, videobased resource focusing on practical and social situations international students often encounter. Its focus is on language and the wider cultural context. This paper identifies the need for such a resource and how this need has been addressed. Techniques such as active viewing and structured improvisation are outlined and an evaluation, based on feedback from learners, is given. ………………………………………………………………………………………………… The Niche „Life outside the classroom‟ has been identified by the Higher Education Academy as one of five key stages in what they describe as the „International Student Lifecycle.‟ For international students travelling to study in the UK … their success depends not just on what happens at university but also in the broader university or local community; they travel to study not just for an academic qualification but also for the language and cultural experience… They need to feel a „sense of belonging‟ in their new environment and access to good support services and networks to ensure their academic success and positive experiences during their study. (HEA, nd.) However, many international students whose first language is not English find spoken communication for practical and social purposes particularly challenging. Many language centres in Higher and Further Education run courses in „Survival English‟, but there is little published learning material available of direct relevance to the campus setting or which is offered in the modular format in which such courses are often presented. One of the few relevant resources is the University of Southampton‟s website, Prepare for Success. Although impressive, this focuses primarily on the study situation and its use of video is restricted to „talking head‟ interviews with no attempt to tap into the broad visual potential of the medium.

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Over the past three years, two members of Centre for English Language Teaching at the University of York, Chris Copland and Huw Llewelyn-Jones have, therefore, been developing a series of video-based teaching and learning materials to fill this niche. What began as a

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The Project


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personal project, squeezed in between the authors „real‟ work, and intended only for local students, quickly gathered momentum and in the spring of 2011 Clarity English, the ELT software consultants, offered the team a publishing contract. The result, Access UK, is now available online as a commercial product to both institutions and individuals. There are two strands to the programme. One is for use in the classroom and provides a full set of lesson material from a single online location: streamed video and audio, with printable task sheets for learners and notes for teachers. The other strand is for individuals working independently and supports the videos with interactive activities, as well as practical and cultural briefing on the themes the films illustrate. In York, the classroom version is used as the basis of an in-sessional course in „everyday speaking‟ and as a supplementary resource on pre-sessionals. The self-access version is used both to consolidate class work and as a standalone resource for new arrivals.

Why video? The dimension this medium adds to spoken language is that of context. Body language and action can give insight into the relationship between characters, while the location, whether in a pub or on a bendy bus, provides an overall cultural backdrop. From the advent of VHS tape, the technique of „active viewing‟ (Stempleski, 1990) became a staple in English language teaching. This used simple techniques, such as freeze-fame and silent viewing, to stimulate discussion of enfolding video scenes and, through follow-up activities such as role play, challenged the perception of video as a passive educational medium. It is ironic then that there are fewer video materials available now for language learning, despite the ease of production and delivery of digital materials and the familiarity with the medium of the YouTube generation. The scenes featured are not scripted but generated through a process of „structured improvisation.‟ Actors work to a plan but do not have a script; rather they ad-lib the language and behaviour they might use. Most scenes involve interaction between native and nonnative speakers, a feature that learners identified in feedback as being particularly useful. All roles are played either by students or by those with direct experience of the situations. For example, a doctor agreed to play himself conducting a consultation at the university health centre.

Local Response

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„I think the slickness of the materials presented a good image of the lesson and attracted learners to the work. A video is a particularly engaging way of engaging!!

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The reception from learners at York has been a positive one. Forty learners from four different in-sessional classes were surveyed and a clear majority agreed the materials were useful, stimulating and user-friendly. A focus group of two learners was consulted and several teachers asked for written feedback. The response was similarly positive, one teacher giving this verdict:

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Very user friendly - really enjoyed the fact that there were teacher worksheets and a student version online, that could prep from home easily, that I could project the answers so students could see correct spelling etc.‟ Over the past year, Access UK has become a standard part of pre-sessional and in-sessional courses in York and is now being rolled out through other university departments. Education, Health Sciences and Human Rights feature the self-access version on their transition sites. It is featured on the welcome pages for new undergraduates and International Recruitment are making it available to every applicant who accepts a place at the university.

Widening the Picture The next stage of the project has been to share skills that have been developed with colleagues in the sector. In the autumn of 2012, CELT offered a one-day practical workshop in Making Video for ELT, in collaboration with the Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies. This focused on the methodology of devising and using video materials for language learning and an introduction to the practicalities of shooting a scene. The emphasis was not so much on equipping participants with a full range of technical skills but in guidance on finding appropriate professional support and identifying reasonable expectations. Seven trainees from six universities took part, the limited size of the group allowing all members to get hands-on experience. Two scenes were filmed by trainees during the day, one in English and one in German. The feedback from participants ranged from good to excellent and CELT hopes to repeat the workshop in the autumn of 2013. A heartening stage has been reached in the project with Access UK being given the 2012 English Speaking Union President’s Award, celebrating the use of technology in the teaching and learning of English. The panel‟s verdict was that „this is an innovative, multifaceted resource for making everyday life in UK less daunting for international students. Unlike many ELT resources, the developers weren‟t afraid to use regional accents, and scenarios felt wholly natural.‟ The ESU press release closed with this upbeat comment, „An indispensable resource for students new to the UK, covering real situations with a local flavour.‟

To find out more For a demonstration of Access UK, go to: http://www.clarityenglish.com/program/accessuk.php The team will be presenting at the Norwegian Forum for EAP Summer Seminar on EAP and Technology Enhanced Learning in June 2013. Details at: http://blogg.hioa.no/nfeap/

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CONTACT THE AUTHOR chris.copland@york.ac.uk

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ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

References Elanguages, 2011. Prepare for Success. University of Southampton. Available at http://www.prepareforsuccess.org.uk [Accessed 21 July 2012]. HEA,nd. International Student Lifecycle Resources Bank. Available at http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/international-student-lifecycle [Accessed 21 July 2012]. Jordan, R., 1997. English for Academic Purposes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Stempleski, S. and Tomalin, B., 1990. Video in Action. Herts: Prentice Hall.

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This article relates the process of developing Access UK, a resource for international students, which has won the 2012 English Speaking Union President’s Award.

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This was the topic of a presentation at the Leicester BALEAP PIM and a version of this article was published in InForm (Journal for International Foundation Programme Students) Issue 10, October 2012, published by the University of Reading. The editor, Liz Wilding, has given permission for this version to be published in ISE, provided appropriate reference is given to the original publication. 1

ISEJ, Volume 1(1), Spring 2013 © The Author 2013


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

Student Article

Language learning and cultural integration over a cup of coffee Jekaterina Kockina and Demi Blake University of Plymouth, UK ABSTRACT The aim of this article is to share the experience of an international (EU) student and a home student who are working on a project called the Languages Café at Plymouth University. The article will introduce the project and outline the benefits that it brings to international and home students. ………………………………………………………………………………………………….

The experience of an international student (Jekaterina Kockina, Latvia) Like the management of institutions, many students are aware of the issues that internationalisation brings into higher education, particularly because students actually experience them. Despite the fact that universities are actively trying to meet the needs of the increasingly diverse student body, more projects are needed to facilitate international student integration into university life.

ISEJ, Volume 1(1), Spring 2013 © The Author 2013

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The Languages Café is an event or activity where university students and staff get together in order to speak different languages. The purpose of the Languages Café is to provide people with an opportunity to practise their target languages with native speakers and with each other in an informal and friendly setting that facilitates inclusion and integration. Moreover, the Languages Café attendees benefit from socialising and networking in an alcohol-free environment which aids cultural inclusion and promotes a healthy lifestyle. The idea of the Languages Café originated in the Languages Department in the Plymouth Business School and is currently funded by the School of Tourism and Hospitality. Initially it was held during early afternoon in one of the campus cafés. The purpose of the activity was to encourage home and international students to get together and help each other with language learning. The languages spoken were French, Spanish, German and English. In October 2011 an idea emerged to set up the Languages Café in the evenings as a session for those who are not able to attend in the afternoon session or for those who are interested in more practice.

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For both international and home students, integration into a university can represent a challenge. This involves making new friends and worrying about how things work in this unknown environment. For an international student, additionally, it can be difficult to understand a new country‟s culture and rules, such as the way of socialising. Many students, including myself, are looking for a safe environment and friendly atmosphere to meet other students, who will co-create their student experience at a university. This is the reason why I feel extremely enthusiastic about the Languages Café project (http://www.plymouth.ac.uk/pages/view.asp?page=38801).


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

Through the collaboration with the Cultural Café (which opened in 2011 on Plymouth University campus and has been hosting various events to celebrate cultural diversity) four pilot Languages Café sessions were organised in November 2011. The Languages Café encouraged practising additional languages: Chinese Mandarin and British Sign Language. This was appreciated by the Chinese community as well as by staff from Disability Assist who are learning the language to provide better support for the students. In my opinion, the most significant advantage is that this activity is mainly student-led: students are networking and setting up different language groups, as they think appropriate. Moreover, students who support the project and want to get involved can suggest and implement ideas to re-shape the project to meet changing student needs. I was introduced to the Languages Café when I was in my first year, and it has been valuable to me since the first session I attended. When I started learning Spanish, as a part of my degree, I started going to the café to practise my Spanish. The informal and welcoming atmosphere enabled me to feel comfortable to practise, even though my language knowledge was very basic, and as a result I improved very quickly. This made me feel like I made an achievement very early in my university career and motivated me to work hard to achieve better results in language learning as well as academic and extra-curricular activities.

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My participation in the Languages Café has both positively affected my own student experience and helped me to improve the experience of others. Participation in the project not only provided me with a safe and entertaining environment where I easily integrated, but also gave me an incredible development opportunity. I feel that the project contributed to my personal and professional development. It was an important experience for me as I contributed to celebration of cultural diversity, and I feel I helped many students to make new friends. The fact that I participated in setting up the project made me feel more attached to the university, as my effort was highly valued by the participants of the sessions as well as by my leaders. Also, as an International Business student, I think I was able to apply and improve the knowledge I gained from my course. This gives me confidence to believe that similar projects, including the Languages Café, should receive additional support and promotion as they facilitate better integration and inclusion, and most importantly, awareness of internationalisation issues in higher education. Thanks to the project I got acquainted with like-minded people who are equally interested in cultural diversity, and we now promote it together.

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When the idea of setting up the project in the Cultural Café emerged, my tutor, who also oversees and co-ordinates the project, offered me the opportunity to undertake various responsibilities when setting up language sessions. I actively participated in the promotion of the project, while liaising with the Cultural Café and coordinating language mentors, who were recruited for the pilot. I was also hosting the evenings as well as undertaking a language mentor role at the English and Spanish tables. In this way, I have acquired communication skills, team working skills, organisation skills, management and presentation skills as well as language skills. Moreover, I learned to communicate at different levels when I worked with language mentors and the café committee. The most valuable aspect for me is the cultural awareness I gained when working closely with people from different countries. I consider this to be the most valuable asset to have in the globalised world we live in.

ISEJ, Volume 1(1), Spring 2013 © The Author 2013


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

The experience of a home student (Demi Blake) Growing up on the outskirts of Birmingham, and coming from a dual heritage background, I was conditioned to interacting with other cultures on a daily basis. Although I am very aware that unlike some of my university peers, I grew up in a very multicultural area, I still arrived at university with the assumption that most people knew at least one person of a different nationality and culture to them. I quickly learnt that this was not the case. Luckily, Plymouth is brimming with cultural diversity. The university attracts students from all over the world, giving myself and my peers the chance to meet new people and learn about new cultures we‟d never before encountered. But moving to a new country can be difficult. Moving to one where you have no contacts and no friends is harder, which is why when the opportunity to help out with the Languages Café arose, I was eager to get involved. Lacking another language myself, I felt it would be an excellent opportunity to improve upon any basic language skills I had, as well as meet students with vibrant and diverse backgrounds - after all, culture is beautiful. I became the head mentor and organiser of the Languages Café evening sessions; the hourlong weekly sessions were informal, based on the peer to peer mentoring sessions that were held in a cafe on campus. Here, students come in for a coffee and a chat: for those wanting to improve their English, I will ask them a mixture of simple and complex questions in an informal manner, just as a friend would. The sessions originally started with around eighteen students; the majority of whom were trying to improve their English, but word quickly spread, and progressively the sessions grew larger. After setting up a partnership with a local language school we even started to attract members of the public; it was not unusual to find that new attendees had only just arrived in Plymouth, or were even only visiting the city for a holiday.

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Admittedly, running the Languages Café has had its difficulties. As a Third Year International Relations student with two part-time jobs and being a chair of a university society, trying to fit in the sessions has taken its toll on managing my workload. I often run to the sessions straight from university and work with little time to gather my thoughts; having to answer grammar questions from some forty students (all with vastly differing levels of English proficiency) after being on campus non-stop from 8.30am can leave me, to be honest, a little flustered. Also, with such a short time frame for such a big session, I often work for an hour extra just to ensure everyone gets the attention they deserve and expect. Similarly, the extra planning for my sessions and events has cut into the time I should be spending on my dissertation and other university commitments. However, thanks to the Languages Café I have drastically improved my levels of organisational and communication skills as well as my patience! Likewise, it has given me so much experience in teaching English and

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Today, the sessions attract around 40 students and locals. The majority of students are from Western Europe, whilst the rest of our numbers are made up of students from China and Eastern Europe. Everyone has shown great improvement in their English proficiency. We also have a few British students who come to improve their Spanish and Mandarin and everyone gets a chance to learn something new. But you cannot bring a bunch of people together without friendships forming, and it really has been a pleasure getting to know everyone and learn about their lives back home. We have begun to organise social events outside of the sessions, and as a group we enjoy going out for meals, trips to the cinema and on nights out.


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

mentoring - in the near future I hope to undertake a TEFL qualification and teach English in Vietnam. The Languages Café has given me a brilliant platform to go from. To conclude, the aim of the Languages Café is to continue to bring together people of all languages, cultures and nationalities. In undertaking this project I have learnt so much about myself and other cultures, and hopefully the session can expand to two hour sessions twice weekly. This way, everyone can get much more out of us and out of each other. It also means we will all get to see each other more often! The Languages Café is an opportunity to learn more than language: it‟s a place of self-discovery. CONTACT THE AUTHOR

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jekaterina.kockina@students.plymouth.ac.uk demi.blake@students.plymouth.ac.uk

ISEJ, Volume 1(1), Spring 2013 © The Author 2013


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ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal


International Student Experience Journal