Vol 1(2) full

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Volume 1, Issue 2 Autumn 2013

ISEJ The International Student Experience Journal Editorial Phil Horspool, University of Leicester

Leading article Not just talking: conversation and perceived progress in international students’ informal language. Tony Lynch

Articles 

Why the international student experience matters: exploring the relationships between international students’ psychosocial acculturation and academic literacy development. Lee Hawkes

EAP teachers’ perceptions of learner motivation. Lou Harvey

International student engagement with Student Union activities as a way to increase sense of belonging, improve cultural integration and aid language confidence. Michael Allhouse

The impact of a dyslexia diagnosis on a second language student of higher education. Victoria Mann and Sui Ngor Wong

Combining international student social and academic transition online. Julie Watson

Advertorial 

PTE Academic. Pearson

Review Article 

Suitability of the PTE Academic for assessing whether students are prepared for academic study in the UK. Nathaniel Owen

Student article 

EDITORIAL

Language, culture and learning: one Chinese student’s experience in the UK. Shaowei Xie

Learning and understanding in a multicultural environment over lunchtime. Xin Chen


Editorial Phil Horspool, University of Leicester Welcome to the second issue of the International Student Experience Journal (ISEJ) and we are sure that you will enjoy reading through the articles and contributions as much as we enjoyed putting it together. The second issue of any new journal is always a challenge. After the online publication of Issue 1, we were anxious to know what the reception would be and how much interest it would generate. We had always said that if the interest in ISEJ was not what we thought it would be then at least we would know and we could call it a day after one issue. None of us really believed that this would be the case and we are delighted with the feedback that we have received on Issue 1. What has been especially rewarding is the amount of interest shown in contributing to its future development. We were delighted to be contacted by Tony Lynch from the University of Edinburgh with the offer of a fascinating article on informal listening and speaking encounters, and we look forward to future contributions from him in this area. This was followed by contributions from a wide range of UK institutions and what pleased us the most was not only the quality and diversity of topic, but that they came from new contributors based at different institutions to those in Issue 1. We believe that this demonstrates a genuine and wide-ranging interest in the area of the international student experience and recognition of the value of a journal that deals with it. We have always said that we wanted ISEJ to be a unique forum, and the range and breadth of articles alone we believe makes it so. We also stated that we wanted to offer opportunities to others involved in the international student experience and we are delighted that once again we are able to publish student contributions. Furthermore, our offer to publishers to promote something from their product range was accepted by Pearson: this issue contains their case for the value of the Pearson English Test (PTE) Academic as well as an analysis of the PTE by a testing researcher. We have also been contacted by the editors of a similar journal based in the USA and are in the process of discussing possible future collaboration. In addition, we have received correspondence from as far afield as Malaysia and Hong Kong and hope that we can forge strong links with those who work outside the UK as well as those within. The editorial team would once again like to thank all those who have helped to make this second issue possible both directly, with contributions, reviewing and revising, or indirectly with ideas, suggestions and encouragement. We have a growing number of reviewers and proof readers but would welcome more offers of help and support, no matter how small. Why not comment on what you have read and share your thoughts via Twitter or Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/InternationalStudentExperienceJournal

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https://twitter.com/ISExpJournal

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Leading Article

Not just talking: Conversation and perceived progress in international students’ informal language learning Tony Lynch University of Edinburgh

ABSTRACT This paper reports the findings of my study of the out-of-class listening and speaking practice patterns of non-native speaking postgraduates at the University of Edinburgh. Following up earlier research at Edinburgh into international students‟ informal language experiences, carried out in the mid-1990s, this study was intended to update our picture of how international students may be using new electronic media, such as podcasts and MP3 players, as well as social interaction, to improve their English proficiency. Data was collected through a questionnaire and a structured interview. The findings suggest that students who tend to rely on one-way listening practice recognise less improvement in listening than those whose informal listening practice comes primarily from two-way interaction. …………………………………………………………………………………………….......... Introduction Research into the lives of international students has tended to address their adaptation to local norms (e.g. Al-Sharideh and Goe, 1998; Ramsey et al., 1999), the social and cultural dimensions of studying abroad (e.g. Freed, 1995; Myles and Cheng, 2003) and the role of informal social networks in enabling them to cope (e.g. Kudo and Simkin, 2003; Snow Andrade, 2006). Culturally oriented studies tend to represent the target language as a problem and barrier, rather than offering practical ways of resolving the difficulties that linguistic unfamiliarity may cause. The general lack of an orientation to learners‟ language learning opportunities beyond the walls of the EAP centre has been noted by a number of authors (e.g. Lynch, 2006; Field, 2007).

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Context for the study International students in English-speaking countries like Britain should be in a position to exploit opportunities for learning English in the real world where they live, study, shop, work and so on. This makes their situation fundamentally different from an EFL context, where language teachers aim to help language learners to become language users - in other words, to transfer what they have practised in an instructional setting to real-life situations. From the teacher‟s perspective, international students at Edinburgh and in similar ESL settings seem to be in an optimal position for informal learning. We can represent the potential sites for language learning in Figure 1.

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Figure 1: Language study and language use for international students Yet many of the students I work with at Edinburgh – even those with high listening scores – tell me that what they need, in order to improve their listening proficiency, is an in-session listening course. In other words, they want to come back „inside the box‟, to the security of the English classroom. I see it as one of our main tasks to raise students‟ awareness of practical ways of harnessing their daily experiences to extend their listening and speaking competence in English, that is, to reverse the conventional flow of instruction and to derive learning from use.

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By 2005, PROFILE required updating, in particular our guidance on listening. In addition to the inevitable ageing of any learning material, there had been major changes in listening technology over the decade since our original survey, including the spread of personal media players, computer technology and access to the Internet (Lynch, 2011). I wanted to examine the extent to which today‟s students might be making innovative use of such media and hardware, to engage in different types of listening and speaking practice from those of their predecessors in the 1990s. With this in mind, the ILSE (Informal Listening and Speaking Encounters) project was set up, to gather data from international students at Edinburgh on their out-of-class listening and speaking habits.

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To help students make that shift, in the mid-1990s Kenneth Anderson and I developed a set of learner education materials called PROFILE: Principles, Resources and Options for the Independent Learner of English (Anderson and Lynch, 1996). Each unit contained three sections: Principles based on empirical research; Resources - materials and tasks drawn from the methodological literature and from our own teaching materials; and Options, based on our research into international students‟ informal English learning techniques. (For detailed discussion of the evolution of PROFILE, see Lynch, 2001).


Method: Instruments and participants Two instruments were used to gather information: a questionnaire and a structured interview. In the questionnaire international students were asked to estimate how much time they spent each day in degree classes and to say how their perceived improvement in listening compared with their expectations. They were also asked how much time they spent listening to or speaking English, which types of television and radio programmes they believed most helped them improve their listening, and whether they had developed any techniques for practising listening. The ILSE questionnaire was emailed to students some six months into their stay in Edinburgh and replies were received from 105 respondents. The second instrument exploring students‟ experiences was a follow-up interview. A number of respondents had attended in-session listening classes, at the end of which they had retaken our matriculation Listening Test. Their pre- and post-course scores provided some objective measure of their improvement in listening over a limited period, which could be compared with the subjective perceptions elicited in the questionnaire. On the basis of their retest scores, I invited nine students for a follow-up interview – three each from low, average and high bands of improvement of TEAM Listening score. Eight agreed to be interviewed: three Low, two Average and three High. Findings and Discussion Progress reported As far as overall progress is concerned, just over half the 105 respondents reported less improvement in listening than they had expected; and most of the others said they had made about as much as they had expected. Only 10 students (roughly 10 per cent) felt they had made more progress than they had thought they would.

Table 1: Self-evaluation of listening improvement (n = 105)

Listening groups A B C

I have made…

number

… less progress than I had expected … as much progress as I had expected … more progress than I had expected

54 41 10

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At first glance, a language teacher might find these figures rather depressing. But the fact that half the students felt they had made less improvement than they had anticipated could reflect unrealistic optimism before their arrival in Scotland, rather than disappointment with their progress since their arrival. The relatively small number who felt they had made more progress than expected is of greater concern; one might have hoped that students‟ eyes (and ears) would have been opened to the range of opportunities for effective informal listening practice in a target language setting.

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Table 2: Informal listening inputs: type and time spent Source Listening - radio - TV - internet - music/songs Talking - other students - flatmates - landlord / host family - partner

Number (n=105)

Mean

59 63 48 76

40 min 33 min 31 min 42 min

99 70 14

42 min 39 min 46 min

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72 min

For one-way listening, music and songs were the most popular forms of practice (reported by 76 of the 105 students). The internet, perhaps surprisingly, was used by fewer than half the respondents. When it comes to two-way listening (Talking), all but six students reported some interaction in English with fellow students. Interestingly, the exceptions were all PhD students in humanities and social sciences, whose lives presumably revolve around individual library- or screen-based research, with less access to the sort of interaction with fellow project team members and laboratory staff that may be available to research students in science, engineering and biomedical fields. There was a striking variation in individuals‟ daily exposure to spoken English (from less than 30 minutes to eight hours) – a point that also emerges from earlier international student surveys (e.g. Blue 1991; Peacock 2001; Myles and Cheng 2003). The student who reported the lowest total interaction time estimated that he spoke English for 25 minutes a day: 10 minutes to his classmates, 10 minutes to the students with whom he shared accommodation, and a further 5 minutes to staff at the local supermarket.

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The eight students interviewed revealed striking differences among their lived experiences and their different encounters with spoken English. These varied in terms of their type of exposure to English, even when the amount of time was similar. One student doing PhD research in chemistry told me that he turned on Radio 2 as soon as he got into his lab in the morning and then left it on all day, working largely without any interaction with other students. Contrast this with the experience of a PhD student in psychology who talked of

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Techniques reported by ILSE informants As mentioned earlier, the ILSE project was intended to update our knowledge of the informal language practice habits of our students and, in particular, to find out about their use of the media that have emerged since we first gathered PROFILE data. When compared with what their predecessors told us in 1996, the main changes to emerge are today‟s students‟ use of the new digital media - e.g. DVD films and podcasts for background listening - and a wider range of two-way conversational practice, such as through voluntary and paid work. None of the original PROFILE informants reported having part-time jobs – a sign, perhaps, of the economic times.


speaking English for six hours a day in the course of his research, which involved interviewing local patients with sleep disorders. The second issue that came through was the strength of their beliefs about what had improved their listening comprehension, and the extent to which those beliefs may run counter to our views as listening teachers and researchers. Below is an example: In China is a famous philosophy „Speak loudly, speak clearly and speak quickly‟. So just learn by heart all the papers. If you have good oral English, listening is not a problem. If I recite all the papers in New Concept English, so it's no problem listening. (Student H) My final interview question was: “If a friend from your home country were coming to study in Edinburgh next academic year, what advice would you give them on ways of improving their listening?” The responses suggest that some students are more positively oriented to one-way listening practice using radio, TV, Internet, CDs, than to two-way listening in interaction with others. Below is the advice offered by three of the eight interviewees: Student B Try to be involved, don't isolate yourself. When I arrived here I felt quite rejected because my English was not very clear as I would like it to be. But that's wrong. I changed my mind immediately. The best way to improve your English is to speak freely with people even if your English is not very good. People here are sensitive when they realise you are not a native. They help you. They don't correct you but they pay attention and they make an effort to understand you, and they answer your questions in the best way they can. Student E I think I would suggest they come here earlier and they connect to the BBC website. In our home country it's sort of passive learning, and you have to have a very high selfcontrol, self-discipline, but once you come here the whole environment is English, so it‟s more active learning and more interaction with local people. Student G The more you listen, the better you understand. It‟s very good to listen to different accents here, like Australian English. If you come here, you can make friends with different nations, that's very important. I have Italian and French friends and their English is always simple and easy to understand... with European students their English is a lot better than me.

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If we look again at the daily spoken input figures, this time broken down into the selfreported listening improvement bands (Table 3), we see an overall difference of

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Of the eight students interviewed, it was Student H – who had expressed the greatest confidence in her overall learning „philosophy‟ and listening proficiency – that made the least measured progress in listening. This might point to an association between a narrower view of listening and the amount of listening improvement.


approximately 30 minutes between the average daily ILSE time of those in Group A, who assessed their progress as less than expected, and that of those in groups B and C. Table 3: Progress evaluation and time spent daily on listening inputs Listening groups A B C

Number Listening (mean) 54 86 min 41 91 min 10 64 min

Talking (mean) 65 min 94 min 127 min

Overall 151 min 185 min 191 min

However, the figures in the Talking column suggest something of greater potential importance: substantial differences in ILSE time between groups A and B, and between B and C. According to their self-reports, the learners in group B were spending approximately 30 minutes more per day speaking English than those in group A, and the learners in group C were, in turn, spending a further half-an-hour more a day on talking than group B. Virtually all the difference in overall ILSE time between groups B and C is accounted for by time spent talking. While the differences between the three Overall figures are not significant, the correlation between Talking and self-reported progress in listening among the three groups is significant, if modest (Pearson .292, p = .048). Clearly, this is an association between perceived progress in listening and more interaction, and not necessarily a causal relationship. So this ILSE study provides some indication that concentrating on one-way listening may help students achieve less progress in the target language than will seeking opportunities for conversation. This is in line with the Comprehensible Output Hypothesis (Swain, 1995) and the well-established SLA argument – going back to Hatch (1978) and beyond – the key to linguistic progress is plentiful experience of meaningful conversation in the target language.

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Such modelling should perhaps highlight conversations in which both partners are international students, to reflect the fact that - even in ESL settings – many students, on the evidence of this ILSE project and that of Blue (1991), have little social contact with native English speakers. For them, conversation with native speakers may be an unrealistic expectation. But teachers can use such learner/learner recordings to illustrate the ins and outs of conversation in English as a shared second language, focusing on how comprehension problems are signalled, negotiated and resolved – as well as on the source of the communicative problem.

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Implications In the light of these students‟ experiences, how can we best help international students to become more effective learners from informal language use? If students are attending insession EAP classes, one technique would be to model an effective approach for international students to adopt in interaction „outside the box‟, by using recordings of non-native speakers participating successfully in conversations. Just as language teachers can gain insights from analysing conversational recordings, so students can benefit from seeing examples of successful (and unsuccessful) negotiation of meaning and form, of the sort they are likely to engage in informally. In this way we may be able to raise students‟ awareness of – and skill in – efficient interactive listening behaviour.


A second implication of this study is the need to encourage students to be on the lookout, in their everyday experience of spoken English, for potential learning points, to help them achieve a pay-off for the time they invest in such conversation. One of my past Chinese students reported talking to a male German flatmate about a book she was reading and realizing that he was finding it hard to understand her when she said the book was “a bottle of” (at least, this is how I heard what she said). When I then asked her “a bottle of what?”, she laughed and said “That‟s what my flatmate asked me when I said it to him. It‟s not a book that‟s a bottle of something, it‟s just a bottle of”. Still unable to understand what the student meant, I asked her to spell out “a bottle of”. She did, slowly and reluctantly: “A-B-O-U-T L-O-V-E”. This illustrates the potential of everyday communication as a platform for learners to notice and analyse what others find problematic in their spoken English – in this case, recognizing the need to distinguish more clearly between /au/, /o/ and /^/ - which I believe can help learners adopt an analytical stance towards their conversational experiences. If we can help students, in a very practical way, to gather and reflect on their own „data‟ from encounters in conversation, on how people negotiate meaning and repair communication when necessary, they will stand a better chance of deriving learning from use and, in particular, of realizing that conversation can be a means to a linguistic end as well as a interactional experience. A third implication is the potential value of enabling current international students to tap into the lived experiences of previous students, as we attempted to do in the PROFILE project – though the materials were available in printed form, as a book which students could choose to buy. Following the ILSE project, these materials have been updated and expanded in digital form, now called Effective English Learning (University of Edinburgh, 2013). Putting the materials on the web should mean that tomorrow‟s students will have access to the experience and learning narratives of previous students, in a form that does not have to be mediated by a language teacher.

Summary I have argued that we should look for ways of persuading international students that two-way listening, in the form of conversation, is more than “just talking” and that it can be harnessed to improve their listening as well as their speaking. It is essential to give them an insight, particularly in the early stages of their studies, into the range of listening and speaking opportunities available to them beyond the immediate academic context - outside the „EAP box‟ - which they may otherwise assume is the best site for improving their English.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR

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A.J.Lynch@ed.ac.uk

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References Al-Sharideh K. and Goe R. 1998. Ethnic communities within the university: an examination of factors influencing the personal adjustment of international students. Research in Higher Education 39, pp.699-725. Anderson K. and Lynch T. 1996. PROFILE: Principles, Resources and Options for the Independent Learner of English. Institute for Applied Language Studies, University of Edinburgh. Blue G. 1991. Language learning within academic constraints. In: Adams P., Heaton B. and Howarth P. (eds.) Socio-Cultural Issues in English for Academic Purposes. London: Macmillan. 101-117. Field J. 2007. Looking outwards, not inwards. ELT Journal 61 (1), 30-38. Flowerdew J. and Peacock M. (eds.) 2001. Research Perspectives on English for Academic Purposes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Freed B. (ed.) 1995. Second Language Acquisition in a Study Abroad Context. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Hatch E. 1978. Discourse analysis and second language acquisition. In Hatch E. (ed.), Second Language Acquisition. Rowley, MA: Newbury House. 401-435. Kudo K. and Simkin K. 2003. Intercultural friendship formation: the case of Japanese students at an Australian university. Journal of Intercultural Studies 24 (2), 91-114. Lynch T. 2001. EAP learner independence: Developing autonomy in a second language context. In Flowerdew and Peacock (eds), 390-403. Lynch T. 2006. Helping university students help themselves to listen. Keynote paper at BAAL/CUP Seminar on Listening in Education. University of Warwick, May 2006. Lynch T. 2011. Academic listening in the 21st century: Reviewing a decade of research. Journal of English for Academic Purposes 10(2), 79-88. Myles J. and Cheng L. 2003. The social and cultural life of non-native English speaking international graduate students at a Canadian university. Journal of English for Academic Purposes 2 (3), 247-263. Peacock M. 2001. Language learning strategies and EAP proficiency: Teacher views, student views and test results. In Flowerdew and Peacock (eds.), 268-285. Ramsey S., Barker M. and Jones E. 1999. Academic adjustment and learning processes: a comparison of international and local students in first-year university. Higher Education Research and Development 18, 129-144. Snow Andrade M. 2006. International students in English-speaking universities. Journal of Research in International Education 5 (2), 131-154. Swain M. 1995. Three functions of output in second language learning. In Cook G. and Seidlhofer B. (eds.) Principle and Practice in Applied Linguistics: Studies in Honour of H.G. Widdowson. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 125-144. University of Edinburgh, 2013. Institute for Academic Development. [online] Available at http://www.ed.ac.uk/schoolsdepartments/instituteacademicdevelopment/postgraduate/ taught/learning-resources/english Accessed 30 Sep.2013.

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Why the International Student Experience matters: Exploring the relationships between international students’ psychosocial acculturation and academic literacy development Lee Hawkes Queen Mary, University of London

It may seem at first glance that the International Student Experience is at best peripherally relevant to the concerns surrounding formal academic literacy development. Some may understandably argue that that international students‟ non-academic experiences broadly fall beyond the remit of English for Academic Purposes course provision. If student welfare departments, student unions and counselling services already exist in supportive capacities to deal with such issues, then there may appear to be little reason for the involvement or intervention of academic departments. Beyond standard pastoral care students do not expect practitioners to take an active interest in their everyday lives, and said practitioners are rarely (if ever) contractually obliged to do so. From a purely practical standpoint, then, the ISE has apparently relatively little to do with formal teaching and learning as they are currently understood.

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When viewed as discourse communities, schools and other academic environments are not culturally neutral places. Shirley Brice Heath, in her seminal case-study „Ways with Words‟ (1983), investigated the ways in which middle- and working-class children‟s social and cultural background prepare them for school life in the 1970s south-eastern United States. She found that working class communities had culturally-learned assumptions about communication and language use which were markedly different from those of the (middle class) classroom, and that these disparities put working-class children at a comparative disadvantage from literally the first day of their education. The implication from this and other studies is that cultural background has a profound effect on attitude, behaviour and performance in school; and that cultural difference between that of the students‟ home communities and that of their academic environment can potentially be highly disenabling. One of the implications that Heath highlights is the need for teachers and teaching institutions

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However, while the relationships might often be indirect and intangible, there may well be very real links between the ISE and academic literacy development. Anthropological and sociocultural approaches to literacies have shown that the development of the technical and rhetorical skills associated with being academically literate in fact depend on fundamental cultural notions of personal and social identity (Reder, 1994; Leki, 2007). It is quite possible that these notions both affect and are affected by international students‟ experiences and perceptions of living in the country whose academic written style they are endeavouring to emulate, and in whose academic discourse communities they are aspiring to participate. In short, before students are able to write „well‟ according to the norms established by their host academic community, they need to be able to be „on the same cultural wavelength‟ as that same community. This is where the International Student Experience has a potentially significant role to play. Just as students need to „come to terms‟ with their new academic environment, with all of its alien idiosyncrasies and quirks; so too must they make sense of their new wider sociocultural environment. It is logical to wonder if the latter might have some bearing on the former.


to be as fully aware as possible of students‟ cultural backgrounds and „where they are coming from‟ in terms of sociocultural identity and communicative practices. This necessity extends to EAP course provision. Students do not enter the classroom as epistemic tabulae rasae, ready to objectively and equally absorb linguistic diktats from their instructors. Rather, the extent to which learners are able to learn, use and apply literacy conventions depends significantly upon underlying cultural & psychosocial factors which determine their potential „compatibility‟ with the academic discourses in question. Allusions could be made here towards Vygotskian (1978) Zones of Proximal Development; learners have their own cultures and cultural views as „starting points‟ from which any further development progresses. As Pachecho & Gutierrez (2009) note, a student‟s home culture is not simply „another variable‟ when considering educative processes; it is central to any and all notions of learning and cognitive development. In a similar vein, educational theory has long held that literacy development, instead of being a strictly technical endeavour, is inextricably linked to broader sociocultural themes and issues (Duff, 2010). Literacies are viewed as culturally idiosyncratic phenomena in that they „belong‟ to specific sociocultural sub-groups. Indeed, as Lankshear & Knobel (2004: 8) argue, an understanding of the social and cultural background contexts surrounding literacies and literacy practices is a necessary pre-requisite for participation in said literacy communities; literacies are “…bound up with social, institutional and cultural relationships, and can only be understood when they are situated within their social, cultural and historical contexts”. It can be concluded so far that just as teachers need an awareness of their students‟ cultural backgrounds & identities, so too do students need a reciprocal understanding of the academic cultures which host and maintain the targeted academic literacy practices.

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Furthermore, as Lea & Street (1998) argue, linguistic & stylistic features of academic discourses are manifestations of underlying cultural epistemological and ontological beliefs and assumptions held by the respective academic communities. Students do not simply learn to communicate thought; they are in fact obliged to learn which forms of thought are those which are to be communicated. As Johns (1997:61) notes, one of the most challenging aspects of academic writing is that written texts must “display a vision of reality shared by members of the particular discourse community to which the text is being addressed”. Evidently, academic literacy development includes a normative ontological component: namely, that in order to be a successful writer, one must share a similar worldview with that of one‟s audience.

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This social positioning aspect of literacy development leads to the conception of academic literacies as being written „dialects‟ used by specific discourse communities for specific purposes. Accurate and appropriate usages of academic registers & genres do a lot more than simply convey information, they indicate group membership and knowledge of how to „play the game‟ (Casanave, 2002). Indeed, a considerable degree of academic professionalism and legitimacy is assessed - consciously or otherwise - by readers‟ perceptions of an author‟s technical and stylistic competence. Just as speakers might indicate socioeconomic status, gender, or geographic origin by the way they speak, so too do authors imply and infer allegiance to academic communities by the way they write. By using specifically sanctioned rhetorical knowledge-sharing patterns and techniques, writers enable themselves both to indicate cultural membership of and to meaningfully participate in specific discourse communities.


The academic sub-cultures which use academic literacies are themselves both parts and products of wider cultural values, assumptions and identities. Studies of contrastive rhetoric (see Connor, 1997) have shown that the features of being academically literate (and the criteria by which said literacy is assessed) vary considerably according to the ethnic, national and linguistic groups in question. Such variances are not simply matters of random linguistic/stylistic mutation. Different cultures structure and use literacies in different ways because they have, at their heart, profoundly different ways of defining and framing such epistemological and ontological concepts as identity, belief, affiliation, argument, validity, and so on… Truly becoming literate in a society, including developing a capacity for academic literacies, involves an understanding of that society‟s cultural psychology at the most fundamental level. In order to be able to understand and develop a culture‟s literacy practices, therefore, it is necessary for the individual to be open and to amenable to the culture in question. Literacy development, consequently, necessarily involves a strong element of acculturation. While it may be tempting, however, to view this process as a journey „from‟ students‟ cultural backgrounds and practices „towards‟ those of their host academic communities, there is a danger here of implying a sense of cultural and epistemological replacement (of the home for the host). A more suitable description may be to view the process as one of refocusing. The individual‟s original cultural beliefs and identity are not erased, ignored nor forgotten; rather, a new parallel social and academic identity is created alongside the existing one. As Collins & Blot (2003: 105) observe: “selections from a multiplicity of language variants enable people to inhabit a multiplicity of overlapping identities”, students are ideally able to simultaneously maintain and nurture social and academic identities from more than one cultural source. However, the further a learner‟s „home‟ culture is from that the „host‟ culture which surrounds them, then the longer and more problematic the acculturative process is likely to be (Smith & Khawaja, 2011). This suggests that the creation of a new social/academic identity does not occur „from scratch‟; students‟ existing home cultures and values are used as starting points for future parallel sociocultural developments.

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From a practical standpoint, however, said implications for practitioners and institutions remain unclear; there are no clear pedagogic imperatives or strategies which immediately emerge. Rather, it is necessary for the industry as a whole to adopt a broader paradigm when considering the range and nature of provisions that its members offer. Literacy development is not a purely linguistic phenomenon; accordingly, theoretical disciplines such as sociology, psychology and anthropology must be recognised as having a crucial role to play in informing institutional strategy and course design. This involves nothing less than a fundamental reframing of the objectives and purposes of Academic Literacy development. Institution should be encouraged to engage in research (utilising models such as Berry‟s

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Therefore, students‟ capacities for engagement in academic discourse communities can be seen as the tip of an iceberg whose submerged section represents a wealth of psychological and sociocultural factors and issues. The psychosocial acculturative experiences and strategies of international students living and studying in native English-speaking countries such as the UK help to form the foundation for academic literacy development, as students‟ academic identities (and corresponding literacy development) grow out of wider sociocultural notions of cultural identification and membership. In addressing the question of how to encourage academic literacy development, therefore, implications arise which far exceed the remit of existing formal pedagogic practices and assumptions.


Acculturation Model, 1997; and Bourdieu‟s Social Field Theory, 1986, for instance) with the aim of revealing detailed portraits of their students‟ lives and experiences while living in L1 sociocultural and sociolinguistic environments. The fruits of said research can be used as starting points for consideration as to where learners stand in regards to their identities as cultural migrants and initiate members of academic communities. From there, institutions will be better informed as to future directions for holistically strategic educational policy. CONTACT THE AUTHOR l.hawkes@qmul.ac.uk

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Berry, J. W., 1997. Immigration, Acculturation and Adaptation. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 46(1), 5-68. Bourdieu, P.,1986. The Forms of Capital. In J. E. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook of Theory of Research for the Sociology of Education (R. Nice, Trans., pp. 241-58). Greenword Press. Casanave, C. P., 2002. Writing Games: Multicultural case studies of academic literacy practices in higher education. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Collins, J., & Blot, R. K., 2003. Literacy and Literacies: Texts, Power, and Identity. New York: Cambridge University Press. Connor, U., 1997. Contrastive rhetoric: cross-cultural aspects of second-language writing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Duff, P., 2010. Language socialization into academic discourse communities. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 30, 169-192. Heath, S. B., 1983. Ways with Words: Language, life, and work in communities and classrooms. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Johns, A. M., 1997. Text, Role, and Content. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Lankshear, C., & Knobel, M., 2004. New Literacies: Changing Knowledge and Classroom Learning. Buckingham: Open University Press. Lea, M., & Street, B., 1998. Student Writing in Higher Education: An Academic Literacies Approach. Studies in Higher Education, 23(2), 152-172. Leki, I., 2007. Undergraduates in a Second Language. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Pacheco, M., & Gutierrez, K., 2009. Cultural Historical Approaches to Literacy Teaching & Learning. In C. Compton-Lily (Ed.), Breaking the Silence: Recognizing the Social and Cultural Resources Students Bring to the Classroom (pp. 60-77). Newark, DE: International Reading Association. Reder, S. (1994). Practice-Engagement Theory: A Sociocultural Approach to Literacy Across Languages and Cultures. In B. M. Ferdman, R.-M. Weber, & A. G. Ramirez (Eds.), Literacy Across Languages and Cultures. Albany: State University of New York Press. Ryan, J., 2008. PMI Project on International Student Teaching and Learning Issues. Position Paper, UKCISA. Vygotsky, L. S., 1978. Mind in Society. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

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References

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EAP teachers’ perceptions of learner motivation Lou Harvey University of Manchester

ABSTRACT This article reports on a qualitative study of four EAP teachers. The teachers perceived the major influences on their learners‟ motivation to be Teacher/student relationships, Opportunities for social participation, and Influences on learner choice and agency, and they are broadly sensitive to the effects of these influences. However, at times teachers may misunderstand learners‟ behaviour, and may simplistically regard this as evidence of motivation levels. This draws attention to the importance of strong teacher/student relations, and specifically awareness on the part of teachers about individual learners‟ motivation, for the quality and inclusivity of the international student experience. …………………………………………………………………………………………….......... Introduction This study is a qualitative investigation into EAP teachers‟ perceptions of the influences on their learners‟ motivation, based and building upon my previous research into learner motivation (Harvey, 2013). In this previous research, I interviewed three learners from different cultural backgrounds and was able to specify the following four major influences on their motivation: 1. Perception of choice and agency in the learning of English – where motivation was positively related to the level of choice and agency learners felt they had exercised in their English-language learning over their lives; 2. Nature of English contact experience – where positive contact experience in English positively affected motivation, and vice versa; 3. Perceived benefits of learning English – where motivation was engendered by the practical gains available from learning English, such as educational, career, travel and social opportunities; 4. Wish to participate in UK social life – where learners were motivated by this wish.

I carried out two focus groups with eight UK-based EAP teachers, then analysed the data in order to generate more focused interview questions, which I conducted with two members of ISEJ, Volume 1(2), Autumn 2013 © The Author 2013

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Research focus and findings

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Having since taught EAP, I now wish to explore EAP teachers‟ understanding of their learners‟ motivation. Although it is outside the scope of this study to offer a full triangulation of teachers‟ and learners‟ perceptions, I identify the major overlaps and articulate a disparity between the two. This work on teacher perceptions of learner motivation addresses a significant gap in EAP research in particular and second language (L2) motivation research in general (see also Cowie and Sakui, 2011).


each focus group – four in total. These four teachers were Howard, Jonah and Lola (male) and Guinevere (female). The teachers‟ names have been changed to protect their identities. From the data, I generated three conceptual themes to represent these teachers‟ perceptions of the major influences on their learners‟ motivation:  Teacher/student relationships  Opportunities for social participation  Influences on learner choice and agency I will now discuss their key aspects in greater depth.

Teacher/student relationships Howard and Lola acknowledge the importance of relationships of trust between teachers and students, as the teacher is often the first point of contact should students have any problems. Similarly, Jonah and Guinevere understand that it is important to create a „safe‟, motivating environment, in which students know that their teacher understands their experience of the learning process and the pragmatic gains for which they are aiming, and that there are various influences operating in their lives. Guinevere and Howard are aware of the need to create a classroom space in which students can feel free to make mistakes, and to experiment with the new identities offered by the language learning experience. Guinevere understands motivation as fluctuating in level, dependent on students‟ individual historical and cultural contexts, and constructed in interaction, through a relationship of trust with the teacher, as she states: I think what helps to motivate students is to know that their teacher understands where they‟re coming from ... why they might sit at the back of the class and roll their eyes to the ceiling and not always to jump on that and attack them for it but that‟s a perfectly normal part of learning and being a student, any student not just a foreign student in a language classroom ... and to talk to them about it … and with the independent learning and stuff, we try together to motivate each other and get ideas from each other.

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However, some of the teachers‟ understandings become more problematic when considering their perceptions of student behaviour and the influence of these perceptions on their beliefs about student motivation, as evidenced by Lola and Guinevere‟s contrasting approaches to the students they perceive to be more or less motivated. Guinevere leaves the students who seem to be „happy with anything‟ and „have the right attitude‟, whom she perceives as motivated, alone and does not worry about them, but when students are not behaving in (what she perceives as) a motivated way, with less visible signs of interest in the class, she thinks about what she calls „the missing link‟ that will motivate them, and plans lessons with them in mind. Lola plans according to his perceptions of students‟ personalities; he understands his extrovert students to be motivated, and the quieter ones to be less so. He also knows less about the quieter students, so he chooses activities which play to more extrovert (who he perceives as more motivated) learners‟ strengths, as he knows what these are. Thus there is a

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The teachers‟ understanding of the learning process and their awareness of the benefits learners hope to gain by studying EAP resonate with learners‟ Perceived benefits of learning English; learner and teacher perceptions of learner motivation broadly correspond here.


conflation of „extrovert‟, „talkative‟ (according to Lola) or apparently „happy‟ (according to Guinevere) students with motivated students; students are described as „appearing‟ or „seeming‟ motivated, based on observations of behaviour. These different understandings of „motivated‟ behaviour may create barriers to understanding motivation levels, as Lola‟s experience of joking with a student who was persistently absent and late illustrates – when the student did not see the joke, Lola realised there had been a mismatch between his perception of the student‟s level of motivation and the student‟s own: [the student] thought that he was a motivated person, and I was kind of showing him up a bit, and... it wasn‟t my intention, and I would never get the students to laugh at each other in a nasty way, but you know sometimes say „oh my god is it Christmas you‟ve turned up‟ and that kind of thing ... so... if he was a little bit offended, it was because he perceived it in a different way … I think if he had been [unmotivated] and he‟d just turned up ... then he would have felt I had a right to say that. While Lola inferred motivation levels from this student‟s behaviour, this may not have been consistent with the student‟s own perceptions of his behaviour. Thus, although these teachers are aware of the variety of influences operating in students‟ lives, it may be difficult to apply this awareness to understanding behaviour which may appear negative or disinterested. This could be conversely related to the „narrative‟ of motivation, which Lola identifies in his description of Hollywood films like Dead Poets‟ Society (1989) and Dangerous Minds (1995): you get these movies ... this fabulous teacher goes in, and you have all these students who couldn‟t give a toss and then suddenly they‟re dead motivated ... and you think why can‟t I go in with a lesson and get that kind of response. Therefore, in the same way as students may expect teachers to motivate them, teachers may expect students to behave in a stereotypically „motivated‟ way.

Opportunities for social participation

Guinevere, Lola and Howard feel that students perceive a lack of opportunity to speak to „native‟ British people. Guinevere and Howard describe students who have attempted to ISEJ, Volume 1(2), Autumn 2013 © The Author 2013

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a lot of the Chinese, when it comes to feedback, at the end of the course, despite having done a number of presentations both individually and as part of a group, speaking only English in class, it‟s one of the rules, they don‟t always follow... and doing loads of debates, and speaking practice, they say that speaking is the area that they haven‟t felt any development in... and it‟s probably because they go out of the school, into Chinatown, have their lunch there … they say I really want to develop my speaking skills, I want to speak to local people, I want to speak to natives, and outside, I want to speak to people... but they don‟t, because they don‟t get the chance.

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All the teachers believe that students are motivated by opportunities for social participation and engagement, but both teachers and students recognise constraints on these opportunities. Teachers also recognise that it is not simply up to students to go forth and integrate integration comes from both sides, and students‟ reasons for not integrating may be as much because they are denied opportunity as that they simply do not take it, as Guinevere indicates:


strike up conversations in public, attempts which are often unsuccessful owing to what the students perceive as people‟s inability or unwillingness to understand them; and Guinevere and Howard believe students to be demotivated by these experiences. Lola and Guinevere‟s students have told them that British people are not interested in them, and the students feel they must therefore find their own social circles. Jonah and Guinevere suggest that the particular town or city students have chosen to come to may be an important factor – in cities students may be more likely to find others of their nationality, providing comfort and an easing-in of social integration, particularly in areas of common cultural ground available in a multicultural city, such as Chinatown or British Islam. Jonah compares his students in Manchester to his previous students in Brighton and Eastbourne in terms of their opportunities for social participation: I had a class last term that was a hundred per cent Saudi, at the university, and it‟s sort of a vicious circle really, because the more that they see it like that, the fewer opportunities there are for them to branch out and make other contacts with... I do think with the Saudis here I think there‟s a cultural... self-policing conformity, and I‟ve taught Saudis in other parts of the UK, I taught in Brighton for a bit I taught in Eastbourne for a bit, and they would tend to come to study by themselves, so with no family and seemingly with not many people they knew, and they would integrate more because they would be they would be in a minority, and they would hang around with other students of other nationalities. These teachers‟ awareness of the motivational impact of opportunities for participation parallels learners‟ own Nature of English contact experience and Wish to participate in UK social life.

Influences on learner choice and agency Howard and Jonah understand students‟ context to be one of the foremost influences on learners‟ choice and agency – the context they come from, the context they are now learning in, and the intersection of the two. Students may be constrained by the wishes of their families, employers, or even their own national communities in the UK (see Jonah‟s comment above; see also Myles and Cheng 2003). Howard recognises that if students have made their own choices, there may be more at stake for them socially and personally than for students being coerced by employers or families, who by contrast may have more material concerns at stake:

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Howard also highlights the potential difficulties involved in students discussing their motivation with teachers. From the students‟ point of view, they want to join the course and seem optimistic, as though they have chosen to be here – honest acknowledgement of a possible lack of choice and agency may feel risky, students may be aware of a possible danger in letting their true motivations be perceived, and thus a relationship of trust between teacher and student is again seen to be important:

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[there‟s] a social risk … they‟ve stepped out of their stream of their peers and they‟ve gone to another part of the world to study ... when we take a risk we don‟t want to be perceived to have made the wrong choices, so our motivation levels will be higher, we want to make sure that we succeed.


students do often give teachers the answers they expect, or they predict they want to hear... and I suppose you need a certain amount of trust between the student and the teacher to be able to overcome those kind of pre-programmed answers ... you might be finding answers to things which students could even feel difficult to talk to their parents about and their trusted family members at home which may be that they really don‟t want to be here in the UK they don‟t want to be an engineer, they wanted to be... a hairdresser or a teacher or something like that that‟s their passion so... it‟s complex really I think. Again, this perception of the teachers corresponds to learners‟ own Perception of choice and agency in the learning of English, with both groups recognising choice and agency as having a significant impact on students‟ motivation.

Conclusion These findings show that these teachers are generally sensitive to the influences operating on their learners‟ motivation, and the teachers‟ perceptions of their learners‟ motivation intersect broadly with learners‟ perceptions as articulated in my previous research. The teachers understand that learners‟ motivation fluctuates and is contingent upon individual historical and cultural contexts, which maps onto learners‟ Perceived benefits of learning English. They also have some understanding of the identity struggles students face when negotiating participation in different communities, as exemplified by Nature of contact experience for learners and their Wish to participate in UK social life. Similarly, teachers recognise the complexity of influences on learners‟ choice and agency, as do learners themselves in the Perception of choice and agency.

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However, it is also clear from these findings that teachers may have particular conceptions of „motivated‟ behaviour, which is perhaps understandable given that motivation, as Cowie and Sakui point out, „is a difficult concept to witness from outside … [thus] classroom teachers may tend to consider that what students actually do matters far more than what kinds of reasons or goals students might have‟ (2011: 222). As a result, teachers may be likely to simplistically, and sometimes erroneously, regard behaviour as evidence of motivation levels. This reinforces the importance of good teacher/student relations, in particular the need for one-to-one time with students so that teachers can gain a measure of insight into individual students‟ motivations, and so that perceived misunderstandings between teacher and student can be negotiated in confidence and a supportive atmosphere. This would be of benefit to all students, regardless of motivation and level of engagement; for in the provision of such support, opportunities for communication, participation and inclusion may open up, with the potential to transform the international student experience. Admittedly this draws attention to the difficulty of offering initiatives which might be time-consuming in the increasingly corporatizing and competitive university system, which in turn highlights the importance of consciousness-raising at the institutional level about the nature of individuals‟ motivation. Ultimately, our aim should be to work towards negotiating ways to address learners‟ motivation and its implications, even within a commodified and product-focused system.

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CONTACT THE AUTHOR l.t.harvey@gmail.com ISEJ, Volume 1(2), Autumn 2013 © The Author 2013


References Cowie, N. & Sakui, K., 2011. Crucial but Neglected: English as a Foreign Language Teachers‟ Perspectives on Learner Motivation. In G. Murray, X. Gao & T. Lamb (Eds.), Identity, Motivation and Autonomy in Language Learning (pp. 212-228). Clevedon: Multilingual Matters. Dead Poets‟ Society, 1989. [Film] Directed by Peter Weir. USA: Touchstone Pictures. Dangerous Minds, 1995. [Film] Directed by John N. Smith. USA: Don Simpson/Jerry Brukheimer Films. Harvey, L., 2013. Foreign Language Motivation and Social Identity Development. In D. Rivers & S. Houghton (Eds.), Social Identities and Multiple Selves in Foreign Language Education. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Myles, J. & Cheng, L., 2003. The social and cultural life of non-native English speaking international graduate students at a Canadian university. Journal of English for Academic Purposes 2 (3), 247-263.

https://www.facebook.com/InternationalStudentExperienceJournal

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https://twitter.com/ISExpJournal

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International student engagement with Student Union activities as a way to increase sense of belonging, improve cultural integration and aid language confidence Michael Allhouse University of Bradford ABSTRACT This article will outline a project to help international students at the University of Bradford improve their sense of belonging, cultural integration and English language confidence through engagement in student union social activities. The project focussed on a group of students from Oman, helping them to engage with students outside of their ethnic group through sporting and social clubs at the students union, over a ten week period. The students rated their perceived levels of language confidence and sense of belonging over the duration of the project, with notable improvements for those most engaged. ……………………………………………………………………………………………..........

This article details a joint project begun in November 2012, between the Student Union and the Language Centre at the University of Bradford. The project aimed to help international students improve their sense of belonging and their English language confidence. The project saw the students engage in a series of sessions with different Student Union sporting and social clubs. The language centre at the UoB runs year-long international foundation programmes (IFP) and pre-sessional courses for general students and special groups on request. In the year 2012/13 the centre ran an IFP programme for a group of 45 students from Oman. As a result of personal tutor meetings, problems of cultural integration were identified in the group. The group were mostly living together in one student hall. The students identified that they had very little opportunity to engage with people outside their national group. Wider engagement, perhaps with the Student Union (University of Bradford Union –UBU) was suggested as a solution, however this was not happening for a variety of reasons (UBU seemed culturally distant since they did not have Student Unions in Oman and the students had identified the union as being primarily for home students).

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UBU agreed that every Friday afternoon for 10 weeks, a student club or society would provide a taster session for the Omani students in an effort to persuade them to engage with others outside their cultural group. Not all the students attended the events, indeed some did not attend any, and some students only came once. The programme is shown in the Table 1.

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Table 1: UoB social activities programme Period Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6 Week 7 Week 8 Week 9 Week 10

Activities Badminton Club Hiking Club Video Games Society Radio Club Cycling Club Judo Club International Students Club Sustrans – Cycling / Walking tourist trip Female only hiking Football Club

A number of commentators suggest that social interaction, in various forms, can aid language confidence and achievement (Lowes, 2013, Tinto, 1993, Harmer, 1983). Ellis (1994) asserts that language learners who make the best of opportunities for social interaction in English show the greatest gains in language proficiency. Little (1997) conducted research which found that by being exposed to the target language in social situations learners developed confidence, as well as improved their language use. Johnson (2012) also found that when she put learners with natives for a period of time, this increased their vocabulary comprehension. Schumann's (1978) acculturation theory suggests that a learner‟s language achievement is strongly related to social integration and the psychological openness of the learner to the second-language community, or in other words, their sense of belonging and friendship relationships. Zhou et al (2008) looked at how friendships with local students can improve language confidence, have emotional benefits and lower stress levels for international students. Our project will attempt to improve language confidence and sense of belonging, both key factors in acculturation theory, through social interaction. Allwright (1990) and Montgomery & McDowell (2009) found that even though many students recognised that social interaction in English developed confidence and vocabulary comprehension, engaging in such social situations was still a struggle for many international students. Lowes (2013) detailed the need for institutions to help initiate first contacts and reported on a project which helped create contact between international students and native speakers through schemes such as peer mentors and a languages café. Our project recognises the difficulties of initiating contact with other ethnic groups, and uses the existing friendship networks and shared interests of student union groups as a way to overcome these difficulties and instigate social interaction.

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In our study students were asked to rate their feelings on a scale of 1-10, where 10 is the highest. Students were asked to rate their perceived score in 7 questions: Three of the questions related to their perceived sense of belonging – whether to the city, the UK or the university (Figure 1). The results of these questions were gathered together to measure sense

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Our project sought to measure its success through self-assessment research criteria; measuring the students‟ perceived sense of belonging to the UK, Bradford and the UoB, and their confidence in English, over the duration of the 10 weeks, asking them to fill out a selfassessment questionnaire on three occasions (week 0 – before the project started, week 4, and week 8 – towards the end of the project).


of belonging. Three of the questions related to perceived English confidence (academically, for everyday use and general improvement), and were grouped together as a measure of confidence in English. One question asks how confident the students feel about making friends with people of different mother tongues.

Sense of Belonging 10 8 6 4

8 6.5 5.5

7 6 5

55.5 4.5

0 events attended 1 event attended 2+ events attended

2 0 0 weeks

4 weeks

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Amount of Engagement 0 events attended 1 event attended 2+ events attended

0 weeks 4.5 5 5.5

4 weeks 5 6 7

8 weeks 5.5 6.5 8

Figure 1: sense of belonging Students rated their feeling of belonging from 1 to 10 on the three different occasions. The results show that those students who attended more activities were likely to report a greater sense of belonging to the University, Bradford, and the UK. The results show that those students who attended more activities were likely to report a greater confidence in English, both for casual conversation and academic use (Figure 2).

Confidence in English 10 8 6 4

5.25 55.5

8 6.5 5.5

7.5 6.5 5

0 events attended 1 event attended 2+ events attended

2 0 8 weeks

Amount of Engagement

0 weeks

4 weeks

8 weeks

0 events attended 1 event attended 2+ events attended

5 5.25 5.5

5 6.5 7.5

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Figure 2: confidence in using the language ISEJ, Volume 1(2), Autumn 2013 Š The Author 2013

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4 weeks

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The results also show that those students who attended more activities were likely to report a greater confidence when it comes to making friends outside of their language group (Figure 3). The ten students who were most engaged with the project were asked to attend a focus group after its completion. During the focus group the students reported that they felt that informal social interaction was beneficial as part of their studies. The students also confirmed that involvement in the activities had resulted in them feeling more at home in Bradford.

Confidence in making international friends 10 8 6 4 2 0

3.5 3.25

8 7 6

6.5 5 4

0 events attended 1 event attended 2+ events attended

0 weeks

4 weeks

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Amount of Engagement

0 weeks

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8 weeks

0 events attended 1 event attended 2+ events attended

3.5 3.25 3

4 5 6.5

6 7 8

Figure 3: Confidence in making friends All the students of the Omani IFP group were given an English language test at the end of the course. The test results of the ten students who engaged the most with the project were compared to an average score for the whole course and were found to be a little higher, but not dramatically so. However, students who had not attended any of the activities were found to have scores much lower than the average. So, whilst in this project social engagement seems to have improved acculturation (in the form of sense of belonging, language confidence and confidence in making friends) it seems that this has led to only minor improvements in language achievement for those most acculturated. For those students who are arguably least acculturated there was a more noticeable lack of achievement.

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The results show that as sense of belonging increases, so does language confidence, so, to the extent that we have been able to measure, this supports acculturation theory (Schumann, 1978), and the idea that the closer the learner feels to the language community, and the more socially engaged they are, the better their language confidence.

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Students who engaged most with the project reported a greater sense of belonging and greater confidence in English, but is this as a result of the project, or are these students those who would have improved most anyway? It is difficult to eliminate all other variables, as of course, the projectâ€&#x;s interventions are not the only experiences the students had, but at the very least the project provided them with valuable opportunities which they might have struggled to find otherwise. This leads us to recommendations for further research such as a longitudinal study which looks at this group of students over a longer period, or a study that looks at a similar group which engages more deeply with a studentsâ€&#x; union.


This article agrees with Zhou et al (2008), Montgomery & McDowell (2009), Johnson (2012), and Lowes (2013) that by being exposed to English in social situations, learners improve their sense of belonging and language confidence. The article suggests that developing links between language centres and Student Unions (with their existing friend networks, revolving around shared interests) is an excellent way to do this. The language centre at the UoB has continued to develop activities with UBU, Friday afternoons being UBU activities days for all pre-sessional students. Feedback so far has been very positive and we hope to continue to develop this relationship.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR M.L.Allhouse@bradford.ac.uk

References

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Allwright, D. (1990). „Interaction and negotiation in the language classroom: Their role in learner development.‟ Lancaster University Papers. http://www.ling.lancs.ac.uk/groups/crile/docs/crile50allrigh.pdf Ellis, R. (1994). The study of second language acquisition. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Harmer, J. (2007). The practice of English language teaching. London: Longman. Johnson, D. (1983). „Natural language learning by design: A classroom experiment in social interaction and second language acquisition.‟ TESOL Quarterly. 17 (1). Little, D. (1997). „Language awareness and the autonomous language learner.‟ Language Awareness. 6 (2). Lowes, R. (2013). „Bringing them together: international students and others.‟ International Student Experience Journal. 1 (1). Available at http://isejournal.weebly.com/uploads/1/6/3/1/16311372/bringing_them_together_inter national_students_and_others.pdf Montgomery, C. & McDowell, L. (2009). „Social networks and the international student experience: An international community of practice?‟ Journal of Studies in International Education. 13. pp.455-466. Schumann, J. (1978). The pidginization process: A model for second language acquisition. New York: Newbury House Publishers. Zhou, Y. Jindal-Snape, D. Topping, K. and Todman, J. (2008). „Theoretical models of culture shock and adaptation in international students in higher education.‟ Studies in Higher Education. 33 (1).

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The Impact of a Dyslexia Diagnosis on a Second Language Student of Higher Education Victoria Mann and Sui Ngor (Elsa) Wong Dyslexia Support Service - ELTC University of Sheffield

ABSTRACT International students who have dyslexia can find that they are disadvantaged through both the dyslexia and the experience of studying at a higher level in a second language. Equally, international students who have undiagnosed dyslexia will be unable to access the additional support that would enable them to reach their academic potential. This paper discusses the experience of a second language student with dyslexia and considers the impact of a diagnosis of dyslexia and the subsequent support made on the student‟s progress. It finds that the student‟s account highlights that dyslexia can contribute to a student having a negative learning experience, and becoming anxious about their ability to learn; conversely, a diagnosis of dyslexia, which results in teaching support and additional resources, can provide students the opportunity to fulfil their academic potential. ……………………………………………………………………………………………..........

Introduction Students who speak English as a second language can find studying at a UK university to be challenging. They are required to understand and use academic English and may find the academic style to be different from the academic style in their country. International students who are dyslexic can find this transition particularly difficult. This article describes the experience of a student from Hong Kong, who is studying at a university in the UK. It discusses her experiences of education in Hong Kong, her experience of studying in the UK, and her dyslexia assessment and subsequent support.

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Brief description of dyslexia Dyslexia is a specific learning disability, which is neurologically based. It is considered to originate from a phonological processing difficulty and is characterised by difficulties with accurate and fluent word recognition, spelling difficulties and difficulties decoding text (Snowling 2000). It is believed to have a prevalence of 5-10 per cent among the population and, in 2005, statistics from the Higher Education Statistics Agency found a prevalence of 2.47 per cent among the population of students in higher education. International students who have dyslexia can find that they are disadvantaged through both the dyslexia and the experience of studying at a higher level in a second language.

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Elsa’s educational history Students who have dyslexia often find that problems occur from an early stage in their education. Suk-kan Ho (2000), for example found that Chinese children with dyslexia performed significantly more poorly in phonological tasks than children without dyslexia. Students who have not had their dyslexia recognised can be particularly challenged. Here, Elsa discusses her experience of mainstream education in Hong Kong. “I found it very difficult to learn at school, in both primary and secondary school. In Hong Kong classes are very big, with up to 40 students in one class. I would usually sit at the back and try not to be noticed. Looking back, this was a bad strategy; it just meant that I got left behind. Being at the back of the class also meant that I couldn‟t always hear what was said and I would get confused and fall behind the rest of the class. Another difficulty I had was with the pronunciation of English, in my English classes. I never seemed to get any better and I couldn‟t always understand the tutor. I thought it was because I wasn‟t very clever. Finally, because school days are very long, I would be very tired by the end of the day and wouldn‟t be able to take as much information in. I had to concentrate very hard to keep up with work and would just be too tired to maintain that focus for the whole day. There always seemed to be so much to learn and I would struggle to switch between tasks.” Elsa‟s account demonstrates how dyslexia can impact on learning. Whilst there have been recent developments in Hong Kong in recognising dyslexia and providing additional support, namely additional teacher training, funding, whole school policies, (Tsui et al 2012). Elsa‟s experience was that dyslexia was not recognised in her institution. Indeed, Chan (2002) found that the low incidence of dyslexia in Hong Kong could be due to a lack of appropriate tools to diagnose dyslexia, making the low incidence an issue of under-reporting. In Hong Kong, Elsa‟s primary school lessons were predominantly taught in Cantonese (with the exception of English classes), whereas, aside from Chinese language and history, the secondary classes were in English.

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Elsa‟s coping strategy of sitting at the back, whilst understandable, would have contributed to her difficulties, she would not be able to hear the tutor as clearly, due to background noise, and would be less likely to pick up on pronunciation differences, for example diphthongs. She also discusses concentration difficulties: a person with dyslexia can have difficulties decoding phonemes, often making reading and writing for an extended period very tiring.

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A further complication is determining whether the difficulties are due to dyslexia, or other factors, such as difficulties in learning an additional language. A difficulty with pronunciation, as highlighted by Elsa, is a key indicator of dyslexia; people with dyslexia often struggle with sound symbol relationships, having poor phonemic awareness (Widmann et al 2012). This is also an area of difficulty for students learning an additional language because the phonetic system in their first language may not coincide with the phonetic system in English. To differentiate this difficulty, a student with dyslexia is likely to have poor phonemic awareness in both their native and target language. Durgunoğlu (2002) highlighted that additional language learners with dyslexia could have difficulties with phoneme awareness, syntactic awareness, meaning making, and understanding of genre in both their L1 and target language. Indeed, according to her own testimony, Elsa had difficulties in both Cantonese and English.

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This can be exacerbated by anxiety about not being able to complete the work in the required time.

Night school A negative learning experience can impact on students‟ continuing education. Vitero et al. (2001) found that low academic performance was a key indicator in withdrawal from education. After completing her school education, Elsa, however, was keen to improve her English language skills because many jobs in Hong Kong require English language skills. She was also interested in attending a university in the UK (UK universities are very highly regarded in Hong Kong). To further these goals, Elsa attended night school. Here Elsa discusses her experience of further education. “I really wanted to improve my English and hopefully go on to Higher Education, so I enrolled at night school. This was a much more positive experience. One of the positives was that it didn‟t cover as many areas, so I could focus on improving one area at a time. I really liked the way the lessons would build on the one before, recapping frequently, so I could always make progress. The sessions were much shorter too, just two hours, so I didn‟t get as tired and could maintain my concentration. I was able to improve my English and realised I was able to do the work and keep up. I began to feel much more positive about my abilities.” Elsa‟s experience of night school is very interesting. Whilst she did not receive any specific dyslexia support, she was able to progress and build her confidence. She attributes this to shorter sessions, which she would have found less fatiguing, and avoiding plurality of tasks. Working on fewer diverse subjects could also have had an impact on Elsa‟s progress as it would decrease her cognitive load (Van Merriënboer & Sweller, 2010). Equally, Elsa‟s reference to a more scaffolded approach, with the lessons being built on previous knowledge, is a technique which is useful in supporting both EAP students and students with dyslexia.

University experience

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“When I began my studies at university, I found that I would often struggle in both lectures and seminars. In lectures, I would find it difficult to take notes and keep up with the lecturer. When I looked at my notes afterwards, sometimes it would be almost like someone else had written them. I would find it hard to connect them to my lecture. If I didn‟t take notes, I would be able to take in more information, but then I wouldn‟t have any notes to use afterwards. In seminars, I was anxious about talking in front of people; I felt my English wasn‟t good enough to express myself effectively. I also worried about people being able to understand me. Finally, I would know what I wanted to say, but couldn‟t organise the ideas. This was also a problem in assignments; teachers would often comment that I hadn‟t organised my ideas and that sometimes I wouldn‟t quite answer the question, affecting my marks. To sum up, I think that my dyslexia and the fact that English is not my first language combined to make learning at university level quite challenging.”

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After successfully completing night school, Elsa continued her studies, enrolling on an undergraduate course at a UK university, as a mature student.UK universities are very highly regarded in Hong Kong and Elsa was keen to experience a different culture. Here Elsa talks about the difficulties she had in the transition to studying at undergraduate level.


Elsa‟s experience exemplifies the challenges that students who speak English as a second language have in studying at undergraduate level. In addition, dyslexia was a further disadvantage. Students with dyslexia often report difficulties with note taking and keeping up in lectures. Mortimore & Crozier (2006) found that note taking, learning in lectures and academic writing were frequently cited as difficulties by students with dyslexia. Elsa‟s experience, therefore, highlights the importance of providing additional support to international students and students with dyslexia, to ensure that the students have the opportunity to reach their potential.

Diagnosis and support The turning point for many students is when they receive a diagnosis and can therefore separate the dyslexia from their overall ability. The diagnosis outlines the student‟s strengths as well as areas of weakness, and provides information about a student‟s learning profile. The students often have to make an emotional adjustment when receiving their diagnosis, however, with some students finding it difficult to adjust to being diagnosed with dyslexia (Farmer, Riddick and Sterling, 2002). Elsa‟s experience of the diagnosis was, however, more positive.

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This demonstrates the effect of a diagnosis both in terms of the students‟ understanding of their learning and the support that they can access. Elsa had attributed her difficulties to being a second language student and was, therefore, not accessing the support that is available to students with dyslexia. This experience underlines the role that tutors can play in signposting EAL students who show signs of dyslexia, for example suggesting to the student that they seek advice from the university disability service. It is acknowledged it can be difficult to distinguish between difficulties rooted in dyslexia and general language acquisition difficulties (Smith, 2010). Possible indicators are difficulties with sound symbol relationship and pronunciation, syntactical errors and working memory difficulties in both the L1 and L2. Students with dyslexia may find it difficult to identify spelling patterns, for example how adding an e changes the pronunciation of ton to tone, and use this knowledge to determine the pronunciation of words with a similar pattern, such as, home, phone and zone. Thus students may find it difficult to predict the pronunciation of unfamiliar words. There may also be a

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“It was my teacher at university who suggested that I go for a dyslexia assessment; she noticed that my written work didn‟t reflect the quality of my ideas. I was referred by my university and diagnosed as being dyslexic. I felt a real sense of relief from the diagnosis. It meant I wasn‟t struggling because I was capable; it was because of a specific difficulty. I now had something to work with. It made a difference to how I thought about myself and my learning. Not only did the diagnosis help me to understand why I was struggling, it meant that I could access lots of support. I was given more time in exams and more feedback on assignments, to show where I was going wrong, and help me improve my writing. I also received assistive technology; the Dictaphone was especially helpful. I was given a disability advisor to give me general guidance about things such has help at the library, and a dyslexia tutor who worked with me to develop learning strategies and improve my writing style. Together, we worked on my writing style and it is now much more academic; I can understand what the tutor is asking for and how I should answer assignment questions. I also feel much more confident in seminars and have successfully given presentations. I now feel confident that I can get my degree and achieve a good grade in it.”


discrepancy between the vocabulary and spelling, whereby students have a good command of the language verbally, but this is not reflected in their reading or their written communication. Finally, students with dyslexia will often struggle with irregular parts of the language and find it difficult to overcome this difficulty, for example irregular verbs such as run that form their past tenses irregularly. In terms of supporting students with dyslexia, tutors of international students can provide support in class, for example:    

Providing students with lecture notes and slides Using dyslexia friendly resources, for example Cuisenaire rods and manipulatives Using multi-sensory teaching, for example the use of rhythm to develop a discrimination of different phonemes. Re-capping and reviewing frequently.

There are a number of resources that EAP tutors may find useful. Dr Margaret Crombie‟s work, for example, focuses on dyslexia and learning an additional language. Her work is accessible via her website, http://www.languageswithoutlimits.co.uk/dyslexia.html. Another useful resource is the culmination of a two year project called Dyslexia for Teachers of English as a Foreign Language. The project‟s accompanying website offers materials for self study to support teachers of English as a foreign language, http://course.dystefl.eu/index.php?id=55.

Conclusion Elsa‟s experience, whilst personal to her, is very useful in providing an insight into the experience of an EAL student educated outside the UK who has dyslexia. She provides a startling account of the difference that being diagnosed and subsequently supported can have on a student, potentially ensuring a student is able to achieve their academic potential. This highlights the role that academic tutors can play in supporting international students with dyslexia. This could be through signposting to the disability services, providing dyslexia friendly resources and allowing student to access lecture slides and notes. By being aware of the impact of dyslexia on EAL students, tutors can reduce its impact on learning and provide the opportunity for students to achieve their academic potential.

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CONTACT THE AUTHORS v.e.mann@sheffield.ac.uk

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References

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Allwright, D. (1990). „Interaction and negotiation in the language classroom: Their role in learner development.‟ Lancaster University Papers. http://www.ling.lancs.ac.uk/groups/crile/docs/crile50allrigh.pdf Ellis, R. (1994). The study of second language acquisition. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Harmer, J. (2007). The practice of English language teaching. London: Longman. Johnson, D. (1983). „Natural language learning by design: A classroom experiment in social interaction and second language acquisition.‟ TESOL Quarterly. 17 (1). Little, D. (1997). „Language awareness and the autonomous language learner.‟ Language Awareness. 6 (2). Lowes, R. (2013). „Bringing them together: international students and others.‟ International Student Experience Journal. 1 (1). Available at http://isejournal.weebly.com/uploads/1/6/3/1/16311372/bringing_them_together_inter national_students_and_others.pdf Montgomery, C. & McDowell, L. (2009). „Social networks and the international student experience: An international community of practice?‟ Journal of Studies in International Education. 13. pp.455-466. Schumann, J. (1978). The pidginization process: A model for second language acquisition. New York: Newbury House Publishers. Zhou, Y. Jindal-Snape, D. Topping, K. and Todman, J. (2008). „Theoretical models of culture shock and adaptation in international students in higher education.‟ Studies in Higher Education. 33 (1).

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Combining international student social and academic transition online Julie Watson University of Southampton ABSTRACT The social and academic acculturation of a large number of newly arrived international students challenges even the most prepared of UK higher education institutions. How best to facilitate students‟ social need to form new friendships with that of formally preparing them for the often unfamiliar academic demands of a different educational system? This paper will present a pre-arrival online course delivered to over 2,000 international students each summer, which combines student-centred socialisation with institution-driven academic preparation. From the initial data, it will draw some tentative conclusions about how far this approach could help facilitate students‟ transition in advance of their arrival. ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… Introduction Most UK universities have now established a presence on social networking services such as YouTube or Facebook, including Chinese social networks such as Weibo, with the aim of promoting their institution, offering a taste of academic life there and providing answers to prospective international students‟ concerns. But how many international students are successful in hunting down those precious digital signposts created by their destination institutions? And how many receive a response to a posted message on a social networking site seeking to „befriend‟ another student already studying at or destined for the same UK institution? The UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) website reports that in 2011-12 the number of international students studying in the UK was climbing steadily towards half a million - a 2% increase on the previous year (UKCISA, 2013). Many UK HEIs (higher education institutions) prepare to receive between two to four thousand new international students each year and are faced with the challenge of how best to reach these students with preparatory information about their future academic life in an easily digestible format, and/or facilitate meaningful contact for them with other students. This project set out to develop one combined solution to these challenges in the form of a pre-arrival online course for all prospective international students for one UK higher education institution, addressing student concerns for both social and academic transition at the same time.

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The desirability of preparing international students for cultural differences encountered while living and studying in the UK has been documented for some time (Braham, 2006; Webster, 2011) and multimedia online resources, both commercial e.g. Access UK (Copland, 2012) and free e.g. Prepare for Success (eLanguages 2013a), have been designed to aid aspects of student acculturation. Such tools can help students prepare for both general day-to-day life in the UK as well as some of the challenges of adjusting to a new academic culture. In addition,

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Identifying Different Needs


institutions are increasingly developing and hosting their own pre-arrival resources which go well beyond the international Welcome Pack of yesteryear. YouTube, in particular, hosts a wealth of student-centred videos offering glimpses of life at university and on campus. However, a large proportion of our incoming international students (Chinese) are excluded from western social media and even for those able to access such resources, considerable effort is often needed to hunt down resources of this kind successfully. Watching videos and doing quizzes to check comprehension afterwards, even if skilfully designed, can be quite solitary „learning‟ activities and in the current era of social networking there is an expectation, on the part of many students, of making direct contact with other students. The considerable success of websites such as The Student Room testifies to this. In response, a number of UK HEIs have developed initiatives seeking to put international students in contact with peers already studying in the UK or with home students. However, offering international students the opportunity to meet and communicate online with those at the same or similar stage of their journey towards UK study could have the added advantage of allowing pre-arrival friendships to form and help alleviate students‟ sense of isolation and, in some cases, anxiety, pre-departure. This project sought to design a pre-arrival online course that offers a combined approach to responding to these different needs.

Designing a Course to Combine Socialisation and Academic Acculturation

  

automated course invitation, sign up process and account creation for students through a single entry point flexibility - study pace and length of use decided by the individual student self-access interactive course content (activity-based learning objects) in aspects of general and academic acculturation socialisation, information exchange and a community-building dimension through the use of a social wall alongside a student-led discussion forum.

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Since 2011 the University of Southampton has offered an online acculturation course „Get Ready for Southampton‟ (GRfS) to all international students pre-arrival, focusing on students‟ pre-arrival concerns and needs, preparing them for the location in which they will live and study, introducing them to practical aspects of British life and culture, and familiarising them with effective study skills and ways of dealing with aspects of UK academic culture which may present challenges (eLanguages, 2013b). The course, which was designed by the author, Principal Teaching Fellow in eLearning (Modern Languages), shares some of the features of a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) in that it is free, can be sustainably delivered to a large number of students and allows scope for student interaction and collaboration in knowledge development. Through its availability to prospective students, it also offers potential as a recruitment tool. It combines self-access, interactive English language learning resources which provide a taste of UK academic culture, of EAP, and of the city and university where the students will live and study, with tools facilitating socialisation and learning by participants both inside and outside the course. It allows for large student cohorts (over 2,000 each year) to access it at different times over a period between May and October each year. Key features of the course design include:

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Socialisation through Social Walls and Student-led Conversation Forums The course platform (Moodle v2) has two integrated communication tools - a „social wall‟ (virtual corkboard) and a student-led conversation forum allowing student contact and communication to develop. These are student-centred and untutored. Free web 2.0 applications (Padlet, formerly Wallwisher, and Linoit) have been adopted as social walls. These are web-hosted and do not require student registration. The walls can host short customised student posts made visually attractive through colour, images, emoticons, etc (see Fig.1) and, unlike a discussion forum, the wall allows the content of all messages to be immediately seen. GRfS students are invited to post a wall message on entering the course.

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In addition, a traditional discussion forum is included to offer overflow functionality, and through which students engage in extended conversation. Initial research suggests that this operates in a similar manner to popular web-based applications such as The Student Room. A range of discussion threads develop between students applying for the same course; from the same country/continent; in search of future housemates, etc. It is interesting to compare the effectiveness of student-initiated conversation in producing student engagement through such tools with previous research, which has tended to suggest that key factors in the successful implementation of discussion forums are the teachers‟ skill in facilitating and setting up discussion tasks (Mazzolini & Maddison, 2003; Northover, 2002). Both tools receive considerable usage with the benefit that a sense of a course community is quickly established

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Figure 1: Section of student posts on social wall (modified for confidentiality)


and reflected to newcomers. Contact with domestic students is also facilitated through the inclusion of links to a range of student Facebook groups, although little data is available about the effectiveness of this at the time of writing.

Preparing Students for Life and Study Changes using Interactive Learning Objects The interactive resources in GRfS employ video and other media embedded in self-access learning resources are developed in the form of „learning objects‟. Their design draws on an explicit pedagogical approach (Watson, 2010) in which content informing students about the destination institution and locality, aspects of UK academic culture and general student life is packaged through structured interactive learning activities, supported by answers and feedback. Such resources offer flexibility in terms of how the individual student chooses to use them but importantly, content can be scaffolded so as to provide opportunities for language improvement at the same time. Design features which facilitate this include help and feedback sections, and transcripts of audio and video clips. Structured learning activities and the extra layers of support enable the learning objects to offer more scope for interaction and reflection. Consequently, there can be greater potential for learning than that offered by less rich but pure media resources. A practical and economic benefit is that learning objects of this kind are platform-independent and can, therefore, become reusable „building blocks‟ for online course design, creation and delivery – a potentially very useful asset in the current age of MOOCs.

Summary of Initial Findings

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In addition, 72 per cent of the 2012 respondents reported using between half and all of the course content (N=179), with the majority reporting use of „all of it‟. Written feedback from students has been very positive, as this small sample of final comments from 2013 student questionnaires completed so far (N=23) shows:

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Since 2011, over 6,000 international students have signed up and taken the online course. The annual number has risen steadily (2011:1,623; 2012: 2,113; 2013: 2,294 to date). These students are dispersed over many countries (105 in 2011; 130 in 2012) and are applying for (or enquiring about) a wide range of courses in diverse disciplines and at different study levels e.g. Foundation Year; undergraduate and postgraduate level taught and PhD programmes; ERASMUS programmes. With such large numbers of students on each course, sorting and analysing statistical data and qualitative feedback presents a considerable challenge and is still in progress. Some tentative conclusions can be drawn from part of the 2012 data which sought to evaluate students‟ use of the social wall and the discussion forum. Approximately 8 per cent (N=178) of the total 2012 cohort returned a participant questionnaire. This represents quite a small sample, probably due to the challenge of eliciting feedback online and after students‟ arrival and full immersion into university life. However, only about one third of these respondents (29 per cent) claimed not to have looked at the social wall. Of the two thirds that did, over one fifth posted a message and made contact with another student outside the course (21 and 22 per cent respectively) by sharing contact details (including those for Chinese social networks). In the forum, 55 threads containing 167 posts were created by students. The student-led forum was viewed over 4,000 times during the course.


It makes it easy for prospective student to get to make friends and get to know about the school before resuming studies. Very useful because I learn things (which will) affect me very much and somehow change happens to me. So I will be ready (…). Thanks a lot. It's amazing and fantastic. I'm now better prepared and I know what to expect in the near future. Thank you very much for this wonderful online orientation. Views of the whole course website totalled 24,000 in 2012 and in 2013, are expected to rise with numbers of student participants already having exceeded last year‟s total.

Conclusion Student comments (e.g. those above) and a cursory examination of data indicating the general pattern of content usage in 2012 suggest that both the self-access learning resources and the tools facilitating contact and communication are welcomed by students and can complement each other effectively in an untutored online course delivered over several months. In addition, this type of design may also map best with rapid turnover in international student enquiries, applications and admissions over the final quarter of the academic year. As the course grows and the data generated can be more thoroughly investigated, it is hoped that more insights into aspects of the international student experience can be provided.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR J.Watson@soton.ac.uk

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Braham, J., 2006. Supporting the Transition to Studying at a UK HE Institution for First Year International Students at the Leeds University Business School. [online] Available at: <http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/York/documents/resources/resourcedatabase/id6 15_Supporting_the_Transition_to_Studying_at_a_UK_HE_Institution_for_First_Yea r_International_Students.doc> [Accessed 29 August 2013]. Copland, C., 2013. Show or Tell? Video for Living and Learning. [online] ISEJ 1(1) pp.2528. Available at: <http://issuu.com/chrislima90/docs/vol_1_1__full> [Accessed 29 August 2013]. eLanguages, 2013a. Prepare for Success. University of Southampton. [online] Available at: <http://www.prepareforsuccess.org.uk> [Accessed 29 August 2013]. eLanguages, 2013b. Get Ready for Southampton. [online] Available at: <http://www.elanguages.ac.uk/get_ready_for_southampton.php> [Accessed 29 August 2013]. Mazzolini, M. & Maddison S., 2003. Sage, guide or ghost? The effect of instructor intervention on student participation in online discussion forums. Computers and Education. 3, pp.237-253.

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References


Northover, M., 2002. Online Discussion Boards – Friend or Foe? [online] Proceedings of ASCILITE Conference, Auckland, New Zealand. Available: <www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/auckland02/proceedings/papers/193.pdf> [Accessed 29 August 2103]. The Student Room, 2013. [online] Available at: <http://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/> [Accessed 29 August 2013]. UKCISA, 2013. International student statistics: UK higher education. [online] Available at: <http://www.ukcisa.org.uk/content/2196/International-students-in-UK-HE> [Accessed 29 August 2013]. Watson, J., 2010. A case study: developing learning objects with an explicit learning design. [online] Electronic Journal of e-Learning, 8(1), pp.41-50. Available at: <www.ejel.org/issue/download.html?idArticle=159> [Accessed 29 August 2013]. Webster, S., 2011. Improving the provision of pre-arrival information and support to international students via the use of online resources. Enhancing the Learner Experience in Higher Education 3(1), pp.5-19.

ISEJ Editorial Panel Philip Horspool. Assistant Director of the English Language Teaching Unit at the University of Leicester Caroline Burns. Lecturer of English Language and Academic Skills at Northumbria University and Doctoral student at Newcastle University. Dr Ellie Kennedy. Lecturer at the Academic Development at Nottingham Trent University. Chris Lima. EAP tutor and Learning Technologies Specialist at the English Language Teaching Unit at the University of Leicester; Literature and Language Consultant for the British Council.

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Ricky Lowes. Lecturer in the English Language Centre at the University of Plymouth.

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If you are a non-native speaker applying to study on an English-taught course in the UK, then you will need to prove your English ability to your chosen university or college. In addition all students applying through Tier 4 are now required to demonstrate English language proficiency at B1 or B2 on the Common European Framework, depending on the course level. English exams can either be administered online like PTE Academic or via a paper-based test. Each test contains different sections to test different aspects of your language abilities, such as written, listening and reading comprehension. Typically a university or college and the UK Border Agency will require you to demonstrate a score in the four skills of listening, reading, writing and speaking. What to look for in English test?

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Responding in real time Using 20 integrated and innovative item types or tasks, you will be asked to express yourself clearly and immediately, using well-formed spoken and written English to demonstrate that you are comfortable with using English as it is used in everyday academic life. This means that you can be confident that passing the test will mean that you can communicate effectively using English at the required level to be able to succeed in your studies. Authentic texts The texts used for PTE Academic are taken from real-life situations as you will encounter in an academic environment. These could include historical biographies and narratives, academic articles, book reviews, commentaries, editorials, critical essays and articles.

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What type of material does PTE Academic use?

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Testing a range of listening skills You will listen to a variety of lectures (for example audio, video, audio-visual) delivered with different accents and at varying delivery speeds. Listening tasks include lectures and study texts of academic interest from speakers from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US.

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Review article

Suitability of the PTE Academic for assessing whether students are prepared for academic study in the UK Nathaniel Owen University of Leicester

Universities in English-speaking countries require prospective students from those countries without English as a first language to have evidence of English proficiency prior to the commencement of academic study. Evidence regarding this claim is presented to the academic institution in the form of a test score. Until recently, students wishing to undertake a programme of study in an English-speaking country would take whichever test the institution to which they were applying required: this was invariably split along geographical lines – US institutions requiring a score from the Test of English as a Foreign Language Internet-based Test™ (TOEFL iBT®), with those in the UK requiring a score from the International English Language testing System™ (IELTS®). More recently, however, the respective „spheres of influence‟ of the two educational blocs have become increasingly blurred, and a third recognised test has emerged, the Pearson Test of Academic English™ (PTE Academic®). Potential applicants are now faced with a choice of three principal tests to pursue. Sitting these exams, and possibly undertaking a course of instruction in preparation is an expensive process, and hence a very important one for students. Score equivalences between these examinations are often displayed on institutional websites1, copied and distributed around the world2; these tables are often of unknown origin and do not represent research-based findings. Score comparison is made difficult due to differing scoring systems: IELTS band scores are reported in incremental half-band increases, whereas TOEFL and PTE scores are presented on a continuous scale. In addition, a claim of comparison across the tests may be invalid due to differing content, differing conceptions of the target domain reflected in different item types and different test content. Nonetheless, as these tests aim to make similar decisions about test takers, that is, their readiness for higher education in the medium of English, questions will always remain regarding score and content comparability. Subsequently, such research has been undertaken by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) in the United States (ETS, 2007, 2010) and by Pearson (2012) resulting in their placing a score equivalence „widget‟ on their website3. Additionally, as all students requiring a Tier 4 visa are required to demonstrate proficiency according to the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) at levels B1 or B2, test companies have been motivated to make claims of equivalence between the CEFR and performance according to their own scales (ETS, 2007; Pearson, 2009).

http://secure.vec.bc.ca/toefl-equivalency-table.cfm http://www.aber.ac.uk/en/media/departmental/internationalenglishcentre/englishlanguagerequirements/Compar e-IELTS,-TOEFL-and-TOEIC.pdf 3 http://pearsonpte.com/institutions/institutions/Pages/TestScores.aspx 2

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A major difference between the PTE and IELTS is the delivery model. The PTE is delivered in an online environment. Responses are captured and scored electronically. This also applies to the speaking component. Pearson advertise ‟20 integrated and innovative item types‟


related to „responding in real time‟ as a means of demonstrating effective communication. These item types integrate listening and speaking, speaking and reading, reading and writing, and listening and writing listening and reading. These items offer prompts to test takers who then have a limited window in which to create oral or written summaries of that material. Possibly the most interesting of these item types is the „elicited imitation‟ items. Test takers listen to a sentence and are then required to repeat that sentence verbatim. Such items are scored by “counting the number of correct word sequences… rhythm, parsing and stress… [with] vowels and consonants pronounced in a native-like way” (Pearson, 2010: 43). This description is highly evocative of the pre-communicative language testing era, which Spolsky (1975) terms the psychometric-structuralist stage. Language is broken down into its constitutive components, each of which is measured individually. However, the key difference between the present and this early era that allows Pearson to claim „innovation‟ is the fully-automated scoring procedure using VersantTM technology4. The utterance is awarded score from a partial-credit scoring model without any human raters (the scoring mechanism has been calibrated with speech extracts of more than 10,000 field test participants, against which individual test-taker utterances are compared [Pearson, 2008]). This approach to language testing allows Pearson to provide extremely quick feedback to test-takers, but raises interesting questions of validity, as it suggests Pearson‟s conception of the construct of academic speaking (as informed by this item type) does not include illocutionary or pragmatic competence (Bachman, 1990) that has informed the field of language testing since the 1980s. Defenders of elicited imitation items cite strong correlations (r=.67) between EI items and communicative speaking tasks (as found in IELTS) (Erlam, 2006), but accept that these item types in isolation cannot be used to make judgements about individual test takers‟ performance competence in a communicative environment with one or more interlocutors. Despite Pearson‟s undoubtedly efficient scoring procedure, there is currently little chance of IELTS following suit and creating a solely internet-based test. Weir et al. (2007) specifically investigated performance on a paper-based and a computer-based version of IELTS and found that the medium of delivery did not impact upon performance. ETS, by contrast, offer a third way – an internet-based test which still requires human raters of speaking components. The Pearson advertorial offers five bullet points regarding „what to look for in a language test‟, including who accepts the test, the location of test centres and the time each score is valid. The Pearson PTE was recognised by the UK Universities and Colleges Administration Service (UCAS) in 2009, and by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) in 2010 (Pearson, 2013). Like IELTS and TOEFL, a score awarded by Pearson remains valid for two years 5. It has subsequently launched a number of partnerships with education institutions in order to deliver test preparation courses. A number of „approved providers‟ are advertised on their website6. Additionally, preparation course books produced independently of Pearson are also now offered by a number of publishers7.

https://www.versanttest.com/ http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/applicationforms/new-approved-english-tests.pdf 6 http://pearsonpte.com/TestMe/Preparing/Pages/PreparationCourses.aspx 7 http://pearsonpte.com/PTEAcademic/RecommendedResources/Pages/IndependentPublications.aspx 5

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In languages testing, the principle that there is no such thing as a valid test is well understood (Popham, 2003: 43). It is the inferences or decisions that are made on the basis of test scores that are valid or not valid. To this end, the research base underlying the PTE will continue to


grow and provide potential test takers and other stakeholders with the information needed to decide which of the three tests to take. Although not yet as widespread as IELTS or TOEFL, Pearson has invested considerable time and energy in establishing what is clearly a viable alternative to the „big two‟. CONTACT THE AUTHOR nio5@le.ac.uk

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References Bachman, L. (1990). Fundamental Considerations in Language Testing. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Educational Testing Service (ETS) (2007). Mapping TOEFL® iBT on the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR). http://www.ets.org/Media/Campaign/5394/rsc/pdf/5684_CEF%20Flyer_HR.pdf (Accessed 28th October, 2013). Educational Testing Service (ETS) (2010). Linking TOEFL iBT Scores to IELTS Scores – A Research Report. http://www.ets.org/s/toefl/pdf/linking_toefl_ibt_scores_to_ielts_scores.pdf (Accessed 28th October, 2013). Erlam, R. (2006). "Elicited imititation as a measure of L2 implicit knowledge: An empirical validation study". Applied Linguistics 27, 464-491. Pearson (2008). Pearson Test of English (PTE) Global Field Test. http://www.pearsonpte.com/research/Documents/FieldTestWP_US_lowres.pdf (Accessed 28th October, 2013) Pearson (2009). Preliminary Estimates of Concordance between Pearson Test of English Academic and other Measures of English Language Competencies. http://www.pearsonpte.com/SiteCollectionDocuments/PremliminaryEstimatesofConc ordanceUS.pdf (Accessed 28th October, 2013). Pearson (2012). PTE Academic: Score Guide. http://pearsonpte.com/PTEAcademic/scores/Documents/PTEA_Score_Guide.pdf (Accessed 28th October, 2013). Pearson (2013). PTE Academic – Our Story so far. http://pearsonpte.com/media/Documents/20709405_PTEA_brochure_our_story_so_fa r_web.pdf (Accessed 28th October, 2013). Popham, W.J. (2003). Test better, teach better: The instructional role of assessment. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD). Spolsky, B. (1975). Language testing – the problem of validation. In L. Palmer & B. Spolsky (Eds.). Papers on Language Testing 1967-1974.Washington, D.FC.: TESOL. 147-53. Weir, C., O'Sullivan, B., Yan, J. and Bax, S. (2007) Does the computer make a difference? Reaction of candidates to a computer-based versus a traditional handwritten form of the IELTS writing component: effects and impact. IELTS Research Report, 7 (6). pp. 1-37.

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Student article

Language, Culture, and Learning: One Chinese Student’s Experience in the UK Shaowei Xie (Will) Nottingham Trent International College I am Chinese and I am taking my pre-Master‟s course in Nottingham Trent International College. Then, I will take my Master‟s course in Management and Investment Strategy at Nottingham Trent University in the UK. As an international student, there are many obstacles that overseas student may face when they are studying in a foreign country without their family members or close friends, although they may make friends in that country. As a result, usually, overseas students can find that it is difficult to live on their own when they feel lonely because of homesickness. Personally, I find the greatest difficulties are the language barrier, cultural differences and different learning styles between the UK and home. Language is one of the main issues for international students because they must use English to live and study. It may take a long time to adapt to using the language correctly, even like a native speaker. The language barrier is a main problem for me to study abroad and in fact I had never been to a foreign country before. Therefore, before I came to the UK, I worried that I might not understand other people, or I would express myself in a way that would put me in an embarrassing situation or I might say something rude to others. Yet, now I am living in the UK, my worry seems to have been wrong in that I experience British citizens to be very kind to foreigners and they will explain time after time until you fully understand what they are talking about.

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Generally, language might be easier to adapt to than culture, but I did not feel anxious about culture shock because I enjoy learning about different cultures around the world and I want to gain more knowledge about different countries‟ cultures to broaden my horizons. However, I did find myself shocked by the alcohol consumption of the UK people. I have written a report for a course which is about alcohol-related public issues in the UK. According to this, I found there are three main issues that are worrying the UK government: public health including increasing mortality, crimes, and accidents. I once saw a person drunk and unconscious on the street. Nobody wanted to help him. If continued heavy drinking like this leads to liver cancer or liver failure it can be seen as a kind of suicide. I cannot really understand this

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To overcome linguistic barriers, it takes time, effort and practice by yourself and communicating with others every day. There was a great improvement when I was studying on a Preparatory English course because I had to use English, like speaking English with classmates and tutors, reading the articles that tutors gave, listening to videos and doing writing practice. All of these helped me to upgrade my English. In addition, I used sources from the internet to improve my language by reading the tips for learning English, listening to BBC radio and other methods. I was continuously working on it for three or four hours a day in a six-month period. Ultimately, I achieved all the requirements that I needed. At that moment I realised that there is no gain without pain. The linguistic barrier was definitely the hardest one to overcome, and I‟m still working hard to improve my language.


custom because of this experience, and also because I have an alcohol allergy, so I cannot enjoy drinking alcohol. Furthermore, the eating style surprised me in the first couple of months when I lived in the UK because in China people always have hot food like noodles or rice for lunch and have a long lunch time, but it is totally different in the UK. The lunch break is short and the time is only enough for having a sandwich. I found this difficult to accept at first. As time goes by, although I do not dislike doing this, I cannot always eat a sandwich as a lunch because it is not enough for me to feel full. Consequently, sometimes, I cannot enjoy my lunch and then I have to go back to the college to have lessons. This means that sometimes I cannot focus on what is going on in the class. However, obviously, this is a habit of the UK, so I really should adapt to it. Not only is food culture different between China and the United Kingdom, but the study style is also totally different. In particular, the exam system in China is rigid, which means all the exam answers are settled. Thus, you just remember what the teachers said about the subject and write the answers down on the test paper. This means that students might not develop their capability of analysis and explanation. On the other hand, it can help students gain knowledge quicker and keep it in their mind. In contrast, the answers of the exams answers in the UK can be creative, which mean there could be often no single right and wrong answers in the exams, but several different acceptable answers. This education may make students open their mind and train their creativity. Having experienced Chinese style education and now under British style education, I think combining these two styles to teach students of the next generation would be a perfect approach. Another difference in learning style is that when writing an essay, a report or a proposal in a UK university, normally, a great number of references should be read and listed A university student in China may only produce one report – a thesis – in his/her four year school life, whereas a UK university student does much more writing. In this writing, citations may be a problem for Chinese students because there is no citation or quotation in their school thesis. In addition, most Chinese students are not good at finding sources. English is not our mother tongue, after all, and sometimes we cannot really understand the meaning of the source‟s title, and there are numerous specific academic and professional words that even people whose first language is English might not understand, let alone international students. Also plagiarism, such as copying and pasting, is a serious matter in the UK. For example, my sister‟s friend copied and pasted a paragraph of my sister‟s report and was found out by the professor. The professor with other two administrators had a meeting with them, told them this is a serious problem in the university and blamed them severely. This nearly made them drop out of the university.

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In conclusion, there are many problems that overseas students have to face. They have to solve their own physical and emotional problems. The major problems of language barrier, cultural differences and different studying styles between China and the UK are not easy to go through. However, through learning to deal with these problems, students can eventually become more capable and independent.

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CONTACT THE AUTHOR shaowei.xie2012@my.ntu.ac.uk ISEJ, Volume 1(2), Autumn 2013 © The Author 2013


Student article

Learning and understanding in a multinational environment over lunchtime Xin Chen Nottingham Trent International College This article introduces a lunchtime meet-up activity organized through the website http://nottingham123.com/, which has provided special opportunities for international students to talk with native students informally and moreover to enhance integration among different cultures. This is an important system that can help students to solve problems with study and life. As a Chinese student, I am studying at Nottingham Trent International College (NTIC). I have already participated in this kind of lunch party many times. So, I will share my personal experience during and after attending these meetings. This activity is organized by students in a specific forum of the website http://nottingham123.com/. Any student can publish their topic and decide the activity time. Five to six students meet and eat at a table and everyone has an opportunity to organize the discussion. The initial idea was to encourage overseas students to chat together in order to help non-English speakers to improve in both speaking and listening. Now it has been enriched in a broad way, for example, it helps international students to get a better understanding about local culture, rules, and norms. It helps socializing and enhances the interaction and communication between overseas students and home students. My personal experience of involvement in the lunchtime activity is incredible. To be precise, I think the activity is helpful and efficient in terms of solving problems for overseas students as it is a student-led activity. As a new person in Nottingham, the most important and desirable question is how to arrange oneâ€&#x;s life here. During the first week, without any embarrassment and worry about languages I spent almost 50% of lunchtimes in sitting at a table with Chinese students. After talking with Chinese students here, I found that the majority of information I got related to living in Nottingham and further afield, for instance, where I could go shopping; which bar offers the best cocktails; attractions and activities which cannot be missed in Europe and so on.

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In terms of academic writing, I have acquired information from another perspective. Apart from avoiding plagiarism, the tip for getting high results is reading widely in advance and most importantly to manifest the unique and in-depth idea of a specific topic. Using

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Most importantly, the groups shared some valuable tips for a Chinese student studying in the UK. Specifically, compared with students here, in China it is quite easy for students to get a pass in terms of writing coursework as copying without citation is not considered plagiarism in China. However, in the UK students must never use source material without citation. Plagiarism is not allowed in any academic writing, but paraphrasing with citation can be used to avoid plagiarism. This is important because the academic writing coursework may account for a great proportion of course assessment. The second point I learned is that during lectures, the teacher can be interrupted with a reasonable question or different opinion.


descriptive words without your opinion or idea is just like copying, which may lead to a fail in the coursework. The secret to get a good evaluation is to think and analyse critically. Without a doubt, I have acquired sufficient information about Nottingham and some basic information about local culture from Chinese students. As for socializing, we need to pay attention to our behaviour. The first tip is to say sorry frequently. I learned from the forum that saying sorry is an effective way to stay away from trouble. The second tip is always to follow or imitate the behaviour of others and avoid acting in ways familiar to us in China. For example, when joining a queue in the UK, always stick to the position you are in and never try to jump the queue. In China it might be normal for people not to queue or to jump the queue, but that is not good in the UK. During the following meet-ups, I was introduced to more and more other international students from different countries at the discussion table. In the beginning, I thought that it would be more difficult to chat with other students who speak a different language than Chinese. However, the warm welcome and encouraging words created a comfortable atmosphere to eliminate my nerves and worries quickly. I was very lucky to join the group, as the group mates were all kind. With great curiosity about everything related to other international students, their culture, life style, and individualism, I discovered many fascinating differences compared with my country. After talking with them, I found that, in turn, most international students share the same feelings and they want to know more about Chinese culture, for example, political issues, Chinese people‟s living conditions and habits. In the lunch party, there are sometimes home students, who are generally invited by their international classmates. Based on the lunchtime discussions, I noticed that the difference between Chinese culture and British culture could stem from the differences between collectivist and individualist habits. During the practical lunchtime meeting, two aspects in particular showed these differences. One is the eating behaviour. For instance, most Chinese students often ordered and ate together, while other international students ordered and ate separately. The other is that Chinese students may ask questions without paying attention to privacy, while non-Chinese students significantly avoid talking about private matters. As for social behaviour, Chinese students told me to say sorry frequently in terms of any unexpected situation, while home students show more detail and demonstrate reasons. The truth is when they keep saying sorry it does not always means they really feel sorry but it is a polite way to reduce possibilities of conflicts and moreover to enhance relationships.

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In conclusion, the activity provides students from all over the world an informal platform to share information and enhance understanding across nations and cultures. Meanwhile, participants have received benefits during and after the lunchtime meetings. As for me, its

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Personally speaking, the initial purpose of taking part in the event was to practise speaking and listening in English. Although I have studied English for more than ten years I still had problems using language in different situations. Because many Chinese teachers focus on writing and listening, Chinese students often lack skills in speaking and reading. This discussion activity could help other Chinese students – as it helped me – to communicate with other international and native students and gain further insight into British culture and study. As a result of the forum discussions, more and more students began to use English adroitly and naturally as well as quickly becoming integrated into the UK life.


greatest benefit has been to gain understanding of other countriesâ€&#x; cultures. Also, apart from acquiring important study tips and basic information on Nottingham, I am filled with confidence to communicate with other international students and to accomplish further study. Besides, I have made several friends during the activity, which has helped me to rapidly and efficiently enter into my new life in Nottingham and I hope to join related activities throughout my time in the UK and share my experience with others as well.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR chenxin0702@gmail.com

Call for Papers We would like to invite contributions to the next issue of the ISEJ to be published in Spring 2014.

Deadline for submission: 30th March 2014

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For further information visit:

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https://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/education/distance-learning/pgcert-in-teachingenglish-for-academic-purposes/pgcert-in-teaching-english-for-academic-purposes-teap

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