Page 1

Volume 3, Issue 1 Spring 2015 [Type a quote from the document or the summary of an interesting point. You can position the text box anywhere in the document. Use the Drawing Tools tab to change the formatting of the pull quote text box.]


The International Student Experience Journal

Editorial Phil Horspool, University of Leicester Articles  International students’ perceptions of university lectures in English. Tony Lynch  Connecting International Student Retention and Global Competency. Katherine Hellmann and Daniela Miranda  COMMON GROUND: a video project on language and culture. Chris Copland  Understanding Learners’ Needs: Classroom Feedback Interactions in EAP. Zuleyha Unlu Student article  PhD is not a piece of cake, but a hard nut to crack: Some insights into international student experience in the UK. Maryam Alharthi Conference review  BALEAP 2015. University of Leicester. Gary Riley-Jones  BALEAP 2015. University of Leicester Emma Stringer

ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

Editorial Phil Horspool University of Leicester Welcome to the Spring 2015 issue of the ISEJ, a little later than planned but here at last. This is probably the most diverse issue so far and comes on the back of a very busy period in which we have expanded our editorial board, expanded what we do and increased our prominence through sponsorship and social media. We are delighted to welcome Gary Riley-Jones from Goldsmiths, London onto our editorial board and he will take a lead in ensuring that we continue to cover the main conferences that deal with issues relevant to the journal. We also now have our own YouTube channel which we think is a great addition to what we do. We were also delighted to sponsor Zuleyha Unlu to attend the 2015 BALEAP conference and to sponsor the Pecha Kucha event at that conference. You can see some videos from BALEAP 2015 at and our next issue in Autumn 2015 will consist of articles based on presentations given at the conference. Finally, we are very pleased that we continue to attract new followers on our Facebook page and we now have over 900 likes. Turning to the current issue, as with all previous issues we have a student article and this time we have Maryam Alharthi sharing her insights into being a PhD international student in the UK with us. This is the first article we have published from Saudi Arabia and we look forward to receiving more from other countries in the future. Another first is that we have a second article from the same person. Tony Lynch offered us the lead article in volume 1 issue 2 and this time he shares his research on International student perceptions of University lectures in English. Katherine Hellmann from Washington State University discusses the connection between International Student Retention and Global Competency. Chris Copland, who has already contributed in a previous issue, tells us about his video project on language culture. Our BALEAP 2015 sponsored student Zuleyha Unlu has written up her presentation on ‘Understanding Learners’ Needs in which she discusses feedback interactions for this issue and finally we have 2 very different reviews of the BALEAP 2015 conference hosted by the University of Leicester. So as we continue to grow and diversify we would like to invite more people to join us and help in any way that they can. If you think you can spare the odd hour, please do get in touch. We’d love to have more representation from outside the UK. Thanks to all our contributors, reviewers and proof-readers. Visit us on:


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

Article International students’ perceptions of university lectures in English Tony Lynch University of Edinburgh ABSTRACT Listening to lectures in a second language is a challenge, even when the listener is generally proficient in the language. Here I report the findings of a survey carried out at the University of Edinburgh to find out what advice international students, as lecture listeners, would give to academic staff who want to enhance the comprehensibility of their lectures. It summarises the responses to the survey and explores the implications, for lecturers and students, of adjusting to the comprehension needs of multicultural academic communities. …………………………………………………………………………………………….......... Introduction Given the cognitive load borne by students listening to university lectures in a second language, it would make good sense to examine the lecturing process from the international student’s perspective. Yet there appear to have been only two such studies in Englishmedium settings, both in the United States: Kim (2006) investigated East Asian postgraduates’ perceptions of listening and speaking requirements and compared the results with an earlier study of mainly undergraduate international students (Ferris 1998). One-third of Kim’s postgraduate respondents reported problems in listening and note-taking, against 80 per cent of Ferris’s respondents. Arguably, undergraduates require sound note-taking skills to do well in class examinations, while postgraduates tend to be assessed through longer assignments. Postgraduates are also likely to have acquired note-taking skills through previous academic experiences, while undergraduates are still developing them. Listening to lectures in English is no longer limited to Anglo-Saxon settings. In some Swedish universities, for example, undergraduate lectures are given in English, often for the sake of non-Swedish exchange students. This accommodation can have unpredicted consequences: in research at the University of Uppsala, Airey and Linder (2006) found that when lectures were in English, the Swedish students asked and answered fewer questions than in Swedish lectures, and felt less able to follow and take notes. Of particular relevance to second language lecturing methodology is the work of Morell and colleagues (e.g. Morell 2009; Morell, Garcia and Sanchez 2008), who have drawn on the concept of multimodality (Kress and Van Leeuwen 2001) to enhance lecturers’ awareness of the four key modes in lectures based on presentation software such as PowerPoint: speech, writing, projected image and body language. Morell, García and Sanchez (2008) found that lecturers with higher levels of presentation skills used a wider range of modes and tended to foreground their use of visuals more. One might expect that a rich combination of modes would help second language listeners to achieve effective understanding, but that remains to be investigated.


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

The survey: International Students’ Perceptions of Lectures (ISPoL) The ISPoL survey was intended to elicit the perceptions of lectures and lecturing among international students as listeners with considerable – and growing – expertise in English lecture listening. My intention was to consider international students not as the problem, but as the source of potential solutions. The survey was based on a two-section questionnaire (see the Appendix). The first section listed 12 pieces of advice to lecturers, adapted from Morell (2009), and asked the student to rank the three items they considered most important. The second section invited them to comment on other points that they felt their lecturers should take into account. The questionnaire was emailed to some 850 international students – approximately 120 undergraduates and 730 postgraduates on taught Master’s programmes – who had been asked to take the University of Edinburgh’s Test of English at Matriculation at the beginning of the academic year because they were at, or only just above, the minimum overall English proficiency level required for their particular programme. The questionnaire was sent out towards the end of Semester 1, when the students had attended 7-8 weeks of lectures. It was returned by a total of 126 students, or roughly 15% of those canvassed, of whom just under half took up the invitation to provide additional comments and advice in section 2. Findings Item-ranking If we consider first the pieces of advice that respondents ranked in first place (Table 1), the lecturer’s rate of delivery clearly emerged as the most important single factor in the students’ perceptions of lecture comprehensibility. Control your speed of speaking was chosen by virtually twice as many students as the next most frequently first-placed advice. Table 1: Advice ranked in first place by international students (n = 126) Advice

Ranked first by ISs


Control your speed of speaking



Create a relaxed atmosphere



Exploit all four modes of communication



Adapt your examples for your audience



The fact that more than one in five of the respondents rated speaking speed as the most important factor chimes with a common finding (e.g. Graham 2006; Lynch 2009) that second language listeners ascribe their lack of understanding to excessive speed on the part of the speaker – in the subjective sense of ‘faster than they can comfortably cope with’ as listeners. However, when we widen the focus to consider the cumulative totals of items ranked in first, second or third place, a slightly different picture emerges (Table 2).


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

Table 2: Advice items ranked 1st, 2nd or 3rd Advice

Frequency of selection


Control your speed of speaking



Look out for signs of difficulty



Adapt examples for your audience



Create a relaxed atmosphere



While speed of speaking remained the most frequently selected source of concern for over 40 per cent of the respondents, the next was Look out for signs of difficulty. It appears that international students at Edinburgh expect their lecturers to be alert to clues that individual members of their audience are having problems in following them. Lecturers’ selection and/or adaptation of examples emerged as the third most frequently chosen advice in Table 2 and elicited these two comments, among others: I would like to say lecturers may pay more attention on the culture diversity in the classes, especially when they are giving example. If the lecturers would like to give some examples that might be unfamiliar with Asian students, they had better explain more about it beforehand, because of culture difference. Interestingly, the comments made on Create a relaxed atmosphere, the next item in Table 2, included potentially conflicting views on the role of humour: Lecturers should be humorous to create a relaxed atmosphere for the students. Please do not always… tell jokes that are only be understood by British people or Europeans, because not everyone could understand, or even catch up your… jokes all the time. Volunteered suggestions The comments made by students in the second section of the questionnaire raised several issues not covered in the first, particularly in relation to timing, ancillary materials and lecturers’ assumptions. On the issue of timing a number of respondents advised lecturers to be more realistic about what can be covered in the time available. The following comments encapsulate this well: It hinders understanding when lecturers try to tackle every single aspect of a topic within the 50 minutes of a lecture. It would be more effective to focus on two or three salient aspects which then actually get through to students, instead of just leaving them confused by mentioning whole aspects just in a half-sentence for lack of time.


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

Closely connected with the idea that lecturers should not try to cover too much ground were suggestions that they should provide ancillary material that could be accessed before or after the lecture: I would say that WebCT is a very useful tool to guide and prepare students during the course, as well as to have further research based on student’s interest. From my courses, one lecturer gives very thorough materials in the WebCT, including handouts containing the reading materials (in hierarchy: must read, read if we have more time, and for specific interest only) and it also contained objectives of each courses. The other issue mentioned by several respondents can be summarised as unwarranted assumptions: Do not assume all students have the same background (knowledge) on the subject matter. Be more clear about what are you expecting, and please let student know Discussion The ISPoL survey suggests a number of lessons for making lectures more accessible. The recommendation that lecturers control their speed of speaking was predominant in the Edinburgh students’ responses, which is unsurprising. As I have discussed elsewhere (Lynch 2009), terms commonly used by applied linguists to describe the process of coping with natural speech in another language emphasise transience (ephemeral and temporary), lack of clarity (buzz, fog and blur) and a sense of being overwhelmed (stream, flood, torrent, and cascade). Hincks (2010) has argued that the inevitable consequence of lecturers really taking international students’ needs into account, such as by speaking more slowly, is that they have to reduce the quantity of what they deliver in lecture form. This is in line with ISPoL respondents’ recommendation that more material be made available online, as preparatory or follow-up reading. Shifting material online would also create space in the lecture for questions from students to lecturer. Many participants in the survey advised lecturers to look out for signs of comprehension difficulty in their audience, but none specified what those clues might be. There has been some research into visual signs of listeners’ non-comprehension, but most studies have focused on the feedback behaviour of pupils in school lessons (e.g. Webb et al. 1997) or of adult learners in second language classes (e.g. De Courcy 1997), rather than a university lecture. As lectures typically involve larger audiences, it is more difficult for lecturers to recognise individuals’ facial expressions of non-comprehension, and this problem is increased when the lecture theatre is darkened to make it easier to read a PowerPoint projection. Students stressed the need for lecturer to choose accessible examples, avoiding those that demand cultural ‘insider information’ and may exclude international students from the circle of understanding. From a technological point of view, it is now much easier for lecturers to find illustrations, in the literal sense, to demonstrate points that might have been difficult to explain verbally to earlier generations. So awareness of the role of visual support for second language listeners, including PowerPoint and the interactive whiteboard, could be a key part of the lecturer’s repertoire. Some lecturers might be sceptical about the respondents’ advocacy of a relaxed atmosphere, especially as individual interpretations of ‘relaxed atmosphere’ will vary. However, in many cases it was clear that ISPoL respondents had something very specific in 5

ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

mind: the extent to which a lecturer seems genuinely to encourage audience questions. Question-asking is culturally complex, of course, and the relatively difficult syntax of English interrogatives can also inhibit participation. For example, asked about the widely cited reluctance of Chinese students to ask questions in class, Chinese postgraduates studying in the UK offered a number of reasons: a wish to avoid wasting the teacher’s and other students’ time with a hesitantly delivered question; reluctance to risk losing face by making grammatical errors, and uncertainty about the content value of their question (Wang 2010). Given such tensions, lecturers should explore practical ways of increasing the chances that students will ask questions when they realise they need to. One approach I have advocated is the use of question pauses – breaks of 2-3 minutes, when the lecturer encourages students to raise queries about what has been said up to that point (Lynch 1994). Clearly marking a space for question-asking in this way can provide an opportunity for students to raise doubts and queries. Conclusion The responses to the ISPoL survey suggest a need for universities to work on two fronts – English for Academic Purposes courses for international students, and professional development for lecturers – to help make lectures more accessible. The students will benefit from pre-sessional or in-session instruction in listening and note-taking which realistically reflects the input they will encounter in actual lectures, in different combinations of speech, writing, image and body language. Listening materials ought therefore to be based on videorecorded or, if possible, live lectures, rather than audio. In addition, students need to practise the output in lectures which the ISPoL survey points up: asking questions to get clarification when the lecturer’s speaking speed, terminology or choice of example has made understanding difficult. From the institutional perspective, more must be done to ensure that lecturers appreciate the practical pedagogic consequences of internationalisation, and English language teaching centres have a key role to play here. All universities should consider following the example of those, such as the University of Edinburgh, which offer their staff professional development sessions, led by English language specialists, highlighting the core requirements of teaching international classes, such as clear enunciation, appropriate illustration, judicious combination of image and speech, a willingness to encourage and answer questions, and (not least) to adjust their lecture content to allow space for those questions. Working on these two fronts, with international students and with lecturing staff, should have the benefit of making university lectures more effective learning opportunities – and, of course, not only for international students. CONTACT THE AUTHOR


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

References Airey, J. and Linder, C. 2006. Language and the experience of learning university physics in Sweden. European Journal of Physics 27, pp.553–560. De Courcy M. 1997. Teaching and learning with different scripts: Cross-cultural conflict in a Chinese late immersion classroom. Language and Education 11, pp.242-259. Ferris, D. 1998 Students’ views of academic aural/oral skills. TESOL Quarterly 32/2, pp.289–318 Graham, S. 2006. Listening comprehension: the learners’ perspective. System 34/2, pp.165182. Hincks, R. 2010. Speaking rate and information content in English lingua franca oral presentations. English for Specific Purposes 29, pp.4-18 Kim, S. 2006. Academic oral communication needs of East Asian international graduate students in non-science and non-engineering fields. English for Specific Purposes 25/4, pp. 479-489. Kress, G. and Van Leeuwen, T. 2001. The modes and media of contemporary communication. London: Arnold. Lynch, T. 1994. Training lecturers for international audiences. In J. Flowerdew (ed.) Academic listening: research perspectives, pp. 269-289. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Lynch, T. 2009. Teaching second language listening. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Morell, T. 2009. ¿Como podemos fomentar la participación en nuestras clases universitarias? (How can we encourage participation in our university classes?) Universidad de Alicante: Alicante, Spain Morell, T., Garcia, M. and Sanchez, I. 2008. Multimodal strategies for effective academic presentation in English for non-native speakers. In R. Monroy and A. Sanchez. A (eds.) 2008. 25 years of applied linguistics in Spain: milestones and challenges, pp. 557-568. Universidad de Murcia: Editum. Wang, L. 2010. Chinese postgraduate students in a British university: their learning experiences and learning beliefs. PhD dissertation, Durham University.


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

Appendix: The ISPoL questionnaire Section 1 Below are 12 pieces of advice often given to university lecturers teaching international students. Read through them and decide which three you think are the most important in making lectures easier to understand. Number them 1, 2 or 3 to show your order of priority 

Tell students when you prefer them to ask questions

Control your speed of speaking

Use visuals such as PowerPoint

Exploit four modes of communication: speech, writing, image and body language

Guide students’ note-taking

Check students’ comprehension by asking questions

     

Create a relaxed atmosphere Look out for signs that students are having difficulty following you Introduce variety into the lecture Encourage students to ask questions Adapt examples to students’ background knowledge Use clear ‘signposting’

Section 2 Apart from those 12 points, is there any other advice you would like to give your lecturers? If so, say what it is and how you think it would make lectures more comprehensible:


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

Article Connecting International Student Retention and Global Competency Katherine Hellmann and Daniela Miranda Washington State University ABSTRACT Since international student enrollment continues to rise at US universities, this paper addresses how international student retention can be increased. We argue that programs, services, and events that bring together international and domestic students may not only help retain students, but may also develop their global competency. In an increasingly diverse world, developing students’ global competency is key if we hope to help them to succeed at home or abroad. ……………………………………………………………………………………………..........

Introduction Universities and colleges in the United States widely recognize that benefits of admitting international students include diversity, intercultural learning and increased revenue (Andrade, 2011). It is also worth noting that the number of international students at American universities is increasing. The Institute of International Education’s 2013 report, for example, stated that the number of international students enrolling in American colleges and universities grew 7.2% between 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 to a record enrollment of 819,644 students. According to a National Science Foundation Report, enrollment is projected to continue to rise indefinitely which may suggest significant fiscal returns (Burrelli, 2010). Specifically, “in the 2012-2013 academic year . . . international students and their dependents contributed $24 billion to the U.S. economy, creating and supporting 313,000 jobs” (NAFSA, 2013). Given the contributions of international students to higher education, it is worth considering how to support their success and retention by fostering a model of integration into the campus and community that looks beyond simply ensuring academic success. While many institutions use the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) as one predictor of degree program success (Andrade, 2009), the reality is that students may still arrive unprepared for the differences in dialect and speed of discourse, much less the extensive reading and writing in an academia where English is the medium of instruction (Cheng, Myles and Curtis, 2004). Cultural differences can also impact student adjustment, leading to homesickness, isolation or detachment from the target culture, some or all of which may impact achievement (Lacina, 2002). And while universities and colleges have developed strategies and support programs for international students, including immigration and settling in, they may not specifically address the immersion into implicit social, cultural and academic expectations that may differ significantly from students’ previous experiences in their home countries (Andrade and Evans, 2009). The usual but perhaps short-sighted response to the perceived rather than the actual needs of international students is to provide Intensive English Programs. However, they are typically non-credit and rarely offer a wide variety of support services (Andrade, 2011). 9

ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

This paper argues for a more holistic model to integration and retention of international students. Rather than placing the burden of integration on the backs of the international community, we advocate for a combination of support services, programs and events that connect international and domestic communities. We believe that targeted activity such as this may also positively impact retention and it may have the added benefit of increasing the global competency of both parties. Global competency can be defined as, “the knowledge and skills that help [students] cross disciplinary domains to comprehend global events and respond to them effectively” (Reimers, 2009). Programs and Services that Develop Retention and Global Competency As theorized by Leask (2009), internationalization “at home,” is a process that requires the equal participation of both domestic and international students. Internationalization at home matters since the integration of international and domestic students can promote global competency (Reimers, 2009). Leask claims that “effective cross-cultural interaction” is often presented as “a one-sided process” resting on the international student’s ability to adjust to “the host culture” (p.218). In this model, international students bear all the responsibility when, in reality, both international and domestic students “need support and encouragement” in order to ensure a successful cross-cultural interaction. In Leask’s view, informal cocurricular activities, which she defines as “the various extracurricular activities that take place on campus” (p.207), are a vital part of global competency development. Washington State University (WSU) Office of International Programs’ (IP) International Center (IC) promotes global competency by targeting domestic and international communities. It also works to increase retention by providing both holistic programming and traditional support services for international students. Traditional support services include: 1. Becoming a Cougar: American Life and Culture Series This weekly series helps students better navigate the university environment and provides additional support by educating students on various topics including travels and transportation, athletics, academic integrity and social norms in America. 2. English Programs: Conversation Tables and English with Board Games Domestic and international students meet together every day of the week at noon to chat, play games and practice their English in a relaxed, informal setting. These programs aim to provide opportunities for students to interact with faculty, staff and community members, improve their interpersonal and language skills, and become more familiar with American culture and values, all key aspects in increasing student retention. Cocurricular activities are particularly important in helping students “connect with each other, explore interests, and develop different talents and skills” and they increase international student retention (Andrade and Evans, 2009, p.55). Similarly, other studies conducted at the University of Florida by Nesic, Choi, and Anderson (2009) and the University of Montana by Fluck (2009) show that programming aimed at supporting international students and scholars eases students’ cultural transition and improves retention rates. Andrade and Evans (2009) have identified vision, relationships, family, the institution, spirituality, and structure as keys to ensuring students’ retention (p.46). While some of these factors mentioned by Andrade


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

and Evans (2009) are deeply personal, most of the other factors might be affected by the policies and programs that an institution of higher learning decides to implement. In addition to programming that attempts to ease students’ cultural transition, the WSU IP-IC also offers holistic programming to encourage students to become active on campus and in the community such as: 1. Friends and Family: This program connects local community members with international students to share culture. 2. Campus Friends: In this program, domestic and international students are paired as conversation partners to exchange language and/or culture. 3. Engage the World: This program sends international students and students returning from education abroad into local classrooms and senior centers to provide cultural seminars and other types of educational presentations. 4. Coffee Hour: The Friday afternoon Coffee Hour from 3-4 attracts a large and diverse group of students, faculty, staff and community members for casual conversations or more formal presentations on selected cultural topics. It is worth discussing the Campus Friends program in more detail since it exemplifies a best practice when it comes to developing students’ global competency. The program, which pairs international and American students, aims to increase their global competency. American students that join the program come from an intercultural communication course where Campus Friends is a required part of the curriculum and attached to course concepts and outcomes. In addition, the program allows students to earn service or volunteer hours as an incentive to participate. The time the campus friends spend together may help develop global competency not only because of the connection to the intercultural communication course, but also because of the availability and ease of access to rich, meaningful and interactive events and programming such as cooking demonstrations, soccer tournaments, coffee hours and other special events. More importantly, by encouraging domestic students to approach intercultural communication as a two-way process, the program aims to create a more even playing field in which domestic students share the responsibility for creating a successful cross-cultural environment “at home” with international students. The WSU IP-IC has just completed assessment on the outcomes of the Campus Friends program. The assessment tool, NAFSA’s My Cultural Awareness Profile (MyCAP) measures domestic students’ changes in global competency (2011). Preliminary results do indicate an increase in global competency over the course of one semester or sixteen week session. In addition, we have assessed the Friends and Family program and have gathered valuable information about program quality and ways to improve family-student interactions. The next step for that program is to develop a more encompassing assessment plan that includes a measure of long-term student retention. The WSU IP-IC is following in Leask’s lead by creating an environment that promotes opportunities for international and domestic communities to interact and learn from each other. This is accomplished by collaborating with stakeholders on and off-campus, advocating for international student support services, and facilitating the extension of student learning from a local to global perspective. By focusing on institutional, social, and structural factors in particular, the services, events and programming offered by the IP-International Center aim to support, retain and integrate international and domestic populations. In addition, they provide the WSU community with international experiences through the integration of domestic and international communities. 11

ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

Conclusion Universities can help support students’ success in and out of the classroom which, in turn, may increase international student retention as well as build inclusive global competency. As Leask (2009) contends, institutional interest in the topic of global competency is a result of the “increased interconnections between nations and peoples of the world” produced by globalization (p.205). Drawing on Kalantzis and Cope’s (2000) research, Leask presents the interaction between home and international students as “a valuable resource” for ensuring that both populations “develop the skills and knowledge required to work in a global setting . . .” (p.206). Leask’s research suggests, however, that “simply bringing home and international students together in class and on campus does not necessarily result in . . . the development of valuable intercultural communication skills and international perspectives” (Leask, 2009, p.207). Instead she argues that a strategic use of “both the formal and the informal curriculum within a dynamic and supportive institutional culture of internationalisation” is the best option to develop global competency on campus (p.207). That is, increased numbers of international students integrating into our universities and with American students contributes to the internationalization of our campuses “at home” by fostering global competency when appropriately supported. The rising tide of international students choosing to attend American universities, then, challenges us to look at how retention and global competency are intertwined and to embrace support services including social, cultural and educational programming that support not only international student success and their ultimate retention, but also the successful interaction between domestic and international students. CONTACT THE AUTHOR

References Andrade, M. S., 2009. The international student picture. In: M. S. Andrade and N. W. Evans, eds. 2009. International students: Strengthening a critical resource. Washington, DC: ACE/Rowman Littlefield. pp.1-24. Andrade, M. S. and Evans, N.W., 2009. Keys to persistence—International students in higher education. In: M. S. Andrade and N. W. Evans, eds. 2009. International students: Strengthening a critical resource. Washington, DC: ACE/Rowman Littlefield. pp.4372. Andrade, M.S., 2011. Extending support for English language learners: A university outreach program. International Journal of Multicultural Education, 13(2), pp.1-18. Babbit, M. and Weiss, T., 2009. Learning community programs: In support of student success. In: M. S. Andrade and N. W. Evans, eds. 2009. International students: Strengthening a critical resource. Washington, DC: ACE/Rowman Littlefield. pp.152-57. Burrelli, J., 2010. Foreign science and engineering students in the United States. [pdf] The National Science Foundation. Available at: < nsf10324/nsf10324.pdf>. [Accessed 19 February 2012].


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

Cheng, L., Myles, J., and Curtis, A, 2004. Targeting language support for non-native Englishspeaking graduate students at a Canadian university. TESL Canada Journal, 21(2), pp.50-71. Cope, B., & Kalantzis, M. (2000). Designs for social futures. Multiliteracies: Literacy learning and the design of social futures, 203-234. Fluck, U., 2009. Social support for international students through a community friendship program. In: M. S. Andrade and N. W. Evans, eds. 2009. International students: Strengthening a critical resource. Washington, DC: ACE/Rowman Littlefield. pp.194-98. Institute of International Education, 2013. Open doors data: International students. Institute of International Education. Available at: <> [Accessed January 15 2015]. Lacina, J. G., 2002. Preparing international students for a successful social experience in higher education. New Directions for Higher Education, 117, pp. 21-27. Leask, B., 2009. Using formal and informal curricula to improve interactions between home and international students, Journal of International Education, 13(2), pp.205-221. NAFSA, 2011. My cultural awareness profile. Available at: <> [Accessed 18 January 2015]. NAFSA, 2013. The international student economic value tool [online]. Available at: < The_International_Student_Economic_Value_Tool/> [Accessed 15 January 2015]. Nesic, A., Choi, C., and Anderson, D., 2009. Social connections for international students and spouses. In: M. S. Andrade and N. W. Evans, eds. 2009. International students: Strengthening a critical resource. Washington, DC: ACE/Rowman Littlefield. pp.199-208. Reimers, F., 2009. “Global competency” is imperative for global success. Chronicle of Higher Education, 55(21), p.A29.

Follow the ISEJ on social media and check our new YouTube Channel. Stay attuned for new interactive ways of publishing your content with us to be announced soon.


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

Article COMMON GROUND: a video project on language and culture Chris Copland University of York ABSTRACT The ’Common Ground’ project is a set of video materials in which in which international students report on aspects of British life. A rationale is provided for focusing on the broader understanding of life in the host community and an outline given of ‘active viewing techniques. Colleagues are invited to use the videos, which are housed on the ISEJ site, and to collaborate in the project by sharing materials related to the ‘broader experience.’ …………………………………………………………………………………………….......... Introduction ‘Common Ground’ is a video project which aims to support international students in gaining a broader experience and understanding of life in the U.K. The videos were originally produced for visiting and exchange students at the University of York, attending a degree module, ‘English Language / British Life.’ The module focuses on language skills and cultural awareness, and aims to encourage participation in the host community. The materials have, however, also been used successfully with other learner groups, for example on induction classes on a Pre-sessional programme. They are a series of mini-documentaries on different aspects of British life, for example, industry, agriculture and the environment. International students play a central role in the films as reporters and presenters, thus providing a ‘visitor’s eye view’ of Britain. Although teaching staff selected the situations to be filmed, the student presenters were given free rein to ask questions and investigate aspects that interested them. All videos were shot on location, e.g. one about the countryside was made in collaboration with a hill farmer in Snowdonia. The focus on students’ responses to this kind of direct experience, it is hoped, gives the films credibility with peers in class and an overall ‘authentic’ feel. Why the ‘broader experience?’ It might be asked whether international students are sufficiently interested in ‘life and culture,’ to justify a language centre running a degree module or producing such resources. However, the ‘broader experience’ is certainly very much part of the agenda on exchange programmes such as Erasmus. “Many studies show that a period spent abroad not only enriches students' lives in the academic and professional fields, but can also improve language learning, intercultural skills, self-reliance and self-awareness. Their experiences give students a better sense of what it means to be a European citizen. In addition, many employers highly value such a period abroad, which increases the students' employability and job prospects.” (Erasmus 2015)


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

Anderson et al (2010) argue that community engagement is vital for international students’ sense of well-being and in their transition to the working world. Such engagement provides an opportunity to ‘prove oneself, learn new skills, and gain experience’ (p. 1). Indeed the emphasis on the wider student experience is not restricted to visiting students and has been taken up by the Higher Education Academy, many individual universities and, of course, professional groupings like ISEJ. Why video? Digital technology has made the production and sharing of high quality video accessible to the wider community, including those engaged in education. The medium enables language learners to explore how words are embedded in a cultural context by showing setting, body language and unfolding action and relationships. Visual and audio clues can be used to anticipate content and pre-teach vocabulary. Using the content sparingly in short sequences and focusing on particular items through, for example, freeze-frame allows plenty of opportunity for an active response from learners in class. The availability of the video in a streaming online format enables learners to return to them in their own time for consolidation or extension activities. The specific aim has been to enliven broad cultural themes, such as social class or heritage, by bringing into the classroom real life instances. Such ‘glimpses’ stimulate interest that can then be followed up through more conventional methods. For example, on ‘English Language / British Life,’ the course book, ‘British Cultural Identities’ by Storry and Childs was used to give a broader framework of understanding. Although the videos (and the module) focus on situations in the UK, these are used as a springboard for learners to compare practices in their own cultures through discussions and project work that place the UK experience in an international context. What has been the feedback? In one class, an average of more than 7 out of 10 learners agreed strongly with these statements: The videos give an insight into British life. They help develop listening skills. They are a good stimulus for discussion. They are interesting. A colleague in the ELT publishing industry made this comment on one of the films. ‘The key is that it’s authentic, and it covers slightly unexpected topics ... I also like the fact that international students are interacting in the video to add to the authenticity and realness of the context. There’s already a natural script in place. ..There’s also the added dimension of regional accents, which is important for diversifying listening types… Plus, now I’ve found out about the role of alpacas as fox deterrents, which is really interesting!’


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

What now? Common Ground has been a small-scale project, though it has acted as a significant supplement and stimulant for more than one course at the University of York. There have, however, been other more ambitious projects in this area. The Erasmus ‘Citizen Reporters’ resource (at Home in Europe) makes an interesting comparison. This is a website featuring over twenty films shot in countries throughout Europe, mostly in languages other than English, though subtitles are available. It is a formidable and impressive body of work, produced by a professional media company on an EU budget. However, given the increasing flexibility of digital technology, there is no reason why ordinary members of the ELT community cannot produce materials of sufficient quality and, more important, originality and relevance, to justify their work being shared with the wider professional community. The response to the ‘Common Ground’ materials, both by learners and other professionals, has certainly been sufficiently positive to encourage the makers to share them more widely as ‘open resources.’ They are thus being made available on ISEJ for other practitioners to use freely under a Creative Commons licence. Colleagues who also have an interest in language, culture and the wider ’student experience’ are invited to participate in this venture by sharing their own materials and skills on ISEJ on a similar basis. Linking an article in the Journal to practical resources, as has been done here, would be a stimulating way of relating theory to practice and of showcasing innovation taking place in universities in the UK and, perhaps, beyond. CONTACT THE AUTHOR References Anderson, V., McGrath, T., Butcher, A., Ching, C. P., Doi, A. & Stock, P. (2010) Community engagement and study-to-work transitions: Recommendations from Asiaborn New Zealandeducated business graduates. In F. Fallon (Ed). 21st ISANA International Education Association Conference Proceedings. The Gap, Qld : ISANA International Education Association Inc. At Home in Europe. (2015.) Citizens-Reporters. Retrieved 27 April, 2015 from: Erasmus (2015). Lifelong Learning Programme. Retrieved 27 April 2015 from: Storry, M., and Childs, P. (2013). British Cultural Identities. Oxon: Routledge.

The COMMON GROUND materials referred to in this article are available on the ISEJ website for download. Videos are available on the ISEJ YouTube Channel.


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

Article Understanding Learners’ Needs: Classroom Feedback Interactions in EAP Zuleyha Unlu University of Warwick ABSTRACT This article foregrounds findings from a larger doctoral research on the theorization of teacher-student classroom feedback interactions on academic writing across EAP classes at one UK HE institution. Data was collected through classroom observations and interviews with both EAP tutors and students. The findings are meaningful for meeting the demands of both international and home students while also underscoring the urgent need to establish stronger collaborations between EAP and learners' departments. …………………………………………………………………………………………….......... Introduction: The Significance of EAP Classroom Spoken Feedback This study presents findings on understanding learners’ needs, which are taken from my doctoral research on the theorisation of teacher-student classroom spoken feedback interactions on academic writing in EAP classes. Although learners’ needs in EAP classrooms were not a major focus in my thesis, I identified several issues around classroom feedback interactions as also meaningful to understand learners’ needs. These were: 

Role of EAP classroom feedback interactions on writing: My data has shown that classroom feedback interactions were the most immediate form of interactions students could have on the drafts of their writing. Likewise, EAP tutors also utilised this form of feedback most due to various reasons (e.g. high number of students, time constraints and so forth). “An imbalance in the literature with more attention paid to what of EAP” (WatsonTodd, 2003), and “a reluctance in EAP to go into the living-and-breathing classroom” (Cadman, 2005): This study presents the EAP classroom as an underexplored, yet significant setting to understand learners’ needs. The two items above also indicate that classroom spoken feedback interactions in EAP classes can facilitate the design of EAP through a bottom-up view on learner needs. While doing so, the paper draws on the previous work that encourages the collaboration between EAP units and learners’ departments (Sloan and Porter, 2010).

Literature Review Although written forms of feedback on second language students’ writing have been widely examined and have established the significance of written feedback for L2 writers, the research on the role of oral interaction on L2 speakers’ writing has stayed thin (Hyland and Hyland, 2006, p. 83). In my doctoral research, within the field of forms of feedback on writing, I have identified five separate but interrelated strands of research: 1) Interactional patterns and possible influencing factors on them; 2) Content of feedback and possible influencing factors on it; 3) Student perceptions and possible influencing factors on them; 4) 17

ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

Teacher perceptions and possible influencing factors on them; 5) Revision behaviours and possible influencing factors on them. Although these lines of research provide insight into other forms of spoken feedback on writing, I have revealed that one-to-one teacher-student classroom spoken feedback interactions on academic writing was an underexplored area particularly within EAP settings. The present study, with a focus on this scarcely examined form of feedback in EAP classes, locates itself at the nexus of more than one of the above listed strands of inquiry. In this way, it acknowledges the underlying dynamic and multi-dimensional nature of classroom spoken feedback practices in EAP and moves away from one-sided accounts. However, at a more specific level, this paper draws on the studies on students’ and teachers’ perceptions of feedback on writing. The studies on students’ perceptions of feedback on L2 writing provide insight into spoken forms of feedback in comparison to other forms of feedback and highlight learners’ perceptions of personalisation (e.g. Olesova et al., 2011; Oomen-Early et al., 2008), quality and quantity of feedback, learning intentions and perceived relationship with tutors (e.g. Liu, 2009; Thompson and Lee, 2012). In terms of teachers’ perspectives of feedback, the findings on teachers’ perceptions of phatic potential of different modes of aural feedback (Harper et al., 2012) as well as how institutional factors shape these perceptions stand out (Goldstein, 2006). Even though these studies have illustrative findings on learners’ needs in relation to feedback, they fail to acknowledge that learners’ needs are emergent and multiconstructed. By foregrounding this gap, the current paper contributes to the filling of a significant gap in the literature. Data Collection Two methods of data collection were used. These were classroom observation field notes, and interviews with EAP teachers and students. Field notes were taken during all classroom observations, and teacher-student interactions were audio-recorded where possible. Data presented here was taken from classroom observations across Generic-Insessional, and Specialised EAP classes. The details of these classroom observation field notes are presented in Table 1. Table 1: Details of classroom observation field notes Classroom Observations Type of EAP class Generic In-Sessional EAP Specialised EAP Pre-requisite EAP

Disciplinary Background Mixed: Business, Education, Sociology Law, Statistics, PhD in Science, BA in Education in TESL Mixed: Business, Dentistry, Law, Economics, Manufacturing

Simultaneously with the classroom observations, interviews with both EAP tutors and students were conducted. All interviews were individual, except for those who wanted to be interviewed together. Questions focused on how learners and teachers perceived feedback, and felt about feedback practices.


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

Methods of Data Analysis Case study (Yin, 2003) and Grounded Theory (GT) (Glaser, 1978) informed the data collection and data analysis procedures. Case study facilitated the understanding of a contextually bounded phenomenon through multiple perspectives (Dörnyei, 2007). These multiple perspectives were provided by the two methods. GT tradition has also informed the study. The study began with a general idea of exploring feedback interactions while gradually becoming more selective. Charmaz (2006) indicates that concurrent data collection and analysis, deriving analytic codes and categories from data, use of constant comparison method, use of memos (i.e. reflective notes taken during analysis), and the gradual development of theory through steps of data collection and analysis are key principles of a GT research. This study also followed these principles as can be seen in Figure 1 below.

Data Collection Constant Comparison



Figure 1: Concurrent procedure of data collection and analysis Classroom field notes were utilized as a central data set whereas interviews were the supporting data set. This meant that the analysis of the interviews were informed by the findings from the classroom observation field notes. Results: Learner needs as emergent and co-constructed in feedback interactions Although the broader study did not focus on learners’ needs, the findings included meaningful samples in terms of understanding learners’ needs across EAP settings in the study. The findings indicated that classroom feedback interactions across EAP settings were a multi-dimensional and multi-directional construct. These dimensions were behavioural dimension, intra-personal, inter-personal and extra-personal dimensions. This nature of feedback interactions also indicated that learners’ needs were emergent and co-constructed:


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

A. Behavioural dimension: Three relationship patterns as normative, collaborative, and subordinated relationships emerged in classroom feedback interactions on EAP writing between students and teachers. These relationship patterns were not linear, but displaying an irregular pattern. In the normative relationship, teachers were more powerful and arbiters while learners were seeking conforming to the conventions. Table 2: Normative relationship pattern in classroom feedback interactions (The teacher asked students to write a short summary of an article they had been reading in their departmental courses. While the teacher was visiting students to check how they were doing, the following dialogue took place) Jens: Is it very usual to use of which/of whom or too complicated? Maybe not but too long when you use that? Michael: You want to understand if you write of which, Jens (student): Is it possible to put of which Jack is a member? Michael (the teacher): Fine. Good English. (he gives an example): Manchester United, of which…. Jens: And is it too long to put it in an essay? Because I want to write long sentences, but I also read it’s complicated. Michael: You’ve got too many advises. Of course long sentences are used a bit in academic essays. It doesn’t have to be like that but it’s a norm to use two/three clauses. If you write too short sentences, it feels like childish, journalist writing. But short sentences can be effective and powerful. (He showed the sample essay.) You don’t have to be overambitious and build long sentences, said the teacher then. (Specialised EAP-Law, Field notes, Focused data collection phase)

In the collaborative relationship, both teachers and students tried to explore the requirements together while neither side claimed control over the text. Table 3: Collaborative relationship pattern in classroom feedback interactions (The teacher and the student are talking on assignment draft of Cheryl, a student from Education master’s department.) Heled (the teacher): Why we use it is not necessarily advantages, be careful. You need to be careful with your headings. (Warning) Cheryl (the student): But there will be a part about disadvantages part. (Challenge) Heled: I think you need to be careful with your title. (Warning) Heled: How....? [Indicating a portion of text] (Diagnosis) Cheryl: I mean with the strategy. (Clarification) Heled: Initially if you go..For me personally, this is kind of what and how and this is why. For me, I would want to know what and how before why. (Suggestion) Cheryl: But the logic is first why and then what and how. (Challenge) (EAP-Generic Writing Class Field notes, Initial data collection phase)


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

As for subordinated relationship, students gained higher control over the text while EAP tutors remained cautious and deferred to learners’ departments. Table 4: Subordinated relationship pattern in classroom feedback interactions (The teacher and the student are talking about an assignment draft the student brought to the class. The teacher is reading and asking questions or making various comments on the writing. In the below section, the teacher has difficulty in understanding the meaning of an abbreviation the student used. Thus, the below dialogue emerges): Steen: [….] So what’s RBV? Student: We mention before research, resource view Steen: Is it like a framework or is it like? Student: it’s like a theory and framework. (Steen: the teacher, Generic Insessional EAP, field note, Focused data collection)

Teachers and students utilized certain actions in each relationship, and certain combinations of these actions constructed the relationship patterns. (Please see Unlu and Wharton, 2015 for further details of these relationship patterns). B. Intra-personal dimension: At this dimension, individual perceptions, goals and attitudes emerged as potential influencing factors on the feedback interactions. The interviews of students indicated that learners expected flexible and ‘eager to help’ EAP tutor attitude in general. They also stated that learners usually joined the feedback interactions with a selfreinforcement mechanism. As for EAP tutors, their accounts showed that EAP tutors did not regard correction as their only job even though various students joined EAP with that expectation. Tutors also reported constructing themselves as ‘an educated reader in many fields’. Finally, EAP teachers underlined that they focused on facilitating learners’ criticality, independence and professional attitude. Table 5: Learners’ and teachers’ accounts at intra-personal dimension Students “He maybe not know about my work about what, it’s my responsibility to write and, to let him know that this is the things I was told, want to write, then maybe he will give suggestions, but I have to let him know about it” (Surinder, Specialised EAP-PhD Science class student; interview; November 29, 2012 Thursday)

Teachers “actually we don't know the answer sometimes,…’how long should a research proposal be’, there isn't a fixed answer, and you throw this question back at the students, some of them are horrified to see that you don't know the answer and you are actually going to ask the students what the answer is” (Heled: Generic In-sessional EAP teacher, Interview, March 20, 2012 Tuesday)

C. Inter-personal dimension: Inter-personal dimension refers to how learners’ and teachers’ interaction in one-to-one feedback dialogues influenced the emergence of feedback interactions. For learners, EAP tutors’ openness to listen, language barriers during feedback interactions and features of feedback interactions (i.e. clear, honest, and critical) emerged as significant issues. For EAP tutors, several issues were significant. Establishing rapport with 21

ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

learners during feedback interactions was one determining factor. They also frequently indicated the variety of students with differing levels of content and language knowledge. Related with that, levels of expected student knowledge and the real knowledge did not always match during feedback interactions. The variety of the students in EAP classes also necessitated EAP tutors to employ prioritisation mechanisms during feedback interactions. However, it was often underlined that the priority of learners and tutors did not always match, this led to the need to negotiate priorities. required negotiation of priorities. Most importantly, EAP tutors indicated the role of learners’ departments on the interactions. EAP tutors aimed at conforming to the departmental requirements. Finally, learners’ departments, particularly in ESAP classes, were able to shape EAP classes profile as well as varying in the support they offered to the learners with their academic writing tasks. Table 6: Learners’ and teachers’ accounts at inter-personal dimension Students I think Michael doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable with your language. […]He just try to understand and he understand generally, and that’s why you don’t feel a problem, you don’t feel, there is no reason to be ashamed because of Michael’s attitude I think,

Teachers I get surprised that students don’t understand the basic legal principle. We have something like misrepresentation, which is standard for undergraduates, they know what it means, but a much older more mature post graduate student I had to explain the concept.

(Cengiz, Specialised EAP)

(Michael; Specialised EAP –Law; teacher; interview; November 30, 2012 Friday)

D. Extra-personal Dimension: Extra-personal dimension referred to how learners’ and teachers’ interaction with the larger setting shaped their one-to-one classroom feedback interactions. Learners’ extra-personal dimension were constructed by the elements of institutional attitude towards EAP (e.g. departments’ presenting EAP as a setting to learn/fix academic writing), awareness on EAP tutors’ struggles with disciplinary writing, issues of authority in academic writing (e.g. aiming at conforming to the departmental/disciplinary tutors’ requirements rather than simply following all the comments by EAP tutors), and ambiguity in academic writing conventions (e.g. departments being strictly demanding on academic writing while being vague with requirements). As for EAP tutors, they supported learners’ accounts on the departments’ role: Departmental tutors’ provision of varying feedback and the departmental demands (e.g. sending learners who take different courses within the same programme), created challenges for EAP tutors during feedback interactions. Furthermore, a lack of healthy communication between EAP units and departments was frequently reported. EAP tutors highlighted the need for closer collaboration. A sample for both students and teachers is presented below: Table 7: Learners’ and teachers’ accounts at the extra-personal dimension Students “There was a situation when he said something and I, I’ve been told completely different from the lectures at the university, so I said what I’ve been told and I waited for him to reply to it” (Danuta-student, Specialised EAP class student; interview; 5 December, 2012 Wednesday)

Teachers “…occasionally, I mean you get students sort of says, well sort of I say well have you thought about doing this, what about doing this, and they sort of say well actually in maths in statistics, we don’t really do that, or the tutors really ask them, they are asked to use particular referencing system rather than that referencing system” (Steen; Generic Insessional EAP; teacher; interview; February 25, 2013 Monday)


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

Discussion This paper contributes to the understanding of learners’ needs within EAP classrooms, in particular during one-to-one teacher-student classroom feedback interactions on academic writing. Unravelling how learners’ needs emerge at different dimensions dynamically, the paper indicates that an effective feedback interaction would require a systematic management of these dimensions. At the intra-personal dimension, the findings on learners’ expectations of clear and explicit feedback show that learners actively engage with agenda-setting and maintenance in feedback interactions, which could explain why the issue of personalised feedback emerged as a significant finding in literature (Olesova et al., 2011). In that sense, explicit, specific and not over-complimentary feedback might be what shows learners that EAP tutors acknowledge their agendas. Likewise, these could be interpreted as learners’ criteria for “tailor-made” (Oomen-Early et al., 2008, p.272) and individualised feedback. At the inter-personal dimension, tutors’ moment-by-moment attitudes as possible influencing factors on learners’ participation in feedback interactions were reported as significant by learners. Whether the EAP tutor was open to listening, encouraging, open to learners’ agenda, flexible, not harsh when learners made mistakes and not self-justifying through feedback determined learners’ participation in feedback interactions. In that sense, learners’ feedback perceptions from a phatic perspective were examined by a variety of scholars (Liu, 2009; Thompson and Lee, 2012). Those studies indicated that the medium of feedback had an impact on learners’ perceptions of the phatic aspect within feedback. The findings in this paper highlight these studies in an EAP classroom feedback interaction setting. It also adds to the current understanding by unravelling the possible relationship between phatic issues residing in feedback interactions and the relatively more frequent emergence of certain relationship patterns by learners. For example, it might be interpreted that learners would display a more collaborative relationship pattern with an EAP tutor with the described attitude. Even though this paper indicates tutor accounts on rapport in feedback interactions, further research is still required to explore how both tutors and students actively construct classroom feedback interactions. In terms of the issues encountered at the extra-personal dimension, this paper repeats the existing calls in literature for collaboration between EAP and subject tutors “to promote learning opportunities for students” (Sloan and Porter, 2010, p.209). Conclusion and Implications This paper deepens our understanding of learners’ needs as they emerge in moment-bymoment interactions during feedback interactions inside EAP classrooms while simultaneously indicating the co-constructed nature of these needs. Although encountering these issues in the classroom settings might be challenging for teachers due to the unpredictable nature of the dimensions, developing more systematic collaboration between EAP units and departments can open up further teaching and learning opportunities. Yet, how ‘more systematic collaboration’ could be developed would require further research and more sharing of good practices from different HE institutions. CONTACT THE AUTHOR


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

References Cadman, K., 2005. Towards a ‘pedagogy of connection’ in critical research education: A REAL story. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 4(4), pp.353-367. Charmaz, K., 2006. Constructing grounded theory: A practical guide through qualitative analysis. Sage Publications. Dörnyei, Z., 2007. Research methods in applied linguistics: quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methodologies. Oxford University Press. Glaser, B. G., 1978. Theoretical sensitivity. Mill Valley, CA: The Sociology Press. Goldstein L., 2006. In search of the individual: feedback and revision in second language writing. In K. Hyland K & F. Hyland, ed. 2006. Feedback in second language writing: Contexts and issues. New York. pp.185–205. Harper, F., Green, H. and Fernandez-Toro, M., 2012. Evaluating the integration of Jing screencasts in feedback on written assignments. In: 15th International conference on interactive collaborative learning. Villach: Austria. Hyland, K., and Hyland, F., 2006. Feedback on second language students’ writing. Language Teaching, 39(2), pp.83-101. Liu, Y., 2009. “What am I supposed to say?” ESL students’ expectation of writing conferences. Arizona Working Papers in SLA and Teaching, 16, pp.99-120. Olesova, L. A., Richardson, J. C.,Weasenforth, D., and Meloni, C., 2011. Using asynchronous instructional audio feedback in online environments: a mixed methods study. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 7(1), pp.30-42. Oomen-Early, J., Bold, M., Wiginton, K. L, Gallien, T. L., and Anderson, N., 2008. Using asynchronous audio communication (AAC) in the online classroom: a comparative study. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 4(3), pp.267-276. Sloan, D., and Porter, E., 2010. Changing international student and business staff perceptions of in-sessional EAP: using the CEM model. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 9(3), pp. 198-210. Thompson, R., and Lee, M. J. 2012. Talking with students through screencasting: experimentations with video feedback to improve student learning. The Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy,1. Unlu, Z., & Wharton, S. M., 2015. Exploring classroom feedback interactions around EAP writing: A data based model. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 17, pp. 2436. Watson Todd, R., 2003. EAP or TEAP?. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 2(2), pp. 147-156. Yin, R. K., 2009. Case study research: Designs and methods. United States of America: Sage Publications, Inc.


ISEJ â&#x20AC;&#x201C; International Student Experience Journal

The ISEJ Scholarship for BALEAP 2015 The International Student Experience Journal offered a scholarship opportunity for an international student willing to attend and present at the BALEAP Conference at the University of Leicester on 17-19 April 2015. The award was offered to applicants in full-time education. Zuleyha Unluâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s article is based on a presentation she gave at the BALEAP 2015 Conference at the University of Leicester in April. She was the ISEJ Scholarship Winner and we are proud to have sponsored her.

ISEJ Editorial Panel


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

Student Article A PhD is not a piece of cake, but a hard nut to crack: Some insights into international student experience in the UK Maryam Jamal Al-Harthi Taibah University, Saudi Arabia

ABSTRACT This is a reflective article that looks my experiences as an international PhD student from Saudi Arabia at the University of East Anglia in the UK. Coming from a completely different learning context, several learning issues emerged through my postgraduate study. These issues, even though they were not directly linked to the course materials, had a huge impact on my learning experience. In this article, I reflect on critical thinking and the use of two languages in the learning process, as well as on some aspects of my personal life that had an impact on my research journey. …………………………………………………………………………………………….......... Introduction This paper aims to give an insight into some of the challenges ESOL international students may face during their study. By sharing my experiences, I hope to bring to the surface some of the issues I experienced during my PhD, the knowledge of which may be beneficial to both domestic and international PhD students. In addition, this may help some tutors and supervisors understand the challenges that face international PhD students. My journey as an international student in the UK started in 2008 when I enrolled on an MA course at the School of Education and Lifelong Learning at the University of East Anglia. After being awarded my Master’s, I was very enthusiastic to start my PhD, and overjoyed when my application was accepted, as I felt I was following the path to achieve my dreams. Having started the course, I soon realised that this stage was completely different from the Master’s, in that although it was more convenient with regard to deadlines and time pressures, there was much more work to be done. Throughout my PhD journey, I experienced several learning situations that influenced my vision and perspective. Most importantly, it gave me the opportunity to reflect on my personal experience as a researcher and a PhD student in the UK. The use of reflective practice is common in the educational field (Finlay, 2008). This process helps in understanding the rationale behind a decision a person makes in certain circumstances. The importance of this reflection according to Biggs is evident below: A reflection in a mirror is an exact replica of what is in front of it. Reflection in professional practice, however, gives back to not what it is, but what might be, an improvement on the original. (Biggs,1999, p.6)


ISEJ â&#x20AC;&#x201C; International Student Experience Journal

My reflection is informed by the reflective model of Gibbsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s (1988). The model has six stages which form a cycle. The first stage is the Description of the situation, which includes the background and other information related to the situation you are reflecting on. The second stage is Feelings where your thoughts and feelings are discussed. The third stage is Evaluation where you look back at the situation and evaluate it. During the fourth stage, Analysis, you look at the situation and see how you could have done things differently, how the situation would have changed if you had not done things the way you did. The fifth stage is the Conclusion about what you have learnt from the experience, about your chances of going through a similar experience again, and why this may or may not happen. The sixth and final stage is an Action Plan, based on the impact of your experience, for the future in a similar situation (Gibbs, 1988). Description

Action plam





Figure 1: Reflective Cycle (Gibbs, 1988) In the coming section I reflect on my learning journey in the light of the previously explained reflective cycle: starting with the challenges that face many international students as they study abroad, getting used to a new course structure, the social interaction with their peers and their personal life. This is followed by a questioning of my decision and an acknowledgement of the new experience. I highlight my situation as an international student who needs to obtain a certain level of critical thinking. I also discuss the impact of bilingualism. Challenges of doing a PhD abroad During my PhD programme I had many responsibilities and roles that urged me to organise my time and apportion it between my study and looking after my children. This section looks at some of the obstacles I encountered and how I adapted to them. Some of these obstacles were related to my PhD student status, a role I was still unfamiliar with, while others were more personal and related to my role as a mother and a daughter. Getting used to a new course structure: There are many variables that impacted on my experience. One of these was my struggle to adjust my MA student mind-set to a PhD student one. During the MA, all the nine members of our group were international students who did not have much involvement with British students. Also, at that time we only needed 27

ISEJ â&#x20AC;&#x201C; International Student Experience Journal

to attend university three days a week for our lectures. Moreover, there was no specific place for Masterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s students to study in. I used to go to the library on the days I had lectures or studied at home when I did not have any lectures or seminars to attend. During my PhD the situation was different; there was a larger mixed group with both home and overseas students, some part time and others full time. PhD study area and social interaction: As PhD students we had a study area in our school with twelve desks. Being in the study area with other students was an advantage, even though in the beginning it was a bit depressing as I was the only one who started in January as a full time student. I felt lost and was not sure where to go and what PPD training sessions I needed. For the first time in my learning experience, I came across British students who were doing the same course. Time passed with me attending sessions and seminars or doing huge amounts of reading and writing in connection with my study. Social interaction among the students had an impact on the harmony of the PhD study area. In order to have social interaction with other first year PhD students, I had to wait nine months until a new group joined in September. Unlike the home students who started their course before me, the new group had two British students who were open with international students and changed the idea I had earlier about British students and the way they perceived international ones. Coming every morning to the study area and busying myself with reading, writing and exchanging information and experiences with my fellow PhD students soon became a role almost as familiar to me as my role as a mother at home. Personal life overlaps with the journey: I introduced myself to be in the study area during weekdays, staying there from the morning - after dropping my daughters off at their schools (nursery at one point) - up to 3 in the afternoon when I went to pick them up. Initially, I decided not to do any study at home and was busy with my parental duties unless there was an urgent issue. Being an international student prevented me from having the potential support I could have had from my extended family and in particular my parents and siblings, had I been doing my course in Saudi Arabia. Therefore, I had to distinguish between my duties as a PhD student and my duties as a mother, although sometimes things overlapped when I needed to take my study workload home. In fact, I often practised presentations with my daughters as the audience. Calls from home often gave me the much-needed motivation and encouragement to push myself further with my studies and return home with the desired qualification. However, sometimes such calls had the potential to negatively influence my studies. For example, there was often worrying news from home: during my second year my father was diagnosed with cancer and I badly wanted to go back and be with him; then my father-in-law had a stroke and he needed his son very much. In the first instance, my study went as planned though I tended to go back home during holidays to be beside my family. However, in the second case, when I was at the end of my third year, I had to go back home. The decision was made quickly and I arranged with my supervisor that I would come back once every three to four months and we agreed on having Skype meetings while I was away. These two incidents affected the progress of my PhD and made me unable to meet my deadline in terms of completing my study in three and a half years. Having said that, I managed to submit my thesis during my fourth year, and I was awarded my degree in the graduation ceremony in July 2014. Questioning my decision I often questioned my decisions. Why did I start my PhD in the medium of a foreign language, and why did I not go back home after my MA? I could have found a good job and been near to my parents and things would have been easier. However, if I had not gone 28

ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

through this journey, I would have missed my experiences as an international student and I would not have been exposed to the importance of critical thinking and would not have learnt to value it as I do now. In addition, the improvement in my English and the ability to have an internal dialogue have been priceless to me. At one point when I was under a lot of pressure and needed to work at home, I spoke my thoughts aloud: “A PhD is not a piece of cake.” It required me to do a lot of reading and critical thinking. I found out that even though I had so much weight on my shoulders, I was still interested in what I was doing. Thus I began to realise that a PhD is not a piece of cake: but a hard nut to crack. I knew I could not have it all at once, so I needed patience and the will to keep things going. “Simple words and firm actions”. This was the slogan I adopted throughout my PhD journey when things got very challenging. It worked very well for me especially during my most difficult times as a student. Now, when I look back, I feel really grateful for all those challenges; they taught me so much about myself. Valuing the experience Doing my PhD abroad had an impact on the way I saw things and the way I perceived knowledge. It was an experience that had its pros and cons, but overall it was a worthwhile experience which benefits go beyond the academic. This way of thinking may not have occurred to me if I had gone back to do my study in my home country; I might have done my study far better and in a shorter time, as it would have been in my mother tongue, and issues related to my command of the English language would not have interfered with my study. However, I may have missed the critical thinking and the reflection on my own learning process. These two capabilities, which I obtained by being here, were essential for my personal development. In addition to making me more open minded, they helped me to gain a better understanding of my surroundings and myself. In the following sections, I evaluate and analyse three significant aspects that had a noticeable influence on my learning. Being an international student Being in a new academic atmosphere, in addition to being in a new country, is a unique experience. Communicating with people of different nationalities in English was not easy. My experience proved the opinion of Mazzarol (1998) that the decision to study abroad is a vital decision that not only affects students but also their families; in my case it not only affected me, but also had its impact on my family, including my husband, my daughters and my parents. My daughters have been brought up in a foreign country where they are introduced to education not in their mother tongue. My husband has had the chance to continue his study as well, though he had to quit his well-paid job and accompany the children and me. It is important to note that when I discuss international students in this article, I am not generalising but only reflecting on my experience as one person in a heterogeneous cluster where there are so many cultural values, beliefs and languages. A cluster of international students, as Luo and Jamieson-Drake (2013, p.86) suggest, provides a source of diversity in a university with their various cultural and educational backgrounds. The presence of international students would expose domestic students to different cultures, and the interaction between domestic and international students would not only lead to deeper understanding of each other’s culture but also develop networks that are mutually beneficial in terms of exchanges of information, ideas and support in the future. 29

ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

(ibid, p.86). As they join a domestic university in the UK, USA, Australia or any other country, international students bring with them their prior knowledge, different experiences and learning approaches, and in many cases different mother tongues (Lindsey et al, 2008). Coming from various backgrounds, international students communicate with their lecturers and supervisors in ways different from those of home students. A study from the USA shows that international students tend to show more respect to their supervisors and faculty. This respect for advisors and faculty could be the result of the IGSs’ [international graduate students] cultural background or educational system ”… [They] might not feel comfortable interacting with their advisors or faculty on a casual level because of the strong respect they have for them” (Nguyen, 2013, p.102). In my experience such diversity works to the benefit of both home and international students. Alongside developing friendships between the two groups, such interaction with international students helps domestic students develop their cognitive skills and vice versa (Luo and Jamieson-Drake, 2013). By the same token, international students’ awareness with regard to the use of the local language (in this case English) is developed. Being part of the latter group, it was a significant experience for me to be with home students and other international students who were not from my home country. This developed my understanding of different cultures. Being members of a group of people from different parts from the globe, we managed to create a respectful community in which we were introduced to each other’s cultural values, culturally important events and even traditional dishes. Critical thinking ‘Critical thinking’ is a broad term and according to Huang (2008), “students and lecturers have different understandings of the term”. More importantly, Huang (2008, p.3) claims that ‘critical thinking’ is a wide term and there is no one absolute definition to clarify what the term means. Hence in this paper, I adopted Glaser’s (1941) definition of critical thinking: The ability to think critically, …, involves three things: (1) an attitude of being disposed to consider in a thoughtful way the problems and subjects that come within the range of one's experiences, (2) knowledge of the methods of logical inquiry and reasoning, and (3) some skill in applying those methods. Critical thinking calls for a persistent effort to examine any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the evidence that supports it and the further conclusions to which it tends. Teaching approaches differ from one country to another, influenced by different cultures, values and customs. For international students, part of being in a new culture is having to get used to a new teaching approach to which many of them are not accustomed. Moreover, the educational systems in many Asian counties discourage learners from critical engagement (ibid, p.3). Therefore, along with their experience as international students, those who come from countries where the educational system adopts more of a transmission approach, critical thinking becomes a new challenge to deal with. Ramburuth and McCormick (2001, p.346) point that there are differences in the way Asian international students learn and their Australian peers do, and that these differences can be linked to the cultural values of collectivism and individualism, which affect the preference of learning approaches of the two groups. Bringing in their previous learning experiences which are different to their experience in the host country, international students tend to have more of an in-depth approach to learning in comparison with Australian students (ibid, p.346). Doing postgraduate studies in western countries requires students to implement critical thinking throughout their learning journey. In my previous learning 30

ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

experience, my goal as a student was to find the key answer for each question and to make sure that I wrote down the answers in the exact way we had been told and taught. Since I started to study in the UK, I became more encouraged to question the given answer and to justify my opinion. I have learnt to look for answers not only in the textbooks but also beyond them. Learners in the western countries are introduced to such skills earlier than their peers in other parts of the world; for me these were fundamental skills in my PhD journey. Such skills were not solely linked to my study but they affected the way in which I started to look at the wider world. I refrained from taking everything I came across as a true story. Paton (2001) claims that Asian students, who come from countries where the transmission approach is widely deployed, adopt certain levels of individualism as they engage in critical thinking which is widely perceived as ‘the preserve of western’ noun needed (ibid, p.36). For me critical thinking skills were associated with the British way of teaching. Huang (2008) alludes to the relationship between international students’ level of English and the application of critical thinking in their study. Paton (2011, p.37) agrees with this when he expresses the view “that English establishes a certain methodology of expression of critical thinking but this is only a methodology, not the critical thought”. The challenge posed by the need for critical thinking is one of the most important experiences I encountered. Applying critical thinking was not an easy task in the beginning, as challenging my own knowledge and questioning the information encountered was difficult. Having said that, it turned out to be a useful approach in the academic field as well as in everyday life. The role of critical thinking beyond academia is also expressed by an Indian participant in Patron’s study (2011, p.32): To create one’s own approach you must have a critical approach in university and in life. It should be encouraged but it’s missing in the university system here. Having done my undergraduate study in my home country, I agree with this opinion. The educational system in my country does not place great emphasis on critical thinking. The question I often ask myself is: By the time I am back at my university in Saudi Arabia, will critical thinking skills be part of the teaching approach? Getting used to thinking critically, I began to understand some of the benefits of the way I had been taught before coming to the UK. Having experienced the importance of critical thinking, I am planning to make it a life habit and will do my best to encourage my own students to apply it in their learning journeys and later on in their lives. Critical thinking is not only significant for postgraduate students, but to undergraduate students as well; therefore, I intend to encourage all my students to do this. In addition to concentrating on text books and the notes taken during lectures, I started to become an independent learner as I stopped looking at what I came across as guaranteed facts and started to question, evaluate and look for more knowledge. I learned to respect others’ points of view even when they conflicted with mine. Two languages I began learning English when I was as young as five, however, the new thing I learnt during my study in the UK was to have internal discussions about the same topic in two different languages. This ability emerged as I became more exposed to English than I had been before. Even though English is still a foreign language to me, having my mind working in two languages greatly benefited my study. Being able to use resources in two languages was one of the major advantages. According to Bialystok and Craik (2010, p.22) “[s]peaking more 31

ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

than one language does indeed appear to have a beneficial effect on aspects of cognitive control”. Another interesting benefit was language-related understanding; I came across this notion when we were discussing research ontology and epistemology. Since the time I was in high school, I have been used to using English-English dictionaries and I tried not to learn the meanings of unfamiliar words from the direct translation of a word into Arabic unless it was too complicated. When words or phrases were too complicated, I would have the meaning translated into Arabic, so that I understood the concept well. At that stage, I realized that I needed the advantage of knowing two languages and I started to welcome Arabic thoughts into my academic realm. There are some topics which I understand better in English and others which work better in Arabic. According to Grosjean (1996, p.6) thinking can be language specific. For instance during my first year as a PhD student, my friends and I used to discuss the ontology and epistemology of our research. The definitions of both terms in English were not working for me, and most scholars gave similar definitions. At that stage I was unable to ‘digest’ the difference between ontology and epistemology. The two following excerpts (Hesse-Biber & Leavy, 2010) the first a defintion of ontology and the second a definition of epistemology, are an example of what caused my ‘indigestion’: 1) “[a] philosophical belief system about the nature of social reality—what can be known and how. The conscious and unconscious questions, assumptions, and beliefs that the researcher brings to the research endeavour serve as the initial basis for an ontological position” and 2) “a philosophical belief system about who can be a knower. An epistemology includes how the relationship between the researcher and research participant(s) is understood”. Hence, I sought help from my mother tongue and the terms started to make sense and I was able to see the difference clearly. Beyond academic writing, I found that each language has its own imprint on my writing and also on my discourse; there are certain topics I can write more freely about in English and others I that am more comfortable with when writing in Arabic. Acknowledging the experience Besides the fact that I learnt so much throughout my PhD journey, the image of it as cracking a nut helped me overcome many obstacles and difficulties. With the awareness that cracking a nut involves harder work than having a piece of cake, I can see when I look back that there were several situations where I could have taken different decisions. For instance, I could have carried out my study in my home country where I was accepted for a position in a local university, but I preferred to do my study abroad. If I had chosen the first option, I would not have faced so many language difficulties; nor would I have been in a foreign culture where I had to get used to a new place and new educational approaches. I would have had to read in English at some point throughout my study, but that would not have been a problem as I have been learning English as a foreign language since my pre-primary days. However, the main skill I would have lost is the critical thinking approach, which one is exposed to only on a small scale in learning approaches at home. In addition, doing my PhD at home would not have directly improved my English language and I would have had to take more courses in English until I reached a satisfactory stage. Hence, I will never regret my decision to do my study abroad, and I am satisfied with what I have learnt so far and am willing to learn more in the future. One of the other things I could have done differently would have been during the first nine months of my first year when my social interaction with home students was at its 32

ISEJ â&#x20AC;&#x201C; International Student Experience Journal

lowest. I should have gone to the office of the Dean of Students and looked at the services they provided to international students, rather than waiting as I did for new PhD students to arrive. There could have been the potential to meet home students who are willing to interact with international peers. Cracking the nut! With all the experiences and new knowledge I obtained throughout my four-year PhD journey, and the sparkle of reflecting on that journey, I am now able to think of the future and see the impact of the odyssey on my future. In the future, I will try to go with a smaller cake, where I can strike a balance between my desire to improve the educational system in my home country and my passion for creative writing. I am looking forward to doing a follow up study on some of the themes that emerged from this study. This experience has made me aware of the importance of the international dimension in higher education, and how we can learn so much through reflecting on our own learning process. This is the first time I have critically reflected on learning, and it will not be the last; I will consider it a core approach to adopt once I go back to my home country. I will share my experience with my students and will encourage them to think differently and learn from themselves and their own learning process, mistakes and decisions. CONTACT THE AUTHOR

References Bialystok, E., & Craik,, F. (2010). Cognitive and Linguistic Processing in the Bilingual Mind. Current Directions in Psychological Science , pp. 19-23. Biggs, J. (1999). Teaching for quality learning at university. Buckingham: Open University. Finlay, L. (2008). Reflecting in reflective practice. (T. O. University, Producer) Retrieved 15/09/2013, from The Open University's Centers for Excellence in Teaching and Learning : Gibbs, G. (1988). Learning By Doing: a guide to teaching and learning methods. London: Further Education Unit. Glaser, E. (1941) An Experiment in the Development of Critical Thinking. New York: Teachers College, Columbia University. Grosjean, F. (1996). Living with Two Languages and Two Cultures. In I. Parasnis, Cultural and Language Diversity and the Deaf Experience (pp. 2-15). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Hesse-Biber, S., & Leavy, P. (2010). An Invitation to Qualitative Research. In The Practice of Qualitative Research (pp. 3-14). London: SAGE. Hinett, K. (2002). Improving learning Through Reflection - Part One. Retrieved 20/10/2013, from The Higher Education Academy: 33

ISEJ â&#x20AC;&#x201C; International Student Experience Journal arning_part_one.pdf Huang, R. (2008). Critical thinking: Discussion from Chinese Postgraduate International students and their Lectures. Retrieved 17/ 11/ 2013 from The Academy of Higher Education: uang.pdf Luo, J. (2013). Examining the Educational Benefits of Interacting with International Students. Journal of International Students, 3(2), pp. 85-101. Mazzarol, T. (1998). Critical access factors for international education marketing. International Journal of Education Management, 12(4), pp.163-175. Nguyen, H. (2013). Faculty Advisors' Experiences with International Graduate Students. Journal of International Students, pp.102-116. Paton, M. (2011). Asian students, Critical Thinking and English as an Academic Lingua Franca. Analytic Teaching and Philosophical Praxis, pp.27-39. Ramburuth, P., & McCormick, J. (2001). Learning Diversity in Higher Education: A Comparative Study of Asian, International and Australian students . Higher Education , pp. 333-350.


ISEJ â&#x20AC;&#x201C; International Student Experience Journal

Special Feature

BALEAP 2015 CONFERENCE Leicester, UK - 17-19 April

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

Conference Snapshots


ISEJ â&#x20AC;&#x201C; International Student Experience Journal

Photos by Charlene Dobson & Sue Wallin

Visit the BALEAP 2015 website to download photos and also watch the videos of plenary talks and selected presentations.


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

Conference Report BALEAP 2015: EAP in a Rapidly Changing Landscape: Issues, Challenges and Solutions - University of Leicester - 17–19 April 2015 Gary Riley-Jones Goldsmiths, University f London This year the BALEAP biennial conference was held at the University of Leicester and hosted by Phil Horspool and Leicester’s English Language Teaching Unit (ELTU). The theme of the conference was ‘EAP in a Rapidly Changing Landscape: Issues, Challenges and Solutions’ and was a response to the wide range of changes experienced by EAP departments in recent years, including – as the BALEAP 2015 programme states – ‘visa issues, growth of public/private provision, distance learning and in-country provision that have affected why, how, what, where, when, and by/to whom EAP is delivered’. The conference was very well attended with over 300 delegates, and in addition to 80 talks there was also a range of workshops, symposiums, plenaries, poster presentations and a PechaKucha. Many of the presentations I attended were of a very high standard and for the purpose of this review I would like to focus on those sessions I attended which I felt were most relevant to the underlying theme of internationalisation, the marketisation of Higher Education and the challenges presented in terms of change and our students (Prof. Rebecca Hughes), our departments (Maggie Ward Goodbody, Julie Watson, Susie Cowley-Haselden), the EAP/EMI curriculum and the disciplines (Prof. Ken Hyland), and the EAP tutor (Dr Ian Bruce, Dr Alex Ding). I apologise if I do not refer to others who may have spoken about these topics but whose session I was unable to attend, and for any misrepresentations or misreadings. The opening plenary was given by Prof. Rebecca Hughes, Director of the British Council of International Education, and entitled Navigation in a complex world: English as compass or map? This was a very illuminating presentation and very much reflected the concerns of the conference. One of the themes she highlighted was that English is most likely to remain the world’s academic language and this is reflected in the increased proportion of publications in English that has consistently risen, from 64.8 per cent in 1980 to 91.6 per cent in 2015. She also indicated that according to HESA statistics, from around 2011 the number of international students undertaking a UK degree outside the UK for the first time was greater than those taking a degree in the UK and that these numbers were likely to increase steeply. Alongside this, Prof. Hughes highlighted the increasing popularity of international institutions starting to teach in the medium of English and the growing trend to promote the teaching of English in primary and secondary schools in key markets for UK institutions, strengthening the language skills of young people. All of this, she argued, would present challenges to the field of EAP and the question was how could these challenges be met and what ‘value added’ could UK EAP offer international students. She then went on to talk about where it was anticipated future students might come from which she indicated as being India, Indonesia, Brazil, Nigeria and China and that these ‘will dominate the global higher education growth in the next decade’ with the highest growth in absolute terms coming from India, Nigeria and Malaysia.


ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

A further, and potentially controversial point, Prof. Hughes made was that she believed that the ‘deficit model [of the international student] is dead’ – both as a result of the increased internationalisation of the institution, and through a potential lifting of proficiency levels through changes to access to English worldwide. As a result both of this and her arguments above, future students in general would be higher level but would potentially have more complex needs. The implications of these changes to EAP for students would be that the ‘future of EAP lies in a personalised learning journey’ and although ‘we can predict some of the needs of the study journey we can no longer write the map’. However, she went on to argue that we as EAP tutors ‘can provide the “compass” points’ including ‘good basic study skills’, ‘language improvement linked to real future disciplines and communities’, ‘a sense of confidence’ and I thought interestingly, ‘self-reflection and ability to question others with skill, courtesy, and accuracy’. Responding to such changes as highlighted by Prof. Hughes – such as language improvement linked to future disciplines – was central to a number of the presentations I attended, for example, Karen Nicholls’ and John Wrigglesworth’s talk on Delivering the discipline-specific pre-sessional that you are responsible for and my own on Criticality, Ideology and Implications for Material Development in EAP for Fine Art and Visual Cultures. Linking language to the disciplines was also a key theme in the closing plenary presented by Prof. Ken Hyland of the University of Hong Kong, his presentation entitled Innovating Instruction: Specificity and English in the disciplines. The background to Prof. Hyland’s presentation was based on the reformation of the Hong Kong education system in 2012 which involved removing a year from students’ school experience and adding it to their time at university; a system more in line with the EU, the USA and China. This gave Hong Kong University the opportunity to rethink its approach to English language teaching and to redesign their courses to focus on ‘English in the discipline’. The purpose of this, he argued, was to recognise disciplinary variation and to this end he conducted a research project identifying the particular language features and discourse practices of the Arts/Humanities on the one hand, and Science/Engineering on the other. He then went on to give numerous examples of the differences in rhetorical approaches between what he termed the ‘soft fields’ and the ‘hard sciences’, and also provided evidence of how subject tutor expectations towards accuracy in writing and attitudes towards drafts varied across the disciplines. All of this, Prof. Hyland argued, reflects the importance of collaboration between EAP tutors and subject lecturers and, again, echoing Prof. Hughes, ensuring that EAP practitioners need to ‘get to student needs as close as possible… [and thus]… equipping students with a new kind of literacy in an academic environment’. To highlight this point, he concluded his presentation by quoting from Ballard and Clanchy: ‘For the student new to a discipline, the task of learning the distinctive mode of analysis… is indivisible from the task of learning the language of the discipline… One area of development cannot proceed without the other.’ I would now like to turn to the actual location where such teaching takes place and specifically to Maggie Ward Goodbody’s presentation on Emphasising the A and not the E in EAP: Repositioning an EAP centre to face future needs and challenges. Maggie Ward Goodbody, Director of the Academic Skills Centre at Bath University, runs an EAP Centre that has recently detached itself from an academic department and is now run as an independent body. The key reason for such a change (which coincidentally reflects Prof. 38

ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

Hughes’ observation with regard to the demise of the deficit model), was to provide ‘academic and language skills support for all students’ (original emphasis) as part of the university’s education and internationalisation strategies. She also discussed the advantages and disadvantages of such a change but emphasised that the advantages greatly outweighed the disadvantages. Among the latter though, she referred to the historic invisibility shared by many EAP departments in the UK (a point also made by Susie Cowley-Hasleden in an earlier seminar) and went on to outline other difficulties such as the institution’s perception of the EAP unit as responsible for ‘remedial’ work, that it was not brought into university discussions, that tutors felt like second-class citizens as they were not ‘real’ academics and that management regarded the previous unit as an anomaly, something marginal to the institution. In contrast, she argued that becoming a Centre had brought it into academic discussions, so that it was now more involved in language initiatives and presented more autonomy. In a beautifully balanced presentation, she argued that things were not perfect and that there were still future challenges, but it was clear she felt there had been a significant improvement as part of the repositioning of the unit as an academic skills centre outside a department. Having discussed the issues and challenges relating to EAP students’ needs and how institutions such as Bath University have responded structurally to these needs, in the final section I wish to focus on the EAP tutor. The role of the tutor was discussed in a number of sessions I attended: Dr Justin Alam, Language Tutor at the University of Bristol, spoke eloquently about how EAP tutors responded to teaching subject content in a subject matter in which tutors might not be expert, but in which students sometimes are, in his presentation entitled Teacher anxiety and content-involved EAP. Dr Alam highlighted the anxiety that tutors sometimes felt and discussed solutions offered both by course designers and tutors themselves. Another session that discussed the role of the EAP tutor was the Symposium on Purposes held by Susie Cowley-Haselden, Julie King, Steve Kirk, and Dr Alex Ding in his talk on the Practitioner and Identity. Dr Ding, Lecturer at the University of Nottingham, in a thought-provoking talk, argued that EAP had colluded in its own marginalisation within the Institution and that there was an impression within academe that ‘EAP is theoretically vacuous’. Further, in terms of the practitioner, he stated that ‘we need a good idea of the methodologies and ideologies that have shaped EAP… [so as to]… question and reaffirm our values’. This would, he argued, allow the practitioner to consider ‘what transformations we aspire to both individually and collectively’ and at the same time ‘take advantage of our peripheral position.’ It is for this reason, he argued, that ‘We need to engage with scholarship so as to make our presence felt within the university and the HE community.’ This theme was developed by Dr Ian Bruce, Senior Lecturer at the University of Waikato, who spoke on Teaching the next generation of EAP lecturers. The purpose of his presentation was to consider the training and developmental needs of future EAP practitioners. What I found particularly interesting about Dr Bruce’s talk was the presupposition that such preparation ‘was necessary to be positioned as academics within the mainstream of universities rather than as support service providers.’ He gave a number of reasons for this, including, and echoing, Prof. Ken Hyland that ‘students’ capacity for language use is shaped by disciplinary epistemologies and genres used for communication.’ Dr Bruce argued that the key questions were: When do you become a researcher; What research areas relate to EAP; What is your identity as a researcher; and How do you use your profile as a researcher to be recognised within the university. It is clear from the posing of such questions that this is where the strength of meetings like the BALEAP biennial lie, and that there is clear scope for reflection on the changing 39

ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

nature of internationalisation and the concomitant effect that this will have on the marketisation of the UK HE sector. These changes will inevitably present us with challenges, as discussed at the biennial, in terms of our students, our departments and ourselves as EAP tutors and I very much look forward to these discussions at future BALEAP PIMs and other related events. CONTACT THE AUTHOR ………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Conference Report BALEAP 2015: EAP in a Rapidly Changing Landscape: Issues, Challenges and Solutions - University of Leicester - 17–19 April 2015 Emma Stringer University of Leicester This review briefly reports on one aspect of the BALEAP Pre-Conference Event B on tackling plagiarism in academic writing in EAP courses – principled approaches to pedagogy and assessment for writing sources, which was introduced by Diane Schmitt and kicked off around 9:30am on Friday 17th April until 12:30. It also reports back about an exceptional and very inspiring workshop that ran on the Friday namely Current Texts in EAP: A Framework for Lesson Design by Cath Brown and Erin Revell, The University of Sheffield. However, firstly it provides a brief overview of the BALEAP 2015 biennial conference 17-19 April hosted in the very modern Gilbert Murray Conference Centre and John Foster Hall by University of Leicester, and organised by the Conference Committee formed by the English Language Teaching Unit (ELTU) staff and led by the department director, Phil Horspool. Essentially, the main conference proved to be very popular with over 300 delegates taking the time and effort to travel in from an array of countries around the world. It was organised to target the key issues and challenges that are currently trending in the context of EAP described as ‘a rapidly changing landscape’ and officially opened at 1:45pm by the President and Vice Chancellor of the University, Professor Paul Boyle on Friday 17th. The schedule included an expert-led trio of plenaries over the course of the weekend including Dr Catherine Walter, Lecturer of Applied Linguistics at the University of Oxford, on Listening and reading in L2 academic contexts: what we know now, and what can we do about it? on Saturday 18th and the closing plenary on Sunday 19th by Professor Ken Hyland, Director of the Centre for Applied English Studies at the University of Hong Kong on Innovating instruction: specificity and English in the disciplines. Unfortunately, I was only able to attend the opening plenary on Friday 17th by Professor Rebecca Hughes, DirectorEducation for the British Council on Navigation in a complex world: English as a compass or a map? The plenary posed questions particularly what is the role of the EAP practitioner and HE institutions in the UK when supporting increasingly diverse EAP students with higher 40

ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

levels of language proficiency and study and essentially more complex needs? I found this to be extremely thought-provoking, relevant and offered much scope for contemplation as I continue forward in my work as an EAP tutor in higher education. Prior to the main conference, there were two pre-conference events one of which was on Doctoral Research in EAP. This was set up to address isolation as a result of doing doctoral study accentuated by the fact that ‘bespoke academic departments brimming with EAP expertise’ do not exist to support those in this line of post-graduate study. According to the programme, this took an informal, participant-led approach as a means for providing a shared setting for debate and discussion relating to aspects of candidate research. In the meantime, I attended the pre-conference on Tackling plagiarism in academic writing in EAP courses aimed to revisit the teaching and assessment of source-based writing on pre-sessional courses. The session was divided into four talks in ascending order - Diane Pecorari on Applying principles of good source use to pedagogic tasks, Diane Schmitt on Assessment of source-based writing – Avoiding penalty, Erik Borg on Purposeful use of citations and references and Mary Davis on Writing with sources: what can be copied. Round-table discussions were integrated into the sessions, which helped clarify some of the points that were made. In particular, I found elements of Diane Schmitt, University of Nottingham talk about avoiding plagiarism valuable and transferable to my own practice. Diane spoke about a ‘decontextualized’ approach to teaching paraphrasing that is often applied on pre-sessional courses. The example she used to illustrate this point resembled steps that I have trained my students to use in the past as an approach to teaching paraphrasing to avoid plagiarism including changing the sentence structure, changing parts of speech and word forms and using synonyms. She explained that this approach takes the text out of context which is not an effective approach to developing students’ knowledge and skills which enable them to write in ways deemed acceptable by our universities. As an alternative to teaching the steps to de-contextualisation, Diane spoke about a ‘component approach’ to teaching paraphrasing which amongst other things involved setting regular homework, giving timely feedback and providing regular practice. As well as pre-conferences, plenaries, talks, poster presentations, symposia, and Pechakucha, there were workshops. I managed to attend one workshop as a delegate over the course of the weekend, and I wasn’t disappointed. The workshop by Cath Brown and Erin Revell on Current Texts in EAP: A Framework for Lesson Design was structured around what I thought to be a cleverly cultivated and usable framework for lesson design which they had called S. L. I. C. E. Each letter is representative of 1 stage, in a 5 stage lesson plan, which is intended to be purposeful and beneficial in its own individual way. S for Socialise, L for Link, I for Input, C for Communication Skills, and E for Extend. What I liked about Cath Brown and Erin Revell’s workshop was it felt like a workshop, and what I mean by this is the delegates did stuff; we got involved and were part of a shared learning experience for the duration of the energetic, motivating and stimulating 1 hour workshop that began at 4pm on Friday 17th. S.L.I.C.E Purpose and Benefit  

The Socialise section operates as a warmer, ideally a mingle activity that helps preteach vocabulary, encourage peer-teaching and learning, activate schemata, introduce key ideas in a text and stimulate interest in a topic. The Link section simply links the key ideas introduced in the socialise task with the Input section. Link activities require students to generate opinion, personalise key 41

ISEJ – International Student Experience Journal

 

ideas, and work in small groups such as Do you agree or disagree with…? type questions. The benefit of the Input stage is it allows students to interact with the text, take ownership and promote understanding. This is based on a reading lesson demonstrated in this workshop. The Communication stage allows the text to be used as a springboard for further, more in-depth communication skill development such as discussion skills or summarising. Activities in this section might look like an academic discussion, problem-solving task, debate or a short presentation. The purpose of the Extend component facilitate individual learning, which not only varies interaction patterns, lends itself to the promotion of critical thinking skills and learner training in terms of encouraging students to take responsibility for their own learning. Activities in this section might promote further personalisation and consolidate learning.

The mingle activity that was used to demonstrate the purpose of the ‘socialise’ component of the framework was Find someone who… By following the instructions on the worksheet, the delegates inadvertently became immersed in short discussions that required us to think carefully about our own practice as teachers in relation to speaking e.g. we had to find someone who was able to explain what makes a ‘good’ speaking activity and record their name and comment. There was a lot of buzz in the room as the delegates followed the instructions and mingled. Once we had completed this task, Cath and Erin engaged us in whole group feedback, and it became apparent why we had been engaged in this activity. It proved to be a stealthy yet successful approach towards activating our schemata, stimulating our interest and introducing us to key ideas, which indirectly demonstrated the purpose of the Socialise activity. The presenters continued to take us through each section of this framework with creative and innovative approaches to aid our understanding of the purpose of each component as well as the purpose of the framework overall. Essentially using this framework successfully seemed to be a matter of selection in terms of choosing the right type of task or activity that would facilitate the learning outcomes intended at each stage. What seemed to be a downside in terms of practical application of this framework was the time required to deliver all 5 stages. If memory serves, it was explained that during its development, it had run over a 3 hour period, which is not standard practice in my department. However there seemed to be room for adaptation and perhaps the framework could be carried over two lessons. I’d be interested in finding out. CONTACT THE AUTHOR


ISEJ â&#x20AC;&#x201C; International Student Experience Journal


Profile for Chris

ISEJ_Vol 3(1) full  

ISEJ_Vol 3(1) full