Wednesday, 22 April 2015

BALEAP - Saturday

Here are my notes/observations/impressions from day 2 of BALEAP. Again, please let me know if I get anything wrong or if I miss the point. I only slept 5 hours the Friday night so the quality of my notes deteriorated as the day went on. 

BALEAP breakfast
  • All you can eat buffet including both vegetarian and vegan sausages! As I was sitting with the Sheffield crew, I wanted to make a good impression so showed some restraint
    • muesli
    • 2 vegan sausages
    • scrambled eggs
    • 1 hash brown (afraid to ask for 2)
    • 2 pieces of toast
    • orange juice
    • croissant
    • coffee
    • yoghurt
  • Don't feel I made the most of that buffet
Listening and Reading in L2 academic contexts - Dr Catherine Walter
  • 4/3/2 idea. Read as much as you can in 4 minutes. Then try again in 3. Then try again in 2. 
  • This will help to build more fluent reading.
  • Translation and back translation - translate from English to your language and then back again. (remember doing something like this in class with the Vincent Price part of Thriller)
  • Dispelled myths about "good readers"
    • good readers guess meaning from context
      • no, good readers know lots of vocab
        • implication - teach vocab and vocabulary systems, not how to guess from context
  • Talked about pronunciation. Often, if we mispronounce, we have a chance to correct. But if we don't hear/understand, we might not get a second chance (esp in lecture). So makes more sense to teach received pronunciation (i.e. to teach pronunciation in terms of listening to it, rather than devoting all the time to making sure Ss get the pronunciation spot on)
    • Implication - do more dictation work in class. 
  • Ss much less likely to abandon initial hypothesis when listening. So for example, if they hear "way" first, they are more likely to stick to that, even if later evidence suggests it was actually "weigh". 
  • Ss much more likely to replace unknown words with known words.
  • Paul Nation got mentioned a lot
Capitalizing on technology to promote learner autonomy in a writing course - Prof. Esther Boucher-Yip
  • Blended learning model. 
  • Used Blackboard to take grammar out of the classroom
  • Students had access to grammar exercise/practice online.
  • Used free stuff for these grammar resources
  • Advocates looking at your class and thinking, what can you get out of the class and have them doing at home
  • Online work supports classroom work
Delivering the discipline-specific pre-sessional that you are responsible for - Karen Nicholls and John Wrigglesworth
  • Make the course as ESAP as possible. 
  • Graduateness - boil down topics - filter out stuff that at least one student in the class wouldn't need as a graduate. So you are left with stuff that will be applicable to all in the class (e.g. stuff about research)
  • They all have a book that they bring to their class - a book that is relevant to the genre that they wish to write in. This is their resource in the class relevant to their area. This is the meat for the skills that they work on, individual to each.
  • Record your own lectures. The speaker talked about how he creates lectures himself so that they can be more tailored to Ss needs.
Teacher anxiety and content involved EAP - Dr Justin Alam
  • 3 types of ESAP teacher
    • 1 - avoids the content. Literary type. Instead of content, teaches skills (e.g. note taking, writing). Avoids anxiety by not dealing with content, bouncing questions back to students when they come up.
    • 2 - regrets they can't always expand on answers. Would like to know more content.
    • 3 - the model student. Tries to know as much as possible about the topic. Behaves like the model student, helping the students in this way. Sits in on content classes. Sometimes explains things that are not covered by lecturer. 
Exploiting corpora to address the vocabulary needs of Business Students - Andrew Preshous
  • Students know "customer" but not the many collocations that go with it (e.g. "customer base")
  • Mentioned BAWE and Sketch Engine
  • Good for targeting subject specific vocabulary to teach Ss
  • Outlined many guided discovery tasks (here, here and here) that can be used with words from BAWE
  • All you can eat platters. Sat with very nice and knowledgeable people from University of Liverpool and Essex. Contributed very little to the conversation due to the following:
    • cheese salad sandwich (2 quarters)
    • egg salad sandwich (1 quarter)
    • tuna salad sandwich (1 quarter)
    • 2 mini vegetarian quiches
    • 2 vegetarian samosas
    • 2 vegetarian bahjis 
    • 2 cream cakes
    • water (important)
    • coffee
Improving tutor feedback on online academic writing courses for postgraduates - Jill Northcott and Pauline Gillies
  • Feedback is a social act
  • Therefore, feedback to students on their writing should be social. Not a clinical identification of their errors - instead try to engage with what they have written.
    • Engagement can be motivating for both teacher and student
  • Talked about grounded theory - I know very little about that so if anyone could suggest further reading or expert grounded theory bloggers/tweeters to follow, that would be great.
  • Scaffold writing assignments by giving 3 sources for an initial writing assignment
An integrated approach to EAP administrative support - Mark Ingarfield
  • Behind the scenes at University of Liverpool
  • Talked about points of pressure in the year - important that these are highlighted and prepared for so that staff on both sides (academic and administrative) are aware of each other's burdens and are kind to one another.
  • Talked about integrating the EAP centre into the systems of the university. 
  • The EAP centre and pre-sessional students are income generating. 
  • Lot for Irish universities to take from this talk. A vision of how things are done in the UK and perhaps, how things could be done in Ireland.
Gala Dinner (preceded by power nap)
  • Slap up meal in a suitably glamorous location
    • (additional mash potatoes requested and received)
  • Table quiz (did not win)
    • Table quiz quibble - the question "What speed does the DeLorean need to reach to travel through time?" should not be multiple choice. 
  • Dance floor annihilated - did not see that coming

Monday, 20 April 2015

BALEAP - Friday

I went to the BALEAP conference in Leicester over the weekend and it was really inspiring. I've transcribed my notes for Friday below if anyone would like to read them. I know that in most cases, you had to be there, but there might be something of interest in my scribbles.

Suffice to say, that they were all amazing speakers and it was an incredible experience.

(BALEAP - Saturday)
(BALEAP - Sunday)

I'm terribly sorry, if I've misspelt any names or misinterpreted anybody's talks. Please let me know if you would like me to amend anything or add anything. I didn't take notes during the Pecha Kucha which is a shame as it was the highlight of Friday for me.

Navigation in a complex world - Prof. Rebecca Hughes

  • Academic writing is an increasingly collaborative process
  • English is increasingly the language of academic publication
  • EMI (English as a medium of instruction) is on the increase. Therefore, we are likely to have students coming with higher levels of English in the future.
  • Consequently, they will have different, perhaps more complex needs
  • Predicts India, Indonesia, Brazil, Nigeria, China and Malaysia as the countries where students are likely to be coming from in the future
  • "The deficit model is dead" - the student is not the problem. (to be honest, I'd love if someone could explain this to me or refer me somewhere - it seemed to be a theme throughout the conference)
  • Delegate from Scandinavia made the point that this could lead to higher levels of English but possibly lower levels of knowledge of the content/subjects (e.g. history, physics etc)
Scaffolding reading comprehension in an L2 academic context - Vasiliki Antoniou
  • The use of Moodle to scaffold academic reading tasks
  • Students were guided through a series of tasks (and given prompts and reminders) in relation to specific readings (encouraging them to do different things - e.g. think critically about texts)
  • Findings from research showed that the scaffolding methods students were most positive about were model answers and notifications about task updates
  • Do students perhaps prefer more passive forms of scaffold (i.e. ones that require less autonomy). This was a point made and discussed in Q and A.
  • Activites like mind maps were mentioned. Another activity was mentioned - MAZES. I forgot t ask what that was.
The complexities of preparing international students for group and seminar discussions - Ann Smith
  • Chained tasks - don't just get them to do one task but a series of tasks that feed into one another
  • The task she described was to ultimately give a presentation with the aim of persuading the audience (in this case it was a bid for a project)
  • So to complete the presentation there were a series of tasks that they had to complete, all building up to the presentation (e.g. researching, planning etc)
  • Oh I forgot to mention - they were working in groups - larger groups of between 5 and 7
  • She considered the pros and cons of self selected groups and careful team formation/assigned groups. 
  • Felt that self selection was better than random selection (e.g. you're sitting beside each other so you're altogether)
  • Assigned selection is better if the project is being marked
  • There was peer allocation of marks! If they all gave them the same marks, it was given back and they had to do it again. 
  • The students had to log everything they did - i.e. whilst working on the project minutes had to be taken.
Becoming Metacognitive Teachers - Maggie Heeney
  • What makes an exemplary teacher?
  • Discussed the idea of letting students inside your head - seeing the process
  • This involves thinking aloud, modelling for the students, interacting with the students and scaffolding)
  • Studied a teacher - charted them over many weeks - taking notes throughout their lesson. Looking at instances where the teacher thought aloud, modelled what they were asking the students to do.
  • Made a good point that teachers need to be able to do what they are telling there students to do. I found this quite salient - some tasks our students are required to do, I would struggle with. Point seemed to me to be that you have to do it yourself in order to better understand how to help someone else do it (and by thinking and reflecting upon how you do it)
The EAP of spelling learning together - Bee Bond
  • talked about exploratory research - that it is very cooperative; that you don't go looking to prove something but instead to find out the answer to a question; that it is about developing understanding rather than proving.
  • Different to action research
  • Talked about the EAP treadmill - feeling jaded, doing the same things over and over. Without the time to develop, to tweak.
  • Talked about not seeing the students as individuals, as capable of taking their education seriously (perhaps because you only see them not doing what you want them to do)
  • Really good point - students are independent - they are choosing not to listen!
  • So listen to students - show them that the onus is more on them.
  • Bee made students co-researchers, not objects of research.
  • Looked with them at why their spelling is bad. Threw the question back to the students. Tried to figure it out together.
  • Discovered that beautiful joined up writing helps with spelling.
  • Distinguished between scholarship (i.e. you critically evaluate what you do as a teacher) and research 
Technology tools for teaching English for Academic Purposes - Dr David Lefevre
  • Says that online pre-sessional courses are going to be big stuff
  • For many students, online is the only option. Face to face not an option.
  • Pros - you can target who needs the help through feedback on their online submissions.
  • Wondered which of the skills could be taught more effectively online and which not so much (speaking, writing, listening, reading, vocabulary)?
  • Videoing lessons from experts - putting that online. Makes knowledge accessible to a far wider audience
Pecha Kucha

Once upon a time in a pre-sessional classroom in Sheffield - Elaine Lopez
  • Noticed that students don't have great grammar. But we don't teach grammar in EAP
  • Did a research project
  • Turns out they learn the grammar anyway, even without explicit instruction
Ten Tips to Survive your first year as an EAP tutor - Emma Hillman and Zella Phillips
  • Full of great observations - e.g. the new serious EAP clothes when we shift from ELT; the worries about our ability to teach academic stuff
Why you should use a randomiser in class - Hannah Gurr
  • write students names on lollipop sticks - pick them out randomly so you make sure to ask different people. You don't just rely on the stronger students.
  • Use an app to do the same function but more technologically.
  • Great line - if my student says I don't know (as a way to avoid contributing/cop out), Hannah responds with "Ok, well what might you say if you did know).
EAP materials for prospective MSc science/engineering candidates - Jon Wordie
  • Hilarious. Impossible to do justice to it here. Sorry, if you weren't there, you missed out. 
Pre-sessional migration: managing the masses - Linda Hurley
  • Dealing with the large numbers of teachers coming in for pre-sessionals
  • Ideas linked to beautiful paintings (again, very visual so can't do justice)
  • As someone coming for Ireland where pre-sessionals don't have the same scale, I missed lots while gaping in awe at the volume of students, and teachers employed in UK universities
Accessible feedback for international students: a colourful approach - Rebecca Thomas
  • The use of colour code as a way to engage students more with feedback
  • Students more likely to engage with higher level feedback if colour code used (because they don't have to uncode complex language to understand the problem in the first place)
The social media diaries - Susie Cowley-Haselden (aka The EAP Archivist)
  • Whitesnake
  • How blogging and tweeting has helped her tremendously
  • Encouraged everyone to blog - to tweet - to get involved in the wonderful online community that is out there for EAP teachers.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

I like correcting

It seems like I have spent the last month either correcting, worrying about correcting or avoiding correcting. Around this time of year, the amount of corrections that need to be done starts to look ominous and a collective dread works its way around the staffroom. Whenever the topic of corrections comes up, a sigh tends to be the most common response. Weekends marred by a stack of papers lurking somewhere in the house.

But the thing is, it is the quantity rather than the process itself that I don't like. If I have a bit of time, if a bit of love (or at the very least, some care) has been put into the writing, then correcting written work is really rewarding.

You can figure out new things to cover in class, you can get to know your students a bit better, you can spend a bit more time thinking about how language works than in the heat of the spoken moment. And if you get the time to sit with the writer, you can have a really wonderful exchange.

The only problem is time. There is so little of it. And trying to get through tons of corrections in what little there is, I fear, robs you of the possible joy of correcting and denies the student the value to be gained from those meaningful responses that our better selves would like to offer.

Does anyone have any thoughts on correcting and how to make it less of a drag and more meaningful?