I have been supervising MA student doing dissertations for many years now at several institutions and this is the time of year when we usually get started.
As soon as I am given the list of students who I will be supervising, I usually email each student and give them some information about me. I ask them to reply with some information about themselves. Some reply quickly, some reply slowly and some do not reply at all until I have sent several reminders.
In a piece of work that a student handed in recently, I found the following sentences. The assignment was for a research methods course and the task was to analyse some questionnaire data using IBM SPSS Statistics.
Language for Specific Purposes. Sandra Gollin-Kies, David R. Hall, and Stephen H. Moore. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.
Theoretical and practical books about ESP teaching are rare, so I was happy to see this book available recently. Although the title is “Languages for Specific Purposes”, most of the examples are from English and as well as that useful research from other languages is included. The book is highly recommended to all ESP, including EAP, teachers.
In Language for Specific Purposes, Gollin-Kies, Hall, and Moore provide a good overview of the history, concepts, application, pedagogy and research of language for specific purposes (LSP).
I was recently asked to work with a group of students on blogging. The students had been asked to write a weekly assessed blog of between 500 and 700 words and were having difficulty.
As I thought about it, I realised that I did not have enough information about what the students were expected to do, and neither – I think – did the students.
There has been much discussion recently about what exactly students have to do in order to succeed in HE. Gillett & Hammond (2009), for example, identified a range of tasks that need to be managed in order to succeed and Nesi & Gardner (2012) looked in great detail at the genres which students need to work with. This has been a very useful contribution to the development of EAP. However, Feak (2011) identifies the difficulties that some students might have with these genres in multidisciplinary degrees and courses. Furthermore, my recent experience working with students from one discipline, business students, has shown that many of the assignments that the students have to produce are much more complicated and not so easily classified. I’d like to show some examples of these and ask how we can best help our insessional students to deal with them.
I was visiting a colleague’s office recently and he showed me a piece of student work from another university where he was an external examiner. The piece of work was covered with red ticks, crosses, under-linings, crossings out and illegible comments. We discussed it and came to the conclusion that this feedback – if that’s what it was – was not very useful and that it was something that he – as an external examiner – should comment on. As I was leaving the office, I suddenly thought of something and went back to look at the text again. As I thought, the text was on formal examination paper and it was clear that the writing we had been looking at was an examination answer, something that the students would (might) never see again. It made me realise that comment/feedback on student writing – as with all writing – depends on purpose and audience, something that does not seem to have been discussed elsewhere. Continue reading
I ran a workshop at a BALEAP conference several years ago about assessment criteria. I was particularly interested in the difficulty of marking assignments, especially when the English course is part of a degree course and the marks contribute to the student’s degree classification.
The purpose of the workshop was to look at ways of using profile forms to assess such writing assignments. I was not satisfied that we came to a satisfactory solution at that time, and I’m still not happy with it. Continue reading