OU blog

Personal Blogs

Online teaching and mindsets

Visible to anyone in the world

I have recently been teaching a course on academic literacy to students studying for a doctorate at the Open University.  This is the first time for me although I taught EAP (mainly writing skills) to a group of Doctoral students at the University of Bristol for many years. 

The current course has existed for many years and I am taking over from previous tutors and, to some extent, building on what they have done rather than building a completely new course.  However, this is the first time it has been taught online.  There are certain constraints such as not being able to see each other and gauge desires and needs through expressions.  However, there are also some advantages like more people being able to access the course because they can do it from home (people were joining from other countries like Ghana and Cyprus as well as the length of the UK (several students in Scotland as well as some in the south of England).

We are using Adobe Connect, which is sometimes temperamental.  Today, I wanted students to analyse texts.  I first showed them in plenary and wanted participants to discuss them in a breakout room but they were not there when I expected them to be and would not load when I tried to download them.  This disconcerted me and I was about to exit and come back in (the equivalent of turning the computer on and off) but one student made the excellent suggestion that they take screen shots and then discuss from their screen shots.

This struck me as an example of the second mindset or the "new ethos stuff" that Lankshear and Knobel discuss.  I see the value of technology in helping learning but sometimes do not think creatively enough about this new way of thinking that technology enables.

Knobel, Michele and Colin Lankshear. 2007. “The New Literacies Sampler.” New York: Peter Lang, pp.2-17.  Available at https://newlearningonline.com/literacies/chapter-2/knobel-and-lankshear-on-the-new-literacies  [Accessed 04/11/20]


Permalink 1 comment (latest comment by Tina, Friday, 19 Mar 2021, 14:15)
Share post

Using sources - observing processes in face to face teaching

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Patrick Andrews, Saturday, 21 Sep 2019, 12:12

I have recently finished teaching on a pre-sessional course and I was intrigued by some of the ways some students were using sources.

One aspect I noticed was that many students tended to put a full stop before references that should have been at the end of sentences.  I notice that this is also common with students on online courses.  This seems to suggest a mindset that regards the reference as being separate from the rest of the sentence (and perhaps the text).

This is perhaps reinforced by the way that some students inserted references after they had drafted quite extensively.  This is something that I do not really see in my teaching of online students as I tend to only read the final products (the TMAs) although LB170 allows for some reading of drafts.  Again, this seems to suggest a lack of integration with the text. 

I wonder if the problem is that there is too much emphasis on the mechanics of referencing rather than the purposes and opportunities.  Referring to sources allows a writer to be able to show that they are aware of how what they write relates to what others have written and that academic texts are often dialogues with the ideas of previous writers.

I mentioned some of the points in a twitter thread that begins at https://twitter.com/patrickelt/status/1174635019555487744

Permalink Add your comment
Share post

Scaffolding on a pre-sessional EAP course

Visible to anyone in the world

I am currently doing some teaching on a presessional course at the University of Warwick.  My work involves teaching "text based classes" (i.e. developing reading and writing skills in an integrated way) to students about to start on a Masters in Supply Chain Management.

They seem to be able to follow my classes so I was surprised when they struggled with a plenary lecture on quality in business.  I thought that the topic was reasonably familiar and the lecture seemed clear to me.  However, the lecturer did not use much visual support (my classes have the support of texts that students are reading as well as the tasks I set that aim to scaffold them).  It makes me think that they find listening very challenging unless they have scaffolding in terms of:

- visual support
- content that is very specific to their speciality
- a clear lead in.

Permalink Add your comment
Share post

A new EAP initiative

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Patrick Andrews, Tuesday, 12 Feb 2019, 15:35

There seems to be a very useful EAP initiative at the OU where students are referred for one to one help and I am hoping to be involved in this.  I have had some referrals already but one student withdrew before making contact and another two have not yet replied.

This kind of support seems to be very useful and seems similar to the way pupils are supported with linguistic needs by teachers at school rather than taking separate English lessons.


Permalink Add your comment
Share post

Summer work

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Patrick Andrews, Thursday, 20 Sep 2018, 12:40

As most of my OU courses only run from October to June, I need to do other work to "keep the wolf from the door".  

This year I did two.  One was at Reading and involved working with teachers of EAP from Chinese universities.  I have done this several times before and it is always interesting and enjoyable although the teachers are from such diverse institutions and backgrounds that it is difficult to know how much impact there is.

The second course was a pre-sessional at Warwick.  I have done many pre-sessionals in the past (at Manchester and Bristol) but this was my first one for more than five years.  It was similar to previous ones in that it was largely based around a small scale study project. 

It was, however, quite different to previous pre-sessionals in that it was very specific.  All of the students will be studying for a Masters degree in Supply Chain Management.  We were given relatively light teaching loads so that we could design quite specific materials and I quite enjoyed working with content on the topic and helping to scaffold students to cope with articles using content that was relevant. 

My teaching was "Text based studies" (ie reading and writing).  We worked with three articles and there was variation in the style and formatting.  One made much more use of diagrams than the other two and one of the others described the research methods in more depth.  If I did the course in the future, I would also like to make more use of student writing such as responses to the kinds of assignments students would write.

Working towards a Study Project seemed quite focused and authentic but the final week of the course consisted of tests that seemed less valuable.  Some students on the course (this were mainly from other groups rather than the one I taught) seemed to be very disappointed with their results and I wonder how much of a blow this would have been to their morale as they are about to enter their courses.


Permalink Add your comment
Share post

Mobile phone use in HE classes

Visible to anyone in the world

I have been teaching some EAP classes recently (presessional) and have been encouraging students to use mobile phones at times in class (eg searching for articles using search engines like Google Scholar).  I think this is often appropriate and most students use the phones appropriately.

Today, I saw a large lecture where the lecturer made use of Answer Garden (https://answergarden.ch/) to make a lecture more interactive than it would have been.  Students could type short responses to questions that are then displayed on a screen as a kind of word cloud.  I think this has potential to make lectures more interactive than they would otherwise be.

Permalink Add your comment
Share post

Quoting and paraphrasing

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Patrick Andrews, Tuesday, 17 Jul 2018, 23:12

I have been marking quite a large number of TMAs for L185 (EAP Online) and LB170 (Communication Skills for Business and Management) and notice that many students only reference when they quote something from a source.  I suppose this is a common misconception that references are only needed when the exact words are used.  Perhaps this is compounded by the way that sometimes students are asked to write from a limited number of sources that they know I, as the marker, has read.  They also have to use a great deal of material from these sources and it can perhaps seem unclear where the reference would go - at the end of each sentence, at the end of a paragraph, at the end of several paragraphs?  Considering how to be more effective in raising awareness will be an important aspect of teaching on these courses next year.



Permalink Add your comment
Share post

MOOC on English for Academic Purposes

Visible to anyone in the world

An OU MOOC on English for Academic Purposes will be offered next month:

https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/learning-english-academic-purposes-first-steps?utm_source=newsletter_broadcast&utm_medium=futurelearn_organic_email&utm_campaign=fl_june_2017&utm_term=05_06_2017_first_name_there_s_a_course_for_you_starting_today

There are also due to be some SPOC (Short Private Online Courses) to follow for more specific academic needs.

Permalink Add your comment
Share post

Material writing and task design

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Patrick Andrews, Friday, 28 Apr 2017, 14:06

I am currently writing some materials for a SPOC (Short Private Online Course) on English for Academic Purposes (EAP) on the theme of technology.  I have been very busy doing it for the last two days (this posting is an attempt to clear my head in the middle of doing it).

One thing I have noticed is that some days the kinds of tasks I write are very different from the ones of the day before.  For example, yesterday I was using a number of tasks where learners work things out for themselves (inductive) whereas today I have been explaining more and asking learners to then try exercises (deductive).

I wonder whether the mixture is confusing or helpfully varied.  This will be something to think about as I consider revising the materials when they are finished.


Permalink Add your comment
Share post

Noun groups

Visible to anyone in the world

Following on from the last posting on a video on processes, I found there is also one on noun groups at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yf2waNDHnEo


Permalink Add your comment
Share post

A useful link on paragraphing

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Patrick Andrews, Thursday, 10 Nov 2016, 15:43

Paragraphing is very important in academic writing.  This is partly because it can affect how easily a reader can interpret a text.  Pragraphing also potentially allows a writer to express their own voice. 

The following link gives some useful advice for writers, especially at postgraduate level:

https://medium.com/advice-and-help-in-authoring-a-phd-or-non-fiction/how-to-write-paragraphs-80781e2f3054#.bci3sovue

Point 3 seems particularly important for many students at Masters levels.  The best writing deals with issues by concepts rather than arranged by authors.  Arranging an assignment (and particularly a project/dissertation) by key ideas rather than going through summaries of authors is what can distinguish the strongest work from the competent.

Permalink 1 comment (latest comment by Patrick Andrews, Monday, 26 Sep 2016, 23:15)
Share post

Summer work

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Patrick Andrews, Monday, 29 Aug 2016, 12:43

For the past couple of summers, I have been working at the University of Reading on courses for English for Academic Purposes lecturers from universities in China and I have taught one group of these teachers this year. 

However, there is a new course that is about to start its second week.  This is for teachers of other subjects at Chinese universities who are interested in teaching through English (English as a Medium of Instruction).  This is an interesting new angle on my work as the focus is on the methodology of teaching through language, which resonates with the ideas of writers like Halliday (2004[1980]).  So, there is a need to focus on meaning and intelligibility to an even greater extent than usual and there is perhaps less of a focus on accuracy,


Halliday, M.A.K. (2004 [1980]) ‘Three aspects of children’s language development: learning language, learning through language, learning about language’, in Halliday, M.A.K. (ed.) The Language of Early Childhood: Vol. 4 The Collected Works of M.A.K. Halliday, London, Continuum.

Permalink Add your comment
Share post

Collaborating on materials at a distance

Visible to anyone in the world

I have recently been writing materials for L185 Online Tutorials with some colleagues.  It has been an interesting and generally positive experience although there are challenges as well.

We have been able to develop materials in an exploratory way with different writers challenging the logic and also suggesting alternative ways of doing things.  There has also been some checking of relatively minor mistakes.

The biggest challenge has often been in terms of coordination and knowing which is the latest version of each piece of material.

 

Permalink Add your comment
Share post

The challenges of academic writing for students at level 1

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Patrick Andrews, Thursday, 4 Feb 2016, 12:33

I have been having interesting discussions with some students through email and OU Live about academic writing.  These relate to issues of avoiding being too informal and personal while also being evaluative and developing a point of view.

Part of the issue is that academic writing tends to value concision and personal markers tend to use words that would be better used for other things. 

However, it is important for students to show stance.  They can do this by using a variety of evaluative words such as "major/partial").  Epistemic modality ie modal verbs for likelihood (eg "might/will") or deontic modality ie modal verbs used to express desirability ("should/must") are ways that students can show their stance without being too personal in style.

Permalink 5 comments (latest comment by Patrick Andrews, Wednesday, 10 Feb 2016, 11:51)
Share post

Useful site for developing academic English

Visible to anyone in the world

A useful site for helping learners with developing English for academic purposes.

http://www.open.ac.uk/tutors/dae/


Permalink
Share post

Working in Second Life

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Patrick Andrews, Monday, 11 Apr 2011, 09:24

I am doing some language support for some sessions on Second Life for some students studying design.

We had the first session and it seemed to go well.  Some general reflections are listed below:

- it is hard to control movements and it feels surprisingly embarassing when my avatar does strange actions like getting too close to others.

- the language used in the first discussion did not seem very technical but had features of general academic discourse - suggestions were made ("perhaps...." "might.....") and critiqued.

- text and voice is used, sometimes simultaneously which puts quite a demand on concentration.

- I gave brief feedback on language issues and the main items some students struggled with were my jargon (e.g "hedging").  This is understandable as they are not studying language but this makes it clear how much we get used to our own specialised terms.

Permalink
Share post

This blog might contain posts that are only visible to logged-in users, or where only logged-in users can comment. If you have an account on the system, please log in for full access.

Total visits to this blog: 483261