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Conference Selections

sponsored by Pilgrims
International
Association of Teachers
of English as a Foreign
Language

IATEFL 2017
Glasgow Conference Selections

Edited by Tania Pattison


8 Teaching at the tertiary level

Moving from young learners to higher-level students, this chapter explores various
issues in teaching at the tertiary level. Starting with course design, Averil Bolster
and Peter Levrai discuss the challenges of developing an EGAP course for cross-dis-
ciplinary groups. The next two papers address reading skills. Peter Watkins outlines
ways to encourage critical reading skills, while Sevim Kutluturk and Hulya Yumru
explore instruction in reading strategies for university-level students in Turkey. Turn-
ing to writing, Catherine Mitsaki bridges theory and pedagogy in a university pro-
gramme, outlining some difficulties experienced as a result of student attitudes. Will
Hutton then explores whether students in two different universities can work
together to develop their academic writing skills. Marion Heron and Joanne
Webster explore the nature of teacher and student talk in an EAP classroom. Veronica
Colwell then shows how she uses Project-Based Learning to motivate tertiary-level
students, while Kathryn Aston shares various ways in which one specific topic—
climate change—can be used to develop criticality in students. The final two papers
show how interaction among students is beneficial for learners. Ahmed Bashir
describes a peer mentoring programme in Bangladesh, which yielded very positive
results, and Angelica Galante reports on an initiative designed to help students
to improve their plurilingual and pluricultural competence while studying EAP in
Canada.

8.1  Developing a sustainable EGAP course


Averil Bolster and Peter Levrai Freelance, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain

Context
A common challenge for teachers of English for Academic Purposes (EAP) is how to
create a course which is of value, relevance and interest to students in mixed-discipline
classes, while also being of interest to colleagues who may have to teach the same
content over subsequent cohorts. This challenge can be found in pre-sessional, in-
sessional or foundation courses in universities in English-speaking countries or inter-
nationally. We were responsible for developing an EAP course for use with incoming
students at the University of Macau (UM), which is an international English-medium
of instruction (EMI) university. As such, an EAP course was essential to help students
transition from high school English to English more appropriate for university-level
study. In this context, students were usually 18 to 19 years old, mixed levels (B1 and
above) and Cantonese or Mandarin speakers; language classes were multidisciplinary.

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Chapter 8: Teaching at the tertiary level

Rationale for key decisions in design


When considering how to best develop a 40-hour EAP course that all new students
at UM would take, it was important to be principle-led. EAP courses tend to be goal
driven, and since this was a short and multidisciplinary course, English for General
Academic Purposes (EGAP) was deemed suitable. With a focus on goals we decided
that backward design offered the best design approach.
Backward design
Backward design (Wiggins and McTighe 2005) is a three-step process, as shown in
Figure 8.1.1.

Figure 8.1.1: Stages in backward design

Stage 1
The first stage in backward design is identifying the ‘big idea’. The aim of the course
was to help students develop ‘the language and associated practices that people need
in order to undertake study or work in English medium higher education’ (Gillet
2015: para. 1). Gillet’s definition served as the lynchpin idea. This big idea was then
broken down into five main areas and within each of these areas specific outcomes
were developed.
Stage 2
Once the course outcomes were clarified, the next stage was determining acceptable
evidence and we selected assessments which would show student learning in context.
These were an essay portfolio, an oral presentation, coursework and course reflection.
Stage 3
With the framework of outcomes and assessments in place, we could move on to the
development of course materials. We decided from the outset to make use of Moodle
to be able to extend the classroom time and have an active Virtual Learning Environ-
ment (VLE) where students would discuss input texts and videos. This gave more
opportunity for students to engage with the ideas of the course, and use of a VLE
means course content can be updated quickly and easily. We also developed a booklet
of classroom materials focused on developing students’ academic competencies and
21st-century skills, which made use of QR codes to guide them to useful activities
and resources.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
The challenge of finding content which would appeal to a wide range of students was
overcome by basing the course on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The SDGs are a set of 17 goals which, it is hoped, will lead to a better life on Earth by

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Uncovering hidden messages

2030. They cover a wide range of issues, such as poverty, inequality, clean water and
sanitation, and life on land. These are global issues which can be approached from any
academic discipline and which are relevant on a regional and local level. Furthermore,
they provide a topic which has longevity and a wide enough scope to be revisited mul-
tiple times. New articles are published daily about how successful (or not) the goals
are and during the pilot of this course, students were able to source a wide variety of
texts and videos to support their arguments.
Reflections
According to Bolster and Levrai (2017: 159), a sustainable course is one that is ‘able
to run with multiple cohorts for several years without major curriculum overhaul’.
Backward design led to a solid framework on which to develop our course. Once we
had clear outcomes and knew how to measure them, relevant class materials could be
developed. In future course iterations, material can be changed without changing the
outcomes or assessment types, and hosting material on the VLE adds a dimension of
practical sustainability. The SDGs themselves provide a rich canvas of materials and
provide opportunities for debate and critical thinking that are well-suited to EGAP
students. The result is a highly flexible course which is easily adapted and can be used
across a range of EAP teaching contexts.
averilbolster@gmail.com
peterlevrai@gmail.com

References
Bolster, A. and P. Levrai. 2017. ‘A slow (r)evolution: developing a sustainable EGAP course’.
The European Journal of Applied Linguistics and TEFL 6/1: 148–166.
 Gillett, A. 2015. ‘What is EAP?’. Using English for Academic Purposes For Students in Higher
Education (UEfAP). http://www.uefap.com/bgnd/whatfram.htm.
Wiggins, G. P. and J. McTighe. 2005. Understanding by Design. Upper Saddle River, NJ:
Merrill/Prentice Hall.

8.2  Uncovering hidden messages


Peter Watkins University of Portsmouth, UK
This talk focused on critical reading and began with a brief discussion of what critical
reading is and why it is increasingly important. We then considered the implications
this had for the teaching of reading, before analysing some activities aimed to promote
critical reading. There was time at the end for comments, ideas and questions from
the audience.
What critical reading is and why it is important
The word ‘critical’ is used in various ways in educational contexts (Goatly and Hirad-
har 2016) but for the purpose of this talk ‘critical reading’ was assumed to begin
with the assumption that texts are rarely neutral. Instead, they aim to persuade and
position the reader into accepting certain norms, beliefs and attitudes. While not all

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