The acquisition of politeness by young EFL learners in France: Siddiqa dissertation

IMG_4398Aisha Siddiqa has just defended her doctoral dissertation based on a large-scale cross-sectional study of the development of pragmatic competence among secondary school pupils in EFL classes in the Nice area (France).

An EMMA scholar who came to the University of Nice in 2013, Aisha worked with me in our research lab Bases, Corpus, Langage to collect and analyse a large corpus of some 2000 English L2 requests by nearly 250 French pupils at three levels of secondary education, both in actual class interaction and under experimental conditions (role-plays and cartoon oral production).

Aisha also investigated pupils’ opportunities to develop pragmatic competence by analysing class activities and textbooks, and worked with pre-service teachers to raise awareness of this dimension of L2 competence. The research thus stands at the crossroads of second language acquisition research (acquisition-apprentissage d’une L2) and language education research (didactique des langues) in the interdisciplinary field of second language studies now attracting new attention in France.

Aisha defended her dissertation with brio on 23 May 2018 before a doctoral committee of L2 acquisition and teaching specialists who praised her rigorous research protocol, meticulous analysis, and readable prose, as well as her composed and well-considered responses to the comments and questions arising during the defence. Congratulations Dr Siddiqa!

Abstract

This study of interlanguage pragmatics (ILP) investigates empirical data on EFL learners in French secondary schools to contribute to our understanding of the development of L2 politeness. With the increase in multilingual interactions around the globe, awareness of what is polite or impolite has become indispensable. However, pragmatic skills are generally not easily acquired in foreign language settings and the observation that even advanced learners do not necessarily exhibit target-like norms has led to calls for further investigation in this area (Kasper & Schmidt, 1996; Bardovi-Harlig, 1999). Although there is now a solid body of research in this area, most studies have focused on adult learners (Kasper & Rose, 1999) using written discourse completion tasks (see e.g., Hill, 1997; Billmyer & Varghese, 2000; Su, 2010; Jebahi, 2011) to elicit explicit pragmatic knowledge (Bardovi-Harlig, 1999, 2013).

The present study seeks to extend the scope of ILP research by focusing on a large group of young, beginning learners using mixed methods of data collection including a cartoon oral production task, open-ended role plays, and naturalistic data from classroom video recordings. Participants were some 240 secondary school learners at three different levels (age 11 to 18) to allow the tracking of ILP development with language proficiency. To contextualise findings, secondary data was collected in the form of additional analysis of classroom films, textbook analysis, and teacher interviews. The analysis of request data is based on the seminal L2 discourse analytic framework Cross-Cultural Speech Act Research Project (Blum-Kulka et al., 1989) which allows the analysis of both pragmalinguistic and sociopragmatic dimensions of requests. L2 pragmatic development was observed almost exclusively in terms of increased frequency of pragmalinguistic strategies, particularly by the end of upper secondary school, less so in terms of range of strategies or sociopragmatic features, and this was confirmed across all data collection methods. L1 data from another group revealed similar development, suggesting that L1 transfer may be one explanation for the L2 development observed in the study, particularly because analysis of secondary data revealed little focus on ILP in teaching programs.

Keywords

Interlanguage pragmatics, development, politeness, EFL, young beginning learners, France.

 

References

Bardovi-Harlig, K. (2013). Developing L2 Pragmatics. Language Learning, 63(1), 68–86.

Bardovi-Harlig, K. (1999). The interlanguage of interlanguage pragmatics: A research agenda for acquisitional pragmatics. Language Learning, 49(4), 677–713.

Billmyer, K., & Varghese, M. (2000). Investigating instrument-based pragmatic variability: effects of enhancing discourse completion tests. Applied Linguistics, 21(4), 517–552.

Blum-Kulka, S., House, J., & Kasper, G. (Eds.). (1989). Cross-cultural pragmatics: requests and apologies. USA: Ablex Pub. Corp.

Hill, T. (1997). The development of pragmatic competence in an EFL context (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Temple University Japan, Tokyo, Japan.

Jebahi, K. (2011). Tunisian university students’ choice of apology strategies in a discourse completion task. Journal of Pragmatics, 43(2), 648–662

Kasper, G., & Rose, K. R. (1999). Pragmatics and SLA. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 19, 81–104.

Kasper, G., & Schmidt, R. (1996). Developmental issues in interlanguage pragmatics. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 18, 149–169.

Su, I.-R. (2010). Transfer of pragmatic competence. The Modern Language Journal, 94(1), 87–102.

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Anglais de spécialité en sciences humaines et sociales : recherches françaises

journee-etude-aliceVF3Alice Henderson et Frédérique Freund du laboratoire LLSETI à l’Université Savoie-Mont Blanc proposent l’argumentaire suivant pour une journée d’études en anglais de spécialité en mars 2018. Voir programme.

L’expansion du secteur d’enseignement des langues pour spécialistes d’autres disciplines (secteur Lansad) a fait émerger un grand nombre de questions linguistiques (au sens large du terme), didactiques, épistémologiques et politiques, propres à interroger les chercheurs et acteurs du terrain qui s’intéressent aux objets du domaine des langues dans le cadre particulier de l’enseignement supérieur. Le texte de la Commission formations de la SAES (Société des anglicistes de l’enseignement supérieur) rédigé en 2011 a eu pour objectif de distinguer le secteur Lansad de ses objets à travers la définition de trois termes-clés « Lansad », « Asp » (anglais de spécialité) et « didactique ». Le terme « Lansad » y est identifié comme se référant à un secteur d’enseignement des langues, au même titre que les filières pour (futurs) spécialistes, et la distinction est clairement posée entre « secteur d’enseignement » et « objets de recherche », confusion qui existait préalablement à ce texte, selon Van der Yeught (§28).

Les résultats de l’enquête nationale menée en 2015 par cette même commission (avec des membres renouvelés) montrent que le secteur Lansad se définit par l’hétérogénéité des projets pédagogiques en son sein. En ce sens, Van der Yeught a souligné que le projet pédagogique du secteur Lansad mérite encore d’être précisé :

(…) En 1993, Michel Perrin (Mémet 2001 : 312), suivi de quelques collègues qui y sont alors impliqués, propose l’acronyme secteur « LANSAD/Langues pour spécialistes d’autres disciplines ». Leur objectif est d’éviter l’appellation « enseignement des langues aux non-spécialistes » qui paraissait réductrice et négative.

Toutefois, si nous nous interrogeons sur le projet pédagogique précis qui motivait cette entrée des langues dans le supérieur, nous n’obtenons pas de réponse détaillée.

Or, les liens entre projet pédagogique et projet de recherche sont plus resserrés qu’ailleurs en Lansad où la structuration de la formation en anglais s’appuie non seulement sur la recherche fondamentale mais aussi sur la recherche-action (Macaire, 2010) et la recherche-développement (Guichon, 2006). Si l’objectif commun est la maîtrise d’une, et si possible plusieurs, langue(s)-culture(s) à un niveau de compétence donné en fonction de besoins identifiés, la question reste entière sur la définition des contours de cette « langue-culture ». En effet, dans le premier cas évoqué par la Commission formations de la SAES (« un enseignement destiné à des étudiants issus d’une même discipline »), le savoir-savant, objet de recherche, est la langue-culture de spécialité liée au domaine d’étude des étudiants ; dans le second cas (« un enseignement destiné à des étudiants issus de disciplines variées », le savoir-savant, objet de recherche, est la langue-culture, au sens large du terme. Dans ce second cas les recherches sont menées par des enseignants-chercheurs spécialistes des trois grands domaines traditionnels de l’anglistique : la littérature, la civilisation et la linguistique. Mais beaucoup reste à faire pour que le programme scientifique de « spécialisation du secteur LANSAD », selon les termes de Van der Yeught (§30) et que de nombreux chercheurs en anglistique appellent de leur voeux, arrive à maturité. Les recensions de Memet et Van der Yeught d’une part, et de Trouillon d’autre part le montrent. Ce dernier propose l’analyse suivante de la situation après une recension de la thématique des articles de recherche publiés dans Asp, la revue du Geras entre 1993 et 2007 et dans la revue English for Specific Purposes (dont The ESP Journal) de 1980 à 2010 :

(…) certaines disciplines sont sur-représentées alors que d’autres ne sont pratiquement jamais, voire jamais abordées : aucune occurrence pour la géographie n’a été trouvée par exemple. A l’intérieur du vaste domaine des sciences, certaines branches n’ont jamais fait non plus l’objet de travaux : on ne trouve aucun article en hydrologie. L’écologie ne fait son apparition qu’en 2010 et uniquement dans Asp.  Il en va de même pour des domaines qui relèvent de préoccupations extra-universitaires, comme la chasse ou la pêche, ainsi que pour les métiers de l’artisanat dont l’apprentissage ne se fait ni en grande école, ni à l’université : on ne trouve rien sur l’anglais de la boulangerie, l’anglais de la boucherie, l’anglais de la maçonnerie, l’anglais de la coiffure, etc. (51-52)

À notre connaissance, il n’existe toujours pas aujourd’hui de travaux de recherche permettant de commencer à décrire ou définir précisément les contours et la nature de l’anglais utilisé par les psychologues, les sociologues, ou les historiens dans la culture anglo-saxonne. Le domaine des arts, lettres et sciences humaines et sociales est ainsi largement sous-représenté dans les recherches en anglais de spécialité. L’anglais de spécialité étant défini comme « l’expression du spécialisé dans la langue » (Commission formations 3), tous ces anglais de spécialité, dans leur variété et variation, sont pourtant partie prenante du domaine de l’anglistique.

Cette situation s’explique peut-être par la structuration tardive du secteur Lansad dans les universités d’arts, lettres, langues et sciences humaines et sociales par rapport aux universités de sciences ou droit (Terrier et Maury §31-32). D’après Trouillon (2010), il semblerait en effet que les recherches menées en France sur les langues de spécialité sont, pour l’instant, avant tout liées aux domaines de spécialité dans lesquels les enseignants sont amenés à intervenir.

Le domaine des ALLSHS est donc le grand absent et c’est en ce sens que nous organisons, en collaboration avec le laboratoire Cultures Anglo-saxonnes (EA 801) – Axe 1 de l’Université Toulouse – Jean Jaurès, la deuxième d’une série de journées d’étude visant à proposer une caractérisation linguistique, historique et socio-culturelle de l’anglais des humanités et à démontrer en quoi cette langue fait évoluer les sciences et constitue, en cela, un adjuvant essentiel de langue anglaise. La première journée en janvier 2017 à l’université Toulouse – Jean Jaurès avait pour objet l’anglais de la psychologie et l’anglais de la philosophie, dans leur variété, variation et convergence. Cette deuxième journée, que nous organisons le 2 mars 2018 à l’université Savoie-Mont Blanc, sur le site de Jacob-Bellecombette, est dédiée à l’exploration de l’anglais de spécialité dans deux autres domaines des sciences humaines, à savoir l’histoire et la sociologie.

JOURNEE d’étude vendredi 2 mars 2018
Approche(s) de l’anglais de spécialité de la Sociologie et de l’Histoire
Université Savoie-Mont Blanc, Campus de Jacob-Bellecombette

Programme

Argumentaire

 

 

 

Teaching Academic Content through English: University of Bordeaux course

Last week I had the privilege of observing an English Medium Instruction (EMI) teacher education course run by the Department of Language and Culture (DLC) as part of the Défi international at Bordeaux University.

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Official end-of-course group portrait with instructors and participants

Course overview

The course involved 14 academics from a range of disciplines (e.g., biology, sociology, material science) and 9 instructors (ESP teachers). It was organised over 3 consecutive days (Wednesday to Friday), 2 sessions per half-day (approximately 9-12h, 13-16h), with coffee breaks and lunch together and in English.

The team had the following broad course objectives:

  1. raise awareness of opportunities and challenges of EMI with respect to individual teachers, specific student populations, particular disciplinary content, pedagogical traditions, and institutional constraints;
  2. develop fluency, confidence, and motivation in the area of spoken English, and encourage participants to recognise their own strengths in mobilising existing competence for interaction in academic English, as well as offer avenues for future development;
  3. open debate on pedagogical practice in higher education and promote positive views of innovation and transformation.

Choices of resources and activities are motivated by research in various areas of applied linguistics and educational science:

  • Language (English) for Specific Purposes (LSP, ESP), EMI
  • Communicative language teaching (CLT) and task-based language teaching (TBLT)
  • Phonology and English as a lingua franca (ELF)
  • discourse analysis (scientific articles)
  • internationalisation and intercultural competence.

The pedagogical format involves the orchestration of numerous activities for pair, group, and whole-class work in planned sequences which are common to each session:

  • warm-up activities
  • introductory activities
  • core activities
  • plenary summaries (task outcome), and
  • group reflection (meta-analysis).

The 18-hour course was organised in 12 sessions, two per half-day, and tackling four main strands. Components of EMI instruction were addressed in the sessions on academic reading, understanding lectures, and asking/answering questions: three key components of university teaching and learning. Only one course unit directly addressed language skills (two sessions on pronunciation). The flipped classroom and student outcome sessions, in contrast, focused on pedagogical issues from teacher and learner perspectives respectively. The final teaching task involved microteaching, which participants prepared over two preceding sessions. The last session was the only one where they took the role of teacher.

This course on English Medium Instruction for higher education instructors in international programmes is built on a strong local tradition of LSP teaching and research at Bordeaux, and it has already attracted well-deserved attention at national and European level. For me, its key strengths are these:

1. Course design

The course is well-designed at macro, meso, and micro levels. The overall objectives are clear and appear to be achieved (to varying degrees) for all participants. Each session is appropriate for course goals and well-constructed, generally using a common template which helps participants understand and anticipate goals and requirements and so benefit fully from each, but also incorporating enough variety to reduce the risk of fatigue and disengagement. Particular activities are also well-crafted to allow opportunities for interaction, reflection, and more extended presentations in a range of class situations (pair and group work; whole-class work as student or as teacher).

2. Course materials

The propositional content of most teaching and learning materials (such as video of an academic lecture and a sample academic publication) were oriented to relevant specific purpose contexts (often hard sciences) or LSP/EMI pedagogy. This helped with face validity for participants, allowing many to make links with their own practice, but also experience comprehension difficulties with unfamiliar topics, as of course their students are likely to do.

3. L2 immersion environment

English was used almost exclusively by both instructors and participants. This was achieved by

  • using contiguous rooms for teaching and breaks,
  • a low participant to teacher ratio,
  • a very experienced instructional team, and
  • (one imagines) careful pre-sessional preparation.

4. Course delivery

It is a very well-oiled machine – the instructors appear to enjoy the sessions, collaborate and communicative effectively with one another, and share a common vision of course objectives and means to attain them. The atmosphere is unfailingly good humoured and relaxed, with a good balance between a) structured activities with substantive input and clear objectives, on one hand, and b) time and space for participants to express their own views, reflect on task content and pedagogical issues, and also focus on their English (personal and disciplinary) needs on the other.

5. Orchestration of group work

The instructors are particularly skilled in launching and facilitating group activities, both in practical terms, and with respect to interpersonal factors. All were adept at

  • organising participants efficiently into teams, mixing and matching according to language level, disciplinary background, and even temperament;
  • providing clear instructions and effective input, creating a relaxed atmosphere conducive to risk-taking and creative thinking, and
  • avoiding or defusing incipient interpersonal conflict or emotional difficulties, and generally reducing stress for all participants.

At a time when pedagogical innovation often involves blended learning and heavy use of classroom technology, the low-tech approach involving coloured cards, paper slips, and A3 grids used by the instructional team seems particularly attractive. It certainly proved effective in maintaining attention levels, and an L2 immersion environment, even among participants who were professional colleagues with low English proficiency and presumably well-established L1 interactional habits. 

6. Time for reflection and meta-analysis

These periods seemed especially valuable for encouraging participants to make the most of the opportunities for exchanging ideas and developing particularly oral/aural skills. Debriefing sessions where participants seemed unforthcoming were counter-balanced by insightful reflections in other sessions, suggesting that frequent encouragement to analyse and reflect on pedagogical issues created a “slow-burn” effect which is perhaps conducive to deeper learning.

I had some questions regarding various aspects of the course, including the team’s treatment of these dimensions.

  1. language proficiency (little or no explicit language teaching)
  2. applied linguistics theory (some discourse analysis, phonology terms)
  3. the pedagogical model used (task-based, but not completely)
  4. language feedback (little or none)
  5. participant agency (participants were generally students, and offered few options)
  6. overall course structure (content and order of course components).

I have to say, however, that this is one of the best EMI teacher education courses I have seen in French higher education. I’m encouraging the team to share their practice as widely as possible and to consider how it can be maintained and perhaps extended, given the current emphasis on internationalisation in our universities.

Indeed, the course seems particularly well-designed for its target audience and also very well implemented in all aspects. It covers an ambitious and wide-ranging programme in only 18 hours, and succeeds in establishing a highly effective and supportive immersion context for colleagues in a variety of disciplines and with a range of English proficiency profiles. Its particular strengths include active learning, language practice, and pedagogical reflection, which expose participants to many different examples of teaching practice and interactional styles and allow the team to address a number of issues, often in the course of a single session. The team is to be congratulated on the high quality of activity design, materials development, pedagogical collaboration, as well as on the sheer teaching craft and flexibility which are necessary to produce such a polished teacher education experience for all participants.

References

Some references that came up in discussion with the team.

Research

Birch-Bécaas, S., & Hoskins, L. (2017). Designing and implementing ESP courses in French higher education: a case study. In Sarré, C., & Whyte, S. (Eds). New developments in ESP teaching and learning research, Research-publishing.net

Erlam, R. (2015). ‘I’m still not sure what a task is’: Teachers designing language tasks. Language Teaching Research.

Erlam, R. (2013). Listing and comparing tasks in the language classroom: Examples of Willis and Willis’s (2007) taxonomy in practice. The New Zealand Language Teacher, 39,7-14.

Jenkins, Jennifer (2000) The Phonology of English as an International Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Jenkins, Jennifer (2002) A sociolinguistically based, empirically researched pronunciation syllabus for EIL. Applied Linguistics 23/1, 83-103.

Lightbown, P. M. (2003). SLA research in the classroom/SLA research for the classroom. Language Learning Journal, 28(1), 4-13.

Textbooks

Hancock, M. (1995). Pronunciation games. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Web links

ELF pronunciation: https://elfpron.wordpress.com/blog-including-resources

UEFAP (Andy Gillet) http://www.uefap.net/

  • language functions (e.g., Spoken English functions)
  • language features (e.g., Hedging in Academic Writing)

 

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And a seriously unflattering shot of me in seminar mode (see my talk)

Outils numériques pour l’enseignement des langues

Une formation sur le numérique pour les langues de spécialité au Pôle langues à Paris 2 avec l’accent sur quelques outils gratuits simples et des exemples de mise en oeuvre dans des activités pédagogiques qui visent une communication spontanée et le travail collaboratif, et permettent un feedback individualisé par l’enseignant.

 

Outils numériques pour travailler en langues dans le supérieur

Des tutoriels courts avec un bref descriptif, lien internet, idées pédagogiques, puis petit guide de prise en main ; également des outils comparables et un mot sur les inconvénients éventuels.

Exemples de pratique

1. Un projet de storytelling

Donner des retours individuels et collectifs sur une production orale en utilisant

2. Re-écriture d’un conte

Partage de ressources libres et rédaction collaborative sur Google Docs

Pour aller plus loin

Mieux comprendre l’enseignement-apprentissage par tâches

Monter un projet télécollaboratif

Les ressources et les pratiques éducatives libres (REL, PEL)

  • Déclaration de Paris sur les ressources éducatives libres 2012 PDF
  • Kurek, M. & Skowron, A. (2015). Going open with LangOER. PDF

 

The task of teaching

I was at the American University of Paris yesterday on a beautiful day in a beautiful part of the city.

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I was invited to talk about pedagogical innovation by integrating technology in the language class; AUP is a liberal arts college with an international study body and students learn French as the host language and academic English for their studies.

I ran a workshop in French taking an OER perspective on task-based language teaching with technologies, with activities focusing on both specific teaching ideas and particular digital tools.

More interesting for me were subsequent discussions with AUP and visiting faculty on more general issues concerning pedagogy and the changing roles of teachers and students in university teaching. Two themes emerged for me: motivation for learning, and general objectives for teaching.

Delayed gratification?

Who is responsible for student motivation and learning?

Some faculty feel quite strongly that it is up to students to find a way into the course content that is presented to them. The consensus among those discussing this yesterday was that instructors have some responsibility in this both in the way they present material and the assignments they set their students.

I was reminded of A.N. Whitehead’s three-stage model of learning, where he recommends teachers try to keep three balls in the air at all times: a “romantic” or big-picture reminder of what a class is trying to achieve and why it matters, “precision” or practice activities that help students develop essential skills and understanding, and a “generalisation” phrase where their attention is drawn to how these new skills are already bringing them closer to their big-picture goals.

I have applied this model to language teaching in a talk on “digital pencil sharpening” (see slides 20 through 36 for the section on general teaching and learning). I believe Whitehead was on to something when he complained that too much teaching spends too long on low-level information, skills and practice, and does so in isolation from what we might term pre- and post-practice reflection, which would help learners make sense of the drudgery.

Other university educators have taken a similar stance. The mathematician Paul Halmos provided the pencil-sharpening metaphor to refer to our tendency to procrastinate in order to avoid intellectually challenging work. I think this also applies to classroom contexts when we fill our syllabus with basic texts and boilerplate assignments to provide “background” which we see as an essential preliminary to the “real” content. But the “good stuff” keeps receding over the horizon.

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Robert Duke makes this point in his excellent 2008 talk Why Students Don’t Learn What We Think We Teach. He is especially good on conflicting student/instructor agendas and agrees with Whitehead on the importance of the “here and now,” as this little extract shows:

I wrote about this in a paper on technology and learner autonomy in language education. The more I discuss pedagogy with teachers of subjects other than languages, the more I feel task-based language teaching has a lot to offer the wider educational community.

A second area of my discussions with AUP colleagues is perhaps more related to education in its broader sense than to the specifics of what happens at the chalkface.

What role do we in humanities or liberal arts play in teaching students to think?

Thinking about things that matter

Perhaps inevitably in the current political context, our discussions turned to some of the bigger issues of our times: climate change, immigration policy, electoral discourse. How should we address these with our students?

In the run-up to the US presidential campaign I came across the work of cognitive linguist George Lakoff on political discourse.  Lakoff uses frame theory and metaphor to explain how political thought is shaped (and thus manipulated).

He applies this theory to the Trump campaign on his website, and you can read more here for example. I decided to take this theme as our topic for an undergraduate translation course in our media and communication strand: the science of framing political debate. While we need to be careful about political bias in our teaching, I feel we also have some responsibility to take on issues like these when relevant to our classes.

Here’s my take on Lakoff’s contrast between strict father and nurturing family frames in a presentation I prepared for my students:

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MoralPolitics

Translation classes, perhaps more than other foreign language classes, allow discussion of issues in a somewhat impartial and unemotional manner. It’s a good opportunity to tackle the meaning and implications of texts in a neutral way: does this expression in language A mean that same as that one in language B? Why did the writer use this particular expression, and how can we render it faithfully yet idiomatically? We’re not discussing what we think about a particular argument or line of thinking. We’re focusing on what the intended meaning seems to be, and how different translations render different aspects of that meaning salient.

The framing comes, of course, from our selection of texts to translate.

What do I take from all this?

Perhaps that it’s stimulating to talk about teaching and learning with colleagues in other disciplines in different university contexts.

Perhaps that language education might have some approaches and ideas for addressing pedagogical issues that are relevant to other university disciplines.

Or simply that the “here and now” can shift depending on both the focus of your attention and your vantage point.

References

Duke, R. (2008). «Why Students Don’t Learn What We Think We Teach» [lecture; online]. http://www.cornell.edu/video/?VideoID=225 (2013-06-01).

Halmos, P. (1985). I Want to Be a Mathematician. New York: Springer Verlag.

Halmos, P. (1975). «The Problem of Learning to Teach». American Mathematical Monthly, 82, pp. 466-476.

Whitehead, A.N. ([1917] 1932). «The Aims of Education». In: Whitehead, A.N. The Aims of Education and Other Essays. London: Ernest Benn.

Whyte, S. (2014). Digital pencil sharpening: technology integration and language learning autonomy. EL.LE, 3(1): 31-53. Università Ca’ Foscari, Venezia. [PDF]

 

From ‘war stories and romances’ to research agenda in ESP didactics

A presentation at the ESSE conference in Galway, August 2016.



The European Society for the Study of English meets annually to share research on different aspects of English studies. This year there are 86 seminars on a variety of topics in the literatures, cultural studies and language varieties of the English-speaking world, including one on Teaching English for Specific Purposes (S14), organised by my colleague Cédric Sarré and myself with Danica Milosovic (Nis, Serbia) and Alessandra Molino (Turin, Italy).

Abstract

In today’s networked world where English is a basic skill, essential for communication in many spheres of academic, professional and social life, the need to move beyond anecdotal, romantic views of language learning and use has never been more pressing. Master (2005) called for the field to build on empirical research findings instead of “war stories and romances” in order to construct a viable theoretical ESP framework, while Douglas (2010) sees a complementary practical need: “defining and refining the concept of specific purpose language teaching is an ongoing task for practitioners” (Douglas, 2010). However, terminological confusion makes this is a challenging enterprise for those involved in teaching and researching ESP. This paper begins with a discussion of key terms in ESP teaching, including didactics and pedagogy, acquisition and learning, applied linguistics and language education, with the aim of defining a current interpretation. Taking ESP in French education as our example, we explore the role of English in higher education (cultural studies versus specific purposes training; Braud et al., 2015, Whyte, 2013) compared with secondary school level (language and culture versus content and language integrated learning CLIL). The paper identifies research themes emerging from a range of contexts covered in a new special interest group in ESP didactics (DidASp) within the French ESP research association GERAS. The goal is to propose a new model for ESP didactics at the intersection of modern languages, languages for specific purposes and second language acquisition. The present paper offers first steps in this direction with implication for ongoing research in ESP teaching and learning.

 References

Bhatia, V. (2012). Critical reflections on genre analysis. Ibérica: Revista de la Asociación Europea de Lenguas para Fines Específicos (AELFE), (24), 17-28.

Bowers, R. 1980. “War stories and romances: Interchanging experience in ELT.” Projects in materials design, 71-81.
Bowles, H. (2012). Analyzing languages for specific purposes discourse. The Modern Language Journal, 96(s1), 43-58.

Braud, Valérie, Philippe Millot, Cédric Sarré & Séverine Wozniak. 2015a. “Pour une formation de tous les anglicistes à la langue de spécialité”. Les Langues Modernes 3/2015, 67–76

Braud, Valérie, Philippe Millot, Cédric Sarré & Séverine Wozniak. 2015b. “‘You say you want a revolution…’ Contribution à la réflexion pour une politique des langues adaptée au secteur LANSAD.” Recherche et pratiques pédagogiques en langues de spécialité. Cahiers de l’Apliut, 34(1), 46-66.

Douglas, Dan. 2004. “Discourse domains: The cognitive context of speaking.” In Boxer D. & A. Cohen (Eds.), Studying Speaking to Inform Second Language Learning. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters, 25–47.

Douglas, Dan. 2010. “This won’t hurt a bit: Assessing English for nursing”. Taiwan International ESP Journal 2/2, 1–16.

Dudley-Evans, Tony & Maggie Jo St John. 1998. Developments in English for Specific Purposes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ellis, Rod. 1997. “SLA and second language pedagogy”. SSLA 20, 69–92.

English for Specific Purposes. Journal aims and scope. <http://www.journals.elsevier.com/english-for-specific-purposes/>.

Geertz, C. (1973). The interpretation of cultures: Selected essays (Vol. 5019). New York: Basic books.

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Masters in Teaching English: research project topics

This week our second-year Masters students in the English teaching programme at the University of Nice presented their end-of-year classroom research projects to an audience of university and secondary school teachers and their peers. We heard thirty presentations on different dimensions of teaching English as a foreign language (EFL) in French secondary schools, which include both lower secondary (collège, 11-15 years) and upper secondary (lycée, 16-18 years). The students are pre-service teachers; the majority have passed national competitive teacher entrance exams and have taught part-time through this school year, with support from mentor teachers and university tutors. Some have yet to pass the exams and had shorter school placements under the direct supervision of a school tutor.

This word cloud generated from the paper titles and abstracts gives an idea of the main concerns: language (English and French), teaching and teachers, class and classroom, pupils/students/learners, and … motivation.

WordCloud

The options and guidelines for these research papers can be accessed from this link, (2015 edition) and this one (2016/17). Below I have grouped the 2015-6 papers thematically. This overview gives some insight into what interests and concerns new teachers and teacher educators in French secondary EFL within the framework established by my guidelines and our school requirements.

Designing task-based activities, lessons, and units

  1. Fostering Students’ Interaction In ESL Classrooms: An Emphasis on Learning to Communicate through Interaction in the Target Language
  2. The Use of Games in French secondary EFL classrooms
  3. Reflection on Task-based Language Teaching in Lower Secondary School Through the Analysis of a Teaching Unit
  4. Material design: Secondary school EFL teaching unit on Global Warming

Most of the options for this project involved task-based language teaching, but some students were particularly interested either in preparing materials based on this approach, implementing activities, or evaluating their own lessons and units from this perspective. Some students felt they fell short in this respect: real-world constraints with respect to pupils’ age or proficiency, curricular requirements, or other expectations seemed to militate against a strong TBLT approach.

Teaching and evaluating speaking

  1. Different activities implemented in class to help pupils to speak
  2. Making technology programmes pupils in upper secondary willingly communicate in EFL and be ready for the oral expression evaluation of the Baccalauréat.
  3. How to generate and facilitate Speaking in E.F.L. classes ?
  4. A comparative case study in French upper secondary education – combining fluency and traditional TBLT with accuracy and corrective feedback

A number of students chose to focus on speaking skills, an often neglected aspect of secondary school EFL in our contexts due to large classes (often thirty pupils or more in upper secondary) and to a traditional focus on (authentic) texts. Some students focused on analysing learner production (e.g., fluency and accuracy) while others sought to create opportunities for less proficient and often less motivated learners to improve their spoken language through a combination of live and recorded presentations.

Investigating classroom interaction: teacher and learner participation

  1. Impact of Role-plays in EFL class on Student Talking Time and Teacher Talking Time Balance
  2. Strengthening the development of Student Talking Time (STT) in the EFL secondary classroom: student-centered activities and differentiated instructions

Two students were concerned about achieving a balance between teacher and pupil participation in classroom interaction. They recorded themselves teaching a lesson, and compared talk times for teachers and pupils, with reassuring results in both cases.

Differentiation: addressing diverse learner needs

  1. Working with different proficiency levels in the French EFL classroom: out-of-class activities
  2. Benefits & Limits of a Differentiated Instruction in an English Class
  3. Impact of Differentiated Pedagogy on Pupil’s Motivation
  4. Differentiating reading and listening comprehension activities in a mixed- ability class.

Another common area of focus for these novice teachers was differentiation, a popular topic in language teaching and indeed other disciplines in French education at present. Students investigated different approaches to accommodating different learner needs, from mixed-ability pair work or grouping by proficiency, to separate tasks for different groups. There was some overlap between these projects and others focusing explicitly on pupil motivation, since techniques for increasing motivation often included differentiated instruction.

Motivation

  1. Enhancing Learners’ Motivation and Interest in EFL Classrooms
  2. Arousing Students’ Motivation In ESL Classrooms: Increasing And Enhancing Participation, Interaction And Production.
  3. Implementing Ideal Future Selves in the Second Language Classroom
  4. Group work as a potential source of motivation

Approaches to the topic of motivation varied from the psychological (Dörnyei and colleagues) to the practical (Rivoire). A number of students and teachers in our schools have recently begun implementing Rivoire’s approach to classroom management via a “group work system.” It’s a somewhat controversial approach; see Puren et al and links on my wiki for criticism.

Teaching content: history, geography, art, literature

  1. CLIL in French schools:meaning-focused or form-focused?
  2. ‘Soft’ CLIL in French Lower Secondary School: the Benefits of Teaching Geography in English Classes
  3. Art in English classes or How to integrate art notions in upper-secondary EFL classes
  4. Access to Culture in Classes of 6ème Between Motivation and Adaptation
  5. Teaching Literature in Middle School: Benefits and challenges
  6. Reading in English : How to introduce literature in language teaching class in lower secondary school
  7. How to develop pupils’ taste for reading through extracts from Roald Dahl

In French universities and secondary schools, the study of English is situated within the field of anglistics, which views language and culture as indissociable, and the (written) text as the prime vehicle for conveying meaning (cf Angles). “Culture” is thus an important component of English programmes and, I have argued, can be considered as separate content just like other disciplines which are taught through the medium of a foreign language as Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL). Students this year focused on teaching history and geography, modern art, and different forms of literature to upper and lower secondary classes.

Tools for teaching

  1. Using the dictionary Inside and Outside The Classroom
  2. Integrating Web Online Mapping Services in the Teaching of EFL
  3. Teaching Vocabulary & the use of flashcards.

Three students focused on particular tools for language teaching, two using paper-based materials such as dictionaries and flashcards to aid comprehension and retention of lexical items, and perhaps encourage learner autonomy. A third demonstrated the more complex affordances of Google applications such as maps and street view, and how these might be exploited for learning about the culture of English-speaking countries.

Classroom language: native versus target language use

  1. Perceptions of French students in regard to native and non native speaking teachers
  2. EFL teaching: Questioning L2 exclusivity and its effects on learners and teachers in a Lower Secondary school

Finally, two students focused on questions surrounding classroom language, including the native-nonnative debate and the use of the L1 in classroom.

These, then, are the topics selected and researched by our thirty masters students this year, written up and defended in English over five days last week before peers, university tutors and school teacher mentors.

References

Angles: French perspectives on the Anglophone world. http://angles.edel.univ-poitiers.fr
Dörnyei, Z., & Ushioda, E. (2013). Teaching and researching: Motivation. Routledge.
Puren, C.,  Médioni, M-A.,  & Sebahi, E. (2013). Le système des ilôts bonifiés : de fausses bonnes solutions à de vrais problèmes. meirieu.com

Rivoire, M. (2012). Travailler en “ilôts bonifiés” pour la réussite de tous, Chambéry, Génération 5.
Whyte, S. (2014). Research project topics 2014-15. Weebly