Research setting• The research described here concerns designing a pre-sessional EAP course.• The view taken of students is not one of cognitive lacks but people needing to adapt both their approaches to learning and their views of themselves as learners (Spack 1997). The focus hence is on change rather than deficit.• An earlier part of the research analysed student accounts of adapting to living in the UK, recognising that the telling of the narratives is not just about the students’ adjustment, but actually forms part of that adjustment, as the events related become integrated into a student’s biography by the telling
Space and PlaceFor Tuan, experience can transform the openness of space to the familiarity of place: “What begins as undifferentiated space becomes place as we get to know it better and endow it with value” (1977, p6).Relph (1976) proposed three components which constitute the identity of any place:• the static physical setting,• the activities therein,• the meanings related to it
SeminarsSeminars in UK HE were studied as a place by analysing descriptions of the features of seminars from interviews with experienced international students, interviews with academic staff, and from the Quality Assurance Agency’s guidelines for Masters courses in business and management (QAA 2004).
Physical setting of seminars,Extract 1 (student from China)Even the layout of the classroom … in China is more face-to- face teaching: the teacher sit here and all the students sit one line after another and facing the teacher, and … it’s more like in a theatre, the audience … sit in the seat there at the back and the actors sit in the front, so the teacher in China is more like actors, they play just by themselves, without interactions with the audience.
activities related to seminarsThe importance of interactivityExtract 2 (Switzerland)[…] Another interesting aspect of the education in the English universities is the participation. Students are encouraged to participate in seminars, to discuss, to say what they think. Even if the teacher is not right, is wrong in what he says, the student can take part to say “Yes, I see that differently”. I find this very nice, very interesting, very different from Switzerland.
Meanings related to seminarsExtract 3 (QAA documentation)Graduates are expected to be able to demonstrate a range of cognitive and intellectual skills together with techniques specific to business and management. […] These include: – Critical thinking and creativity: managing creative processes in self and others; organising thoughts, analysis, synthesis, critical appraisal. This includes the capability to identify assumptions, evaluate statements in terms of evidence, detect false logic or reasoning, identify implicit values, define terms adequately and generalise appropriately (QAA 2004).
Relph’s classificationThree types of outsideness:• ‘existential outsideness’: feeling alienation, rejection, uninvolvement;• ‘objective outsideness’: dispassionate separation, e.g. in geography textbooks;• ‘incidental outsideness’: place as backgrounding, e.g. experienced by truck drivers and flight crews.Four categories of insideness:• ‘vicarious insideness’: e.g. from literature or film;• ‘behavioural insideness’: “seeing it as a set of objects, views, and activities arranged in certain ways” (Relph 1976, p53);• ‘empathetic insideness’: identifying at emotional levels;• ‘existential insideness’: “knowing implicitly that this place is where you belong” (Relph 1976, p55).
‘Empathetic insidenessMost of the experienced international students interviewed demonstrated ‘empathetic insideness’Extract 4 (Switzerland)It’s fundamental, the communication, the discussion with people, knowing what other people are thinking. In particular today we see that the level of business is even more international, so we are always working with different kinds of people. And so it is necessary to know what they think, because, it is funny, at the beginning we always think we are right, that our point of view is the right one, but when we come here in England and we met other cultures, we saw that in fact there is no right and wrong just different points of view.
EAP course coverage of seminars• explored the epistemology underpinning seminars – for example examining the approaches of Kolb and Bloom• practised the language requirements stemming from these approaches• included sessions using various forms of seminar activities• asked the students to write a reflective essay (both the theory related to reflective learning as well as the linguistic requirements of reflective writing were taught to enable this)• provided the extracts which will be analysed below.
The adaptation of new studentsFrom ‘vicarious insideness’ to ‘behavioural insideness’ : students were attracted by what they had heard but not really sure of all ramifications:Extract 5 (student from China)Before I attended this course, I had thought discussing ideas in small group is useful, but I had no idea about how useful it is. When I took part in the group discussion, I was completely astonished. At the beginning, I had no any idea about how to structure the presentation, and I was not sure about if we could work it out. But in the process, I found out every member in the group contributed a little bit idea, this made the work easier and more interesting, just like many calm streams flowed together and become one larger noisy river. Discussion is really a great method to learn, it makes students enjoy learning, it also gives students a chance to communicate, organise and cooperate.
The adaptation of new studentsNot all of the participants found such an easy route:Extract 6 (student from China)At the beginning, I am shy to discuss with my classmates. Lots of times when teachers asked [us to] discuss something, I always keep silent. I did not know how to explain what I thoughts in English. Especially, I felt hard to do presentation because I have never done it before. Even I did enough preparation for the presentation; I still felt too much stress when I stood in front of the classmates and teacher.
• Most of the new students combine this respect for the values of the seminar whilst not yet having achieved the degree of insideness which gave the experienced students their unreserved empathy, so are for the moment in the category of ‘behavioural insideness’.• This is not a fixed end-point, for Relph (1976) there is not a clear distinction but rather a ‘fading’ between behavioural and empathetic insideness.• In all of these reflective accounts the role of experience, reflection, and changes in expectations of the required behaviours of learners are linked.
HybridisationA further point concerns ‘hybridisation’, these students are already, in Grossberg’s terms (1996), possessors “of other knowledges and traditions”,Extract 7 (student from China)In fact, I cant enjoy the team work at first, maybe because Im influenced by the Chinese educational model, just used to listening, only little chance for us to talk about something in class. But now, I feel I can make my assignment better after discussion in class in England, I feel I can learn something from others idea, so now I can enjoy it.