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Models of English Language across the Curriculum at the Open University and their role in widening participation Jim Donohue and OpenELT
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Models of English Language across the Curriculum at the Open University and their role in widening participation Jim Donohue and OpenELT

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English language is the primary medium of learning and teaching at the Open University and is therefore central to students’ attainment and progression (see Erling, 2009). Over the past five years, …

English language is the primary medium of learning and teaching at the Open University and is therefore central to students’ attainment and progression (see Erling, 2009). Over the past five years, six models of English language across the curriculum and three models of English language student support have been established at the OU. In 2011, the English Language Provision (ELP) Programme carried out an evaluation of the impact of these models on students, and to a lesser extent tutors and module teams (see Adinolfi and Kerr, 2011). As a result of the evaluation, the ELP Steering Group has proposed that a mixed economy of language provision be considered consisting of English for academic purposes modules and a range of language awareness and development provision ‘embedded’ within subject and programme areas. This presentation will outline the models and the findings of the evaluation and draw out the implications for the university’s curriculum development and widening participation strategies, including a number of key focus areas from OU Futures 2010-13.

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  • I’m going to present on work that has been going on for the past six years on developing and evaluating models of English language across the curriculum This grows out of the work of OpenELT, Student Services, the EAL SIG, and a number of faculties and units. The work culminated in June 2009 in an ELP Strategy proposal which was endorsed by the VCE. Strategic Funding to establish an English Language Provision Programme for two years was provided.
  • One objective of the programme was to lay the foundations for an English ‘language across the curriculum’ approach to teaching and learning –
  • This is a broad approach to English at the OU The next few slides will try to flesh out what it is.
  • Here is a student faced with studying a module
  • In fact their study is based on their interaction with all the elements which make up the module, including…
  • The student is actually co-constructing the module through these interactions, and they are doing that primarily through the medium of English. The OU has been a leader in the field of enabling access to such learning. But at the time OpenELT was being established in 2006 questions were being asked about how well the OU was responding to the diversity of students who were taking up opportunities to learn at the OU. This initially focused on EAL students under the leadership of the EAL SIG. But OpenELT adopted the approach that language is not just an issue for those who speak EAL. This has been reinforced by various surveys and individual comments by academics and tutors. Using English for academic purposes can confront any learner with challenges and whether or not they are challenged by it, all learners are engaged in the development of new uses of English when they engage in academic activity. This is sometimes referred to as a language based approach to learning. One expression of this is the proposition that learning a subject means to learn the language of that subject. The next few slides will briefly indicate what that might mean.
  • To push down further into what is going on when readers and writers engage in this transformation process we can suggest these elements are involved in the processes Subject matter, text and the language that makes up the text (plus multimodal aspects) the writer, and the reader So in a module students engage with academic knowledge and associated practices through their reading and writing of the texts in that field – that is through their deployment of grammar and vocabulary - to make meanings for readers (e.g tutors) in specific contexts, eg. Level 1 technology module, or a Level 2 history module, for various purposes (e.g writing an argument) drawing on their diverse experiences of the field of study and education generally, the language repertoires they bring, the reading and writing and other learning strategies they have developed, and their dispositions towards the meanings they encounter and make. So when we engage with language across the curriculum we are entering into a rich and complex area and it is important to adopt a broad perspective on language. It is more than just the central elements of this slide: the grammar and vocabulary of texts.
  • And because language itself can be so broad when seen from this perspective, it can be possible to forget that there are far more factors influencing the words we see in , for example, a students’ assignment – factors which lie outside language itself but may be reflected in those words, in this writing Here are some of those extralinguistic factors which can influence meaning making. And in this realm of extralinguistic factors is where language and widening participation connect. Arguably, social factors which constitute the barriers to participation that widening participation policies are designed to overcome also impact on the language repertoires and dispositions towards meaning making that were referred to in the previous slide. Arguably also, (and it is argued), seeking to understand what is going on in the language and learning processes for different students and respond to those can make a contribution towards enabling and supporting their access to the OU’s curriculum. As is well known at the OU, this approach is not about holding the student responsible for a problem they have with their language, it is about understanding how language used by all the interactants in the module slide earlier enables or obstructs access to learning.
  • Transcript

    • 1. Models of English Language across the Curriculum at the Open University and their role in widening participation OpenELT Wide Open Conference 2011
    • 2. The English Language Provision Programme
      • To lay the foundations for an ‘English language across the curriculum’ approach to teaching and learning which supports
      • (i) the development of students’ English language for academic purposes
      • (ii) the adaptation of the language and culture of the Open University to the changing nature of its student population.
    • 3. English language across the curriculum
    • 4.  
    • 5.  
    • 6.  
    • 7. Language and learning: meaning making processes
      • Subject matter-text/language-writer-reader
      constructed through grammar & vocabulary in texts for readers in contexts for purposes by writers with diverse experiences, repertoires strategies & dispositions Academic knowledge & practices
    • 8. Influences on use of language in an academic context
      • Knowledge of the subject
      • Orientations towards ‘academic work’/‘academics’/’students’
      • Affect: motivation, anxiety, sense of progress …
      • Learning styles
      • Memory
      • Material constraints/opportunities
      • Technological expertise
      • Other
    • 9. 3. Subject-specific EAP modules Models of English language across the curriculum
        • Standalone general cross-discipline English for Academic Purposes (EAP) module
        • [L185, 30 points, Level 1 whole university, UK (L1
        • and EAL speakers) and international students]
      2. Embedded literacy development projects within subject modules [K101 and TU100, all students] [LB160, Level 1, OUBS, all students LB720 MBA, OUBS, international students
    • 10.   [Language development self accessible materials, videos of student experience, links] Student Services Support models of English language provision   1. Enquirer-facing resources [Self diagnostic, tasters, EAP resources, links, preparations for study]   2. Tutor-facing resources   [Training videos, language assessment and feedback practices, links]   3. Student-facing resources
    • 11. Standalone general cross-discipline English for Academic Purposes module
    • 12. L185: English for Academic Purposes Online
        • Standalone general cross-discipline English for Academic Purposes online module with subject specific potential
      CT: David Donnarumma, Beth Erling, Jo Fayram, Mike Bird
    • 13.
      • ‘ Genre-based’
        • What texts do students have to read and write across the disciplines?
      • Student-centred
        • What do students already know?
      • ‘ Ethnographic’
        • Students explore the academic world
      What approach?
    • 14. L185 Current situation
      • Recruited 300 in UK, 20 in Europe
      • Core optional module in Social Sciences, Health and Social Care, Arts & Humanities faculties
      • Discussions about a 15 point Law version and a 10 point Science version
      • Discussions with other faculties about using L185 as repository of EAP resource for ‘embedding’
    • 15. Evaluation of L185 General cross-discipline EAP module
      • Year 1 recruitment of BME and low SEG students was high but retention and attainment were low
      • Attributable perhaps to the wide range of disciplinary interests, language levels and language background the module attempts to cater for.
      • However, the same measures for the second year of presentation – together with student satisfaction rates – are increasingly positive.
    • 16. Embedded language development within subject modules
    • 17. HSC Writing Projects 2008-11 Writing Development Pathway Project (K101 2008-2010) As a result of findings from the WDPP pilot, Writing Support Project (WSJ) replaced WDPP in the K101(10J) presentation
    • 18. K101 Writing Support Project
      • is available to all K101 students via the WS website and adjoining forum.
      • is also available as a resource to all tutors via a WD forum and resources for tutors to use,
    • 19. MCT/OpenELT TU100 Language Project
      • Language development embedded in TU100 module materials
      • Particular focus on developing listening skills; ICT vocabulary; argument
      • Language focused in assessment guidelines and tutor marking notes
      • Development of strategies for positive marking of language in assignments
    • 20. Evaluation of Embedded language development within subject modules
      • The embedded nature of this form of language development makes it very difficult to isolate and measure its impact on recruitment, retention , attainment and progression .
      • However, engagement by academics/ALs in embedded language development may be high
      • Administration of K101 WDPP proved too unwieldy. K101 WS currently being evaluated.
      • TU100 is in first year of presentation and ways of measuring impact are being explored.
    • 21. Subject-specific EAP modules
    • 22. LB160: Professional Communication Skills for Business Studies
      • A subject-specific EAP module
      • CT Prithvi Shrestha
      • David Donnarumma Beth Erling
    • 23.
      • Genre-based ‘Content and language integrated learning’
        • What texts do students read and write in BA Business Studies?
            • What purposes?
            • What meanings?
            • What language?
      What approach?
    • 24. LB160: Current situation
      • UK and Europe recruitment on target (500 students)
      • Retention 70%
      • Level 1 Coherence: one of only 4 BABS electives
      • OUBS dissemination activities
    • 25. Evaluation of LB160: a subject-specific EAP module
      • Recruitment is high among under 25s in particular, with good retention /exceptional rates of progression among new level 1 students
      • High levels of attainment in general and among under 25s, BME, and low SEG students in particular
      • Impact on attainment in subsequent modules significant
      • Student satisfaction is high.
    • 26. Some WP data from first presentations of LB160 and B120 Module Data LB160 08(1 st ) Rec% Att% B120 06(1 st ) Rec% Att% Under 25 19 55 Low SEG 16 46 Black 11 46 Low PEQ 49 52
    • 27. Some WP data from first presentations of LB160 and B120 Module Data LB160 08(1 st ) Rec% Att% B120 06(1 st ) Rec% Att% Under 25 19 55 26 55 Low SEG 16 46 Black 11 46 7 37 Low PEQ 49 52 48 56
    • 28. Recruitment and attainment data after changes to LB160 Module Data LB160 08 Rec% Att% Under 25 19 55 Low SEG 16 46 Black 11 46 Low PEQ 49 52
    • 29. Recruitment and attainment data after changes to LB160 Module Data LB160 08 Rec% Att% LB160 10 R% A% Under 25 19 55 21 72 Low SEG 16 46 15 55 Black 11 46 10 60 Low PEQ 49 52 33 64
    • 30. LB160, B120 Module Data LB160 08 Rec% Att% LB160 10 R% A% B120 10 R% A% Under 25 19 55 21 72 26 54 Low SEG 16 46 15 55 17 49 Black 11 46 10 60 8 41 Low PEQ 49 52 33 64 40 52
    • 31. LB160, B120, K101 Module Data LB160 08 Rec% Att% LB160 10 R% A% K101 10 Re% Att% Under 25 19 55 21 72 19 48 Low SEG 16 46 15 55 23 42 Black 11 46 10 60 10 46 Low PEQ 49 52 33 64 44 45
    • 32. New and Asian student data LB160 and B120 Module Data LB160 08(1 st ) Rec% Att% LB160 10 R% A% B120 10 R% A% Contin 76 58 78 72 44 64
    • 33. New and Asian student data LB160 and B120 Module Data LB160 08(1 st ) Rec% Att% LB160 10 R% A% B120 10 R% A% Contin 76 58 78 72 44 64 New 23 42 21 46 56 55
    • 34. New and Asian student data LB160 and B120 Module Data LB160 08(1 st ) Rec% Att% LB160 10 R% A% B120 10 R% A% Contin 76 58 78 72 44 64 New 23 42 21 46 56 55 Asian 3.6 28 5 36 4 55
    • 35.  
    • 36. Progression from LB160 to Level 1 modules Module Students who took LB160 previously Students who did not take LB160 previously Level 1 2008K 2008K B120 24 88% 2723 59% BU130 15 67% 468 57% DB123 15 93% 1035 71% Total 54 83% 4226 62%
    • 37. Progression from LB160 to Level 2 modules Module Students who took LB160 previously   Students who did not take LB160 previously Level 2 2009J 2009J B203 95 62% 1114 58% B204 28 75% 304 67% Total 123 65% 1418 60%
    • 38. Student comments
      • “ Once I did [LB160, everything fell into place. I could understand why you were doing it, the cycle of learning, reflection and reflective learning that has really sunk home in the work environment now. If an incident happens at work I realise that now I deal with it differently to what I did before I did this [module]. I reflect on what’s happened before I open my mouth, basically. It does make a difference and people give you more respect and since I’ve done this [module] I’ve definitely got more respect from the people I work with.”
    • 39. Student comments
      • “ I am utilising the skills I learnt, writing workplace documents and in the current [module] I am analysing more than before when reading articles and assignments. I am more conscious of the objectives and the assignments. LB160 changed the way I look at [modules] and way I look at assignments and activities. It has helped me to look at things in a more academic way; I think it makes you analyse questions, business cases and things you are reading in a different way. I think I will carry that through the other [modules] I do and through my career, helping me to look at the key facts and shut out the unnecessary information. I am picking up things quicker and reading things more objectively as well: it took time to change my ways.”
    • 40. Student comments (chair OUSA 2010)
      • “ I would recommend LB160, Professional communications skills for business studies, to everyone who is starting to study for a Business Studies qualification with the Open University, or returning to study at Higher Education level after a period of a few years. … My only regret is that LB160 was not available when I started studying six years ago. I am perfectly certain that had I been able to take it when I started studying for my degree I would have achieved higher results all the way through.”
    • 41. Student comments
      • “ I believe that the written communication skills that I gained from LB160 helped me recently in completing job application forms. I received feedback from a recruiter that suggested I had completed the application forms clearly, concisely and professionally. I had some good written skills before LB160 but I have improved immensely with LB160 so indirectly I think that it probably has helped me in my career and will probably continue to do so in the future.”
      • “ Yes, I’ve moved out of my previous career path and it made me say ‘Yes, I can do that’. My reports are much better and people can see that and give me more things to do.”
    • 42. English language provision strategy
      • Develop a mixed economy of English language across the curriculum
        • Subject specific EAP modules
        • General cross-curriculum EAP module
        • Embedded EAP provision
        • Student Services provision
      • Policy for English language across the curriculum to be developed through the Level 1 Curriculum Review group & Access post 2014 group
    • 43. THANK YOU
      • Jim Donohue
      • [email_address]

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