V9 Moore


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English language proficiency of international students in Australian universities: Who’s responsible?

Presenter: Paul Moore, University of Wollongong, Australia.

The role of academic language and learner advising and learner autonomy in improving the educational outcomes of international students in Australian universities has received significant attention in recent years. A combination of research findings, governmental pressure and media scrutiny has provided renewed impetus for universities to address issues of language proficiency and academic literacy amongst the growing population of onshore international students for whom English is an additional language (EAL). In this paper, I discuss learner advising practice in the Australian university context, including how this practice is influenced by a range of practical, pedagogical, disciplinary, institutional and political factors. I highlight some of the challenges and tensions which impact on the advising process, and discuss the roles and responsibilities of students and advisors in improving educational outcomes.

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V9 Moore

  2. 2. About the presenterPaul Moore works at the University of Wollongong(UOW) as a lecturer in the Learning Development Unit.He has also taught on the postgraduate TESOLprogram. His work in Learning Development involves arange of activities from student consultation andteaching, to collaboration with teaching staff from arange of faculties, to policy development. Currentresearch interests involve several aspects of task-based language learning and teaching,including influences of interaction on performance and development, form-focused instruction, and use of the first language in the EFL classroom.email: paul_moore@uow.edu.au To C
  3. 3. Contents & NavigationTable of Contents NavigationAbout the presenter (slide 2) Underlined textis hyperlinkedThe Australian tertiary context (slide 4)Contextualising advising practice (slide Some images are 5) also hyperlinkedPolitical & policy contexts (slides 6-7)Professional community contexts Arrow keys and (slides 8-11) mouse clickingInstitutional Context (slide 12) are also enabledIndividual consultation advising (slides 13 – 18Roles and Responsibilities (slides 19- 20)The Future (Slide 21)References (Slides 22-23) To C
  4. 4. The Australian Tertiary Context•Increasingly reliant on international studentincome;•English language proficiency of EALinternational students has become a majorfocus;•Academic Language and Learning (ALL)advisers provide support to all students(variety of contexts and modes). To 28% C International
  5. 5. Contextualising advising practice Political & policy contexts Professional community contexts Institutional Context – Academic language and learning practice @ UoW Individual consultation (IC) advising To C
  6. 6. Political & policy contexts 2009 After two years of symposia and deliberation, the government 2006 releases: “Birrell report” Good practice principles for Graduating EAL overseas English language proficiency for students‟ English language international students inproficiency prevented them from Australian universities getting work or meeting visa (AUQA, 2009; linked to quality requirements audits) 2007 Changes to Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) Act – aimed to improve completion rates and provide timely support for “at risk” overseas students. To C
  7. 7. Political & policy contexts Although Birrell‟s contributions to the higher education debate reinforced the portrayal of EAL students as “deficient” and in need of remedial and supplementary English classes (cf. Birrell 2006, p. 63), it appears to have had the effect of raising the profile of English language proficiency issues in higher education on the federal agenda.Good Practice Principles (GPPs): http://www.deewr.gov.au/HigherEducation/Publications/Documents/Final_R eport-Good_Practice_Principles.pdfFor critiques of the GPPs, see Murray (2010; in press) and Harper et al. (2011) To C
  8. 8. Emergentand diverse professional community contexts (Chanock 2011a; 2011b) 2005 Association for Academic 1950s Language and LearningALL first provided by (AALL) formedcounselling services See http://www.aall.org.au 1980s Changes to Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) Act – aimed to improve completion rates and provide timely support for “at risk” overseas students. To C
  9. 9. professional community contexts: issues and approaches What should ALL advisers focus on? “Generic academic skills” vs “academic literacies” (Lea & Street, 1998) vs “professional communication” vs “(contextualised or generic) language proficiency” To C
  10. 10. professional community contexts: issues and approachesHow should language and learning support be done (and who by)? Workshops / online / one-to-one / peers /etc.Independent ALL units / staff based in discipline Academic staff / general staff Discipline specialists / applied linguists / language teachers / others To C
  11. 11. professional community contexts:the individual consultation A major issue with the government‟s focus on English language proficiency is that much of the focus of individual consultations in ALL centres has been the development of academic literacies based on current assessment tasks. One indicator of this is the AALL‟s statement: “Who are ALL advisers/lecturers?” Our primary role therefore is to assist students to understand the cultures, purposes and conventions of different academic genres and practices. In this respect, our work is developmental, not remedial. We dont fix problems - rather, we teach students the strategies and skills with which they can achieve the outcomes to which they aspire. This objective of teaching students how to take control of their academic writing and learning is fundamental to our pedagogic philosophy. http://aall.org.au/who To C
  12. 12. Institutional Context Practice of Learning Development at UoW •Working with students to identify learning issues and assist them in their negotiation of academic literacies, language and learning. •Collaborating with faculty to enhance student learning and the development of academic literacies. •Working across the University to link individual learning issues with the wider teaching and learning policies. http://www.uow.edu.au/student/servi ces/ld/staff/UOW021301.html To C
  13. 13. Individual consultation (IC)advisingThis section draws on Carson &Mynard‟s (in press) analysis of the role of “advisors for language learning” in terms of the following: aims; practices; skills; location; discourse. While the practices and skills are somewhat similar to academic language and learning advisors in Australia, the aims, practices, location and discourse deserve mentionIn addition I look at particular contextual issues and challenges related ALL To C
  14. 14. 1. AimsWhile the ALL adviser‟s aims may be fostering the development of disciplinary language and learning skills in the learner, the majority of students in the current context engage in ICs with a strong focus on written assessment tasks. Although not often noted in this context, such a focus finds support in task-based language learning and teaching principles (cf. Shaw, Moore &Gandhidasan, 2007, for an example of integrated learning support in a task-based curriculum)As ALL advising is often construed by non- specialists as editing (Woodward-Kron, 2007) or „fixing learners‟ language problems,‟ learners may also attend ICs with the express purpose of having the grammar or expression in their written assignments „fixed;‟ hence the need for explicit To guidelines re ICs. C
  15. 15. 2. Practices Given their common focus on disciplinary discourse, ICs often involve advisers attempting to deconstruct this implicit discourse and make it explicit to the learners. This often involves placing the learner in the position of content expert (e.g., Clerehan, 1997), while the advisor, along with the learner, attempts to interpret the disciplinary discourse and the learner‟s attempts at constructing „appropriate‟ texts. This work is informed by a range of fields, including genre theory, applied linguistics, systemic functional linguistics, corpus linguistics, and (critical) discourse analysis. To C
  16. 16. 3. Location While ALL advising with students generally takes place in advisers‟ offices or in common advising areas; the principles are applied in several ways and locations at UoW, as noted earlier. One area of research in Australia (and the topic of a 1996 conference) investigates the question „What do we learn from teaching one-to-one that informs our work with larger numbers?’ (cf. Chanock 2007, for example). To C
  17. 17. 4. Discourse(s) and relatedchallengesWhile little research has gone into analysing IC discourse, the increasing need to „objectively‟ evaluate funded activities (Chanock, 2007), and to combat „bad press‟ (Clerehan, 1997), has led to some studies being undertaken.Clerehan (1997) explored the dialogic construction of learning in ICs, providing evidence of learning of both participants.Woodward-Kron (2007) similarly investigated ICs from the perspective of systemic functional linguistics (SFL), providing a rich analysis of discourse, including joint construction of meaning and scaffolding and addressing a wide range of aspects of textual and To contextual features of the learner‟s text. C
  18. 18. 5. Discourse(s) and related challenges(cont.)Chanock (2007) argues that the effectiveness of ICs is „invisible‟ in that it is not possible, for example to objectively link them to learner outcomes. She argues that the input from ICs to other forms of learning is invaluable, citing one ALL adviser, who‟s IC program was discontinued (p. A2):We no longer see students; therefore we no longer have their version of their problems.(cf. Stevenson &Kokkinn, 2009, for a comprehensive attempt at IC evaluation.)Collins et al. (1996) investigated links between ICs and autonomy, outlining a range of teacher- dominated, collaborative and student-dominated strategies evident in the discourse that may lead to “autonomous outcomes” (p. 4). (cf. also Wilson et al., 2011, for an extension of this research) To C
  19. 19. Roles and responsibilities forimproving student outcomes While enhancing student learning in the disciplines is a shared responsibility (including ALL advisers, faculty lecturers and other university teaching and support staff – see GPP#1), it is clear that individual students are major stakeholders in their own learning, with the majority of the responsibility for that learning (see GPP#3).[GPP#1Universities are responsible for ensuring that their students are sufficiently competent in the English language to participate effectively in their university studies][GPP#3 Students have responsibilities for further developing their English language proficiency during their study at university and are advised of these responsibilities prior to enrolment.] To C
  20. 20. The responsibility for Englishlanguage proficiency developmentGiven that ALL advising has emphasised disciplinary learning, and language focus is generally defined in terms of its inextricable links from the disciplinary context, the GPPs requirement to focus on “language proficiency” (including at least proficiency for social and professional contexts) is a challenge for full-time students (Reinders, 2006; Murray, 2010) and for the implementation of GPP#6:[ GPP 6. Development of English language proficiency is integrated with curriculum design, assessment practices and course delivery through a variety of methods.]With regard to the broader focus on English language proficiency, university responsibilities are even less clearly divided among ALL advising units and other stakeholders in „language‟ (e.g., applied linguistics, TESOL, university-based language college educators).ALL is still commonly construed by non-specialists as teaching generic skills to students who are “deficient” in some way (e.g., Chanock 2007). This “deficiency” discourse is also common with regard to the language skills of international students (e.g., Benzie, 2010), meaning that similar challenges can be expected with regard to integrating language To proficiency-related work into coursework. C
  21. 21. The future Given the stronger, if not clearly defined, focus on „English language proficiency‟ in Australian higher education contexts, the field of Academic Language and Learning advising, there is much to be learned from the burgeoning fields of Advising for Language Learning and Learner Autonomy in terms of broadening our focus from the „academic‟ to other fields of communication in order to support our students‟ social and professional language and learning-related goals. To C
  22. 22. Selected ReferencesAustralian Universities Quality Agency (AUQA) (2009). Good Practice Principles for English language proficiency for international students in Australian universities, Report to theDepartment of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, Canberra.Birrell, B. (2006). Implications of low English standards among overseas students at Australian universities, People and Place, 14(4): 53–64Birrell, B. Hawthorne, L. & Richardson, S. (2006). Evaluation of the General Skilled Migration Categories Report. Australian Government: The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) Report. Retrieved on 9 November, 2011 from http://www.immi.gov.au/media/publications/research/gsm-report/index.htmCarson, L. &Mynard, J. (in press). Introduction. In J. Mynard& L. Carson (Eds). Advising in language learning: Dialogue, tools and context (pp. 1-32). Harlow: Longman.Clerehan, R. (1997). How does dialogic learning work? In K. Chanock, V. Burley, & S. Davies (Eds.). What do we learn from teaching one-to-one that informs our work with largernumbers? Proceedings of the conference held at La Trobe University November 18-19,1996 (pp. 69-81). Melbourne: Language and Academic Skills Units of La Trobe University.Collins G., Shrensky, R., & Wilson, K. (1998). Visions of autonomy: Teaching strategies in one-to-one support for international students. Proceedings of the 9th International Student Advisers Network of Australia (ISANA) Conference, 1–4 December 1998, Canberra: ISANA.Harper, R., Prentice, S. & Wilson K. (2011). English language perplexity: Articulating the tensions in the DEEWR “Good Practice Principles.” The International Journal of the First Year in Higher Education, 2(1): 36-48.Lea, M., & Street, B. (1998). Student writing in higher education: An academic literacies approach. Studies in Higher Education,23: 157–72. To C
  23. 23. Murray, N. (2010). Conceptualising the English language needs of first year university students. The International Journal of the First Year in Higher Education, 1(1), 55-64.Murray, N. (in press). Ten „Good Practice Principles‟ … ten key questions: Considerations in addressing the English language needs of higher education students. Higher Education Research and Development.Percy, A., & Stirling, J. (2005). Representation for (re)invention. In S. Milnes, G. Craswell, V. Rao, & A. Bartlett (Eds.), Critiquing and reflecting: LAS profession and practice.Refereed proceedings of the Language and Academic Skills in Higher EducationConference 2005 (pp. 141-154). Canberra: Academic Skills and Learning Centre, The Australian National University.Reinders, H. (2006). University Language Advising: is it Useful? Reflections in English Language Teaching, 5(1): 79-92.Stevenson, M. &Kokkinn, B. (2009). Evaluating one-to-one sessions of academic language and learning. Journal of Academic Language & Learning, 3(2): A36-A50.Woodward-Kron, R. (2007). Negotiating meanings and scaffolding learning: Writing support for non-English speaking background postgraduate students. Higher Education Research and Development, 26(3), 253-268.Wilson, K., Li, L. Collins, G. &Couchman, J. (2011). Co-constructing academic literacy: Examining teacher-student discourse in a one-to-one consultation. Journal of Academic Language & Learning, 5(1): A139-A153. To C
  24. 24. End of Presentationcontact: paul_moore@uow.edu.auPlease click on icon below to return to titlepage