The course takes a project-based approach, involving students in the completion of a simple scientific experiment (designed by a member of the science faculty and often carried out in the science labs), which is documented in two main ways – first, as a multimodal digital video scientific documentary, second, as a scientific report, similar to a lab report. In their video project, students work together in order to research their topic, collect data, design a storyboard and script, film, edit and share their work. In this process we see many elements of co-operative learning at work, with students working in collaborative teams, peer teaching and working autonomously out of class in order to get their projects done. Then, in the written scientific report the content from the video is re-worked or re-contextualized into a scientific report which is individually written up by students.
We adopted a kind of participant observation method in this project, with two teams of four students engaged to act as participant observers to their own out of class learning processes and collect data on those processes for us. In addition, one student researcher helped to co-ordinate with the groups and archive and store the artifacts and communications that they were generating. Through this method, we were able to limit our own intervention in the process, and as a result a lot of the data collected is ‘naturally occurring’, what students would have created in the course of the project anyway. Note the range of data sources that were collected in this way: project artifacts, in-class discussions, out-of-class project communications, focus group interviews and reflections. Also note that all students provided their informed consent for this process and that, because of the intense nature of the study, participant observers were hired as student helpers to provide some incentive for the amount of time we expected the project to take out of their schedules.
Here is some background information that we collected about the teams. By design we selected two different kinds of teams – one with an international student from the mainland in it, the other with only HK students with Cantonese as mother tongue in it. We wanted to test the theory that the international group would tend to use English as a lingua franca to communicate and that they would therefore have more opportunities to practise English.
The first team shared a variety of project artifacts with one another through Dropbox and also allowed us to have access to their Whatsapp messages and email messages. We also collected some in-class handwritten notes that they had used.
The second team shared a range of artifacts through a FB group, which they used in a similar way to the dropbox, allowed us to have access to their Whatsapp messages and reported communicating through email as well.
Here are some examples of project artifacts
Here are some examples of project communications
In the analysis we focus on the code choice, especially how code switching is used purposefully by participants
This is the team that included a mainland student. * What is immediately apparent is that the students do use a range of codes in the course of their out-of-class project use, and this includes two different dialects of Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin) and English. * In addition, it is worth remarking that written artifacts which are clearly associated with the final product of the project work are essentially composed in English (and students also reported that they read in English). However, Cantonese and Mandarin may be used in some stages of the project where (from a teaching perspective) English might have been preferable, for example when the students were conducting interviews about sound levels with others. * In these cases, students reported that they felt worried that approaching other students using English would scare them away – use of the mother tongue overcomes this problem and serves to identify the students as part of the same in-group.
This is the group of Cantonese speakers. Like the other group they tend to rely on Cantonese * more for brainstorming and negotiating difficuties (for example technical difficulties). In specific settings, * such as the laboratory, they report using English only and also * for specific tasks, such as writing the script.
What we can see from this is that the * dominant language in Team 1 is English, while the * dominant language in Team 2 is Chinese. There is more intra-sentential code switching in team 2, with most of the code switching going from C to English, though this does include 3 system messages.
Here you can see the kind of Chinese to English intrasentential code-switching that was going on, as well as all of the English words found in the data as part of such switches. There seem to be three main groups: * proper nouns like Gwen GE and brian; * technology related lexis like call, upload, msn, skype; * project related lexis like group, script, idea
As students reported that they tended to follow the code choices of other participants, we thought it would be interesting to see how conversations were initiated in the two groups. This table indicates that group members in team 1 * initiated the conversations much more frequently in English. The data does show that once an initial language choice has been made it is frequently followed by the participants to the conversation and not often switched, so if a conversation begins in English it continues in English in general (observed in both groups). Once it is switched it tends not to be switched back, again participants tend to follow the lead in terms of the language choice made.
The students stated that code selection related partly to their confidence in respective codes and a tendency to follow the initial code choice, a practice that is observed in both groups.
When the initial choice is made by the system, this may also be followed by the students, so here we see two system messages in Chinese followed by a student’s message in Chinese – it is possible that the technology can influence code choice and have an impact on opportunities for independent language learning
One reason for initiating conversations in English is to practise your English, here the participants are discussing a sequence in their WhatsApp transcript and explaining the preference for English near the beginning of the transcript. The participants describe an unspoken assumption that communications for the project would be in English because the project is for an English course.
Looking at the first conversation, lines 3-5, we see that it is accomplished through Chinese, the code which is selected by the system. Looking at the second conversation in lines 6-8 we can see that Gwen GE has initiated the conversation in English. As she says, Whatsapp is a good medium for her to use to practice English as she is more confident with this written medium than she would be with face-to-face speaking.
Here we have a comment from the mainland student in the group, who expressed a desire to practise typing in the ‘Cantonese’ way. One aspect of ‘typing in the Cantonese way’ is the use of Chinese/English code-switching as illustrated on the next slide.
Willie switches into Chinese in message 79, what he himself describes as typing in the Cantonese way, with the intrasentential code-switch into English forming a part of this Cantonese way of typing.
Chinese English code-switching is also used if there are particular problems, for example, the use of technical words in the video editing software
Here we see the switch into Chinese at the point where greater clarity is required (in message 72). Note that in lines 69, 70 and 71 Willie prompts for more information in English first, but seems to switch to Chinese when he receives no reply. Gwen doesn’t respond until much later. Students reported that if technical words were involved they would sometimes switch so as to be as clear as possible.
At this point it is necessary for us to re-iterate that this is a pilot study in its initial stages only, and so the findings are necessarily tentative.
Students tend to use Chinese if they are not confident that their message will be successfully understood or if they want to reduce the effort that they need for successful communication. Certain technical issues with specialized vocabulary will therefore sometimes be discussed in Chinese. At the same time, Chinese is sometimes used as a marker of social identity, especially when students try to convince others to participate in their projects.* English is used in part with the explicit aim of practising English with some students saying that English is the natural code choice for an English project. There is also code-switching into English for certain specialized vocabulary, for example related to technology (skype) or the project (script). Finally, this kind of intra-sentential code switching in Whatsapp can also serve as an identity marker, marking yourself as someone who is able to type ‘in the Cantonese way’.
Another important finding is that initial code selections tend to be followed and this means that * if there is a strong leader who consistently initiates conversations and selects a particular code, that individual can lead the group to interact more in English or more in Chinese.
The results also show that in the international group, there was greater use of English than in the HK group, however, this was not so much because of the need for a lingua franca (as the international student was very comfortable in Cantonese as well), it was more likely because of the fact that one student in that group was committed to using the Whatsapp conversations as a site for English practice out of class and * an unspoken agreement to operate in English therefore emerged, with individuals who were both committed to this idea and comfortable with it (in terms of their ability).
The study describes a complex multilingual environment, with different codes being used for different purposes, and in particular support from the mother tongue being used in order to overcome communication difficulties and as a marker of social identity. From the WE perspective one can say that this kind of use is both to be expected and possibly also a productive use of the mother tongue which facilitates the successful completion of the video project. * On the other hand, we are also aware that there are many more opportunities for independent language learning that students can and sometimes do adopt, particularly in terms of the communications about the project. * We are interested in encouraging students to take advantage of these opportunities in future, perhaps by discussing this issue with them and doing our best to convince them of the benefits of increasing their out of class English language use. So far, students have commented that using English at all stages of the project is not easy, but that they can do it – we believe that the kind of project processes and communications which students engage in on this project are useful for future workplace environments and hope that students will agree with this and invest accordingly in their out of class language learning.
Code switching between peers in a project-based English for science course at a Hong Kong university
Code-switching between peers in aproject-based English for science courseat a Hong Kong universityChristoph A. Hafner and Lindsay MillerDepartment of English, City University of Hong Konghttp://www1.english.cityu.edu.hk/acadlitIAWE 2012, December 5-10, 2012
Context for this study• University course in English for science students – Applied Biology – Applied Chemistry – Applied Physics – Architectural Studies – Computing Mathematics – Environmental Science and Management – Surveying
English for science project A1. Reading/data A. Digital video project collection B3. A2.Editing/proofre Scripting/stor B. Written scientific ading yboarding reportB2. Writing A3. Performing/recor English for ding science B1. project A4. EditingReading/outlin ing A5. Sharing
Fostering learner autonomy What is the role of Motivation Chinese/English code- switching as a strategic resource to peer-teaching and Peer autonomous language Authenticity teaching learning opportunities as part of the Autonomy collaborative project process? Independent Teamwork learning Hafner and Miller, 2011
Pilot study, two teams of‘participant observers’ Lindsay/ChristophQuestionnaireFocus groups BrianReflection Project artifacts In-class discussions Project communications Team 1 Team 2 (out of class)
About the teams TEAM 1 Gender Age L1 How good are your How good are communication skills your in English? communication skills in Chinese? G F 20 Cantonese Good Very good W M 22 Chaozhou Very good Excellent Dialect E M 20 Cantonese Good Very Good A M 21 Cantonese Good Very Good TEAM 2 Gender Age L1 How good are your How good are communication skills your in English? communication skills in Chinese? L M 23 Cantonese Good Excellent J F 20 Cantonese Very Good Excellent K M 19 Cantonese Weak Good H M 19 Cantonese Good Very Good
Code choice in project stages:Team 1Week Course Structure Language Rationale choice1 Introduction E [All in-class discussion was conducted in English]2 Planning project work E/C Right so we got a meeting and in the meeting we spoke Cantonese, but we got our agenda our plan all in English…3 Using multimedia E I have been making some videos using some other software before called moviemaker and then when I come up to this new software I just have to look at the words and I sort of know how to use it. So no need to learn it again…4 Data collection, lab work E/C Some of them (interviews) were in English, some of them in Cantonese, and even some in Mandarin depends on who we were interview…5 Storyboard and E …so we have the video in our mind so we suppose it to be English. Right, so I remember that at that time we all more communicate in English. Script Actually I just wrote it in English…yeah…because we were to speak English so I just use English…I didn’t think about the Chinese version because the thing is it doesn’t help me…6 Filming E/C …the thing is….it was easier to use Chinese because when we use English to communicate with other students and they may…go away… Video trouble shooting …sometimes we use English with WhatsApp…
Code choice in project stages:Team 2Week Course Language Rationale Structure choice1 Introduction E [All in-class discussion was conducted in English]2 Planning C When we start to eh… that means… when we plan the idea, we use Chinese…As it is easier for us to project work communicate as both of our mother tongue are Chinese… and it is easier for us to understand…3 Using C I think Chinese is better, because it is something very practical that we are not familiar…And maybe if multimedia we use Chinese we can really ask what we do not understand. And understand more about it…4 Data E In the lab, we use English, as you know, we all study chemistry… and the terms and the things that collection, lab we use were taught in English. We know the English name… we will not use Chinese to talk about the work apparatus and chemicals… we will not use Chinese name of iodine, we just say iodine…such as burette pipette…5 Storyboard E/C Not very difficult to use English, because we can use drawing, as we can use drawing to tell others and our ideas. But sometimes, we still use Chinese, if we think we need to explain something complicated. Then we might use Chinese. LM: So it is easier to write in English than to translate from Chinese to English? All: Yes. Script I use English because I just want to add some things to the script, as the script is all English in our video, I just use English to read it and to see if its meaningful6 Filming E/C English, because we take the film in English, we are in the environment speaking English, so we talked Video trouble through English mainly…For some instructions, ideas or movements, we may use Chinese, just need to shooting clarify the things that we need to do. It is easier…
Code choice in WhatsApp Team 1 Team 2 Chinese 24 (17%) 31 (34%) Mostly Chinese 6 (4%) 27 (30%) English 98 (70%) 23 (26%) Mostly English 1 (1%) 0 (0%) Other 12 (9%) 9 (10%) Total messages 141 (100%) 90 (100%)Mostly Chinese means the message is mostly in Chinese with intrasentential Chinese to English switchingMostly English means the message is mostly in English with intrasentential English to Chinese switching
Chinese to Englishintrasentential switching 你add 人ok? (You add ‘people’ ok?)GE2401 Project, Gwen GE, group, or, call, upload, class visit, brian,group, g, brian, msn, skype, on fb msg, 9.30ok, add, ok, sample,test, ok, 10mins, idea, email, send, sd, script, honkie, script, bud,brian, ok, youtube, blackboard, account Technology related lexis Proper nouns Project related lexis
Initiating and switching inconversations Team 1 Team 2 Total Conversations 14 8 Initiate in Chinese 3 5 Initiate in English 10 3 Initiate in Other 1 0 Intersentential Chinese to English 2 3 Intersentential English to Chinese 2 1
Following the leaderK: I cant’ express myself in English, so I switch toChinese to make myself easier to understand. Andsometimes the person above [in texting] is talkingin Chinese. So I follow him. (Laughs) (Team 2,Focus group)W: …basically, the one who start the conversationin which language then those who reply use thesame one… (Team 1, Focus group)
Input and system choices1 9 月 20 日 22:07 - Willie575: 您将群组题更改为“GE2401 Project” [You have changed the chat group title to “GE201 Project”+2 9 月 20 日 22:07 - Willie575: Gwen GE加入了群组 [Gwen GE was added into the chat group]3 9 月 20 日 22:08 - Gwen GE: 得我地兩個好似冇開到group咁 [With only the two of us it doesn’t seem like a group]
Practising your EnglishW: this one it’s kind of spoken Cantonese in typing…so I tryto reply in Chinese and then suddenly she start a sentence…G: we are suppose to use English and so I use English…W: and then we keep in English…C: when you say you were supposed to use English what doyou mean?G: because we created a group it is the GE2401 group andwe are suppose to discuss our project there in English causethis is an English course… (Team 1, Focus group)
Team 1, Conversations 1&2 extract3 9 月 20 日 22:08 - Gwen GE: 得我地兩個好似冇開到group咁 [With only the two of us it doesn’t seem like a group]4 9 月 20 日 22:09 - Willie575: ……5 9 月 20 日 22:09 - Willie575: 所以要叫佢地来咯 [So we have to tell them to join this group]6 9 月 21 日 14:26 - Gwen GE: Actually I have already borrowed some reference book from library. Should we really need to wait until Tuesday and start the project?7 9 月 21 日 14:26 - Willie575: No8 9 月 21 日 14:27 - Willie575: You can start reading
Being a HK personW: …I am confident about speaking Cantonesebut not confident in like typing in Cantoneseway….like…so you can see all theconversation…here I try to type in the Cantoneseway…so that G will know what I mean….so in mymind I might have an idea about practising typingwriting Chinese with the local people so… (Team1, Focus group)
Team 2, Conversation 11 extract77 10 月 14 日 18:19 - Gwen GE: Agreed. In fact, where is the sound track "night loud talking" and the scene of crowded AC1 Canteen78 10 月 14 日 18:35 - Willie575: ……Eddy！！！ (Eddy is responsible for sound track recording)79 10 月 14 日 18:35 - Willie575: 你直接call佢啊 [You should call him directly]80 10 月 14 日 20:02 - Gwen GE: 尋日問咗今日再問會唔會催得太恆~ [Well, I’ve asked him yesterday about it, will I be too pushy if I ask again today?]81 10 月 14 日 20:04 - Gwen GE: 佢話拍咗但未upload~ [He said he did record it, but haven’t uploaded it yet]
Solving problemsYou know when we use the software to editingthe video there are so many technical words thatneed to communicate to each other so… (G, Team1, Focus group)
Team 2, Conversation 11 extract68 10 月 14 日 1:44 - Gwen GE: So terrible to find that no matter how hard I tried, my voice recorded using my notebook just not the same~What happened…69 10 月 14 日 9:57 - Willie575: ……70 10 月 14 日 9:57 - Willie575: What？71 10 月 14 日 9:58 - Willie575: You mean the sound？72 10 月 14 日 9:58 - Willie575: 音质or内容？ [Sound quality or content?]73 10 月 14 日 17:43 - Gwen GE: I mispronounced a word…74 10 月 14 日 17:43 - Gwen GE: "canal"75 10 月 14 日 17:44 - Gwen GE: So I want to use my notebook record agaon, but my voice just not the same. Actually, there is no big deal about it
Role of Chinese (L1) or English (L2) Chinese English• Solving problems • Practise• Specialized vocabulary • Specialized vocabulary• Efficiency and confidence • Being part of the crowd• Being part of the crowd
Group dynamics• There is a tendency to follow initial code selections• A strong individual can therefore lead a group to interact more in English or more in Chinese
Investment• Some groups appear more committed to using English out of class than others• An unspoken agreement to operate in English
Questions raised• In English language instruction, when is it appropriate for such multilingual users of English to switch to their mother tongue?• What are the opportunities for independent English language learning that are afforded by the project-based learning task?• How can these opportunities be promoted by the class teacher? – An implicit or explicit agreement – “*Using English at all stages is+ not easy, but we can do it” (J, Team 2, Focus group)