APacLSP: Disciplinary perspectives on English for Science


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This is a presentation given at the Second Conference of the Asia-Pacific Association of LSP and Professional Communication, held in Kuala Lumpur, July 15-17, 2010.

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  • CH
  • CH This aim of this project was to engage science students in the making of scientific documentaries as part of a digital video project.
  • LM The course we focused on is an English language course for BCH and maths students, which focuses on disciplinary English in scientific contexts - e.g. how to present (both orally and in writing) a scientific report with a typical IMRD structure and what lexical and grammatical resources to draw on for different parts of such a report.
  • CH To serve these aims, the course was structured around an English for Science project, which engaged students in conducting a simple, quasi-scientific investigation, involving the formulation of a hypothesis, carrying out of an experimental procedure, recording of data, presentation and discussion of findings. Students worked in groups to carry out the experiment and orally present their findings, and then worked individually to write up the same experiment as a kind of scientific report.
  • LM In their private lives, students' experience of reading and writing is increasingly moving away from traditional conceptions of literacy, towards new literacy practices which emphasize multimedia and participation in globalized online communities. As teachers of English literacy, how do we prepare students for this multimodal and participatory world? Academic faculty in the BCH department point out that students need assistance with their spoken English, especially when giving presentations, but at the same time, the development of spoken language competence requires sustained effort. How can we motivate students to reflect on and improve their spoken language abilities? In order to respond to these questions, we extended the existing project-based learning methodology used on the course. This was done by changing the oral presentation in the course from a typical classroom oral presentation (i.e. with PPT etc) to a more innovative, and some would say, more current form: a multimedia scientific documentary, which used video to document the English for Science project and its experiment.
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  • CH This was supported by a number of technological tools: [Insert Figure 1 from Fostering Autonomy paper about here] For different stages of the project, students used different technological tools to carry out the project, e.g. the Internet for gathering and evaluating information, DV cameras and editing tools for shooting and editing, YouTube channel and blog for sharing their videos with the rest of the class. All of these different stages were also scaffolded by in-class activities, and we closely monitored students' progress on what was a very complex project. Thus students were given deadlines to meet (week 4 data collection done, week 5 script done), and were encouraged to think about their collaboration in terms of the different specialist roles that they could adopt (e.g. researcher, script-writer, director, editor). Importantly, all students were required to perform the role of a presenter in the video, meaning that all students were forced to practice presentation skills, the main aim of the assignment.
  • LM I am just going to focus on a few key findings here, from questionnaire and from focus group
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  • CH 74% of students agree that the skills learned on the project are useful to them personally. 49% agree that the skills learned are useful to their studies. 43% agree that the skills learned are useful to their career. Only 20% agree that the skills learned are relevant to their major subject. When students are asked about this they say that the skills are not relevant to their major subject because they do not do video projects. However, one student does note that the skills used can be applied to presentations.
  • CH Although most of the student did not see an obvious link to their major area of study, some of them did.
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  • LM 73% say that they have improved their English presentation skills 73% say that they have improved their research skills in English Surprisingly, over 40% also believe that they have improved reading listening and writing. The scope of the project is much bigger than we thought.
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  • LM We believe that this is one of the things that motivates students because it helps them to see the relevance and the usefulness of the English course to the skills that they need to develop in order to be an effective scientist and researcher.
  • CH Note that a number of students also commented on the topic, that they felt it would be either nice to choose their own, or that the topic was too simple, too easy for a science student and not sufficiently challenging.
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  • LM Lecturers talked about their being more style than substance in some of the videos. It underlines their concern for the content. They wanted to see more science.
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  • APacLSP: Disciplinary perspectives on English for Science

    1. 1. Disciplinary perspectives in English for Science: An evaluation of student digital video projects Christoph Hafner, Lindsay Miller, Richard Kong, Connie Ng http://www1.english.cityu.edu.hk/acadlit Asia-Pacific LSP and Professional Communication Conference, July, 2010
    2. 2. Outline <ul><li>Background and rationale </li></ul><ul><li>Student video </li></ul><ul><li>Action taken </li></ul><ul><li>Observations </li></ul><ul><li>Reflection </li></ul>
    3. 3. Background and rationale
    4. 4. EN2251: Communication Skills I <ul><li>Discipline-specific English course with students from BCH and MA </li></ul><ul><ul><li>CILO 2: Orally present the theory, method and findings of a quasi-experiment, making effective use of verbal and non-verbal delivery techniques. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>CILO 3: Write a scientific report, making effective use of appropriate language, organization and academic referencing conventions </li></ul></ul>
    5. 5. English for Science Project <ul><li>RATIONALE </li></ul><ul><li>Scientific presentations and reports (such as lab reports) are frequently based on observations which test a hypothesis. In this project you will make some observations of your own and report them, first in the form of a scientific documentary (Assignment 1), then as a ‘lab report’ to your tutor (Assignment 2). </li></ul>
    6. 6. Rationale for the innovation <ul><li>How can we motivate students to reflect on and improve their spoken English? </li></ul><ul><li>As teachers of English literacy, how do we prepare students to participate in globalized online spaces, which utilize new forms of multimodal representation? </li></ul>
    7. 7. Student video Click here to view video
    8. 8. Action taken
    9. 9. Modify English for Science Project <ul><li>In class presentation > Scientific documentary </li></ul><ul><li>Focus on: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Oral presentation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Multimodal representation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Appropriate communication for a scientific audience </li></ul></ul>
    10. 10. Technology and support
    11. 11. Observation
    12. 12. Data sources <ul><li>Questionnaire (anonymous, open/closed items) </li></ul><ul><li>Focus group interviews </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Students (21) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Programme leaders in BCH, MA (4) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Students’ comments in course weblog </li></ul><ul><li>Student work </li></ul>
    13. 13. Areas of interest <ul><li>Data was coded and organized via MaxQDA: </li></ul><ul><li>Authenticity </li></ul><ul><li>Autonomy </li></ul><ul><li>Creativity </li></ul><ul><li>Technology </li></ul><ul><li>Language Skills </li></ul><ul><li>Motivation </li></ul><ul><li>Multimodality </li></ul><ul><li>Project process </li></ul><ul><li>Suggestions and advice </li></ul><ul><li>Teamwork and collaboration </li></ul><ul><li>Time management </li></ul>
    14. 14. Student perceptions: Relevance and usefulness AVG SD D N A SA Q10. The skills I learned by doing the video project are useful for my studies 3.49 0% 10% 41% 39% 10% Q11. The skills I learned by doing the video project are useful to my career 3.36 0% 14% 44% 36% 7% Q12. The skills I learned by doing the video project are useful to me personally 3.78 0% 5% 20% 66% 8% Q13. The skills I learned by doing the video project are relevant to my major subject 2.88 3% 25% 51% 20% 0%
    15. 15. Relevance to major <ul><li>Actually, in this project, I learned many skills besides case studies or content, the technique of making a video also as we said before the presentation skills. It also let us become more creative and I have many other subjects require us to present in the class. And I would like to use more multimedia in my presentation later on and I think it would be attract my audience is the difference. (Student Interview) </li></ul>
    16. 16. Authenticity of audience: <ul><li>Because - um, a lot of people may read it not just our class - classmates, so I would do it - I will pay more effort to do it and I also will treat the documentary as a real documentary because it’s just like the documentary done by BBC or some others although the topic is quite simple or quite basic, so I think that. (Student Interview) </li></ul>
    17. 17. IT skills <ul><li>The most useful thing is video editing skill, presentation skill. We have to put many effort in doing so. Also, this video project lead me to improve my spoken skill and teach me how to search useful information by using different method. (Student Questionnaire) </li></ul><ul><li>[The problem I encountered was…] the editing problem. I am not familiar with the software. Thus, I have to learn it for a long time. (Student Questionnaire) </li></ul>
    18. 18. Students’ perceptions: Skills learned AVG SD D N A SA Q18. As a result of doing the video project I have improved my English language skills 3.34 0% 10% 47% 41% 2% Q19. As a result of doing the video project I have improved my English research skills 3.66 0% 8% 19% 71% 2% Q20. As a result of doing the video project I have improved my English reading skills 3.31 2% 10% 44% 44% 0% Q21. As a result of doing the video project I have improved my English writing skills 3.41 0% 7% 49% 41% 3% Q22. As a result of doing the video project I have improved my English presentation skills 3.81 0% 2% 25% 63% 10% Q23. As a result of doing the video project I have improved my English listening skills 3.44 0% 14% 36% 44% 7%
    19. 19. Presentation skills <ul><li>[The most enjoyable thing about the project was…] being an actor, I have to use facial expressions to express my feelings . And I have to speak clearly and pronounce the words in a correct way. (Student questionnaire) </li></ul>
    20. 20. Integrated skills <ul><li>In this project you cannot only train your English, you could also, I mean more importantly, it trains you how to do research and how to express your idea in English. (Student Interview) </li></ul>
    21. 21. Programme leaders’ perceptions <ul><li>Generally impressed by students’ presentations </li></ul><ul><li>The topics of the documentaries could be more sophisticated from a scientific point of view </li></ul>
    22. 22. Lecturer Interview <ul><li>Don: I think your assignment is also, so creative - very creative. [Voice Overlap] </li></ul><ul><li>Barry: Terrific assignment. </li></ul><ul><li>Keith: For science students, I think we don’t really [Voice Overlap]. </li></ul><ul><li>Don: We don’t really do it like that. </li></ul><ul><li>Keith: That’s right. </li></ul><ul><li>Don: We just give some question to doing that, they just do it. Yeah. </li></ul><ul><li>Barry: Obviously we’re very impressed that they can actually do this. </li></ul>
    23. 23. Disciplinary expectations: language <ul><li>Robert: …they actually use the English a bit too loosely uh when describing uh what exactly they are doing uh because there’s a proper way of doing the um methods description, but they were a bit sort of wishy- washy about it. </li></ul><ul><li>Robert: But, it’s true – I mean the whole um presentation was actually quite concise and precise. So in sort of scientific terms that’s spot on… </li></ul>
    24. 24. Disciplinary expectations: topic <ul><li>Keith: So I think we’re more concerned in the scientific content, but presentation is perfect, I would say….yeah, maybe more experiments, more real experiments , comparison of the literature results, for example. </li></ul>
    25. 25. Way ahead
    26. 26. More sophisticated topics <ul><li>Working with target departments to come up with new topics for different sub-specialties </li></ul><ul><li>Some guiding principles for these topics: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Easily relatable to students’ worlds </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>More sophisticated science, but not too sophisticated </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Retain the focus on English skills development </li></ul></ul>
    27. 27. Technical support <ul><li>Further develop our resources for students, e.g. with additional instructional screencasts on animation </li></ul>
    28. 28. Questions? <ul><li>Please visit our website or get in touch: http://www1.english.cityu.edu.hk/acadlit </li></ul>