Here you can find all the previous news posts from the front page


What exactly is happening here?

It is week 6 - a busy week. So far, Joanna Sutcliffe and Manuel Flores-Lasarte have examined what makes a tutorial effective (10 Top Tips out soon), and on Thursday, ELTON winner Lizzie Pinard will be running a session on CPD based on a successful online session she ran last month. On Wednesday, there is an afternoon of Technology with David, Nick and Anastasios. Next week, we have Victor running a session on Writing Feedback and Lizzie exploring Vocabulary Revision Techniques. These two sessions have been scheduled in response to teacher request, so please do come along.    

Interactive Afternoon

On Wednesday, 24th February there will be three tech TD sessions aimed at showing and trying out some easy-to-use tools that can make your classroom more interactive. David and Nick will be leading the sessions, but Anastasios will also be there to talk about how he's used some of these tools in AEPC classes. Tea and coffee, maybe even biscuits, will be provided at the midpoint, so to help us gauge numbers, please add your details on this form. As ever, this is not a firm commitment on your part, just something to give us a general idea.

Plagiarism. Dinah Ward


The Weirdness of English: English Sounds. Phil Smith.

phil smith  

Oxford Words Blog

If you're looking for a site that provides students with quirky, interesting facts about English, try the Oxford Words Blog It's updated regularly and often reflects what's in the news. Recent posts have included words that come from people's surnames (e.g. Pilates) and a quiz on who's V whose. Good to share on Google Classroom or use as the basis for a lesson.

Are you doing/have you been doing research?

Recently, a teacher shared the findings of his dissertation as his research is relevant to the ELTC and what we do here. He only shared it with a handful of people, but that got others thinking about starting a 'bank' where staff can record details of  their studies and research.
This record might be useful for colleagues who are studying and looking for research in a similar area, or if someone's studies have a relevance to the learning and teaching carried out at the ELTC, it might be beneficial to share that, or just because it's interesting to read about what others are exploring in their studies.
As Janet Ross says "It strikes me that there are a lot of incredibly useful research studies carried out on various aspects of the ELTC by various staff members during the course of their studies, which, once they’ve been assessed, never see the light of day again. While I was doing my dissertation, for example I used 3 as part of my research (Sarah’s, Chris’s and Deborah’s) all of which were very useful but only one of which I would have known about had I not found out about them through chance conversations. It would be useful to have a ‘bank’ where people could deposit their dissertations if they want to (and which we could maybe peruse as part of development time) readily accessible for all staff,  with regular updates on who has done what."
So - as a starting point, here is a link to a document where you can write the title and a short précis of your research, and we'll take it from there.

TD in February: It's a (L)EAP year

It is a leap year and a TEAP year and probably in some places also a LEAP* year. We have one extra day and whilst to some that may mean a chance to finally get down on one knee in the name of love**, to others it means the opportunity for yet another TD session here at the ELTC, which brings the total to 9 (possibly 10). And what a 9 (possibly 10) they are. So far, we've been given an overview of the ELTC from Will Nash, and Dr. Philip Smith has expertly wrangled with the weirdness of English. Coming up we have a look at as a resource, a bit more weirdness from Dr. Phil and some career reflection with Lizzie Pinard. We also have, in response to the TD questionnaire sent out last term, workshops on Vocabulary Revision, Writing Feedback, Effective Tutorials and Teaching Exam Reading. The sessions are at different times and on different days in the hope that the majority of you can get to something. We will also record as many as possible. Thank you to all the presenters who've volunteered to share their ideas, knowledge and expertise. It is hugely appreciated. The TD Team.   *I don't know what this stands for. **According to tradition, if a woman asks a man to marry him and he says no, he has to buy that woman 12 pairs of gloves. We haven't seen the worst of this winter yet. Just something to think about.

Where are they coming from?

Where are they coming from? by Susan Samata Have you ever felt frustrated with your Chinese students? Do they seem to lack initiative, be poorly motivated and unreceptive? Do they bring their breakfast to class, then slump senseless onto their desks as soon as you call a break? A year abroad should be exciting and challenging; it’s certainly expensive, so why do they sometimes seem to have a negative attitude when we know they want to meet their entrance requirements and gain their degrees? Motivation is recognised as key to successful L2 acquisition. As EAP teachers, we think a lot about ways to ‘motivate’ our students, but what does that actually mean? Motivation, the reason why you do a thing, certainly has to do with the way you feel about it, and here we are in the areas of affect, self-image, and emotion. One of the reasons I wanted to be included on the recent China trip was to gain insight into the mind-set of students I have encountered on presessional programs and to understand their attitude toward study abroad. I felt this was particularly important in reference to two things we aim to teach on EAP courses; academic culture and learner independence. Although I knew, in a theoretical way, that China is a totalitarian state,  that education is generally very prescriptive and relies heavily on rote memorization, I had not really understood the extent of the control exerted and its operation on practical, everyday levels. The Nanjing first-year undergraduate day starts with an obligatory 1 kilometre run, followed by dorm cleaning duties and laundry. Each student must do their own laundry, including sheets and towels: by hand: in cold water. Classes start at 8.10 and often don’t end until 20.00. Breakfast is often bought from a concession stand and eaten while walking to class. Lunch and dinner are taken in large cafeterias: concrete floors, poor lighting, steel tables and fixed seats, the cacophony of steel trays being thrown into wash tubs. The food is cheap and plentiful. I saw no lounge/study areas at all, other than the library; I couldn’t get access to this. There seems to be no time for private study in the schedule. Indeed, it is a regime calculated to leave the student too exhausted. Classes are divided into 45 minute sections and 10 minute breaks, signalled by bells; these are rigidly adhered to. Students are encouraged to put their heads down and sleep ‘between bells’ (in fact, from grade school they are ordered to do so and specially designed ‘desk pillows’ are available). As a result, many lurch, bleary-eyed, through their day. The schedule can be arbitrarily interrupted, or conflicting demands issued. For example, one day on which my class was scheduled to run to 17.20, students begged me to end it before 17.00 as they had to be on a bus at 17.00 which would take them to an evening lecture. The students on the two-week ‘intensive English’ program we were scheduled to ‘co-teach’ on with Chinese English teachers (scare quotes because we never had any sort of contact with these teachers) had begun their undergraduate experience with 2 weeks of military drill and political instruction, before being put on the 2-week English program, about which they had been told nothing at all. Their regular degree program had not yet started. In my introductory session, I asked why they had chosen their particular major. I found that only a handful was doing something they actually wanted to do. They were on courses dictated by their ‘high school scores’ with no choice at all about it; neither would there be any chance to change courses. Some aspects of the regime outlined above may be particular to Nanjing Technical University, but colleagues report similar conditions at other institutions, and much is centrally mandated by the government. We must not forget that this is a government that has control of all information and will not tolerate anything remotely construable as dissent. I now have a better insight into the personal and educational backgrounds, and thus the expectations, our students bring to their EAP courses. I must take time to think over ways, in which I can adjust my teaching approach, not to cater for lack of motivation, but to make it more possible for students coming from this type of background to fulfil the demands placed on them during their time in the UK. The stakes remain high for them, even when they are doing something they would not ideally, have chosen to do. One way to think about these issues is to try to understand how our Chinese students view themselves as L2 learners. As EAP teachers, we know that our students need to be equipped with a set of academic skills over and above a basic competence in the language. These skills include an ability to analyse an argument or a problem, state a position, and support it. How often do we read essays that duly report both sides of a question but then conclude that the solutions is that, deus ex machina, the government should make a law against it. I used to think this was evidence of lazy thinking, now I think it is evidence of just how difficult it can be to step outside an all enveloping enculturation. I also feel that ‘big issue’ topics, chosen for their interest or importance, can detract from the business of learning, perhaps rather mechanically, the steps in defining and supporting a defensible academic position. Becoming a ‘critical thinker’, in English, is a sufficiently challenging role to take on. If we teach academic skills and culture, students will be able to pursue wider themes through their departments. Some strands in teaching/learning theory address issues of learner identity more broadly. The impact of affect and emotion is explored by Claire Kramsch in The Multilingual Subject (2009); a very accessible text. Jean-Marc Dewaele, ‘Affect and Language Teaching’ in The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics. (2013) provides a good review of recent work in this area, although rather Eurocentric. Jiang & Dewaele. (2015) ‘What lies bubbling beneath the surface? A longitudinal perspective on fluctuations of ideal and Ought-to L2 self among learners of English in Chinese universities’ in International Review of Applied Linguistics in Language Teaching. 53(3): 331-354, provides a specifically Chinese perspective. These two papers came up quite randomly in my reading. I have copies if you are interested.

Term 2

The Term 2 TD programme is currently being put together so have a look under the Sessions tab to see what's scheduled over the next few weeks.

Training Day, ELTC, 14/1/16

Following online voting, collation of scores, etc, the programme for the training day on Thursday is now looking as complete as it is ever likely to get. Click here to view. We look forward to seeing you there.