Teaching EAL students across the disciplines in higher education Seminar

This invitation was originally sent to us by the British Association of Applied Linguistics.

UCL IoE Centre for Applied Linguistics Research Seminar Series
 Teaching EAL students across the disciplines in higher education: challenges, dilemmas, and plurilingual pedagogy

 Dr. Steve Marshall, Simon Fraser University
Wednesday 17 October, 5:30-6:30 pm, Jeffery Hall, 20 Bedford Way

Traditionally, the target learner for curriculum and assessment across the disciplines in Anglophone higher education institutions been an idealized native speaker of English. However, as a result of market-oriented internationalization models that attract students in their hundreds of thousands to English-medium universities in North America, the UK, Australia, and elsewhere, educators are frequently teaching linguistically and culturally-diverse classes made up of large numbers of students for whom English is an additional language. In such contexts, both students and their instructors often struggle to adapt. This is where, some argue, plurilingual teaching approaches should play a role. Two of the key tenets of plurilingual pedagogies are that students’ additional languages should be seen as assets for learning, and that spaces should be opened up to promote language awareness, and for students to use different languages as tools for learning. But how realistic is this across the disciplines in large multi-faculty universities, where “content” specialists, for example in fields such as Economics, Applied Sciences, and Business, may view their classrooms and their teaching roles as through very different lenses.

I present data from a one-year qualitative study that analyzed the pros and cons of employing plurilingual pedagogy across the disciplines at English-medium institutions in Western Canada, which looked for answers to three research questions:

  • How does plurilingualism find representation as an asset for learning across the disciplines?
  • What challenges do students and instructors face in linguistically-diverse classes?
  • How do instructors respond and adapt their teaching in classes that are characterized by high levels of linguistic diversity?

A plurilingual team of two investigators and six research assistants, collected the following data:

  • 40 hours of classroom observations carried out over a six-month period
  • approximately five hours of recordings of students’ interactions while they carried out collaborative tasks
  • semi-structured interviews with 23 students and seven instructors
  • analysis of students’ writing samples

The data illustrate complex inter-relationships between language, writing, content, course objectives, and teachers’ identities that make the application of plurilingual approaches feasible in some contexts and quite problematic in others.

Steve is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada. He is currently researching academic literacy and plurilingualism across the disciplines in Canadian higher education.



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