Since I completed and passed the Cambridge Delta, I thought it would be a good idea to share with you my module 3 assignment. Module 3 is the long assignment. You have to write up to 4500 words on anything you want to specialize in. I chose EAP. When writing this paper, you need to write a sort of literary review/background of whatever you are specializing in, you have a needs analysis section, you write about assessment and you design a course. I decided to focus on Academic Speaking and my course was going to be a presentation skills course.
When I shared my thoughts with my tutor, he expressed a few concerns about academic speaking because there is not enough bibliography around it. I thought though that if I was going to spend this much time on something, I should do it on something I really enjoy. Out of all the EAP subjects I teach in the UK, the one I enjoy the most is presentation skills. After starting though, I realized that it is not easy to find sources and research on EAP presentation skills. So, while I did enjoy it, it was a tough cookie.
I was unable to find samples of module 3 papers online and academic speaking/presentation skills was not really out there. This is why, here, on my blog, you can check out what I wrote. My grade is PASS. This is what a pass looks like. I am not going to share the appendices, only the essay.
Academic Speaking: Developing an EAP presentations skills course for a group of international students
1.1. Reasons for choosing this topic
I have been teaching English for many years now and for the past four years I have been teaching English for academic purposes (EAP). In the UK, I teach pre-sessional EAP courses, whilst in my hometown, I teach EAP to students who are studying at the Technical University of Crete and need help mostly with their academic papers and their oral presentations. I chose EAP as my specialization because I want to extend my knowledge in this context. I chose academic speaking and specifically presentation skills as my focus because from my experience in the UK and here, I find that more emphasis is placed on academic writing and less on speaking and presentation skills resulting in poor presentation skills.
1.2. Defining EAP
According to Dudley-Evans and St. John (2001, p.34) “English for academic purposes refers to any English teaching that relates to a study purpose”. Contrary to general English, in EAP, “the teaching and learning context in highly specific” (Alexander et al, 2008, p.2). EAP has emerged from English for specific purposes (Hyland & Lyons, 2002, p. 2). EAP can be divided into ESAP and EGAP. English for general academic purposes (EGAP) refers to “the skills and language that are common to all disciplines” (Dudley-Evans & St John, 2001, p. 41) and English for specific academic purposes (ESAP) refers to “the teaching of the features that distinguish one discipline from others (ibid)”. There is a lot of debate about what is better. My experience is teaching EGAP at pre-sessional courses or as part of private tutoring sessions. EGAP helps my students acquire general academic skills. They can focus on more specialized contexts when they are in their departments (Blue 1988 cited in Dudley- Evans & St. John, 2001, p.42). In fact, I think it is better to equip my students with more general academic skills as their language level is often quite low and their experience is from a different educational background.
1.3. Features of EAP learner and course
Compared to English Foreign Language teaching, EAP is goal driven and often connected to an academic course (Alexander et al., 2008, p. 3). The students’ motives are mostly connected to getting into or studying at an English medium university and teachers and students are viewed more equal as they are both members of the academic community. The content is limited to academic discourse with emphasis on reading and writing whilst the choice of the texts depends on academic genres. Finally, EAP places a lot of emphasis on study skills like critical thinking and learner autonomy (Alexander et al, 2008, p. 3-5). In order for international students (nonnative speakers) to deal with the challenges of academic study, they need to be competent in different skills and language areas (Bernan & Cheng, 2010, p. 25) than those of native speakers (also see section 1.4).
An EAP course trains learners in various skills. Core components of an EAP course are:
- Academic reading where students read different texts, engage in purposeful, interactive reading and may employ skimming and scanning skills (uefap.com).
- Academic listening during which students listen to lectures, speeches, seminar discussions (uefap.com).
- Academic writing during which learners may be asked to write, for example, reports, essays, case studies and many other genre types (www.uefap.com).
- Note taking, using research skills and referencing.
- Academic speaking which can be divided into seminar skills and presentation skills.
(Jordan, 2006, p.58).
1.4. Academic Speaking
Academic speaking has similarities to academic writing as it is “formal, explicit, hedged and responsible” (www.uefap.com). Rhetorical functions used in academic speaking are among others: describing objects, location, structure and direction, reporting and narrating, defining, classifying / categorizing, talking about tables and charts, comparing and contrasting: similarities and differences, arguing and discussing and so on (www.uefap.com). In fact, in EAP, speaking skills are as Hughes (2002, p.57) puts it, “embedded in broader functional areas (such as disagreeing) and in turn presented within real-world contexts and genres” in this case presentation skills.
Compared to academic reading and writing, less research has been carried out on academic speaking. Although limited, research carried out has shown that NNS are often intimidated by speaking tasks like giving oral presentations and taking part in discussions due to lack of linguistic competency or differences in the educational cultures (Ferris & Tagg, 1996, p. 300). Other research has shown that compared to NS, NNS perceive speaking “at least somewhat difficult” (Berman and Cheng, 2010, p. 29). In their research, Berman and Cheng (2010, p. 31) found that graduate NNs consider giving oral presentations the most challenging part of their academic studies. Taking part in conversations, understanding classmates’ questions as well as asking and answering questions are also difficult for NNS graduate students (ibid).
1.5. Teaching approaches in EAP
The approaches in teaching EAP are similar to those used in ELT. According to Jordan (2012, p. 60) there are three broad approaches towards EAP. A content or product approach may focus on language form, notions, functions, situations or topics. A skills-based approach focuses on sub-skills, micro or macro-skills and finally a process or method approach which involve task based syllabi, learner centeredness or negotiation and processes (Jordan, 2012, pp.60-63). In EAP, there is usually an overlap of syllabi which makes the approach towards EAP more “multi-syllabi” approach (Jordan, 2012, p. 63). Basturkmen (2003) argued that there are three types of course design in ESP course design which in this case also affects EAP approaches. One narrow angled which analyses needs in relations to a particular discipline or occupation and two wide angled options. One wide angled which analyses common needs connected to a discipline or occupation and the other which “focuses on characteristics of language use in a variety of English” (Basturkmen, 2003, p. 50).
- Needs analysis
My learners (three females, one male, all Greek) are Master and Phd level students at the Technical University of Crete who have extra academic writing and speaking tutorials with me twice a week. These learners are learning English in order to “access a particular academic community” (Alexander et al, 2010, p.3). They have taken general English lessons before. When asked about their learning style, they all mentioned they prefer watching videos (audio/visual learners) and enjoyed working in pairs and groups and did not really like to move a lot (kinesthetic) during sessions.
2.2. Target Situation Analysis
Target situation analysis looks at why the language is needed, how, where and when it will be used, what the content areas will be and who the learner will use it with (Hutchinson & Waters, 1998, p.59-60). Specifically, TSA identifies “the situation or setting in which the student will have to use the target language. This may be a study or work situation or any context in which the learner needs to use the language” (Richards & Scmidt,2010, 583-584).
In my case, learners want to deliver a well-structured presentation and use the appropriate language whilst doing so (see appendix 2, p.32). Three students will be presenting at a conference on Bio Remediation organised by the Technical University of Crete in June 2015, the other at a 3D animation related conference.
2.3. Present Situation Analysis
Present situation analysis, proposed by Richterich and Chancerel (1997/80, cited in Jordan 2012, p.24) looks at the students’ “state of language development at the beginning of a language course’’ (Jordan, 2012, p.24). In my case, information was gathered through structured interviews (appendix 2, p.32 ), a survey (appendix 5, p.44 and survey results appendix 2, p.35-38 ) and a diagnostic test lesson (appendix 4, p.40-43).
Learners mentioned they need input on the designing/planning of a presentation, generic language, pronunciation and delivery. They also mentioned difficulty with Q & A sessions. Surprisingly, none of the students had a clear understanding of academic speaking and its connection to presentation skills (appendix 2, p.32).
2.3.2. Diagnostic Test Lesson
I asked my learners to give a 10 minute presentation using material they presented before. Their presentations had to do with their specialization (Phyto Remediation and 3D animating).
I assessed their performance by using presentation marking criteria from the University of Newcastle and Bristol (appendix 3, p.39). These criteria are used as part of the presentation skills exams held at the end of their pre-sessional courses. I used both assessment sheets because I am familiar with them and have been trained on how to use them. I found that although there are similarities in what is being assessed, the wording of the criteria and some subcategories differ. The assessment of the presentations had to do with structure, pronunciation, content, language (lexis and grammar), communicative effectiveness/ technique (see appendix for analysis of assessment criteria and appendix for assessment criteria sheets). No numerical grades were awarded.
Diagnostic test lesson conclusions (appendix 2, p.34 and appendix 4, p.40-44): Structure: Only one student had a presentation which complied with title/overview/main body/ conclusion presentation format. In fact, 3/4 students had no overview slide. They did not give an introduction to their presentation. They did not summarise their points nor use backward or forward referencing skills.
Pronunciation: Students pronunciation was heavily influenced by their L1. Often the pronunciation of key words and simple past -ed endings ([d] versus [t] sound endings) were erroneous.
Content/task fulfillment: Content was well developed and clear and ideas were supported in detail/adequately. The questions were handled well, although students were reluctant to ask questions.
Language (lexis and grammar): Although errors did occur, they did not impede communication. It was generally appropriate and the students used a variety of structures (simple and complex). Most errors occurred with complex structures.
Communicative effectiveness/techniques: This was the area students showed most weaknesses. Students read from slides and did not stand up or point at slides. They did not use signposting language. Visuals were too wordy without citations. Voice/rhythm was monotonous.
On the day of the diagnostic lesson learners were given a questionnaire before presenting (appendix).The results showed:
- All learners hold at least a B2 level certificate and they use English every day.
- Grammar and lexis is what they find difficult about speaking in English (2/4 speak in English at university regularly)
- They have all given a presentation in English but have never had lessons on how to present in English.
ü In order to prepare for presentations, the majority said that they practice with the (subject specialist) professor.
Students also ranked the most important elements of a presentation. The results ranked:
3rd Signposting language
5th Appearance of visuals
2.4. Priorities for course design
Based on the analysis of the TSA, PSA and DT, the focus points of the course are:
- Structure: The planning of a presentation, the division into sections, backward and forward referencing will also be addressed.
- Visuals: focus will be placed on wording of visuals, graphs, citations on visuals.
- Communicative effectiveness/Technique: Attention should be placed on paralinguistic features (eye contact, mobility during a presentation).
- Language: Students need training on paraphrasing and summarizing strategies as well as the grammar and lexis associated to the content of their presentation. They also need to practice set phrases which are used when giving a presentation like signposting language.
- Voice: pronunciation, rhythm and intonation will be addressed.
- Course Design
3.1. Syllabus/Course Type
Although there is an overlap of syllabi, the syllabus I propose is a process oriented approach which focuses on the academic speaking skill (presentation skills) with elements of learner and language-centered approaches (Hutchinson and Waters, 1998, pp 67-68 & 74-76). The course will be a type 2 wide angled course (Basturkmen, 2003, p. 50) which concentrates on common needs with reference to needs of a specific discipline and core academic skills (Basturkmen, 2003,p.53). Generic models of presentation skills can be taught in these types of courses. Some argue though that there is not enough research to prove that generic skills actually exist and that by focusing on general needs, no ‘actual needs’ are taken into account (Basturkmen, 2003, p.58).
3.2. Justification of choice of Presentation skills course
When I first started teaching this group, I noticed that my learners had academic writing input but not much academic speaking and particularly presentations practice. Presentation skills are an integral part of every EAP course. An effective presentation is similar to an effective piece of academic writing. It involves good structuring, visuals, voice, advance signaling or signposting as well as language. (Dudley Evans & St John, 2001, p. 113). Thus, I chose to prepare a course which trained my learners on presentations skills.
3.3. Course Objectives
Students will learn to:
- Plan and separate a presentation into sections (an overview, background, a main body, a conclusion and a Q & A section).
- Make effective and clear visuals.
- Use non-verbal and paralinguistic elements to make their progression effective.
- Pronounce key words correctly and use the right intonation/ stress patterns in order to be intelligible.
- Paraphrase and summarise their ideas.
They will also
- Use critical thinking to evaluate their material and provide peer feedback.
- Produce and present a PowerPoint presentation for the Bio Remediation Conference held in June 2015.
- Practice using set phrases.
- Practice using Harvard referencing style.
Link to students’ needs
The focus on presentation skills is connected to the students’ lack of prior training and worries about how to give an effective presentation in English. The emphasis on planning and slides has to do with my observation, the Target situation analysis and the learners’ concerns. The Diagnostic lesson and TSA (see sections 2.2. and 2.3.3) showed weaknesses in pronunciation, rhythm and intonation. In particular, non-verbal communication, pronunciation of key words likes phytoremediation or empathy, pace and intonation are areas my learners need to improve in (appendix 2, p.34 and appendix 4, p.40-44). Students also need training on summarizing and paraphrasing as well as building their academic vocabulary because during the DA students were over relying on slides (appendix 4, p.40-44).
3.4. Material used during the course
As I have taught pre sessional EAP courses at three different universities, I have used different materials which allow me to have a clearer view of their effectiveness. Therefore, I will be using material from different sources: textbooks, university handbooks and the internet. It is imperative that the teaching material raise awareness for both the learner and teacher but it is not possible to rely on most texts books to do this at present (Harwood, 2005) which is why adapting material, supplementing material from various books and creating my own material is necessary in this case (appendix 6, p.46-49). Students will also be writing journal entries throughout the course so as to reflect on their performance.
3.5. The Course Plan
This course (appendix 1 materials, p.25 and plan appendix 1, p.26-31) is a ten week course and there are two hour sessions per week. There are four learners attending the course. There are three cycles. The first cycle is concluded with mid-course tutorials. The second cycle offers more input on presentation and the final cycle is exam week.
Weeks 1 to 5
Content: Students will watch videos presenting features of good and bad presentations. They will plan their presentation (title, outline and main body slides). They will give mini presentations. The will receive input regarding the Harvard referencing style. Workshops will gauge learners’ understanding and progress so far.
Language focus: language for opening a presentation, presenting topics & subtopics, summarizing and paraphrasing strategies.
Assessment: students will provide peer feedback and self-assess in their journals. The teacher will offer (oral and written) formative feedback.
Teaching approaches: The syllabus will be skills based (speaking skill). It is a process oriented approach with focus on the language and the learner.
Connection to learners ‘needs: students mentioned they need help with planning+ structure. DL and observations showed lack of signposting language. Visuals were lacking citation and too wordy.
Weeks 6 – 9
Lesson content: students will look at visuals (tables, graphs, charts), and practice backward and forward referencing. Emphasis will be placed on communicative effectiveness and technique. Students will receive training on intonation, word stress and pronunciation of key terms. They will also receive input about dealing with anxiety. The conclusion slide and Q & A parts of presentations will also be presented during these weeks. Workshops will monitor students’ progress.
Language focus: language for visuals (talking about visuals, comparing data, highlighting data) and signposting. Language for answering questions.
Assessment: students will provide peer feedback and reflect in their journals. The teacher will offer (oral and written) formative feedback.
Teaching approaches: The syllabus is skills based (speaking skill). Once again emphasis is on the language and the learner (process oriented approach).
Connection to learners’ needs: students requested help with visuals and language for visuals and Q & A sections of presentations. Communicative effectiveness/ technique were areas learners performed poorly during the DL.
Lesson Content: Exam week during which students present their presentation.
Assessment: Summative assessment based on presentation skills assessment criteria (appendix 8, p.50).
Connection to learners’ needs: students want to present an effective and successful presentation.
Teaching approaches: The syllabus is skills based (speaking skill).
In session 3 of week 10, I will provide an overview of the 10 weeks + feedback for all learners’ presentations. Input will also be given in relation to the suitability of their presentations for the forthcoming conference (also see section 2.2, p.7).
3.6. Course constraints
Due to time limitations, I was unable to focus on communicative effectiveness and technique as much as I wanted to. I only focus on pronunciation of key words even though my learners need help with pronunciation in general. As this is not part of an EAP university course, grading does not affect students’ grade. Formal grades would provide extra incentive. I also believe that the course may be very focused on the conference presentation and as a result my learners may neglect any general core academic skills geared to helping them with the general academic presentation skills but may not seem relevant to their conference presentation.
4.1. The importance of assessment in EAP
Assessment is an important aspect of the “teaching and learning process and essential to students’ progress towards increasing control of their skills and understandings” (Hyland, p.99).This everyday classroom practice allows the teacher to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the learners and express them to the students (Hyland, 2006, p.99). The purpose of evaluation is to “collect information systematically in order to indicate the worth or merit of a program or project… and to inform decision making” (Weir and Roberts 1994, cited in Jordan, 2012, p. 85).Skillbeck (ciuted in White, 1998, p. 40) views assessment as a process of “ determining and passing judgments on students’ learning potential and performance” (ibid) while evaluation has to do with” making judgments about the curriculum including the process of planning, designing and implementing it” (ibid). Feedback and tests are parts of evaluation that inform the development of a course and the end product (Jordan, 2012, p. 85). Black and William (1998, cited in Harmer, 2013, p. 137) discovered that what affects students’ achievement the most is feedback on their work. According to Dudley- Evans and St. John (2001, p. 210), “the reasons for assessment can be grouped under two headings for feedback to aid learning and for a comparable measure of competence”. Public examinations and tests within educational institutions enable comparable measures whilst assessment can reinforce learning through confidence building or reinforcement (ibid).
4.2. Types of assessment
Assessment can be teacher or student led. It can be:
- Summative which is a formal type of assessment that can be a one off formal assessment, for example, examinations, portfolios ( Harmer, 2013, p.379).
- Formative which is a day to day type of informal type of assessment which shows how the students are progressing, for instance, observations, homework, journals, peer feedback (Harmer, 2013, p.379).
- Diagnostic assessment which helps recognize students’ current, skills, knowledge, and capabilities through pre-tests, self assessments or interviews (facdev.niu.edu).
4.3. Principles underlying choice of assessment types chosen for this course
In order to assess my students’ performance I will use diagnostic, summative and formative assessment types (also see section 3.5 for course plan). Assessment will be reliable and valid and test what they intended to test do it consistently (Hyland, 2006, p.99). ‘’Receptive skills can be tested objectively but productive skills usually require subjective testing’’ (Jordan, 2012, p. 86), therefore testing will be more subjective. The backwash effect which influences what and how everything is taught (Dudley –Evans & St. John, 1998, p.214) will also be an integral part of my course and inform my lesson content. The feedback from the teacher will be (oral and written) formative (appendix 7, p. 49) and summative while students will write in their reflective journal (self-assessment) and offer peer feedback.
As this is a multi-syllabus type approach, all these assessment types shape the focus of the sessions in relation to the topic and the skills/ strategies practiced and the intended outcome of the course. Informal talks during tutorials and (informal) formative assessment workshops gauge students’ understanding of what has been taught and enable me to have a clearer picture of the sessions. They also identify the language (process oriented approach syllabus type with focus on language and the learner) and the micro skills/ strategies that need to be addressed in the lessons following the formative assessment (skills oriented approach). Formative assessment throughout the course will be focusing on different micro-skills/strategies/skills and related to what the students indicated as weakness during their diagnostic lesson. Finally, the learners’ performance will be formally assessed as part of a summative assessment exam at the end of the course in week 10. In order to assess students’ final presentation, I will be using presentation skills assessment criteria and specifically band descriptors (appendix 3, p.39). Dudley-Evans & St. John (2001, p. 217) state that, “descriptors can be specific to a particular skill or give an overall assessment. For marking and for maximum information, skills based descriptors are desirable”. Although, the assessment of productive skills can be subjective, the use of descriptors makes it more standardized and objective but as Alexander et al (2008 p.328) state when discussing descriptors, “it is difficult to define assessment criteria and standards unambiguously… If they are specified too closely, there is a danger that they will be applied mechanically” (ibid). In order for teachers to be effective and objective when using these descriptors, they need to be well trained and standardized. Apart from the assessment sheets, students will also be given an overall report describing how the students have excelled during the course and an assessment of their progress (Harmer, 2013, p. 140).
4.4.Overview of presentation skills’ course plan and assessment types
Diagnostic assessment: A diagnostic lesson took place at the beginning of the course and identified my students’ strengths and weaknesses (appendix 2, p.34 and appendix 4, p. 40-43). Students were also given surveys (appendix 2. p. 35) with questions related to their academic speaking skill and presentations skill (self-assessment).
Formative assessment: In weeks 3,5,7,9,10 I will observe my students’ performance and give them formative feedback (oral and written). I will also hold one to one tutorials during which I suggest how their performance can improve. My students will also give peer feedback (appendix 7, p. 49). In order for my students to be more reflective, they will also engage in journal writing (weeks 2, 5, 9).
Summative assessment: At the end of the course, I will assess my students’ performance by using the same assessment criteria I used prior to the course (see appendix 8, p.50) which facilitate a comparison between their performance prior and after training. The assessment criteria focus on content, language (lexis and grammar), communicative effectiveness (technique), structure, task fulfillment and pronunciation.
The different types of assessment will have a backwash affect which will shape the contents of my workshop sessions as well and especially that of the workshop sessions. The weaknesses observed will be addressed in the forthcoming sessions.
The preceeding assessment methods will be employed in order to ensure that at the different stages of the course, the learners are on task and that the end product (their final presentation) will be an effective presentation and suitable for their real world needs which is presenting at the Bio Remediation Conference in Crete (TSA).
|Assessment type||Test type/Method||Week|
|Diagnostic assessment||Informal interview
Diagnostic test lesson which assessed students’ existing knowledge.
|Before the course started|
|Formative assessment||Oral presentation (teacher led feedback)
Oral presentation (peer feedback)
|Weeks 3, 7, 9, 10
Weeks 2, 5
Week 2, 5
|Summative||Presentation Exam (Presentation Skills Band Descriptor used to grade performance)||Week 10|
Designing this presentations skills course as part of module 3 has been my first attempt to design a course and look closely at the components of course design. Module 3 gave me a clearer view of learner needs and how they can inform the designing of a course. Although, I always carry out needs analysis, I was not aware of the significance of target situation analysis and how it defines the objectives and outcome of a course. From now on, I will be taking more things into consideration when deciding on material and syllabus.
One of my main concerns was to meet my learners’ needs especially as because they have never had any formal presentation skills training. I believe that I have connected the course content to my learners’ needs, making it a very learner centered course. Their lack of prior training also led me to include several workshops. Unfortunately, due to time and space limitations of this paper, I was not able to offer students as much practice on delivering a presentation as I wanted. The course and its objectives are actually highly related to the target situation analysis and the conference that will be held later on in this town. While this is connected to the objective of the course, it may also be viewed as its shortcoming as well, as students do not practice different topics. Although I feel that this course has taken a lot of the learner needs into consideration, improvements can still be made. I would design assessment criteria myself, instead of using two assessment sheets. I would include more sessions with language input. I will also provide more lessons which targeted pronunciation as this is an area my learners need to improve in.
The fact that this course is closely related to not only their academic needs but also their real life needs make it even a more rewarding venture for me as a teacher.
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