i) Effective group work in the multi-cultural classroom: a video presentation
Chris Copland – Education
This session was run as a groupwork session (appropriately enough) framed around a sequence of three video clips*, with specific topics to focus on before watching each video:
- Video 1 (multi-national PG group, mix of native/non-native speakers of English): focus on clarity of instructions, and interaction between native/non-native speakers.
- Video 2 (all PG students with Chinese as a first language): focus on the participants’ skills in English and the quality of the discussion.
- Video 3 (multi-national group, mix of UG/PG, all non-native speakers): focus on the benefits vs. limitations of having different cultural perspectives in the group.
The group noted that the videos appear to show normal group behaviour, with some students not participating very much. However, Chris said he felt that some students found the presence of the camera ‘face-threatening’ and thus behaved in a more reserved way. We can’t always infer from someone’s behaviour what the motivation of the behaviour is.
ii) Chinese students – an amorphous mass? : Raising awareness of the diversity of Chinese students in British HE communities
Ping Wang (Abby) – Education
In this talk Abby reported the results of a survey study that she carried out, alongside her PhD research, arising from her experience as an IELTS tester prior to coming to the UK. The literature on the IELTS exam presents a varied picture, with different components of the test (reading, speaking etc) found to correlate best with later academic performance, in different studies. One study (ref) notes that students’ perception of their own general academic ability is affected by their IELTS score and/or how easily they were able to achieve that score.
Abby then presented some background information about the numbers of Chinese studying outside China now, and the amount of English practice they will typically have had prior to coming to the UK. Most IELTS candidates in China are from the major urban centres in the east of China such as Shanghai and Beijing. Training and testing for IELTS is a major industry in China, and individual can re-sit the test repeatedly. There are training ‘factories’ helping students increase their IELTS score due to intensive practice and test-preparation.
The study comprised 20 students of TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and 20 students in other social science subjects, who completed a questionnaire and participated in focus groups/interviews. Their motivation for coming to the UK to study was quite varied, but all were primarily driven by the possibility of better job prospects back in China after their studies. The majority of the students had taken IELTS twice in order to meet the required overall score of 6.5. A question is whether a score resulting from repeated testing reflects a real improvement in their English proficiency, or just an improvement in their test-taking techniques.
Abby closed her presentation with a question: should the number of times a student has taken the test, prior to meeting the IELTS requirement, be used as a diagnostic to identify students who may benefit from additional help?
Sam Hellmuth, Language and Linguistic Science, University of York