The twin course model meeting the needs of the intercultural learner
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CENTRAL OSTROBOTHNIA UNIVERSITY OF APPLIED SCIENCES. The twin-course model: Meeting the needs of the intercultural learner. Esko Johnson Maija Rukajärvi-Saarela Central Ostrobothnia Unversity of Applied Sciences 2007. Our presentation.

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The twin-course model: Meeting the needs of the intercultural learner

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The twin-course model: Meeting the needs of the intercultural learner

Esko Johnson

Maija Rukajärvi-Saarela

Central Ostrobothnia Unversity of Applied Sciences2007

Our presentation

  • English-medium education and the increase of international student population > globalisation of engineering education

  • Not merely a 'code switch' from Finnish to English – a professional challenge

  • Aim of our joint work: to create a model for developing functional English-language competences needed for study and professional life

  • Content teacher (Maija) and  the language teacher (Esko): a course to develop students’ skills for getting information and giving presentations

  • 1) to discuss our developing model, 2) to show how we try to validate the model through shared teacher reflection

Research Setting

  • English Medium HE programme (Technology and Chemistry) 240 ECST; BEng

  • Participants: First-year chemistry students (n=26)

  • 20 Asian, 5 African, 1 Finnish

  • Mostly intermediate English level (B1[A2] … C2)

  • Communication Skills: divided in two groups; each had 3 contact hrs; Jan-Apr 2007

  • Basic Chemistry: 2 hrs class teaching and 4 hrs lab work during Jan-Feb 2007: 4 hrs lab during in Mar-Apr 2007 (4 hrs class teaching / wk Sept-Dec 2006)

Language and Basic Chemistry education

  • Aim: English-language competence for study and the profession

  • Aim: English-language functionality for learning the content, i.e. basic chemistry

    In new conditions/culture of learning: the student has to know, interact and learn in English

Reflection before and after the courses

1 Beliefs: What beliefs did we have and share?

2 Concerns: What were our concerns for these courses and for our [Maija & Esko] joint work?

3 Surprises: What surprises, clashes or turns did we encounter?

4 Feasibility: How feasible and workable was our ‘model’? How can we improve it?

Course Objectives – Basic Chemistry and Communication Skills

  • To acquire information about basic chemistry concepts, reactions and phenomena [and chem. eng. companies – Comm. Skills]

  • To present orally and in writing elements and materials used in chem. eng. applications, and to actively function as a member of audience [Chemistry Presentation = CHEMPRES]

  • (To present a chemical engineering company [Company Presentation = COMPRES]to an audience, and to actively function as a member of audience - Comm. Skills)

Teacher concerns we shared

1. Supporting student growth (constructivist principle); avoiding the problem metaphor

2. Shift: teacher monologue > classroom dialogue

3. Shift: student monologue > dialogue & reflection

4. Shift: “copy-paste” procedures > in-depth study using multiple sources

5. Teaching students to learn to explain concepts, phenomena and contextual issues “in their own words” - clarity, logic, detail, dialogue

Integration – putting our heads together

  • To link some of the oral and written tasks in Basic Chemistry and Communication Skills during several weeks

  • To create interactive, ”non-copy-paste” tasks

  • Topics in Basic Chemistry - concepts and phenomena

  • Towards ’new’ communicative tasks (activities) Chemistry Presentation [CHEMPRES], Chemistry Essay and Company Presentation [COMPRES]

Integration – putting our heads together for the model

  • The main emphasis would be on communication (focus on meaning), less on language (focus on form)

  • Our effort: to support and guide the students, so that they learn how to process messages that meet ’new’ standards: clear, logical and detailed language [spoken and written]

  • To support student autonomy individually by stressing student responsibility – taking this up in discussions

Concerns with solutions?

  • Would we be assertive, systematic yet flexible enough? > detailed instructions, step-by-step approach (“strict” in students’ words)

  • Would we reach the students and care for the needs of all students? > articulated aims, ”success scenario”

“Product” in our model:same topic area, two discourses, two teachers, step-by-step procedure

Assessment of student work

  • Peer and teacher assessment of the presentation (CHEMPRES, COMPRES):

    • Content, delivery, interaction and audience, language issues, audio-visual support

  • Teacher assessment of the essay:

    • Following the instructions (handout); using good paragraphs; having relevant facts; clarity and conciseness; using correct terms; grammatically correct language; good style

Shilin’s experience (Interview with a recall procedure 4/2007)

  • CHEMPRES and COMPRES: Made it possible for him to say more things to other people and do more things for his English

  • COMPRES: Did it without too much hurry; the students understood him better – this was useful to him

  • Used the script too much for CHEMPRES - so many new words he had problems controlling

  • Other students in CHEMPRES had asked questions but he didn’t understand them, did not know how to answer

  • In COMPRES he felt he could say his own opinion, it was not reading; he felt he was acting as he would when speaking normally

  • The topic made the difference [complexity]

Jonathan’s experience (Interview with a recall procedure 4/2007)

  • CHEMPRES and COMPRES really helped him

  • For preparation, he used computers more than ever before; previously he used books

  • For CHEMPRES, he wrote so many words; for COMPRES, he just took the text as a key point to help him remember what he should talk about

  • The other things he had right in his head for him to say

  • He thinks this is how a presentation should always look like: what should be on this screen should be a a picture work with some statements or sentences to help you, or just the subject to talk about

Lisa’s experience (Interview with a recall procedure 4/2007)

  • Lisa learned a lot from the presentations – had no practice/experience of presentations in her previous English courses

  • She says it is a good way to get feedback, to let the students view what they were doing in the lesson; she got a deep impression this way

  • When Lisa prepared the CHEMPRES she worked on the PowerPoint the whole day, from nine in the morning till eleven o’clock at night.

  • She revised it more than five times

Affective domain:

confindence, emotions

Extracts from Lisa’s reflective student report [3/2007]

What was new?

(….) I think presentation is an effective way to improve our confidence. When I do the presentation for the first time, I feel very nervous and I have omitted some important content during presenting. When I do the second time I feel more confident I know where I should stop and leave time for questions within the presentation, eye contact to my audience. I also have pay attention to my voice quality, volume, speed and fluency.”

“We do videotape all student presentations. We look at our tape at home and school, after viewing the tape we can find what we have done well and what shall be improved in next presentation. (….)”


What surprises, clashes or turns did we encounter? - 1

  • More possibilities to build up “new” elements:

    • Public space vs. small-group/pair space – What? How? When?

    • Students’ English-learning motivation and goals

  • Could some behaviours we commonly explain by foreign learners’ backgrounds (‘ethnicity’) be more general and shared by ‘all of us’?

    • - Impact of previous vs. current education practice

  • What surprises, clashes or turns did we encounter? - 2

    • It is a challenge to increase student-student interaction (collaboration)

      • Students may play down the usefulness of interaction - ‘It’s uncomfortable for us [ethnic group] to speak English among ourselves’

      • - However, comparison of 1st year and 3rd year student groups shows the ‘discomfort’ pattern tends to give away > more confidence and routine

    What surprises, clashes or turns did we encounter? - 3

    • Do we need to teach the range of [social] roles more systematically? (collaborating, giving peer feedback/evaluating; supporting etc.) – task instructions do not usually discuss roles

    • Do we need to build more choice into the task? (e.g. need to classify/systemize tasks – dimensions of complexity, cognitive load etc)

    How feasible and workable was our model?

    L = LOW, M = MEDIUM, H = HIGH

    How feasible and workable was our model?

    L = LOW, M = MEDIUM, H = HIGH

    Conclusions (1)

    • In a stressful ‘sense-making’ situation the student may use copy-paste approaches to protect face and relieve stress, instead of utilising and developing the higher-order skills required

    • Teachers (teacher teams) should explore this dilemma in more detail in stead of ‘pushing’ the students

    • We as teachers should create “safe” spaces for learning concepts, content and foreign language

    Conclusions (2)

    • We will continue to develop the model

    • Teacher collaboration for the 2nd year courses Written Skills and Analytic Chemistry (with the same students & teachers)

    • Aim: to improve academic writing skills - theoretical background; discussion etc. - in Analytic Chemistry laboratory reports


    Kim, Y. (2001) Becoming intercultural. An integrative theory of communication and cross-cultural adaptation. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

    Kohonen, V. (2001) Towards experiential foreign language education. In V. Kohonen, R. Jaatinen, P. Kaikkonen & J. Lehtovaara (ed) Experiential learning in foreign language education. London: Longman, 8-60.

    Moon, J. (2006) Reflection in learning and professional development. Abingdon: Routledge/Falmer.

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