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Consumer advice: International students’ recommendations for more effective lecturing. Tony Lynch University of Edinburgh St Andrews conference Innovation in EAP - 1 March 2014. Information Processing model of listening. Perception – Parsing - Utilisation (Anderson 1985)

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Consumer advice international students recommendations for more effective lecturing

Consumer advice: International students’ recommendations for more effective lecturing

Tony Lynch

University of Edinburgh

St Andrews conference

Innovation in EAP - 1 March 2014

Information processing model of listening
Information Processing model of listening

  • Perception – Parsing - Utilisation

    (Anderson 1985)

  • Identify – Search – File – Use

    (Brown 1995)




Field 2011
Field (2011)

Lecture listeners have to:

Enrich ‘raw meaning’ extracted from speech by

putting it in the relevant context

inferring connections

understanding referential links

interpreting the lecturer’s intentions


select the key points

monitor their consistency

integrate them into what has gone before

build an overall hierarchy of macro- and micro-points

Which features of lectures help
Which features of lectures help?

For comprehension(short term)

  • Presence of macro- and micro-markers (Chaudron & Richards 1986)

  • Repetition and reformulation (Chiang & Dunkel 1992)

  • Reducing rate of speaking (Griffiths & Beretta 1991)

  • Use of visual aids (King 1994)

Jung 2003
Jung (2003)

Forretention (longer term)

  • When lectures contained clear discourse cues, students recalled more main ideas and supporting details.

  • Students benefit from cues in particular when:

    • lecturer provides no clear overall structure

    • lecture type is unfamiliar

    • they lack background knowledge

    • the lecture is unscripted

Listener perceptions
Listener perceptions

Common perceptions of L2 listeners in general:

- excessive speed of speech

- lack of control over speaker

(Rost 2002, Graham 2006, Lynch 2009)

Perceptions of l2 listening and note taking
Perceptions of L2 listening and note-taking

ESL context

US-based studies:

  • UGs (Ferris 1998): 80% reported difficulties

  • PGs (Kim 2006): one-third reported difficulties

    Why difference?

    • Perhaps UGs require good N-T for class examinations; PGs assessed in longer written assignments.

    • PGs may have acquired N-T skills through previous academic experience; UGs still developing them

With internationalisation
With internationalisation…

ELF context

Study of teaching and learning of UG physics at the University of Uppsala

When lectures in English:

  • Swedish students reported feeling less able to follow lectures and take simultaneous notes

  • They also asked and answered fewer questions

    (Airey & Linder 2006)

Changes in technology
Changes in technology

  • ‘Multi-media’ lecture research tends to compare PowerPoint with ‘traditional’ formats

  • Few studies explore the differential contribution of elements of multi-modality– speech, writing, image, body language (Morell, Garcia & Sanchez 2008)

Morell et al 2008
Morell et al. (2008)

  • Lecturers with better presentation skills foregrounded their use of visuals:

    “These speakers... appeared to be more concerned with communicating their messages… and made an extra effort to combine modes to enhance the audience’s comprehension”

  • We might assume that rich combination of all four modes (SWIBL) helps L2 listeners to understand – but yet to be investigated.

Checklist of advice morell 2009
Checklist of advice (Morell 2009)

  • Explain your ground rules for students’ questions

  • Use clear ‘micro’ / ‘macro’ discourse markers

  • Maintain appropriate speed of speaking

  • Include visuals, but with caution

  • Be aware of the four modes of communication

  • Support and guide students’ note-taking

  • Ask referential questions and open questions

  • Reformulate questions (to the students) and wait longer for an answer

  • Encourage listeners to negotiate meaning

  • Pay attention to feedback from audience (verbal and gestural)

  • Vary the format and dynamics within a lecture

  • Create a relaxed atmosphere

  • Adapt lectures to listeners’ current and future needs

  • Include listener participation in course assessment

The blue points
The blue points

  • Emphasis on (potential) interaction

  • Reflects general movement away from seeing lecture as ‘academic monologue’ (Lynch 2011)

Internationalisation strategy at edinburgh
‘Internationalisation’ strategy at Edinburgh

  • What do international students say about their experience of listening to lectures?

  • What is their advice to lecturers on making teaching more effective?

The basic issue
The basic issue

“I am a non-native speaker student... In fact, the language problem might be a problem just for me. But the University is likely to increase foreigner students by about 30%, maybe”

Pause for reflection
Pause for reflection

(Two tasks on your handout)

International students perceptions of lectures ispol
International students’ perceptions of lectures (ISPOL)

  • email survey asking ISs to

    - Rank advice (on handout) 1, 2 and 3

    - Suggest other advice not included in list

  • late in Semester 1 (Nov/Dec) 2011

  • involved PGs and UGs who had taken TEAM (Test of English at Matriculation)

  • IELTS overall 6.0-7.0

  • 126 replies

Speed of speaking
Speed of speaking

“Because almost students use English as first language, the teacher not notice the speak speed, it is hard for me to understand the exactly what he/she said…”

“As a non-native English speaker, I really wish

lecturers can slow a little bit down their speed.

And when talking about the important knowledge

points, they can repeat and emphasize them.At the

beginning of the semester it would be good

if lecturers controlled the speed of the speaking”

  • One in five ranked speaking rate 1

  • Reflects general tendency to ascribe lack of L2 understanding to speed of speech (Rost 2002; Graham 2006; Lynch 2009)

  • Terms used in literature tend to highlight

    • physical pressure (load, burden, barrier, obstacle)

    • transience (temporary, ephemeral)

    • lack of clarity (buzz, fog, fuzzy and blur)

    • sense of being overwhelmed (stream, flood, torrent, cascade)

  • On other hand, Flowerdew (1994): perception of speaking rate reflects understanding, not vice versa

  • Strategy: remind lecturers to speak slower? But Griffiths & Beretta (1991) found lecturers spoke at 3.5 syllables p.s., regardless of audience proficiency. Same speakers did adapt in 1:1 conversation.

  • Key seems to be that lecturers

    “lose their sense of what is appropriate when the feedback is taken away”

    (Hincks 2010: 17)

    when speaking to a large audience

  • Second most commonly mentioned issue

  • No respondent said what those signs are

  • Very little research into non-comprehension cues in lectures. Some into school lessons (Webb et al 1997) and adult ESL classes (Liu 1992; De Courcy 1997)

  • Lecturer ‘preferences’ in cue-seeking may be individual

Adapting examples
Adapting examples

“I would like to say lecturers may pay more attention on the culture diversity in the classes, especially when they are giving examples”

“If the lecturers would like to give some examples that might be unfamiliar to Asian students, they had better explain more about it beforehand, because of culture difference”

Relaxed atmosphere
Relaxed atmosphere examples require ‘insider’ information

“Lecturers should be humorous to create a relaxed atmosphere for the students”

“Please do not always tell jokes that are only understood by British people or Europeans, because not everyone could understand, or even catch your jokes”

  • Some ISs looking for indications that a lecturer welcomes questions

  • But questioning = culturally complex

    • In L1 (UK): Q askers considered “stupid, attention seekers or creeps” (Gibbs et al 1987: 155)

    • In L2: Chinese students would prefer not to ask a question than to ask an ungrammatical one (Jin & Cortazzi 1996)

Non lecture example indonesian eap class
Non-lecture example: Indonesian EAP class questions

TL: would you like to ask any questions about that?

S1: (immediately) no questions

TL: what about the others?

S1: they have no questions

TL: how do you know they don’t have any questions?

S1: because…

Ways to encourage questions
Ways to encourage questions questions

  • Set out your personal ground rulesfor the timing of questions

  • (Keep to those rules!)

  • Announce question pausesin which students can reflect and request clarification

  • When students ask questions, use confirmation checksand repetitionto make sure you have understood them

    (Lynch 1994)

Ispol respondents own advice not from checklist
ISPOL respondents’ own advice questions(not from checklist)

  • Timing

  • Supplementary materials

  • Use of language (vocabulary, intonation)

  • Unwarranted assumptions of shared knowledge

Timing questions

  • “It hinders understanding when lecturers try to tackle every single aspect within the 50 minutes of a lecture. It would be more effective to focus on two or three salient aspects which then actually get through to students, instead of just leaving them confused by mentioning whole aspects in just a half-sentence, for lack of time.”

Supplementary materials
Supplementary materials questions

“Before the lecture, the lecturer could send the slides to students or post it on web, so that we could preview the content of the lecture”

“If possible for teachers to give the reading material or reference before the every lecture, that will do much help for me, because I could be familiar with the new words and get a background of the knowledge”

Language questions

  • “Please use simple and common words as much as possible”

  • “Some lecturers use very formal language (equivalent to academic written language) throughout the lecture. I personally find it exhausting trying to concentrate in order understand everything that has been said”

Unwarranted assumptions
Unwarranted assumptions questions

“Do not assume that all students have the same background on the subject matter”

“I suppose lecturers should introduce the background of some important technique or concept. Then we will probably more quickly keep this knowledge in memory”

Lecturers do not have a monopoly of unwarranted assumptions: questions

“Both the pronunciation and body language of a teacher do matter for students. For example, most of the students lose interest for a lecture which is given by a teacher with strong Scottish accent.”

Conclusion questions

The advice from ISs:

  • speak slower

  • keep an eye out for signs of non-comprehension

  • take care over selecting examples

  • create opportunities for interaction around students’ questions

    Main implication: cover less content in the conventional 50-minute lecture.

Hincks 2010
Hincks (2010) questions

  • If we really want to take international students into account, we have to reduce the quantity of what we deliver in conventional lecture form

One way to do that: questions

  • adopt the ISPOL respondents’ advice that more material should be online, as pre- or post-lecture reading

  • So students can help themselves by supplementing what the lecturer can cover

Remedy as well as prevention. questions

  • ‘Design out’ likely sources of comprehension difficulty, such as speed of speaking

  • ‘Design in’ ways of encouraging students to ask for clarification

  • EAP courses to help ISs develop language skills

  • Also support lecturers: CPD sessions on key elements of intercultural teaching

  • Combined effect: Make lectures more accessible - and not only for international students

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