The EAP programs in Ontario vary considerably in many regards (e.g., curriculum), but what connects them is a shared interest in student retention and seeing EAP learners progress to becoming students enrolled in diploma, certificate, and degree programs.
One method that has been shown to increase student performance and retention is Supplemental Instruction (SI). Though SI has been used for decades in a variety of post-secondary programs, it is very rarely used in EAP contexts. So, in this post, I will present the case for implementing SI in Ontario EAP programs.
I have been hearing the word “prompt” a lot more lately. “Prompt engineering” to be exact. This recent IT term is all the buzz, and it is paired with terms like artificial intelligence (AI) and large language models (LLM). This blog post, however, is about another type of prompt: the one that language and communications teachers at the college level have been engineering since time immemorial and students write in response. And there lies the problem! The prompts are being recycled and passed on from the classroom to students’ sharing sites such as Studocu and Course Hero, and then making their way back to the classroom. It is not the type of recycling teachers want to see. Going viral is not always a good thing; it kills originality for everyone, so I have started to retreat my prompts and generate new ones. This time with a different twist.
I set the timer and focus on my new goal: to grade a paper in twenty minutes. Everything starts smoothly; checkmark after checkmark, praise after praise. A quick glance at the rest of the paper reveals more of the same error-free, polished style. Hmm. I pull up the student’s writing diagnostic, previous assignments, and emails. All are riddled with errors and awkward phrasing. The plagiarism report, though, comes up clean.
As an ESL teacher, the majority of my teaching has recently been shifted to questioning. This is mainly because I’ve been teaching university Pathway courses lately, and the role of critical thinking has been the highlight of these lesson plans. In order to help my students become better critical thinkers, I need to ask critical questions. And that’s why I believe we should create the culture and context before asking critical questions, to ensure learner engagement as well as academic excellence.
When I started teaching online, it was clear to me almost immediately that I wanted to encourage my learners to write and that I wanted to see their writing on a regular basis. I had a CLB 7 Academic class, and I began rather naively and ambitiously. The assignment was straightforward:
You will have three journal topics a week. You will be given 15 minutes a day, three times a week, to write in your journal. You will be given a journal topic or you can write about whatever you want.
Learning never stops; this now includes both humans and Artificial Intelligence. As I type this blog post, I find myself either tabbing to accept the suggested word or ignoring the suggestion. Being prompted to type what auto-text thinks I should be writing can be annoying and, if I am not careful, I end up writing a word that I did not mean to write or, worse yet, pressing ‘send’ on a message or email with one or two unintended words. Although I appreciate its usefulness on some occasions, it irks me when I am given the wrong suggestion, as in the case of Grammarly’s use of double commas on a salutation (since when did adding a comma after ‘Hello’ or ‘Hi’ and before someone’s name become the grammar norm?)
The numbers 1-2-3 stand for the formula I devised to teach students to develop and demonstrate Critical Thinking Skills. By following the 1-2-3 formula, I teach students to think about their choice of answers. I came up with this strategy as part of my efforts to teach first year college students to answer reading comprehension questions. Historically, I have found that short-answer questions tend to ask students to answer in one or two sentences, which, I think, limit students’ ability to demonstrate critical thinking skills. One or two sentence responses do not really encourage students to explain how they arrive at the answer. The result is usually an answer that can either be easily found in the text or must mirror what the instructor expects the answer to be. Continue reading →
2022 marks a professional milestone for me: one decade as a contract instructor within Ontario English for Academic Purposes (EAP) programs. The last ten years have seen me criss-cross the province undertaking assorted contracts for eight post-secondary institutions. Every college/university I have worked for has had a unique culture and slightly different approach to academic preparation for English language learners. However, some common themes have emerged about how the Ontario EAP market seems to operate.
In a two-part series, I will share insights about navigating a career in EAP that I wish I had realized from the start. I am confident much of what I say can apply to other TESL environments too.
In this first blog of the series, I discuss how people can get their foot in the door.
Praxis, the process of enacting theory, has played a significant role in my teaching practice, especially whenever my adult learners have a difficult time grasping a concept or feel like they are not learning as fast as they should. I find that when students begin to ask “why” and “how” questions or err repeatedly, I can rely on theory to explain and demonstrate the issue at hand. This methodology (Seabury, 1991) has worked for me and my adult learners, whose problem-solving curiosity is driven by their andragogical needs (Knowles, 1971).