In this post, Meredith MacAulay discusses how we can better help students transfer their knowledge from preparatory courses to the real world. (NB: The Twitter chat referred to has now taken place but you can read the summary here.)
Despite the increasingly high enrolments in EAP courses in Australia, particularly Direct Entry courses, there is still limited published research into what impacts these courses have on students’ success at university. It can be argued that the ultimate goal of an English for Academic Purposes course is for students to transfer the language, skills and strategies they learn to the tertiary context. However, to what extent does this occur? What affects whether our students use what they learn in their EAP courses? And are we teaching what they really need?
This Twitter Chat will focus on issues surrounding the teaching of EAP courses and learning transfer, that is the application of skills or knowledge learned in one context to a new context. The inspiration for the chat comes from my personal interest in learning transfer and research I carried out on the transfer of learning from a Direct Entry EAP program [DEP] to students’ university mainstream subjects. It focused specifically on speaking skills and the related assessments from the DEP course, and you can read more about it here.
In the Twitter Chat, I’d like to draw on three factors that have been suggested as possible influences on transfer of learning, and which also featured in my results.
- students’ perceptions of task similarity – do tasks that students are required to do at uni seem similar to tasks they have done before?
- students’ perceptions of transfer ‘climate’ (James, 2010) – do students feel supported by the context, including their peers, teachers and assignments?
- instructional strategies – we can teach for transfer by making our courses similar to the target context and by making students aware of these similarities. We can also encourage students to reflect, plan and monitor their activities and to anticipate future applications (Green, 2015). These strategies are outlined in the ‘hugging and bridging’ model.
So bring your experience and ideas and let’s discuss the following:
- What skills do you expect your students to take from your class to uni?
- To what extent do your students transfer what they have learnt in their mainstream classes? How do you know?
- How can we strike a balance between near transfer (learning for the test) and far transfer in a DEP course?
- What can we do to familiarise our students with the target context?
- What else do you (or your institute) do to facilitate transfer?
- What information or research would help us to plan our courses and teach for transfer?
All are welcome to this chat, even if you don’t teach EAP! Transfer from our courses to a ‘real life,’ context is relevant to all teachers-General English, Business English, English for Migrants, Teacher Training, etc…Look forward to seeing you there!
This chat has now taken place but you can read the summary here.
Further Reading & References
Green, J. (2015). Teaching for transfer in EAP: Hugging and bridging revisited. English for Specific Purposes, 37, 1-12.
MacAulay, M (2016). Transition and transfer: Effects of an EAP direct entry course on students’ discussion skills at university. University of Sydney Papers in TESOL, vol 11, pp. 97-130.
James, M.A. (2006b). Teaching for transfer in ELT. ELT Journal, 60 (2), 151-159.
James, M. A. (2010). Transfer climate and EAP education: Students’ perceptions of challenges to learning transfer. English for Specific Purposes, 29(2), 133-147.
Meredith MacAulay (@MeredithMacAul1) is an active AusELTer and currently teaches a Direct Entry EAP course to international students pursuing tertiary study in Sydney as well as training pre-sessional and in-session teachers. She presented on this topic last year at the University of Sydney TESOL Research Colloquium and the English Australia Conference. This is her first time to moderate a Twitter chat!