LS1TAL Techniques and Skills for Applied Linguistics: Improving the student experience

Professor Jane Setter, School of Literature and Languages
j.e.setter@reading.ac.uk
Year of activity: 2014-15

Overview

12759 (1)Students and staff worked together during 2014-15 to develop the Department of English Language and Applied Linguistics’ new compulsory Part One module Techniques and Skills for Applied Linguistics (LS1TAL), run for the first time in 2014-15, to make it more interesting, useful and relevant to 21st Century undergraduate students. The project sought, among other things, to address the University Board for Teaching and Learning Enhancement Priority to evolve our approaches to teaching and learning, with a specific focus on using Technology Enhanced Learning in class and in assessment.

Objectives

  • An improved module following input from students which addresses their needs more closely in the development of the study of our discipline and transition to Higher Education.
  • Better use of Technology Enhanced Learning elements in content, delivery and assessment.
  • Enhanced use of the formative assignment English Language and Applied Linguistics students are asked to prepare, and of the feedback given.
  • The development of good practice which can be shared across our modules and with others in the University and across the sector.

Context

The module convenor had produced a new compulsory module for 2014-15 which addressed many of the issues arising for students in the first year of study, such as general transition to Higher Education; how to do tertiary-level academic writing; how to use and get the best out of tools such as Turnitin; how to present yourself effectively online with a jobs-market orientation; how to do assessments using Technology Enhanced Learning approaches, such as blogging and short videos. Student involvement in the development of the module was desired to make it particularly relevant and useful to them.

Implementation

Students taking the module were recruited during the Autumn term 2014-15 to be leaders and participants in the development of the module; four came forward. PLanT funding was applied for and received. Subsequently, focus groups were held at four points during the year between students and staff to review module content and suggest ways to develop it. Finally, with the agreement of the students, a new weekly schedule for the module (which runs in the Autumn and Spring terms) was drawn up.

Specifically, students asked for more concise and focussed input on transitions to Higher Education and online presence, including a specific session on building a LinkedIn profile, a more hands-on approach to library skills training, input from students at Parts Two and Three, and sessions from Student Counselling and Wellbeing.

Impact

Students and staff involved felt that the outcomes had been very positive. Students valued having the chance to develop a new module, and staff enjoyed working with students, finding out what they already knew and what needed further development, and understanding their viewpoint on their needs as new entrants to Higher Education in the UK. The real test for the module, however, will be the revised module running in the 2015-16 academic year, during which data will be collected from the new cohort using module evaluation forms to compare with last year’s evaluations and see whether student satisfaction has improved.

We were delighted that students had no issues with the Technology Enhanced Learning elements in the module content or assessment. In fact, they thought they were very useful and well-integrated.

An unexpected outcome has been the Director of English Language and Applied Linguistics’ Postgraduate taught programmes’ interest in the module to see whether it could be adapted for MA students.

Reflections

The activity was made successful by the involvement of students in developing this module. Teaching and Learning Dean Dr David Carter had commented that it seemed like a very well-designed module; the decision about how to develop the module could have been made by an individual based solely on student feedback questionnaires, but it seemed much better to have the hands-on involvement of students, as the module is aimed at supporting students through Part One. Their involvement enabled students to have input into their degree which resulted in real change, to see first-hand the issues involved in module development, and also to appreciate the Department’s attention to teaching, learning, the development of transferable skills, and supporting students to get the best from their university study and beyond.

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