Language challenges international students face

The English for Uni virtual roadshow
Online resources to support
international students' English
language development
Dr Fiona Henderson
Dr Shem Macdonald
Victoria University
Dr Julia Miller
The University of Adelaide
Funded by the Australian Government Office
for Learning and Teaching.
Articles (a/an/the) – Thanks a Million
1. How do you currently teach grammar?
2. Genesis and development of our OLT project
3. Rationale for this approach
4. Content
5. Feedback and evaluation
6. Reflection
7. Discussion and questions
Essay writing – Essay Chef
2. Genesis and development
• Flinders Foundations of University Teaching course –
articles (a/an/the)
Flinders Learning and Teaching Innovation Grant – oral
presentation skills video
Home made articles video
Ms Parrot the detective – OLT seed grant
Home made passives and essay writing videos
Ms Parrot – OLT Innovation and Development grant
Conditionals – If You Love Me
3. Rationale for this approach
• Need for accurate expression, as this can be taken to
demonstrate competence in a discipline (Master, 1997)
• Humour (Slate, LaPrairie, Schulte, & Onwuegbuzie, 2009)
• Evaluation of seed grant project
• Existing websites are more traditional – ‘talking heads’ or
• This project seeks to be more engaging – videos that tell
a story; interactive exercises with feedback
4. Content
What would you include on an English grammar website for
international EAL students?
oral presentation
The passive voice – Stolen on the
Outback Express
Prepositions – With a Revolver in the
Teaching tenses – You’ve Got Talent!
. . . and we have songs!
5. Feedback on the website so far
Figures for 3 – 9 November 2014
• 1558
• Average 2 minutes 22 seconds
• 45% returning visitors
• Australia
• China
• Kazakhstan
Access to
• Directly to the website
• Via Google
Evaluation – 27 teachers
Agree or strongly
The materials stimulated my interest in teaching
this subject.
The materials provided clear explanations.
The use of humour in the video stimulated my
interest in the content.
Evaluation – 27 teachers
Before using the resource: I could understand many
things about this topic and could create materials and teach
the content to other people – 62%
After using the resource: I will be able to use what I know
about this topic to create materials and teach the content to
other people – 85%
 Clarity and range of exercises.
 More exercises
Evaluation – 36 students
Agree or strongly agree
The materials stimulated my interest in
learning about this subject.
The materials provided clear explanations.
The use of humour in the video stimulated my 69%
interest in the content.
 The way actors were using brainstoming before starting
work, doing research and planning what to do next and
after to prepare conclusion
 Add pronunciation examples. Shorter videos.
Evaluation – 36 students
Evaluation – 36 students
Dr Kate Wilson – external evaluator
Six focus groups already – more in December
• 2 groups of lecturers
• 4 groups of students:
• EAP/ ELICOS students (University of Adelaide),
• International Masters students (Edith Cowan University,)
• Mature age native speakers (University of Canberra)
• 1st year uni students (Henan University – interviewed
via Skype)
Positive comments from teachers
•immediately hilarious
•convenient: it’s good
because we can do it at
home, when we want to do
•very, very useful
•it’s a good opportunity for
students to improve
English very quickly
•very creative - fantastic
•open – anyone can
access it
•very ordered
Student comments
The difference between knowing what you should
do and actually getting it.
Yesterday I was doing my [final paper] and I could
write it faster than before and I could put many
sentences in the passive and it was better than
before and I did it faster . . . I was more confident.
I knew about the passive before but I didn’t use it.
Especially with the referencing, I thought ‘Oh, is
that what you mean’? So I got it.
Suggestions made by focus groups
• Include sub-titles with the videos
• Break the videos into smaller chunks so that you can
review them easily
• Include more diagrams and colour
• Use smaller blocks of text
• Add a discussion forum, or Q and A capability
• Add a ‘share’ button
All followed up
6. Highs and lows
Great team, including academics, project
manager, evaluator and website developer
Capacity building
Seeing the website and videos go live
Image by avanzero
Intellectual property complications
Administration – contracts, paying for
acting participants
Focus group timing and rewards
Image by johnnyberg
7. Discussion and questions
• How might you use this website?
Biggs, J. (2011). Academic: SOLO taxonomy. Retrieved from
Master, P. (1997). The English article system: Acquisition, function, and
pedagogy. System, 25(2), 215-232.
Slate, J.R., LaPrairie, K., Schulte, D.P., & Onwuegbuzie, A.J. (2009). A
mixed analysis of college students’ best and poorest college
professors. Issues in Educational Research, 19(1), 61-78. Retrieved
Zhang, Q. (2005). Immediacy, humor, power distance and classroom
communication apprehension in Chinese college classrooms.
Communication Quarterly, 53(1): 109-124. doi:
The English for Uni website