Reading Between the Lines of Enquiry: Introducing First-Year ESL University Students to Scholarship through Literacy Skills Development

| May 1, 2010
Reading Between the Lines of Enquiry: Introducing First-Year ESL University Students to Scholarship through Literacy Skills Development

Keywords: linguistic proficiency, proficiency level of IELTS 5, academic reading skills

Caroline Brandt
Petroleum Institute
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Bio Data
Caroline Brandt is an Assistant Professor at the Petroleum Institute, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, where she teaches academic communication and research skills to female engineering students taking B.Sc. degrees. She has 28 years of experience in the field of adult second language teaching and has held a number of senior positions in higher education institutions in 6 countries, including Hong Kong, the Sultanate of Brunei, the United Arab Emirates and New Zealand. She specializes in professional development and academic communication. Her publications include two books that reflect these areas of interest: Read, research and write: Academic skills for ESL students in higher education, UK: SAGE Publications Ltd, 2009; and Success on your certificate course in English Language Teaching: A guide to becoming a teacher in ELT/TESOL, UK: SAGE Publications Ltd, 2006.

Scholarship may usefully be defined as referring to the professional standards that academics apply in their work, such as rigorous attention to detail, critical thinking, ensuring that all assertions may be substantiated and documenting sources. All students entering university are expected to learn to apply such standards, and to this end may be required to take preparation courses. However, a significant proportion of those entering English-medium universities come from non-English language backgrounds and for these students, who usually have on entry a minimum proficiency level of IELTS 5, the need for familiarization with academic culture and standards is compounded by the need for ongoing development of linguistic proficiency, particularly in relation to the skills required to read and write for academic purposes. Focusing on these skills, lecturers teaching on preparation courses seek texts as the basis for development. However, research (e.g. Hirvela, 2001) has indicated that the selection of appropriate reading material is problematic. This paper draws on the outcomes of a study concerned with the induction into the academic community of undergraduates for whom English is a Second Language (ESL). Following Biggs (1999) concept of the ―constructively aligned‖ curriculum, in which all components are integrated, serve the same goals and support each other, it is shown that first-year ESL students can benefit from reading various types of unabridged academic reporting. Such material has the significant advantage of supporting the dual goals of academic socialization and the development of academic reading skills. It is suggested that students are best supported by a phased approach in which they progress from reading articles on topics closely related to their preparation, to those concerned with scholarship in teaching and learning in their disciplines, and, finally, to articles from within their disciplines.

See pages: 20-41

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Category: Monthly Editions, Volume 44