“The Academic Degree Method”
Learning and knowledge are unavoidable skills and are intrinsic characteristics of mankind. Throughout their lives people acquire knowledge in their everyday routines, either by interacting with others through listening and speaking, reading, writing or simply observing what surrounds them. Everyone has its own reasons and goals to learn a language. Various could be the objectives behind deciding to acquire a second language, either for their personal interest, career opportunities, the workplace or socialising with people from different countries. Nevertheless, their goals will influence their motivations, expectations and needs.
Thus, acquiring a second language is about maintaining a motivated and positive attitude to develop skills both for personal and professional development. However, the reasons for acquiring a language either for personal or professional development rely on the motivation behind it and may be complementary to each other as personal development can improve employment opportunities and professional development can enhance personal growth. Hence, intrinsic motivation is intertwined with personal development as learning in itself is a rewarding experience, whereas extrinsic motivation is mostly related to professional development as it is needed within the workplace environment. I believe most students decide to acquire a second language for extrinsic motivations as English is nowadays a lingua franca. Hence, being a link language between people across the globe, it is important for work as well as for education, as many academic bodies demand it as an entry requirement. These goals and needs usually structure the foundation of the syllabus.
A course syllabus contains information about the course and determines the students and teachers’ expectations and responsibilities. Apart from the course structure, it also outlines the purpose of the language they will acquire, which will enable the students to understand the skills and the goals they will obtain. The process of learning English takes time, and it is often long. Thus, in my opinion, it is important to let the students feel engaged and motivated throughout the course. Apart from utilising the appropriate techniques to support the students’ learning, it is also important to let them understand the benefits of applying their new abilities in their everyday lives. From my personal learning and teaching experience, I believe teaching a new language should focus on communication, which mostly involves speaking and listening, as it is the first step to interact with others. In fact, communicating in a foreign language is an influential factor that leads students into achieving their goals and become fluent. However, depending upon the students’ reasons to learn English, reading and writing will also have a decisive influence, specifically within an academic environment.
The academic degree method (ADM) will focus on students that willing to access higher education taught and researched in English, either at Undergraduate, Masters or PhD level. Thus, it is ideal for intermediate and advanced levels, but impractical for young students as it will be narrowed to university level objectives. Beginners will probably also not benefit from this approach and from the techniques and content applied. The classes will only be taught in the target language, refraining students to express themselves in their native language. The goal is to let them feel immersed and surrounded by English people, by resembling the university environment, which will allow students to get used to thinking and communicating as in a real academic setting. In order to used this method, the students’ will, at a minimum, need to have basic level of English in the four macro skills (i.e. speaking, writing, listening and reading), as they will be seeking to improve their language skills to university level, by mastering their communicative abilities in specific fields (either scientific or humanistic studies). Hence, whilst intermediate and advanced students will improve their target language as they will be required to follow the structure and demonstrate academic capabilities, beginners will probably feel lost since their goals and needs will not be addressed.
The ADM will focus on an active and engaged participation of the students and they will function as communicators, as they will learn to interact by communicating and will be encouraged to complete activities resembling in real life situations. Furthermore, the method will be designed depending upon the subject the students are willing to study during their academic years. Thus, if their interest is mostly in humanities or scientific studies, the method will be tailored and narrowed in order to focus the target language within those study areas. By using this method, the students will focus on the four macro skills in order to develop their receptive (i.e. listening and reading) and productive skills (i.e. speaking and writing). Starting from the idea that these skills are essential to improve the target language to a university level, the method will also pay attention to the micro skills and improve students’ pronunciation, grammar and most importantly vocabulary.
The objective is to enlarge students’ academic vocabulary in order to improve their knowledge, communicative and writing skills on specific subjects. This will be functional to communicate with professors or colleagues, give presentations, write emails or essays, listen to lectures or seminars, comprehend academic papers/journals or simply for interacting with others. In fact, specifically for academia, I believe focusing on the macro and micro skills will allow students to meet the requirement needed for starting a degree and will also ensure them to improve their accuracy and fluency. The teaching style employed will resemble the VAK model so that students, with the material provided, will improve their visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learning.
The classes will be scheduled based upon students’ needs, however, they would be encouraged to meet twice a week in order to adjust the two classes on the receptive and productive skills. The activities and the material available will be taken from authentic and online source, as it will be similar to those accessible in universities. Therefore, one day the students will be provided with activities and materials focusing on listening and reading, for instance newspapers, texts/journals, broadcast news and videos. The second day, instead, they will exercise their speaking and writing, for instance with using role-plays, engaging in discussions and debates, writing emails, and structuring an essay. The course will employ and integrate various types of syllabi as the method will contextualise the target language, will enable learners’ to express their ideas and their notions on topics and will focus on developing specific skills whilst concentrating on the content the subject that mostly attracts them.
Syllabus of a receptive lesson (for scientific studies)
Syllabus of productive lesson (for humanities studies)
In my opinion, it is essential to understand students’ needs and opportunities, learning patterns, as well as the motivation and their personality. As students will be willing to expand their English language to higher education level, the method will provide content and activities that are above their current level, which will give them the opportunity to expand their skills. Nevertheless, this might initially create anxiety or negative feelings. Due to the fact that personality could act as a barrier in learning a language, the teaching method will also be adapted upon students’ emotions. The environment and the teaching method will be constructed in a way that even those who are more introverted and anxious will feel as conformable as possible. Therefore, for instance, instead of asking them to present in front of a class, they will observe and be incited to do more activities on listening, reading and writing. In this way, those who are more confident will help others who are more shy in the learning process. Furthermore, the ADM will provide order and consistency, without necessarily follow a specific script, so that it is suited to their learning patterns. Hence, instructions and guidelines will be presented, specifically when concerning the writing and reading activities, but they will also be given the opportunity to broaden their interests and concentrate on topics they believe being more interesting or suitable to their subject.
Furthermore, to enable the learning outcomes to be fulfilled, the teachers will have various roles as they will need to be flexible in order give enough attention to the students in order to adapt to their needs and goals. Hence, teachers should organise the course based on leaners’ need, should direct the class dynamics as well as inciting students to communicate. The teachers’ attitude towards corrections should be delicate, meaning that they should not correct too much as this might affect students’ confidence and learning skills. However, it would be recommended to correct pronunciation and vocabulary as well as grammar and writing mistakes as it will improve students’ language acquisition, but the faults should either be annotated and corrected once the student has finished expressing their thoughts, or in the feedback provided with the written activities.
Living in a dynamic and constable evolving world, I believe the future of education and teaching will adapt to the technological advances that will occur. Teaching and learning will incorporate virtual reality and multiple perspectives. Nevertheless, teachers will still be necessary to provide help to create an educational course and to guide students in multidisciplinary areas where they need direction as future innovators. Developing a collaborative culture between teachers will enhance the future of education as well as the learning process. Collaborative work will result in improving teachers and students’ performance since teachers will be required to share materials and activities, support each other and explore together what would benefit students’ needs.