Time for a Change - Back to the 70s: Language Across the Disciplines Revisited

By Robert I. Craig.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Results of an institutional survey among faculty in an L2 medium institute of higher education highlight the debate on the role of language, and in this case, a second language, in achieving academic success. The findings show that there is a strong belief among faculty, both in the engineering disciplines and in the humanities and social sciences, that the delivery of mainstream curriculum is the main concern of higher education, and that there is little time for requiring students to demonstrate understanding of that knowledge through speaking or writing,for example, and that it is simpler to provide notes than ask students to make them. Students who are weaker linguistically, rarely get the chance to develop their language skills. It is clear that as students move from Foundation, into the first two years of the degree (the Core) and ultimately into degree Program, both usage and support, and hence development become sparser – in terms of the time allotted to these, the activities practiced and the outcomes expected. This assumption, that language can be frontloaded, is unfortunate in that by limiting receptive language requirements, (listening and reading) and the amount of language production, (writing and speaking) students are being deprived of opportunity to develop the very skills that are considered in many cases to be poor. Perhaps one way of addressing these issues is to take a step back in time and understand the English across the Curriculum, and Writing in the Disciplines movements of the 1970s, in both the UK and USA. The notion of reading and writing, and speaking and listening in order to learn, becomes the duty and concern of all educators, and not only those involved in the earlier stages where students are learning to read and write.

Keywords: Proficiency, Competency, Speech Community, Writing in the Disciplines, Language Across the Curriculum, Frontloading, Meta-Cognition

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 14, Issue 9, pp.249-258. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 642.454KB).

Robert I. Craig

Senior Lecturer & Coordinator, Core Communication, The Petroleum Institute, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Most of his experience has been in teaching for academic and occupational purposes and recently he has been working on communication skills for undergraduate engineers who are destined for the petroleum industry. The PBL employed on the communications courses which he coordinates aim to develop language and communication skills through the acquisition and articulation of knowledge. One of the main aims is to raise student awareness of meta-cognitive and critical thinking skills in a context of research projects. Students undertake both individual and team assignments which introduce them to quality time management tools and provide a platform for the cultivation of critical reading, critical writing and oral presentation skills.

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