Communicating of written tasks in EMI classrooms

From my experience it is not always so obvious to students what they are supposed to do for completing a certain written tasks (even if to me as a teacher it feels that everything has to be clear). For example diary is one of the popular form of written tasks in Finnish universities. I have noticed that not all students are familiar with this form of completing the course. There are also different ideas on that if learning diary is just a reflective task or the ideas enclosed in the diary should be supported by some references. Both forms of learning diary are used at university environment, so as I noticed it is good to be specific about that. In order to avoid misunderstandings I make sure that detailed instructions on writing a log are available to students in a written form. In addition, I also go through those instructions and requirements during the course, or even few times (in the beginning and in the end). I have not tried it previously, but it would be probably good to update those instructions on writing a log if there appeared some questions from the students concerning that.

I found of use (in the case of written tasks) to give as much as possible detailed instructions and to be extremely precise about the written task and requirements. I think that it is good to mention not only what students are supposed to do, but also to be precise about that how the written task will be evaluated. That usually gives further clarity concerning completing of the written task.


EMI challanges (session from 9th of October)

Similar to few others TACE participants I also agree that picturing EMI challenges in the form of triangle maybe confusing. It gives impression that some of those aspects are more in play than others. I also think that all of those matters that are mentioned in the figure introduced to us during TACE session on 9th of October add to EMI challenges. However, I would rather see those challenges in terms of interplay of all of those aspects at the same time. I also think that a matter of existence of personal differences should be mentioned in more explicit way as that is an aspect that often remains unnoticed by educators. 

Modes of working in EMI teaching

I have realized that though I am doing a research on teaching of student in a language different than their mother tongue and I have heard from my informants a lot on that, I have actually not reflected that much on that in my own teaching so far. It feels though that unconsciously I use some strategies that are of value in EMI classrooms.

Definitively, I agree with that what Kari has written in his post, that giving concrete examples (further explanation of the taught matter by giving of concrete examples) is of great value. Though not thinking that much about that I also actually do not stop by providing a definition, but also usually open up a statement/idea/concept by giving further concrete examples and possible referring to students’ “world of experiences”. This also means that a way of presenting of taught matter is worth to be reflected on. I mean by that speed of speech, choice of vocabulary, often use of synonyms and clearing up some unusual words straight away.

I found also that working out/discussing a just taught subject matter in small groups is usually of help. Such a way of working gives a possibility to be active also to students’ who do not have that much courage to discuss in front of bigger group. Discussing of a new subject matter gives students a possibility to negotiate meaning and ask for further explanations. However, a good management of the group work is a necessary condition for exploiting the most that working in small groups offers.

Furthermore, the teaching material (dias and printed materials) used in EMI classrooms is of importance. Clear teaching material, well copied, with visible key words and not that much of text maybe of value.

Though using of thought through teaching material, of using clear language and concrete examples, there is still a possibility that something is not understood. One way to figure out if things got understood could be asking students how they understood what was just said (e.g., by showing with dumb if things got understood, asking students to discuss in pairs how things got understood or initiating an open discussion on just taught matter).

Towards seeing a world through modern definitions of culture

I agree with Piller that usually we think about culture (as well as language) as something limited to cultural borders. The wish to learn about different cultures (as packages) is very strong. It seems that students do not only expect learning about those ready packages from courses on intercultural communication, the same wish is also introduce in the courses on inter/multicultural education.

I have to admit that I needed years of doing research on culture and language aspects to understand that things not necessary work like this, that teaching to future educators about students’ cultural backgrounds will bring nothing. With kind of shame I look back at teaching materials I developed ten years ago on diversity matters meant to support counselors work. As many of novice researchers in the field I started the module on diversity with introducing an iceberg model of culture and convincing the reader that culture determines our way of thinking, behaving in unconscious way. Then of course I mentioned that cultures can be divided into individualistic and collectivistic, in low context and high context culture. I guess those are things that we heard many times during our learning journey, or at least what I was taught in different contexts. At that point, ten years ago, I have seen articles that where criticizing that way of seeing culture, but I ignored them. Obviously, the image of culture as close entity and as something that determine our lives was very strong. I remember the anxiety that I have experienced during time of doing dissertation when I started to feel that actually such views can be quite harmful, when I have noticed that interviewed migrant students and trainers make decision on that how African or Chinese behaves oftentimes just based on their expectations that people coming from certain country behave a certain way and have certain qualities. Changing of my set of mind required from me years of hard work, deep immersion into data, broad reading and all above going out of comfort zone of putting people in boxes. However, this learning experience shows also that a change is possible. There are few implications out of my learning experience with the topic of culture. It is hard to change set of mind, of once internalized attitudes. Furthermore, it seems that we are quite familiar with all kind of traditional views on culture. It can be even said that we are learnt since our birth to see culture (as well as language) as something static and a mean of categorizing others. Therefore, I think it is of importance to introduce to future educators and people working in international settings modern ways of seeing culture.

Great that this is done in this course. However, that is not reality everywhere. I was just last week participating in an opening seminar of the course for professionals working with low-skilled migrants. You can only guess what I have heard in the opening session: again an iceberg model of culture and division of cultures into collectivistic and individualistic cultures. As you can expect all seminar participants where quite happy – they got what they wanted, their own stereotypes and a skill of dividing migrants into non-educated problematic Non-Westerns and skilled, easy to integrate Westerns got reinforced further.

Are teachers really using to less technology in their teaching?

I found the article wrote by Henderssen et el. on students experiences with using technologies in HE very interesting one. Actually I have realized how much technologies are used in HE setting that we (as students and teachers) consider seemless. I came to the course with the thought that I am lacking knowledge and competences in using technologies and I cannot take an advantage of them in own teaching. After the reading the article and last session I realized that actually I am familiar with most of those technologies and I am using them quite a lot in own learning and teaching.
Similarly to students mentioned in the article I also have quite positive experience with using facebook for coping with group work, to handle some of the group tasks, clearing up some things by using facebook. As a learner I was participating also in few online courses. However, I have noticed that some of that courses were more inspiring than others. Some of them I was more motivated to complete than others. So far I was using also Skype as a tool to do presentation and to handle some work tasks.
I am eager to try out new things in teaching, also technologies. The problem is only that I am very uncertain user of the technologies. Many times though I something try out at home and everything seems to work fine at home, I do not necessary eventually will try it out in the classroom. Even if I decide to try it out I always have some plan B.
TAnyway, after reading an article I really ask myself: Do teachers really use so litlle technologies in their teaching? Somehow it starts to feel for me, that teachers are so often said that they do use to little technologies, that they cannont to use them, then though they use them in their teaching they think that they do not use them and are incompetent in using of them.