Fostering Oral Academic Discourse in English at University: A Teaching Innovation Experience

2013

Abstract  With the advent of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) we have witnessed a shift in the teaching methodologies at university, from more concept- and objective-oriented to more competence-oriented syllabi (Montanero, Mateos, Gómez and Alejo, 2006) in which oral communication is one of those general competences widely stressed. In addition, universities have promoted educational research and teaching innovation projects in agreement with the tenets of EHEA. To the present date, a few studies have been conducted on the use of the oral presentation tool (see Otoshi and Heffersen, 2009; De Grez, Valcke and Roozen, 2009; Ramos, Álvarez and Luque, 2010, among others). Innovation projects aimed at a guided practice of the use of the oral presentation tool may promote the student’s awareness of the goals to be achieved and it could also encourage their self-reflection (De Grez, Valcke and Roozen, 2009). This paper seeks to augment the existing literature by reporting a teaching innovation experience on the use of the oral presentation as a learning tool conducted at two different Spanish universities both in ‘English as a Foreign Language (EFL)’ and ‘English as a Medium of Instruction (EMI)’ classrooms. In this project, participants received theoretical and practical training (master lessons, seminars and tutorials) in how to make a good oral presentation before and while preparing their own oral presentations. They practiced them in front of some peers to receive feedback prior to actually performing their presentations in class. They also evaluated both other classmates’ presentations and their own presentations, which had been video-recorded. Eventually, teachers gave them feedback on their oral presentations. Additionally, two questionnaires analysing (i) students’ experience with and knowledge about oral presentations as well as (ii) their assessment of the use of the oral presentation tool in the innovation experience were administered at the onset and offset of the project, respectively. Even if the onset survey revealed that students had had previous experience with oral presentations and were not particularly attracted towards this type of learning tool, probably because they were not familiar enough with the aspects that make up a good and efficient oral presentation, having gone through the teaching experience resulted in their better command of the categories ‘content’, ‘visual aid’ and ‘performance’. Nevertheless, the categories ‘topic shift’, ‘rate of delivery’ and ‘grammar’ were more negatively assessed by the students. This seems to suggest a further intervention on the part of the teacher aimed at improving these linguistic aspects in future treatments of oral academic discourse at university. We believe that these oral presentation skills must be tackled in tertiary education courses in an integrated fashion. Globalization and internationalization of universities cannot be separated from the use of English (Philipson, 2009; Doiz, Lasagabaster and Sierra, 2013), and a proper development of foreign language communication skills is mandatory in Higher Education. References De Grez, L., Valcke, M. & I. Roozen. 2009. The impact of goal orientation, self-reflection and personal characteristics on the acquisition of oral presentation skills. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 24(3): 293-306. Doiz, A., Lasagabaster, D. & J. Sierra. 2013. English-Medium Instruction at Universities: Global Challenges. Bristol: Multilingual Matters. Montanero, M., Mateos, V., Gómez, V. & R. Alejo. 2006. Orientaciones para la elaboración del Plan Docente de una Asignatura. Guía extensa 2006. Badajoz: Servicio de Publicaciones de la Universidad de Extremadura. Otoshi, J.& N. Heffernen. 2009. Factors predicting effective oral presentations in EFL classrooms. Asian EFL Journal, 10(1). [Internet document available at http://www.asian-efl-journal.com/March_08_jo.php] Philipson, R. 2009. English in higher education: Panacea or pandemic?. Angles on the English-Speaking World, 9: 29-57. Ramos Álvarez, M. & G. Luque. 2010. A competence-based constructivist tool for evaluation. C & E: Cultura y Educación, 22(3): 329-344.


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