Discussing students’ expectations and needs at the beginning of the course:
- English language teaching and teaching English for academic purposes are built on the concept of interactive and collaborative student-centred learning. Teacher education within this area highlights the importance of creating classes that focus on the individual needs of students. Therefore, discussing and reviewing the syllabus with students is something that I’ve been doing for a while now. However, what I have now started doing more of is discussing assessments with students. I ask them their opinions on whether they feel they would or would not benefit from them, and how we can create assessments that they see as most effective for them.
- I discuss the types of assessments with students and carefully work through the rubric with them, making sure that the language used is accessible for all students and that no student is going to be disadvantaged by not understanding the language within each criterion. I also make sure that students fully understand feedback given, and that it links to their expectations and needs. I’m also being more supportive of the anxieties and stress that students can be under, especially throughout the Covid pandemic. I have been more flexible with deadlines and started to negotiate deadlines with students.
- I’d like to work more directly with students on creating a syllabus including assessments. However, I am not sure how this would work in practice. I’d like to read more into it and find examples of those who have implemented this collaborative approach.
Using sources from those who are minoritised and marginalised:
- Materials used within my discipline area tend to be culturally bias, ethnocentric, sanitised, imperialist, white, ableist, sexist and heteronormative. I have been making a conscious effort to use materials from those who are minoritised and marginalised as for me representation is such a powerful tool to create change. I discuss with students the issue of representation within academia and the importance of reading a diverse range of writers.
Encouraging students to question the English language discipline:
- For a while now, I have been aware of the social justice issues that surround the English language teaching discipline, especially issues such as native speakerism, language discrimination, imperialism, ethnocentrism and neoliberalism (commodification). Thanks to the DISCs project, I feel more motivated to learn more about these issues, speak out, and begin to make changes. I am now learning about how we can decentre whiteness to reduce the hold that white supremacy has over the discipline. This is very challenging as there can be such an idealised vision of learning the English language especially in relation to Britishness. Talking about British English and Britishness has been so normalised that any issues with it can be invisible to many. This year I have begun having discussions with students in the first lesson in relation to native speakerism, language discrimination and whiteness, and how these issues have affected them as learners of the language. This has had quite a significant positive effect on how students perceive learning English and how these issues have affected their learning. It obviously is very much down to the individual student and how they respond to these discussions, but generally it has been received in a very positive way. The main challenge is really related to my own feelings about coming across as ‘too negative’. But I try to overcome this by talking about how questioning the English language discipline can lead to a more positive outlook and equitable environment for learning English.