Saturday, August 27, 2016

Teaching Academic Writing anew

I'm pleased to be teaching the Academic Writing course at Studieskolen once again.

The course has been redesigned to address the needs of students in Denmark, and is intended to help them over the hurdles of writing the formal essays in English required in their field of study. At the same time it will also benefit those who are already in the work force but whose jobs require them to write in formal English.

This Fall (2016), we're doing things a bit differently than before. Instead of presenting the students with various forms of academic writing which they must then emulate (a time-consuming and often frustrating task for those who have a ton of theory to read and digest), the course will guide them writing only those essays that are relevant to their field of study.  The focus is entirely on the student and what he/she produces, and the goal is to get them to write, and write. And write.

But because English is most likely a second, if not foreign, language, to those who enrol at Studieskolen, the material I've prepared will also include a review of grammar and an opportunity to build vocabulary. This time I'm dropping the course book I used in the past, in favour of a compendium, which contains several pages of exercises. The aim is to get everyone to develop a succinct and accurate style, devoid of ornamentation.

Moreover, each student will have the opportunity to work on, or show off, their presentation skills, by means of a mini-lecture centering on their projects or field of study, around the mid-point of the course.  And each will have the opportunity to receive feedback on current or earlier work.

The change in direction reflects Studieskolen's policy of eschewing the classic PPP (Presentation-Practice-Production) approach, and embracing the communicative aspect of teaching (kommunikativ undervisning). 

The admittedly labour-intensive approach I plan to take is made possibly by the relatively few students in each class. Maximum number of enrolees is 12, although the classes I've handled so far have contained between seven and nine persons.

I've taught this course three times in the past, and each batch of students has been unique, and individually memorable. My previous students have included a biochemist from Brazil (who, incidentally, was crowned Miss Earth in 2009), a 16-year old competitive ballroom dancer from Russia, and a Danish policeman who recorded his own rap albums.

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