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Scientific and technical education for ESL students Exploratory Essay


Course Introduction

This is an Intermediate ESP (English for Specific Purposes) course for ESP learners in their 1st term in their 1st Year at the Industrial Secondary School in Najran, Saudi Arabia. This course is designed to introduce students to the more “technical” aspects of the English language in order for them to acquire a level of proficiency in both verbal and nonverbal communication utilizing technical jargon and concepts.

The inherent necessity of such an endeavor is based on the subject matter of the Industrial Secondary School which consists of electronics, computer science, electrical engineering and general automotive design. This mixed curriculum requires students to familiarize themselves with a wide assortment of technical terminologies and processes which are written in the English language (Carrió-Pastor, 2009).

Familiarity with such concepts is essential in order to properly apply the lessons that are to be taught to them. To ensure that students will have ample time to develop technical English proficiency, the course duration will encompass 15 weeks with an average of 60 hours of teaching. Each class will be composed of 25 to 35 students with ages ranging from 16 to 18 years old.

Students have been classified as possessing a lower intermediate level of English and, as such, transitory periods will be necessary in order to ease students into the different topics that will be covered in this course. Overall, this course is designed to increase technical English competency and proficiency to prepare the students of the Industrial Secondary School to understand and apply the lessons that they will be taught.

Overview of Aims and Objectives

The aims and objectives of this course focus primarily on the framework advocated by (Robinson (2011) when it comes to teaching the technical aspects of the English language to ESL students.

This involves aspects related to understanding the context of the verbage, internalizing the use of technical terminologies, applying practical use of the terminologies being taught and lastly an evaluation of core competencies through writing, listening, grammar and speaking to determine the current level of understanding of the learner (Robinson, 2011).

Through such methods of learning and evaluation, both the student and the teacher will be able to understand the current level of progress the student has in internalizing the lessons on technical English and where improvements need to be made (Bokor, 2011).

By the end of this course, it is expected that the students will be able to perform the following:

  • be able to read and understand text in technical English and respond verbally or orally to the prompts of the text
  • Write extensive responses to a set of given technical text to the extent that the response shows a level of insight and clarity into how particular types of technical jargon are meant to be utilized
  • is able to respond both verbally and non-verbally in a grammatically correct manner with technical terms and jargon
  • lastly, the student should be able to converse with another student utilizing technical jargon in a means that makes sense, shows proficiency and the ability to contextualize what the jargon means based on the situation that the conversation took place in.

Context and Needs Analysis

The definition of the context for this course is based on the following factors: people, classroom settings, teaching resources, time, and the nature of the course. In total, the overall duration is set at 15 weeks and will held every Tuesday and Thursday from 9am in the morning till 10am. The course will be held at the Najran Secondary Institute in Saudi Arabia with all the necessary fees and expenses being paid by the students.

A traditional teaching method will be utilized over the duration of the course involving a classroom setting which is teacher-fronted. It is expected that each individual class will consist of 25 to 35 students all of which have a low to mid intermediate level of understanding involving the English language.

This course is considered mandatory for all students that which to progress to their second term at the Najran Secondary Institute due to the necessity of being able to learn and apply, both verbally and nonverbally, the various technical elements of the subjects that they will learn.

Before proceeding, it should be noted that since this course is being taught to students who do not utilize English as their primary language then it can be considered as a type of Target Language development course under the context of teaching students how to properly learn, understand and apply technical jargon and phrases in the English language.

Kishore & Radha (2011) recommends that when teaching non-native English speakers the application of technical terms and phrases in the English language, it is important to gauge their skill level in order to determine what problems a teacher may possibly encounter and adjust accordingly in order to mitigate them.

Other forms of analysis come from researchers such as Walker (2010) who indicate that another tool to properly teach ESL students is to implement an “in class analysis” based on a defined set of criteria to determine which lessons need to be emphasized or repeated so that the students can actually proficiently apply what they have learned.

Syllabus

The syllabus that will be implemented in this course is based on the work of Rukmini (2011) which involves practical application and understanding of technical English terms and phrases.

It consists of lessons which focus on understanding proper phrase contextualization, understanding of proper application, the implementation of proper phrase and technical term functioning as well as the development of language skills involving technical jargon (Boettger, 2010).

Through the perspective of Rukmini (2011), he explains that the main difference between teaching a student proper grammar and communicative functions and teaching them the use of technical English is that former can be taught without having to teach students the exact meaning of a phrase while the latter focuses on deriving the meaning and utilizing it in the proper context (Balzer, 1982).

For example, in the case of grammar and communicative functions, a teacher could teach a student how to identify proper and common nouns and utilize them in a sentence but the exact meaning of the phrase may not be entirely understood by the student as seen in cases where phrases such as ventilation shaft, gym membership, video card and other such technical terms.

However, even if the words themselves are not entirely understood they can still be applied and the lesson is deemed a success. Teaching a student the proper application of technical terms on the other hand involves a much more meticulous process since they actually have to understand the meaning, context and proper application of the terminologies (Boettger, 2010).

Simply utilizing it in a sentence is not enough, learners need to be able why such a technical term was utilized, what processes go with such a terminology and how to properly apply such processes.

The reason behind this is connected to the sheer amount of technical jargon in the English language at the present which have a variety of contextual applications (Boettger, 2010). Understanding their meaning and context is essential in order to be able to use them in various scenarios where communicating in technical jargon is necessary.

It is based on this that within a 15 week period this course will cover 4 specific topics, namely:

  • Understanding Proper Technical Phrase Contextualization
  • Understanding of Proper Technical Jargon Application
  • Implementation of proper phrase and technical term functioning
  • Development of language skills involving technical jargon

These specific topics will be spread out evenly over the 15 weeks with a sequential continuity to the way in which the lessons will be carried out. This sequence will follow the following format:

Introduction

The topic will be introduced to the students with the teacher providing the context behind the necessity of understanding this particular lesson and how it can be applied in understanding the proper usage of technical terms

Basic understanding

In this instance, the teacher will transition students into the lesson by providing them a basic outline of the subject being taught

Rudimentary Practice Session

At this point in time the teacher will attempt to implement a rudimentary practice session where students attempt to apply the basics of what they have learned through oral presentations

Rudimentary Student Evaluation

At this stage, students are given a written and oral test in order to determine their overall capability in understanding the initial lesson that they were taught

Lesson Review

Once the results of the student evaluations have been returned the teacher will determine what areas the class needs to improve on and implement a lesson plan involving those specific subjects

Advanced Understanding

In this instance, the teacher will transition students into are advanced aspect of the lesson that they are learning

Advanced Practice Session

– At this point in time the teacher will implement an advanced practice session where students attempt to apply advanced techniques of what they have learned through oral presentations

Advanced Student Evaluation

At this stage, students are given a written and oral test in order to determine their overall capability in understanding the advanced lesson that they were taught

Lesson Review

Once the results of the student evaluations have been returned the teacher will determine what areas the class needs to improve on and implement a lesson plan involving those specific subjects

This specific sequence will be implemented for all lessons that will be covered during this course.

Lessons on proper phrase contextualization, jargon application, proper phrase and technical term functioning as well as the development of language skills involving technical jargon are based on the understanding that students already have a rudimentary to mid-level understanding of the English language (Cervetti, 2012).

As such, it seeks to develop the ability of a student to derive the meaning and usage of technical terminologies and phrases based on the examples provided during the lesson.

Based on the work of Wilson (2011), it can be seen that proper phrase contextualization is an important component when teaching students how to properly utilize technical terminologies since merely teaching them the meaning of individual technical terms is useless given the thousands of terminologies that exist within the English language at the present.

What is needed, Winberg et al. (2010) explains, is the implementation of a means of understanding contextual clues in order to derive the meaning of a phrase from its usage. Such ability is normally an inherent aspect of native language users but is not immediately present in ESL students.

By understanding contextual clues and the usage of particular terms, ESP students become able to apply the use of terminologies that they do not have immediate knowledge of by deriving their meaning (Yagcioglu, 2009). This is paramount when taking up technical classes given the sheer amount of technical terms that they will be exposed to that will not be covered within the English class.

Teaching Material

The utilization of proper teaching material is an essential aspect of any course since it enables students to obtain a broader understanding of what is being taught to them without the teacher having to elaborate on every specific nuance of the subject.

The use of textbooks as a medium for the process of learning technical English has been a predominant feature of the ESL curriculum for several decades and, as such, should serve to be an adequate means of enhancing the lessons that will be taught in class.

Based on an evaluation of present day texts, the following have been selected due to their capacity in being able to teach the students of this course exactly what they need in order to understand the use of technical terminology. It should also be noted that these books serve as excellent reference materials should a student wish to brush up on their technical English skills in the future.

The textbook Technical English: Writing, Reading and Speaking by Nell Ann Pickett, Ann Appleton Laster and Katherine E. Staples delves into the proper use of technical English terms and their subsequent usage in conversations. While being relatively sparse in references, it does provide students with a significant amount of examples and situations that can be acted out utilizing various sample words and phrases.

Not only that, the books comes with several exercises where students can learn proper methods of contextualization and deriving the meaning and usage of technical words and phrases from their use in particular situations.

Lastly, the book has a rather expansive section involving the various methods that a student can utilize in order to properly understand how to formulate and utilize technical phrases on their own with having to rely on the examples of the book. While the textbook does have a considerable degree of content, it does have some problems in terms of the language utilized in order to explain the proper use of certain technical terms.

The descriptions utilized to describe the processes can be considered a bit “too academic” which intermediate students in ESL may not understand immediately. As such, when utilizing the Technical English: Writing, Reading and Speaking textbook, it is important that teacher guided assistance is thoroughly implemented in order to help students understand certain instructions which they may not initially understand.

It is based on this examination of the textbook, that what is necessary is the use of another English language textbook that has a far less academic feel to it. Instead, what is necessary is another course textbook that has simpler language and a more ESL friendly method of explaining particular concepts. This would be helpful in transitioning students between rudimentary and advanced lesson contents.

To resolve such an issue, the textbook English for Work: Everyday Technical English by Valerie Lambert and Elaine Murray seems to be the most appropriate choice given its content which has a simpler tone and feel to it.

While not as descriptive as the the Technical English: Writing, Reading and Speaking textbook as well as severely lacking in content, English for Work: Everyday Technical English does enable ESL students to learn gradually utilizing examples that are easier to implement with instructions that are also easy to understand.

Unfortunately, given the sparse nature of the book’s content it would barely last 3 weeks into the overall course and, as such, can be considered the most applicable book to help introduce students to the proper usage of technical terminology while simultaneously transitioning them towards using the more complex ( ) textbook in order to help them fully understanding the techniques and concepts that the teacher is attempting to impart.

The last book that should be utilized is “Teaching technical English writing” by Luis Valencia which not meant for the students, instead this book is to be used by teacher as a guide in understanding what practices are applicable when it comes to teaching students various aspects of technical English. The book itself presents a variety of lesson formats to prevent students from being disengaged from the lesson.

For example, one lesson plan advocated by the book comes in the form of establishing a game so that students can get extra points in class. Such a tactic would supposedly increase their level of engagement to the extent that it would create more interest and thus a better understanding of the lesson.

Overall, the textbook would be an effective book to utilize in order to help devise what sort of lesson can be utilized in order to teach a particularly difficult concept to understand.

Assessment Plan

An assessment plan can be considered the means by which teachers evaluate the performance via a set guided in order to determine whether they have successfully internalized the content of what was taught to them and can sufficiently apply it on their own without need for further guidance and intervention (Ya-huei, Chao & Hung-Chang, 2011).

It is based on this that the following methods of evaluation will be utilized in order to measure the performance of the student learners

Attendance

Due to the mandatory nature of the course in order to understand the technical subject matter of the school, proper and punctual attendance will be necessary in order to determine whether students have been able to sufficiently internalize the lessons of the course.

A low attendance score would be indicative of a student that has not been actively participating in the lessons and it is likely that they have very little practical ability in actually utilizing the course material.

Testing

Testing encompasses the five testing periods in which students will be evaluated. The first four will be prior to new lessons being introduced to the class while the last will be a general evaluation testing the class if they are able to apply all the lessons that they have been taught (Weiss, 1985).

Due to the nature of testing procedures which allow teachers to evaluate a student based on their score, this is the most effective means of determining whether a student has actually internalized the course contents.

Classroom Participation

Classroom participation encompasses the manner in which students have actively participated in the lesson that is being taught. Overall, this is the most abstract of the scoring mechanisms utilized in this course and is scored based on the teacher’s discretion.

Assessment Plan

Attendance – 10%

Testing – 70%

Class Participation -20%

Mark Grade Description
5 Excellent
90 –100%
Learning outcomes of excellent quality
4 Very Good
75% – 89%
Learning outcomes of high quality
3 Good
65% – 74%
Learning outcomes of good quality
2 Pass
50% – 64%
Satisfactory achievements in learning outcomes
1 Fail
< 50 %
Unsatisfactory achievements in one or more
learning outcomes

Appendix: Syllabus

Lessons Days Rudimentary Advanced
Understanding Proper Technical Phrase Contextualization
Week 1 – 4
Tuesday Introduction
Rudimentary Practice Session
Introduction
Advanced Practice Session
Thursday Basic understanding Rudimentary Student Evaluation Advanced Understanding Advanced Student Evaluation
Lesson Review Lesson Review
Understanding of Proper Technical Jargon Application
Week 5 – 8
Tuesday Introduction
Rudimentary Practice Session
Introduction
Advanced Practice Session
Thursday Basic understanding Rudimentary Student Evaluation Advanced Understanding Advanced Student Evaluation
Lesson Review Lesson Review
Implementation of proper phrase and technical term functioning
Week 9 – 13
Tuesday Introduction
Rudimentary Practice Session
Introduction
Advanced Practice Session
Thursday Basic understanding Rudimentary Student Evaluation Advanced Understanding Advanced Student Evaluation
Lesson Review Lesson Review
Development of language skills involving technical jargon
Week 14 – 15
Tuesday Introduction
Rudimentary Practice Session
Introduction
Advanced Practice Session
Thursday Basic understanding Rudimentary Student Evaluation Advanced Understanding Advanced Student Evaluation
Lesson Review Lesson Review
Final Examination and Evaluation

Course Evaluation Plan

In order to determine the overall effectiveness of the course, aside from examining the number of students that pass, two methods of evaluation will be utilized. This will be comprised of student evaluations and observations from colleagues.

Student Evaluations

Student evaluations are accomplished via a student simply evaluating the teacher, the lesson and the overall level of knowledge they obtained from the course. Through such a method of evaluation the school will be able to determine whether a teacher is engaging enough or if the lessons being taught are appropriate enough for the student learners,

Observation

Colleague observations normally come in the form of a colleague observing the teacher while he/she is teaching in class and determining whether their performance is adequate given the lesson material being taught. This is often one of the best methods of evaluation since it enables an outside observer to determine whether the teaching style and the responsiveness of the students mesh together.

Conclusion

Overall, this course is designed to introduce students to the more “technical” aspects of the English language in order for them to acquire a level of proficiency in both verbal and nonverbal communication utilizing technical jargon and concepts. The inherent necessity of such an endeavor is based on the subject matter of the Industrial Secondary School which consists of electronics, computer science, electrical engineering and general automotive design.

Reference List

Balzer, H. D. (1982). Scientific and technical education. Bulletin Of The Atomic Scientists, 38(7), 24.

Boettger, R. K. (2010). Rubric Use in Technical Communication: Exploring the Process of Creating Valid and Reliable Assessment Tools. IEEE Transactions On Professional Communication, 53(1), 4-17.

Bokor, M. (2011). Moving International Technical Communication Forward: A World Englishes Approach. Journal Of Technical Writing & Communication, 41(2), 113- 138

Carrió-Pastor, M. (2009). Contrasting Specific English Corpora: Language Variation. International Journal Of English Studies, 221-233.

Cervetti, G. (2012). Examining Multiple Dimensions of Word Knowledge for Content Vocabulary Understanding. Journal Of Education, 192(2/3), 49.

Kishore, V. K., & Radha, D. V. (2011). English for Students of Technology. IUP Journal Of English Studies, 6(4), 33-40.

Robinson, F. C. (2011). The Adoption of Technical Terms in Popular Discourse. Sewanee Review, 119(2), 308-315.

Rukmini, S. S. (2011). Quality Standard Document: A Practical Application of Scientific and Technical Writing for English Language Professionals. IUP Journal Of Soft Skills, 5(3), 46-49.

Walker, E. (2010). Evaluation of a support intervention for senior secondary school English immersion. System, 38(1), 50-62

Weiss, T. (1985). Sums Are Not Set on Erasmus (or, A Three-step Method for Teaching Technical Description). Journal Of Business Communication, 22(4), 51-57.

Wilson, D. (2011). English in Technical Communication: A Study on Its Linguistic Features. IUP Journal Of English Studies, 6(2), 35-43.

Winberg, C., van der Geest, T., Lehman, B., & Nduna, J. (2010). Teaching technical writing in multilingual contexts: A meta-analysis. Southern African Linguistics & Applied Language Studies, 28(3), 299-308.

Ya-huei, W., Chao, C. C., & Hung-Chang, L. (2011). Poststructural feminist pedagogy in English instruction of vocational-and-technical education. Higher Education, 61(2), 109-139.

Yagcioglu, Ö. (2009). Vocabulary strategy training sessions in technical english courses. Ekev Academic Review, 13(39), 257-264.

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