How to Put Language Proficiency into (Your Teaching) Practice?
The Importance of Language Proficiency in Teaching Practice
Ghent University trains its students to become astute communicators (cf. Ghent University's Competency Model, competency area 4). Such a training is essential in our current network society. Throughout their studies, students learn to strengthen their communication skills by working on academic and professional language skills. Many of our study programmes' programme competencies contain academic as well as professional language skills. On the one hand, solid academic writing and speaking skills are a prerequisite for successful completion of the Master’s dissertation (the Master's dissertation itself being a legally required part of any Master's curriculum). Sound professional language skills, on the other, are indispensible to any proficient professional practioner.
What is more, a student's level of (academic) language proficiency determines their study progress and career path. An insufficient command of the language of instruction - Dutch as well as English - hinders knowledge acquisition. Not all students, however, are able to acquire the language skills they need during their study career on their own, and require additional support.
Strengthening students’ language skills is an essential part of Ghent University's integral language policy. A high-performance language policy ensures that students progress and graduate more successfully, and that they have sufficient language proficiency for (starting) professional practice.
How to Improve My Students' Language Proficiency?
There are many different ways for lecturers to enhance their students' language skills. This landing page will refer you to all the relevant Education Tips.
Know Your Incoming Students
Be realistic in your expectations of incoming students' academic language skills. Adjust your teaching practice accordingly.
Read the Education Tip on What to Expect of Students' Language Skills?
Integrate Language Support into Your Teaching Practice to Strengthen Study Progress and Student Outflow
Let your students acquire as much academic vocabulary as possible through your teaching practice.
Read the Education Tip on How to Stimulate Students' Language Development?
Such language developing didactics have a threefold root: Context, interaction and language support.
1. CREATE a CONTEXT
Be sure to make the importance of correct (academic) language use explicit in your linguistic final competencies, and explain this to students when you set them a language assignment. If possible, link the expected language proficiency level to the expectations of the professional field by assigning meaningful and authentic language tasks.
2. Interact with your students
- Pay attention to your language offering:
Provide clear and concrete course materials, as an example of what you expect from the student.
- Assess and optimize your own language use.
Read the Education Tip on Language Use for Lecturers: What Elements to Keep in Mind?
- Have the student produce language:
Offer your students opportunities to practice academic language during lectures and tutorials. Use active teaching methods to encourage students to produce language. Set them language assignments, e.g. a writing assignment, a presentation, etc... and give intermediate feedback. Read the Education Tip on Coaching (Individual) Students with Their Written and Oral Assignments
- Give language feedback and assess:
Give language feedback that is in line with the intended competencies. Use clarifying feedback (i.e. you ask for clarification, e.g. “Do you mean to say that... ", etc) and implicit corrective feedback. Implicit corrective feedback means that you do not rewrite the mistake yourself (i.e. you do not explicitly correct it), but that you refer to a rubric, e.g. Ghent University's Style Guide. In the Style Guide, frequently made mistakes are listed and annotated with further explanation and guidelines. Students can use these guidelines to correct their mistakes themselves. You can use the same rubric for a valid, transparent and reliable assessment. Read the Education Tip on Written and Oral Assignments: How to Give Feedback and Assess Them?
3. offer language support
Use your teaching practice to focus on language learning strategies, and/or to integrate a class on academic language skills. Refer linguistically weaker students to the extracurricular language support offer.
Read the Education Tip on How to Offer (extra) Curricular Language Support?
Read the Education Tip on students with dyslexia: Dyslexia: How Can You Help?
Want to Know More?
- Read the Education Tip on Language Proficiency in the Study Programme.
- Contact the language policy officers for inspiring examples at firstname.lastname@example.org