Proposal Title

A Course Template for Integrating Chinese Dual-Degree Students into a Science Program and Enhancing Their Communication Skills

Session Type

Presentation

Room

P&A Rm 34

Start Date

July 2015

Keywords

Sociocultural support, Discipline-specific communication skills, Peer mentoring, Earth Sciences

Primary Threads

Teaching and Learning Science

Abstract

In 2013 and 2014, Waterloo’s Earth and Environmental Sciences Department piloted EARTH 10 to provide social and academic support for Chinese dual-degree students during their first term in Canada (these are students who complete BSc degrees in Waterloo after two academic years in China). The 10-week non-credit course focuses on encouraging self-improvement in a safe, supportive environment. Students received content-based instruction from Earth Science faculty and language instructors in activities designed to improve English competency, help them adjust to academic and department specific requirements, and integrate them into the Waterloo community. The course emphasized active learning through hands-on activities (a geological field trip, a lab tour and demo, and group work for an oral presentation). Students completed 2-draft projects that allowed for formative assessment of their scientific and language competency.

Peer mentors were key to the course’s success: they helped students with assignments, conversation practice, socializing, and orientation to the department. According to subjective and quantifiable metrics that included student self-assessments (interviews and questionnaires), in class progress on assignments, and comparison of performance (grades) in other courses, participants universally benefitted from the course in terms of increased confidence and measurably better academic and classroom performance than non-participant peers. The primary outcome of the course was developing the socio-cultural and interactional competence necessary to achieve academic success. Improvements to design and delivery over the 2-year pilot have made EARTH 10 a worthwhile extracurricular complement to academic programming, one which Waterloo’s Faculty of Science will be offering in four different departments next Fall.

Elements of Engagement

Two presenters will a) represent the blended aspects of the course (science and writing) in a checklist that participants will be able to assess, b) share a template for participants to apply to their own course content, c) host a discussion to share creative approaches to integrating ELL students socially and culturally in a scientific discipline.

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Jul 10th, 11:15 AM

A Course Template for Integrating Chinese Dual-Degree Students into a Science Program and Enhancing Their Communication Skills

P&A Rm 34

In 2013 and 2014, Waterloo’s Earth and Environmental Sciences Department piloted EARTH 10 to provide social and academic support for Chinese dual-degree students during their first term in Canada (these are students who complete BSc degrees in Waterloo after two academic years in China). The 10-week non-credit course focuses on encouraging self-improvement in a safe, supportive environment. Students received content-based instruction from Earth Science faculty and language instructors in activities designed to improve English competency, help them adjust to academic and department specific requirements, and integrate them into the Waterloo community. The course emphasized active learning through hands-on activities (a geological field trip, a lab tour and demo, and group work for an oral presentation). Students completed 2-draft projects that allowed for formative assessment of their scientific and language competency.

Peer mentors were key to the course’s success: they helped students with assignments, conversation practice, socializing, and orientation to the department. According to subjective and quantifiable metrics that included student self-assessments (interviews and questionnaires), in class progress on assignments, and comparison of performance (grades) in other courses, participants universally benefitted from the course in terms of increased confidence and measurably better academic and classroom performance than non-participant peers. The primary outcome of the course was developing the socio-cultural and interactional competence necessary to achieve academic success. Improvements to design and delivery over the 2-year pilot have made EARTH 10 a worthwhile extracurricular complement to academic programming, one which Waterloo’s Faculty of Science will be offering in four different departments next Fall.