An Action Research Approach to Academic English for International Graduate Students (Julie Kerekes, Yiran Zhang, & Shakina Rajendram, University of Toronto, Canada)

1:00 PM, Thursday 29 Apr 2021 EDT (30 minutes)
  Virtual session
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Julie Kerekes, Yiran Zhang & Shakina Rajendram, University of Toronto, Canada

Title: An Action Research Approach to Academic English for International Graduate Students

Keywords: English for Academic Purposes (EAP); second language acquisition; SLA research methods; action research; diary studies


In this presentation we describe the origin and design of a new course, Academic English for Language and Literacies Educators. Created for non-English dominant graduate students, it is explicitly not a remedial English for Academic Purposes (EAP) course. Rather, through instruction in second language acquisition research methods and EAP scholarship, students utilized a reflective, action-research framework (Burns 2010) to design and carry out empirical self-studies. The 17 participants in this study, with language backgrounds from China, India, Korea, Mongolia, and Pakistan, collaboratively identified their respective English language goals requiring intervention, including: increasing their academic vocabulary; producing genre-appropriate academic writing; improving pronunciation; and developing reading comprehension strategies. They created individual treatment plans and pre- and post-tests to measure their improvement. In teams of 3-4 students with complementary goals, they carried out their interventions and created electronic portfolios to share multiple drafts of their work, and the feedback they received from each other, the course instructor, and teaching assistant. Students analyzed their progress and presented their final empirical studies of their EAP development as oral presentations to a class of undergraduate ESL students, and as written studies submitted to their instructor. The instructor of the class and her two graduate assistants subsequently investigated the effectiveness of this course using Hyland’s (2018) discourse analytical frameworks to identify features of students’ initial written and spoken language production, and compared these to later drafts of their written and spoken (audio-recorded and presented) work. We triangulated both the students’ and our own analyses with follow-up interviews with a subset of the students. Findings indicate that students not only identified concrete and measurable ways in which their academic English improved, but also applied their findings to their development as current and future language educators. Implications for research on the acquisition of Academic English are discussed.