November 14, 2012
English for Academic Purposes (ESL) and Sociology started a new bridge program this fall between ESLF 080 (EAP's top exit to full academics) and Sociology 100. In this program, students take Sociology 100 while being supported in their language skills by ESLF 080. Farbod Moheb writes about this experience and that of a couple of fellow students in this program.
New Bridge Program
Last summer, I graduated from English for Academic Purposes (EAP/ESL) and now I am taking all academic courses in Science, Social Science, and Arts. To be more specific, I am taking Math, Drawing, Chemistry, Sociology and Communications. Social sciences are always difficult for EAP students, so usually they avoid them. This is what I have heard from most of the students for whom English is not their first language. Fortunately, I had the chance to know about two combined programs in the Social Sciences from instructors Susan Peake and Laurel Whitney: Soc-100 and CMNS 105, which are available for EAP students from levels 7 and 8. I think it is a brilliant idea to take these courses and make yourself ready for future academic courses that you are planning to take.
My Sociology instructor, Laurel Whitney, asked me to interview a couple of my classmates who are taking the new combined EAP-080 with Milica and SOC-100 with Laurel. I interviewed Sun Wee and Mert. SunWee is a Canadian citizen and mother of two sons, who are grown up now. She moved to Canada in 2004, but she has only studied here for 4 months completing English 12. She already had a BA from her country. Mert is an international student who completed his last two years of high school here from 2007 – 08. He then attended a private college before coming to Capilano University.
I asked them what motivated them to take this combined program of Sociology 100 and EAPF 080. SunWee said a counselor in the Advising Centre recommended that she take this course. She remarked that during the short time she has been attending these combined classes, she has already found new motivation to continue her studies, and is seriously considering becoming a full time student in the near future. Mert says he was drawn to take this course because while studying EAP at the same time, he could also earn three credits in the Social Sciences.
Since they are my classmates in Sociology 100, but I am not in EAP anymore, I asked them to explain in detail how Milica’s ESLF 080 class helps them prepare for Laurel’s course. Mert says that Milica prepares the students well for Laurel’s class, especially on their writing skills. Sun Wee says they practice techniques such as summarizing and paraphrasing with Milica to improve their writing skills. They also study different writing styles ( APA ,..etc) and also boost their vocabulary range by learning the terminology from the Sociology text.
I asked them if the experience in the combined program so far is living up to their expectations. Sun Wee expressed that it is way better than her expectations. She is especially pleased at the way she is enhancing her oral and listening skills constantly in both classes. Here, I want to add my personal point of view about the Sociology class. As a matter of fact, the class is exceeding my expectations. In fact, I remember when Laurel came to our class and presented the new combined program that I kind of knew that I needed to take this class. So far, I am building my confidence from her class activities and to be honest I don’t feel that level of confidence in my other academic classes. For example, this fall I took Chemistry and attended a couple of sessions in the class before deciding that I am not yet ready for it. Although I am very knowledgeable in Chemistry because I studied Engineering in my country, I made up my mind to drop the course even though I knew I would have to pass the course eventually. It might sound strange for some students, but I would rather better prepare myself and come back to Chemistry in the near future with more confidence and motivation. I am pretty sure that the combined program will help me succeed academically.
I asked Sun Wee and Mert what they find the most difficult or challenging in Milica’s and Laurel’s classes - reading material, preparation time and study skills needed, understanding the lectures ,doing presentations, taking tests ,etc.
Mert and Sun Wee both agreed that in Milica’s class, the most challenging area is writing skills and assignments . However, in Laurel’s class the most difficult task is reading comprehension when doing their reading homework in the Sociology text book .
Another question I had was how they like being in a class with mainly international students, and what they think about the classroom activities (role-playing ,small group discussions, presentations ,etc.) They said we have the chance to know about other cultures, customs and rituals . Secondly, by having group discussions, we can improve our oral and communication skills. Presentations make us work as a team and give us more self-confidence for our future presentations.
We talked about suggestions for Millica and Laurel to improve these classes. Mert mentioned that he finds Sociology topics very motivating to write about, and he would recommend that Milica incorporate even more assignments with sociological themes. I have a recommendation for Laurel. I have noticed in our group discussions, some students hesitate to talk. Groups that consist of more than three students from the same country especially experience this situation. So I think by making the discussion groups as diverse as possible, it will help the students to take chances to speak without any fear or hesitation.
We discussed if there is something about the way these two classes are taught that could be done in other classes at Capilano University? The three of us agreed that it is a remarkable idea to have combined programs for EAP students and it would be a good idea to expand this concept to other academic subjects and departments.
I wanted to know how these two classes have been helping Sun Wee and Mert reach their goals, and if taking these two classes has influenced their choice of classes for January or next year. Mert stated that these classes definitely have been helping him to reach his academic goals and to learn more about other academic disciplines. He would like to take Anthropology, Japanese, and Women’s Studies as well as to study one semester abroad in Japan. Sun Wee says that although she already has a bachelor’s degree from Korea, attending these two classes has motivated her to continue her academic studies in Canada full-time. In my case, my personal academic goal is to study different topics in Sciences, Humanities, Fine Arts, and Social Sciences and to gain more knowledge and experience. In January, I am planning to take Math, Biology and English , which would be a good combination for me. I hope by participating in Laurel’s class with the students who are in the combined program, I will be better prepared to reach my goals.
Finally, I asked if Sun Wee and Mert would recommend these two courses to other EAP students. We just found out that the combined program will be offered again in January. All three of us recommended that EAP students start their academic studies by taking these combined programs. By enrolling in these classes, EAP students have a good opportunity to get better prepared for their academic studies.