1 European Integration Studies, Miskolc, Volume 2. Number 2. (2003) pp EVALUATION OF STUDENT FEEDBACK AT A PILOT COURSE ON ADVANCED ENGLISH LANGUAGE COURSE INTEGRATED WITH BRITISH AND IRISH CULTURAL STUDIES ÉVA VARGA BRAIDWOOD, JUDIT SZABÓNÉ PAPP Department of English Literature, University of Miskolc 3515 Miskolc-Egyetemváros, Hungary Field of research: cultural studies, methodology, project management Abstract: The paper presents the results of the evaluation of student feedback in a pilot course on an Integrated advanced English language course with British and Irish cultural studies conducted with PHARE support at the Departments of English Literature and Linguistics at the University of Miskolc. The participants of the course were requested to fill in a questionnaire inquiring about their opinion of the whole of the course as well as of the individual subjects themselves. In addition, the students were given the opportunity to make their own remarks. In 2001 the Departments of English Literature and Linguistics of the Faculty of Arts of our university submitted a successful PHARE proposal for a postgraduate programme entitled British and Irish Cultural Studies. In August and September-October of the same year a pilot course was organised for 3 groups. The precondition of participation was a degree in a subject other than English and at least intermediate level English language knowledge. The objective of the pilot course was the testing of the syllabi elaborated by the lecturers participating in the project. At the end of the course the participants evaluated both the whole programme and the individual courses by filling a questionnaire. In the following section we should like to present the results of this survey in the belief that they shed light on those areas of EFL that students clealrly prefer. Some of these areas have been either missing or given a background position in English language teaching in the previous decades. The course we intended to develop consisted of two main areas; one was focussing more on the language skill side, while the other put greater emphasis on the information the materials (texts, visual images, music, film) carried and the processing of and responding to that information. Our aim with the new emphasis on the content of EFL course was twofold. On the one hand we wanted to develop language skills with a greater emphasis on oral communication, on the other hand, we felt that the medium for this should be somewhat different from the usual texts. We intended to compile a body of information that is much more in line with the field of interest of mature learners given the target group, which was university students, gradute students or practicing professionals of different areas of adminstration and business life. We feel that EFL often stops short at upper-intermediate level and the interests of those who acquired the language skills to an acceptable level (can get by at everyday communication) are underrepresented. This is why we put a special emphasis on Cultural Studies. The place of Cultural Studies British Cultural Studies is a relatively new way of approaching culture, which takes a primarily interdisciplinary stance. Cultural Studies works constructively in opposition to dominant trends in society; not quite the voice in the wilderness, more like the ghee in the curry of life. Cultural Studies as a free-standing and independently-driven subject is not
2 94 Éva Varga Braidwood, Judit Szabóné Papp governed by the normal rules of language teaching engagement. There is, however, overlap: Cultural Studies is absolutely as concerned with education as the ELT profession. But the emphasis is different: it concentrates on the content of what the language medium carries. Fred Inglis in his Cultural Studies 1 outlined the goal of these initiatives in the following way: [this] new science of human affairs will apply itself with great particularity to local variety, human difference, and individual feeling on behalf of the great values of happiness and community. In line with this we believe that the true goal of teaching British Culture lies in empowerment. Along the way British Cultural Studies is happy to and particularly good at enhancing English language ability in target groups. Cultural Studies has shown itself able to work within the existing ELT medium. They in fact share a common goal: the raising of the standards of knowledge and ability. Both see themselves as practical, and both are largely right in this respect. Where Cultural Studies differs is that it seeks to address the whole person and is not principally interested in language learning per se. This holistic approach to the education of an individual involves the person fully in the process of understanding and reasoning by drawing into the process a range of life experiences and a body of knowledge not normally associated with ELT. Summarising, the aim of British Cultural Studies within language learning is: 1. to widen the lexical knowledge of British life, British culture with a comparative view, 2. to enhance critical thinking and develop social and cultural awareness. Student s feedback After ctesting the materials we compiled we asked the students participating in the pilot course about their impressions. The first question of the questionnaire was related to the layout and structure of the course. 24 of the 30 participants, who filled the questionnaire, i.e. 80% found it appropriate, 3 participants, i.e. 10% also considered it appropriate although they proposed modifications. One of them suggested that the proportion of language skills development courses should be increased above 50%, while another one proposed that history should play a less important part. The two participants, who found the structure of the course inappropriate, proposed modifications to the contrary, which seemed to follow from their different educational backgrounds. One of them, a fresh graduate, would substantially increase the proportion of language development courses, the other one, who has several degrees, would increase the proportion of culture-oriented courses considerably, apparently because improving language knowledge is no longer a first priority for him/her, s/he would rather prefer to keep up and broaden his/her language skills by simultaneously acquiring valuable cultural knowledge.
3 Evalution of Student Feedback at a Pilot Course on Advanced English Language Course Integrated with British and Irish Cultural Studies 95 Evaluation Total number of questionnaires returned: 30 appropriate but some appropriate changes Inappropriate no answer would be needed Course structure: 80% 10% 7% 3% language development less history over 50% Appropriate but some changes 50% 50% would be needed 60% should less language be language development development Inappropriate 50% 50% Structure of the course: appropriate appropriate but some changes would be needed inappropriate no answer
4 Éva Varga Braidwood, Judit Szabóné Papp 96 The next question tested the individual subjects themselves. The participants of the pilot course had to group them according to the following evaluation: indispensable, less important or omissible. One sixth of the 30 participants, 5 people judged all the courses indispensable. Of those filling the questionnaire, over 10% found the following subjects indispensable (in brackets see the name of the lecturer giving the course): Institutions of (Viktória Láng), Contemporary Britain (John Braidwood), and the European Union, the translation of EU texts (Sarolta dr Simigné dr Fenyő, Levente Lénárt), British and Irish Film (Éva Varga Braidwood) and Education in Britain (Erzsébet Molnár). As it was more or less to be expected, a higher proportion of the participants found essential only the basic modules of language skills development, i.e. Oral Communication Strategies (Zsuzsa Horváthné Tóth, Viktória Láng) and Written Communication Strategies (Harry Edward Bailey). This primarily reflects that the students expectations are highly governed by what they got used to when studying the language in schools, i.e. the grammar-based approached. Therefore it is to be considered that when the course is actually launched, the courses focussing more on language skills development should be given at the beginning as a foundation course.
5 Evalution of Student Feedback at a Pilot Course on Advanced English Language Course Integrated with British and Irish Cultural Studies 97 Question: Are the individual courses necessary/integral parts of the programme? Here is the graphical representation of the evaluation of the answers: Education in Britain Architecture in Great Britain British and Irish film British media Contemporary Britain and Ireland: minority issues Institutions of Great Britain History of Great Britain Geography of the British Isles Indispensable Less important Omissible English as a world language EU texts and the EU Written communication Oral communication Phonetic variations of the English language All 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% The next question was intended to evaluate the content of the individual subjects. Here cultural subjects clearly took the lead. The subject entitled : Minority Issues (John Braidwood) (perhaps because of its relatedness to the current Hungarian political situation) and Architecture in (Klára Csótainé dr Bárczy)
6 98 Éva Varga Braidwood, Judit Szabóné Papp were unexceptionally considered very interesting, but the courses entitled British and Irish Film (Éva Varga Braidwood), Contemporary (John Braidwood) and the two courses on the European Union (Sarolta dr Simigné dr Fenyő, Levente Lénárt) were also given high values (over 90%). One of the participants, an anthropologist suggested that the cultural background of e.g. the subject English as a World Language (Judit Szabóné Papp) should be broadened. Another questionnaire missed classical music from among the subjects. There was a proposal for incorporating classes on everyday communication, as well (besides the existing courses on oral and written communication). We got a proposal most surely from a student with less strong language skills that oral communication could include the discussion of everyday topics, too, while in relation to written communication there was a suggestion for a more pragmatic approach (how to write CVs, applications, what the formal and content requirements of everyday forms of writing are). Question: What do you think about the content of the subject? Uninteresting relatively interesting very interesting Phonetic variations of the English 0% 16% 84% language Oral communication 3% 10% 86% Written communication 5% 59% 36% and the EU 0% 8% 92% EU texts 0% 8% 92% English as a world language 0% 88% 12% Geography of the British Isles 20% 80% 0% History of 0% 56% 44% Institutions of 0% 50% 50% 0% 0% 100%
7 Evalution of Student Feedback at a Pilot Course on Advanced English Language Course Integrated with British and Irish Cultural Studies 99 Uninteresting relatively interesting very interesting : minority issues Contemporary Britain and 0% 7% 93% Ireland British media 31% 56% 13% British and Irish film 0% 6% 94% Architecture in 0% 0% 100% Education in Britain 0% 50% 50% Finally students evaluated the individual subjects on a 1-10 scale according to three factors: to what extent the particular courses had contributed to the development of their language skills and cultural knowledge and how much new information students had acquired by attending the courses. A related question was whether they found communication easier after the course than before: here 28 people, i.e. more than 90% gave the answer yes. Question: How much has the course contributed to the development of your language skills? Evaluate it on a scale from 1 to 10. of language skills of cultural knowledge Proportion of new information Phonetic variations of the English 90% 82% 81% language Oral communication 95% 82% 87% Written communication 82% 63% 73% and the EU 90% 88% 97% EU texts 90% 88% 97%
8 100 Éva Varga Braidwood, Judit Szabóné Papp of language skills of cultural knowledge Proportion of new information English as a world language 57% 67% 71% Geography of the British Isles 28% 42% 32% History of 72% 79% 77% Institutions of 72% 87% 88% : 97% 96% 93% minority issues Contemporary Britain and 93% 92% 92% Ireland British media 42% 42% 39% British and Irish film 81% 86% 71% Architecture in 78% 90% 90% Education in Britain 73% 80% 80%
9 Evalution of Student Feedback at a Pilot Course on Advanced English Language Course Integrated with British and Irish Cultural Studies 101 Education in Britain Architecture in British and Irish film British media Contemporary Britain : minority issues Institutions of Proportion of new information History of of cultural know ledge of language skills Geography of the British Isles English as a w orld language EU texts and the EU Written communication Oral communication Phonetic variations of the English language 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% 120%
10 102 Éva Varga Braidwood, Judit Szabóné Papp Content Methods of language skills Cultural knowledge Phonetic variations of the English 90% 90% 85% 85% language Oral communication 90% 98% 85% 80% Written communication 73% 84% 89% 70% and the EU 78% 75% 75% 80% EU texts 78% 75% 75% 80% English as a world language 90% 67% 85% 85% Content Methods of language skills Cultural knowledge Geography of the British 10% 10% 10% 10% Isles History of 67% 76% 85% 89% Institutions of 72% 75% 70% 84% : minority 95% 95% 90% 95% issues Contemporary Britain and 90% 90% 90% 90% Ireland British media 10% 10% 10% 10%
11 Evalution of Student Feedback at a Pilot Course on Advanced English Language Course Integrated with British and Irish Cultural Studies 103 Content Methods of language skills Cultural knowledge British- Hungarian literary 80% 80% 75% 90% contacts British and Irish film 90% 95% 85% 90% Architecture in Great 95% 95% 90% 95% Britain Education in Britain 80% 80% 80% 85% Project work 80% 80% 80% 85% One question reflecting more on the individual performance of the teachers was targeting: Methodology (organisation of the classes, efficiency of teaching) Impossible to follow Difficult to follow Well balanced, efficient Remarks Phonetic variations of the English 0% 0% 83% 16% language Oral communication 0% 0% 91% 8% Written communication 0% 0% 88% 12% and the EU 0% 0% 92% 8% EU texts 0% 0% 92% 8% English as a world language 0% 17% 66% 17% Geography of 50% 13% 0% 37%
12 104 Éva Varga Braidwood, Judit Szabóné Papp Impossible to follow Difficult to follow Well balanced, efficient Remarks the British Isles History of 0% 18% 64% 18% Institutions of 0% 14% 86% 0% : 0% 0% 100% 0% minority issues Contemporary Britain and 0% 0% 92% 8% Ireland British media 44% 50% 6% 0% British and Irish film 0% 0% 100% 0% Architecture in 0% 0% 100% 0% Education in Britain 0% 0% 100% 0% The pilot course was clearly successful in the respect that 90% (27 participants) declared that they would be able to use the knowledge acquired in their professional career and the programme had reached its objectives. To the latter question 2 people gave the answer that this had only been partially so due to the short duration of the course. The pilot course was very useful for the lecturers, too, as it provided them with an opportunity to test the study materials elaborated and the methods chosen. They used the feedback of the course in writing the lecture notes and readers for the particular subjects, which have also been completed since then. To sum up, it can be said that students gave preference to the courses which taught a varied language material with varied methodology, activised the groups and which were of a practical rather than of an academic character. In many cases the work and expertise of our colleagues were mentioned with high appreciation in the questionnaires. Reference: 1 Inglis, Fred. ed. Cultural Studies. Oxford: Blackwell, pp.ix-x