LAYERS OF LEARNING: A COLLABORATION BETWEEN EARTH OCEAN AND ATMOSPHERIC SCIENCES AND THE ACADEMIC ENGLISH PROGRAM IN THE VANTAGE ONE PROGRAM AT THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA
Many students registered in Vantage Science take an introductory Geology course (EOSC 110) during their first year. In EOSC 110 students learn discipline-specific vocabulary and course concepts while also learning English. The novelty space experienced by these students during field work is challenging to say the least. They struggle to use terms correctly, often fall into speaking in their native language to solve problems, and lack the confidence to express their understanding of the content in English. To overcome these difficulties and support student learning, the instructors, one Geologist (Gilley) and one AEP instructor (Gradin) developed a unique structure for the field trip.
The authors realized that the trip is fun and interesting even to lay people and that there were several extra seats on the bus. Consequently the past two trips consisted of 20 or 30 first year EAL students and also Vantage staff, faculty members, and their families. For each stop, students discussed the local geology and answered questions in groups of four to five students with one external participant, usually a native English speaker. The students are required to speak in English to include the external participants and also to explain the geoscience concepts as those participants are generally novices in Geology.
A genre approach to scaffolding language was taken throughout the course. The extended definition genre was used in a language focused adjunct course to provide students experience defining terms and explaining the importance of those terms in a wider disciplinary context. Extended definitions were included in weekly vocabulary tasks relevant to disciplinary topics for the following week.
We present the effectiveness of this approach using observations from the field, comments from students and external examiners, and results from final exam questions related to the field trip. Though the population of this study was EAL students this approach should also help native language speakers.