Carole MacDiarmid reflects on her initial reaction to the idea of having a team blog at the English for Academic Study Unit at the University of Glasgow. She talks about the value of academic blogging, implications of having a blog and practical considerations.
So when Anna came and said what did I think about us having our own ‘English for Academic Study’ EAP blog, I thought what a great idea. As she said, we’d have safety in numbers, which would help to divide the work and help to ensure we can keep it going, and crucially it would mean we’d have team support for this new adventure. Professionally it could help us disseminate projects and scholarly activities we are involved in, and provide a space for us to post comments on thoughts and readings and practical applications in EAP. And of course, it could help raise our profile as an engaged EAP unit. Anna suggested presenting this at a team meeting and we thought it would be useful if we could see some examples from blogs (I do like a model for some inspiration and to analyse the discourse). Our EAS blog slowly came to life…
Of course I also thought I’d better put my money where my mouth is and give it a try myself. So I thought for a bit and wondered what I could write about. And then I started to think how I felt about this type of writing and what I knew about it. It’s one thing reading, researching and discussing areas with peers, and even presenting at workshops and conferences, but a blog… now this is new for me. So I thought I’d start off by exploring my initial reactions, share these with my colleagues and find out what you all think.
Essentially I’m enthusiastic about the idea but there is an element of trepidation (Will it be ok? Will it be appropriate? Who am I writing for and why? I feel probably a bit like a pre-sessional student, I know a bit but what exactly is it all about?). In the first mini-workshop we had Anna showed us blog posts from a range of sites, from the practical to the more theoretical to highlight the range. These I think were useful and it would be helpful for me to see and study them in more depth (when I’m writing a bid or writing up part of my research I do read and look at examples of other similar work to see how it is done after all). I saw Steve Kirk talking at BALEAP 2015 on reflective writing and semantic waves (based on Legitimation Code Theory, itself building on the work of Bernstein’s – see e.g. Maton 2013). This discusses meaning in relation to semantic gravity (how dependent it is on the context) and semantic density (how meanings are condensed). I think it would be really interesting to explore the concepts in more detail in relation to certain types of blog post, for example how knowledge is communicated and the extent to which it is transformed. I think I need to consider what is involved in the process also. All of this may help to establish a framework that could help me and others in writing a post.
By considering what we expect and want from a blog, by looking at a range of examples, considering style and structure, these sorts of things might give us more parameters to work from and help to identify how we can support each other and develop our skills
So I’ll end with a series of questions to ponder and hopefully respond to:
- What are your thoughts and expectations of our EAS blog?
- What should a blog post be like? What could it contain?
- What support can you give and would you like for writing posts?
- And how can we evaluate its effectiveness?
Carole has been teaching English as to speakers of other languages for over 25 years and on teacher training and development courses since 1993. For many years she worked in Istanbul, Turkey but has been with the University of Glasgow since 2003. She is the English for Academic Purposes Manager (teacher development) and teaches on the MEd and MSc TESOL. Her particular interests are academic English and EAP teacher development. Carole is an assessor for the BALEAP Accreditation Scheme and a member of the BALEAP TEAP working party.
Maton, K. (2013). Making semantic waves: A key to cumulative knowledge-building. Linguistics and Education, 24(1), 8. doi:10.1016/j.linged.2012.11.005
Blogging readiness by Cambodia4kids.org Beth Kanter under CC Licences