Olga Campbell-Thomson reflects on the learning experience of the students in the Speaking in Arts and Humanities course this semester. She talks about the value of engagement of university students and staff in collaborative projects; she also reflects on the issues of the positioning of EAS (EAP) studies in a broader university context, and emphasises that disciplinary identity is revealed in its practices.
Speaking in Arts and Humanities (SAH) is a credit bearing course which is on its second year of running and was developed by Aneta Marren. The course is offered by English for Academic Study (EAS) unit in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures. The course is open to students regardless of their first language (i.e. not just to L2 speakers). This course gives Level 3 students from across the College of Arts, Glasgow University, the opportunity to develop speaking, presentation and negotiation skills which will be useful soft skills for employment.
The public speaking component of the course is mainly directed at interview settings (this includes various interview formats ranging from question/answer sessions to interview presentations).
During Week 5 of the course, the students had an opportunity to step into a professional setting and experience the effects of public speaking at The Hunterian, the museum and art gallery at the University of Glasgow; they also went through an interview experience in a real-life environment at the museum.
The entire programme of the 2 sessions in Week 5 was organised by Ruth Fletcher, Student Engagement Officer at The Hunterian. Ruth arranged the students’ visit to the museum on a Monday, when the museum was closed to visitors, and involved two students currently employed by the Museum University Student Educator (MUSE) internship programme and a Post-Graduate researcher engaged in the Hunterian Associates Programme (H.A.P.).
On day one, Monday, we had two 20-minute guided tours by very eloquent and knowledgeable guides. The two guides led us through two of the permanent displays in the Museum: the Medical History display, and the Antonine Wall display. The guides demonstrated very different styles of speaking when engaging with the audience, but the audience was captivated throughout each tour. A reflective session that followed allowed the students to comment on the features of each talk: the background use of stories, humour, credibility, effective introduction and communication with the audience. This was a gratifying experience due to our course training being developed to a point where the students were able to act as reviewers of the tour guides’ performance.
Following the guided tours, the students were given fifteen minutes to tour the exhibits, select an object and to prepare a 2-minute presentation. Ruth Fletcher explained to the students that the 2-minute presentation would be part of an interview process for selection to participate in a MUSE Programme. Each student received feedback from Ruth herself, from the two guides and from one student-observer. The feedback session was particularly valuable as the comments were constructive and came from the individuals who had gone through similar experiences (the tour guides who provided feedback have been under constant scrutiny themselves), and from the potential employer (Ruth).
On day two, Wednesday, Ruth Fletcher and two guests involved in the Student Engagement Programmes informed the students about the MUSE and H.A.P. experiences and other opportunities available to students in Glasgow University through Hunterian student engagement projects.
The SAH students’ work is not complete at this point. Students will analyse their recordings from the 2-minute presentation in the museum and will prepare a reflective commentary for their course portfolio. On the more practical side, a number of students expressed their interest to further explore the opportunities offered by the MUSE programme and similar opportunities when looking for employment.
It is not possible to outline all practical implications for EAS-run courses through collaborative work with various university programmes. An immediate thought which stems from this week’s SAH experience with The Hunterian’s team is to further engage with the public speaking opportunities at the Hunterian. One such venue is the series of 10-minute lunch talks given by experts from The Hunterian and the University of Glasgow. Apart from providing occasions to observe (and engage with) excellent samples of public speaking, these talks offer an insight into The Hunterian world class collection and current research at the university of Glasgow. The time-table of the Tuesday lunch talks, and of a variety of scheduled guided tours, is available on the university site. The events are free.
This brief reflection on SAH’s activities organised by the Student Engagement Office at the Hunterian is mainly to relate our course work to the ongoing discussion of the positioning of the EAP field in a broader context of academia. The discussion has been of particular interest in our department as we have been thinking and reading about the issues relevant to the theme of the Professional Issues Meeting (PIM) Learner Identity: Managing Transitions, which our department will host in November 2016. Claiming its own unique identity, the EAP field does not seem to have clearly delineated margins, as its positioning has been negotiated from a variety of theoretical, methodological and practice-based paradigms. The basic assumption underlying my view of EAP’s identity construction is that the process of identity construction manifests itself through the set of practices. Thus, our work practices need to be recorded because it is what we do, and how we engage with the broader context of academia, is what shapes our disciplinary identity.
I would like to pose a few questions which, I hope, will generate response:
- How do we engage with the broader context of academia in our daily work?
- How can we expand our engagement with the broader context of academia?
- How can our engagement with the broader context of academia help construct our disciplinary identity?
Over the past twenty-five years, Olga’s career has encompassed research and teaching in the fields of Linguistics, Speech Communication and Teacher Education in the United States, Cyprus and the Middle East. She completed her doctoral studies at the University of Manchester, England, in 2013. She has now relocated to Scotland and currently teaches courses in English for Academic Study, School of Modern Languages and Cultures, at the University of Glasgow.
Hunterian Museum by Anne under CC Licences