Vol. 6. No. 3 — December 2002
Intensive English Programs in Postsecondary Settings
Nicholas Dimmit & Maria Dantas-Whitney (Eds.) (2002)
Alexandria, VA: Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc. (TESOL)
Pp. iii + 165
ISBN: 0-939791-96-X (paper)
The editors, Nicholas Dimmit and Maria Dantas-Whitney, have brought together an excellent collection of articles covering many aspects of importance to Intensive English Programs (IEP) everywhere. The book is well organized with each chapter containing the following sections: Introduction; Context; Description; Distinguishing Features; Practical Ideas; and Conclusion. The Distinguishing Features and Practical Ideas sections are the most revealing.
In Part 1, Developing Curricular Models, some useful background information is discussed on the developmental stages of content-based instruction (CBI). In the early stages of content-based instruction, which began replacing discrete skills as the operating schema, CBI modules were unsystematically integrated into programs that were still being dominated by discrete skills curricula. The Content-Integrated-Skills-Based (CISB) approach is also discussed. This approach acknowledges the critical nature of the basic skills along with the benefits of embedding the language in meaningful contexts.
The example of the Intensive English Program (IEP) at the University of South Florida (USF) was very clear and inclusive. USF redesigned its program, changing a discrete skills program to one that is both content-integrated and skills-based. This approach is neither a strictly content-based nor skills-based, but a modification of both, in an effort to better meet the particular and unique needs of the international students being served.
The hesitation of the university to make the change is also candidly discussed. The major factors are that there was a fear that the students would not be helped under this new schema, that the academic rigor would be compromised, and that the students who were used to a more traditional format would be alienated.
Of particular interest is the way in which the real challenges of the administration are put forth, mainly that of high turnover and the continual need to orient new faculty to an unconventional approach resulting in success for the students. The supportive atmosphere of USF is also quite refreshing to hear.
Next, the initiation of students into the mainstream academic community at Oregon State University is highlighted. Through a seven-month exercise, they were able to restructure their ELI program and incorporate more authentic links to the university, both within the classroom and without, thereby helping the international students there be better prepared for the transition into the academic environment of the university. They were able to do this by designing carefully sequenced activities to avoid duplication, keeping current with university requirements, helping students to build learning strategies at all levels, and incorporating new courses, such as mini-sheltered and adjunct classes. These linkages have been a benefit to the university through retention of students, to other academic programs by a closer cooperation with the ELI, and, of course, to the students in making their transition to university life much smoother. [-1-]
Part 2 deals with Creating Collaborative Partnerships. Each of the programs discussed in this section, the Spring International Language Center in Denver, the IEP at Northern Arizona University, the Central American Peace Scholarship project, and Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, all emphasize the importance of establishing partnerships and linkages with the existing university programs and all of them have as the primary goal the focus on the needs of the students they serve.
The first chapter in this section spotlights the IEP at Northern Arizona University. This university has developed what they call a “symbiotic” relationship with the MATESL program there. One of the most important pieces of information gleaned from this very informative chapter is the importance of establishing solid linkages between IEP programs and “traditional, well-respected academic units on campus.” (p. 53) This relationship is important for the status and longevity of the IEP program, and enhances “the effectiveness and integrity of both programs.” (p. 62)
This linkage has been mutually beneficial to both the IEP and the MATESL programs. The MATESL students gain real and valuable experience with real L2 learners in a real classroom environment, while the IEP students benefit through exposure to easily accessible encounters with MATESL students and a smoother transition into the many facets of university life and academics.
In chapters 6, the Spring International Language Center (SILC) is discussed and shows that collaboration is a true, attainable goal of any IEP. The relationship between SILC, the University of Colorado at Denver’s School of Education, and the creation of a new joint institute, the Rocky Mountain TESOL Institute (RMTI) shows how such a collaboration is possible.
Chapter 7 shows the depth of the U.S. government sponsored Central American Peace Scholarships Project (CAPS). Here is revealed the detail and depth of a large international project. Miller and Crandall describe each of the components of this minute detail and the workings of this organization. This is an excellent overview of a large-scale operation, and is relevant to any IEP preparing international students for study in the U.S.
I found the collaboration between the Monash University English Language Centre and Pukyong National University in Pusan, South Korea, as described in Chapter 3, to be an excellent example of international and internal cooperation, and my favorite chapter in this book.. The close linkage with the English Language Centre and the Faculty of Education at Monash in teaching practice, supervision, and observation is the key to baseline strength and integrity.
The agreement allowed the Korean teachers to attend university classes during the school year in Pusan and offered an intensive 5-week period in Australia. Prior to beginning, instructors were sent to Korea for a semester to teach in the undergraduate English program and to screen and recruit participants for the program. Exchange visits from Korean academics were also incorporated. The result was the attainment of a Masters degree from Monash University.
I found it particularly refreshing in this writing to see the author plainly state that because of the fact that the Korean examination system still largely dictates the teaching program, and reading comprehension emphasis dominates the external examination that “it is therefore not possible for these Korean teachers to use a typical Western concept of communicative language teaching without making considerable adjustments to their own system of EFL education.” There was no forcing the Korean teachers to implement everything immediately, but only exposing them to the concepts and allowing the change to come gradually, if at all.
In part 3, Breaking New Ground, three timely topics are discussed. They are giving credit for IEPs, providing service to disabled students, and using course evaluations for reflective practices.[-2-]
Chapter 9, “Credit Courses? It’s Tine!” is an excellent, concise, information-filled chapter on the “Why?” and the “How?” of gaining university credit for an IEP program. The English Language Institute at Eastern Washington University (EWU) was able to gain credit for four of their advanced-level ESL courses in 1997. This was accomplished through close cooperation with the Modern Languages and English departments at EWU.
The author, Mary Brooks, goes through the essential steps in preparing a credit proposal in a very clear and simple way. She then gives many helpful hints as to what is the important information to gather when trying to move your proposal through the various committees. This chapter will serve as a valuable beginning point for any program thinking about petitioning their institution for full credit.
Robin Schwarz, in Chapter 10, gives a full picture of the many facets of diagnosing, assessing, and servicing ESL students with learning disabilities. Many are unaware of the existence of learning disabilities in international students and this chapter is a superior reference for any teacher or program administrator concerned with this sometimes controversial subject.
This collection spotlights IEPs, though very different in their make-up, which have found solutions common to many programs. The creativity these programs have shown is explained in very practical terms. This book is highly recommended and an inspiration to teachers and administrators of IEP programs worldwide.
University of Cincinnati (Ohio)
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