Research

Doctoral Candidate in Education

University College London Institute of Education, UK

Dissertation (in progress):
‘Language-as-problem’ at Linguistically-Diverse Canadian Universities
Supervisors: Dr. Amos Paran, Dr. Jim McKinley

The issue of English language proficiency and academic literacy development of students from non-English-speaking backgrounds is often framed as a problem at many Canadian universities, especially in light of internationalization. Discourses present in institutional responses to this “English language problem” (Murray, 2015) often position the issues of language, academic language work, and students from non-English-speaking backgrounds in a framing of deficit or remediality, evoking Ruiz (1984)’s “language-as-problem” orientation toward language planning. Also at play is a seemingly pervasive covert monolingualism that has long positioned the Canadian-born, monolingual native English speaker as the default student. This is at odds with the diversity present in Canadian higher education. However, a shift to a “language-as-resource” orientation (Ruiz, 1984) can be seen in the institutional response at some universities, where multilingualism is no longer viewed as a problem to be eliminated, and linguistic diversity is valued.

In this study I critically examine the discourses at play in language policy and practice in Canadian higher education. A discursive investigation of policy can be informative, as discourses both influence the nature of the policy problems at any institution, and constrain potential actions (or inactions) associated with policy solutions. Via a multiple case study, document and interview data from relevant institutional language, literacy and internationalization stakeholders was gathered from three Canadian universities. Analysis and mapping were carried out on the discourses present in the institutional responses English language and academic literacy issues. Findings show a deeply embedded language-as-problem orientation that is giving way to a view of language as resource in some contexts.

References:
Murray, N. (2015). Standards of English in Higher Education: Issues, Challenges and Strategies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Ruiz, R. (1984). Orientations in language planning. NABE journal8(2), 15-34.

Master of Arts in TESOL 

University College London Institute of Education, UK      

Master’s final report: Social Identity and Chinese Undergraduates in the Rural Canadian Context

The changing landscape of Canadian higher education means that universities that had previously catered to a mainly domestic clientele are now welcoming increasing numbers of non-native English speaking (NNES) international students. With the objective of better understanding the NNES student experience, this report examines the emerging social identities of four Chinese undergraduates at a small university in rural Canada. Through interviews and subsequent narrative analysis, small talk encounters between these students and their native English (NES) speaking Canadian peers emerged as sites of tension. The students’ voice and silence in small talk interplayed with their symbolic investment in learning English and their entrance into an imagined community of mobile, multilingual international students in addition to the local communities of their peers. Participants adopted strategies such as apprenticeship, shifting affiliations and personal development in response to being constrained by the discourse around foreign students. Suggestions for how to approach these themes of social identity in the EAP classroom are discussed.

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