Developing Materials for L2 Science Learners

Developing Materials for L2
Science Learners
Junia Ngoepe
University of Limpopo
South Africa
• Goal(s)
• Students Background
• Teaching Team
• Curriculum
• Organisational Matters
• Course Content
• Materials
• Previously disadvantaged English second
language science learners at University of
Limpopo (UL) need support.
• This can be in the form of specific materials
for these students who have shown potential
to succeed in Maths and the Sciences.
Programme Goal
• Bachelor of Science Extended Degree Programme
(BSc EDP) as known as UNIFY
• The long-term goal is to enable more black
students to enter a science-based programme to
make a good start with degree-level work
• This will lead to more graduates in the fields of
Natural Sciences, Pharmacy, Optometry, Medical
Sciences and Agriculture
English & Study Skills (ESS) Goal(s)
• The students’ academic and general
proficiency in English should improve
• They should acquire language and study
skills which will enhance their academic
performance in Mathematics and the
Students’ Background
• They are at the threshold of studying at university
• Obtained a National Senior Certificate (NSC)
• Have passed NSC General English (GE)
• But did not qualify to be admitted into the Science
faculty at the University of Limpopo (UL)
• They have shown potential to succeed in the sciences
• They are L2 speakers of English
Student Background (Cont.)
• English is the language of tuition at UL
• They are taught science in English
• They have been educationally disadvantaged
• Had inadequate access to educational services
and opportunities to develop their full potential as
students in Mathematics and the Natural Sciences
• Most will be first generation university graduates
in their families
Teaching Team
• Made up of language and content lecturers
• Local and expatriate staff, at inception
• Qualified local teachers have taught at NSC level before
• Locals qualify to teach at University ( M & D levels)
• Language lecturers have some science background
• Expatriates experienced in science education matters
• Locals needed training in science education
• Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics & ESS,
and Computer Literacy
• Programme curriculum is interdisciplinary in nature
• ESS is an intensive pre-study course (i.e.
foundation) in an English – medium institution
• Course starts with a diagnostic test
• There are contact sessions and tutorials &
practicals are included e.g. Project
Some Organisational Matters
• Experienced expatriate staff
• Accelerated staff development programme
for locals
• Weekly sectional meetings for teaching
progress as well as materials development
• Occasional content interdisciplinary meetings
• Marks’ board at end of every term to monitor
student progress
Some Organisational Matters ( Cont.)
• Mainly learner-centred approach
• BSc EDP sticks to teaching 150 students on average
• 5 groups of 30 students in each of the 5 core subjects
• 5 contact periods per group per week
• ESS compulsory & non-repeat
• Double-marking practised e.g. Biology and English
‘Woodlice experiment’
Course Content
• ESS focuses on techniques and skills needed by
students to become efficient and affective learners
• These skills include reading and interpretation as
well as writing and expression skills
• The course also covers aspects of grammar which
are of particular relevance to scientists or which
have been identified as areas of weakness in
students’ writing.
Course Content (Cont.)
Emphasis is also placed on the writing of
clear, straightforward and grammatically
correct sentences, and putting them
together to make a cohesive whole
• ESS also endeavours to encourage both
writing and verbalisation of concepts
taught in other sections
• Materials are potential tools for learning
and are supposed to be generators of
lively intellectually engaging activities
(Pinto da Silva, 1993: 40)
Materials (Cont.)
• The ultimate objective is that the materials
used as well as the tasks performed should
replicate what usually takes place beyond the
classroom boundaries (Ahellal, 1990: 38)
Materials (Cont.)
• Lecturers should continually be concerned
with asking themselves whether their
materials are producing the results they
intend to achieve
• If not, how can they improve or replace
Materials (Cont.)
• ESS science materials could be
characterised by appropriacy, authenticity
and be prepared in-house
• They are also a combination of
internationally – and locally produced
ESS Materials
• 5 study notes
• Reference materials
• Adapted for cohorts of students
Study Manuals
• Grammar and Word Classes Module
• Writing Module 1
• Writing Module 2
• Readings
(Science Readings)
• Listening Comprehension and Minilectures booklet
Grammar & Word Classes Module
8 Units:
Singular & Plural Form of the Verb
The Impersonal Scientific Style – The Passive
Word Classes
Grammar & Word Classes (Cont.)
Countable & Uncountable Nouns
Using the Dictionary to Find Meanings
Linking Devices
General & Specific Sentences
Supplementary Exercises
Writing Module 1
5 Units
• Cause & Effect
• Quantity & Comparison
• Relationships
• Describing Structure, Content & Function
• The Passive 2
Writing Module 2
2 Units
• Describing Graphs
• Note-taking & Note-making
Reading Comprehension Passages
14 Science Readings (include questions/tasks)
Energy and related problems in Malawi
The motor car and pollution
Sick miners pay full price for gold
Wake-up call for world’s health
The rise and rise of Pakistan’s people
Reading Comprehension Passages
• Contraception for elephants – a viable option?
• The world’s food
• Pollution and lung cancer
• Back to the days of deadly smock
• Will it get any worse?
Reading Comprehension Passages
• Less is more
• Lead blights the future of Africa’s children
• Greenhouse gases and the global
warming trend
• The social costs of excessive alcohol
Listening Comprehension Minilectures
• These lectures are for note-taking practice
• The lecturer simulates a lecture while
students take notes
• Mini – lectures are ‘The Field Trip, Energy, The
Noble Gases, The Preservation of Food’, etc.
• Students do pertinent exercises pre- or post
mini-lectures attendance
Reference Materials
The following reference materials complement
study materials
• The Oxford Paperback Thesaurus
• Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English
• Oxford Dictionary of Science
• Practical English
Student’s Edition
Reference Materials ( Cont.)
• UNIFY Student Handbook
• Periodicals such as ‘New Scientist’ and
‘The Mail and Guardian’
• Websites such as ‘Google’, ‘Yahoo’,
‘Mamma’ and ‘Wikipedia’
• Students sit for a language of science pre –
• Materials suitable for identified needs are
used for the cohort of students
• Students sit for a language of science post –
test after materials were used
• Performance in the 2 tests compared
• Students perform significantly better in post –
• Specific materials be developed for cohorts of
disadvantaged English language students in
the sciences
• The number of disadvantaged students who
succeed in Maths and the Sciences will
increase, in the long term
• If language and content teaching staff work in
concert towards improving second language
science learners’ proficiency, the number of
students who succeed in the sciences will
AHELLAL, M. 1990. Using Authentic Materials in the Classroom: Theoretical
Assumptions and Practical Considerations. English Teaching Forum, 28(2): 37-38.
HUTCHINSON, T. & WATERS, A. 1987. English for Specific Purposes. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
JANSEN, J., NTSHINGILA-KHOSA, R. & CRANFIELD, C. 2005. University of the
North Mathematics and Science Foundation Year (UNIFY) Phase II. Final (Ex-Post)
Evaluation. Unpublished Report. Pretoria: European Union Commission.
NGOEPE L. J. 2007. The University of Limpopo Mathematics and Science foundation
year course in English and Study Skills: an evaluation. Potchefstroom: North West
University (Thesis – PhD).
PINTO DA SILVA, C.1993. ESP: Back to Methodology. English Teaching Forum,
31(2): 40-41.
Thank you
Any Questions?
[email protected]

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