Investigating Learner Agency: An Example from AIU

This presentation described a pilot research project that involved the controlled introduction of volunteer international students into an EAP speaking and listening class in an overall attempt to (a) gauge the academic and communicative benefits for the Japanese students involved, (b) assess the experience from the perspective of the international students, and (c) investigate the potential for such an effort to be expanded program-wide. The pilot study, held at Akita International University with a single group of EAP students, took place within an existing speaking and listening program. The findings from the pilot suggest that the introduction of international students to a preparatory EAP program can provide a range of benefits to Japanese students seeking to enter EMI environments. Despite reporting levels of anxiety in the high to extreme ranges, none of the Japanese participants expressed a desire to leave the pilot program or end it prematurely. In fact, the opposite was observed with individuals universally expressing a desire to move forward. In addition, the volunteer international students also commented positively on their experience in the program. The study produced five key findings from the target group: a) raised intention to use English more outside the classroom, b) lessening of anxiety around pronunciation and mistake-making, c) strengthening of individual resolve to not allow their fears to dominate their progress, d) increased self-belief in their ability and heightened motivation to take further steps to work independently, and e) reduced negative sentiment towards international students. The presentation concluded with a brief outline of more recent efforts in EAP at AIU that have involved the first full introduction of the Integrated Discussion program into the entire EAP Speaking and Listening syllabus.

Presenter Information:
Dr. Malcolm Sim is currently an Assistant Professor in the faculty of international liberal arts at Akita International University (AIU), Japan. Since arriving at AIU in early 2014 he has taught on a range of subjects in the English for Academic Purposes (EAP) program (Advanced Speaking & Listening/EAP106, Advanced Research Writing/ENG150, Global Issue Analysis & Discussion/ENG103, and Professional Digital Communication/ENG171) and is currently teaching Introduction to English Studies/ENG120, Speech Communication-Social Pragmatics/ENG102, and Cross-cultural Pragmatics Seminar (COM220). Dr. Sim has been involved in language education for over 19 years and has worked both in Australia (6 years) and Japan (13 years); the majority of this time employed at the university level. His interests lie in applied linguistics and psychology and how they interact in TESOL contexts. In the years ahead, besides maintaining his strong interest in TESOL, Dr. Sim plans to continue teaching and developing a selection of skills and content-based courses that will deliver applied instruction to a diverse range of students studying in an EMI environment here in Japan. As someone involved in education, Dr. Sim believes helping others on the path to achieving their full potential is truly the ultimate reward.

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