Collaborations - Internal
Researcher Development Programme
In 2013 the Language Centre teamed up with the Researcher Development Programme to design and deliver a series of workshops whose aim was to help students improve the clarity of their editing, writing and even thinking by focusing on the mechanics of language. These were then rolled out in 2014 in two sets of ten weekly 3-hr workshops, with each workshop focusing on a particular aspect. These included Conceptual Foundation Knowledge: The Four Pillars of English; Old Information before New Information; Simplicity First, Complexity Last; Nominalisations; Hedging; and Creating Old before New: the Passive Voice.
Each week starts off by looking at a particular aspect of how to write more clearly for 20-30 minutes. Participants then spend 30 minutes editing their own work, considering, among others, the particular feature of language looked at that week, before then swapping their work with someone else. After spending 20 minutes going through their partner’s work, they each give each other feedback, before spending the last 30 minutes or so on their own writing again. Over the course of the ten weeks, participants develop a set of diagnostic tools to help them in strengthening the clarity of their own writing.
The workshops have been extremely popular and will be running again in LT 2017. If you’re interested in signing up for the workshops, please contact Dr Matthew Lane or Dr Karen Ottewell for more details and check back here in late MT.
What students have said about the workshops:
"It's revolutionised how I write. Also, I feel much more confident about my ability to write a clear, convincing, and stylish dissertation. NB you could substitute lecture, article, book, research proposal, grant application, email, student essay feedback, etc for 'dissertation' in that last sentence. I learned an excellent array of clear and effective techniques that I can apply easily and simply to my own writing, and anyone else's! These techniques also help me to 'untangle' others' writing so I can understand what I read more clearly."
"It was good to see you again at yet another excellent editing group session. I find that focusing on the mechanics of language in fact helps with the mechanics of my thinking too; yesterday's session proved really useful in this respect!"
"I’ve found these seasons immensely helpful, partly because they make me realise how little work I’ve done between sessions! Scary, but true. In other words, having sessions weekly for 10 weeks is really beneficial. I’ve also found swapping writing more useful than I had expected."
For more details of other Researcher Development Programme courses, check out their website.
Writing Skills Summer School
Every year the Researcher Development Programme runs a Writing Skills Summer School. The WSSS is open to postgraduate researchers at the University at all stages of the PhD and from all disciplines. WSSS offers a unique opportunity for participants to develop their writing skills by focusing on their work and particular writing concerns.
Over the four-day course you will have the opportunity to attend:
- Plenary sessions and workshops exploring different aspects of writing, including editing your writing, writing for a wider audience and language surgeries.
- Independent writing time to work on a chosen piece of writing.
- Assignment to a writing mentor group to receive feedback and discussion with peers.
- Tailored writing skills guidance from a personal tutor.
- Guest lectures throughout the programme.
For the past three years, Dr Karen Ottewell has been an annual contributor to the programme, delivering a series of talks on the following areas: The Mechanics of English; Grammar & Style, How to Edit, and (Academic) English as a Second Language.
For more details about the WSSS, check out the Researcher Development Programme website.
Cambridge University Press
UCLC Learner Corpus
For several years now the Language Centre and the Corpus Team at Cambridge University Press have been collaborating in the development of a University of Cambridge Language Centre Learner Corpus. The corpus includes discipline-specific academic research papers and essays as well as academic presentations by international graduates at the University. Much of the material comes from students attending the intensive five-week Pre-Sessional Programme, where they are expected to research and write three research papers (1000, 2000, and 4000 words) and deliver three presentations (5, 10 and 20 minutes) in their research area. However, we are looking to compile more written work from students on the In-Sessional Support Programme as well.
The UCLC Learner Corpus forms part of CUP’s Cambridge English Corpus and as such is used to inform CUP publications. It is also used in-house in the Language Centre to corpus-inform both our own teaching materials as well as our expanding range of online courseware.
For more details of the Cambridge English Corpus, please see CUP’s website.
English for Academic Purposes Coursebooks
The Language Centre also collaborated with CUP in their development of their three-level set of integrated skills course books on Academic English that were published in 2012.
In the suite of books, students' analytical skills are challenged with an increased range of authentic written and spoken academic texts. From essay organisation, taking notes, group discussion to writing references and paraphrasing texts, the students are presented with a wealth of practice opportunities to enhance all academic skills at this level. The course further develops independent learning skills and critical thinking through 'Study tips' sections and allows for personalisation of learning in the 'Focus on your subject' sections. Lecture and seminar skills units provide authentic practice in listening to lectures and participating in seminars.
The Language Centre’s role was primarily advisory, with Dr Karen Ottewell acting as a main reviewer of the course books, but the LC was also instrumental in setting up several of the lectures included in the three course books and many of the students vox pops were provided by graduates on the Pre-Sessional Programme.
For more details about Cambridge Academic English, please see CUP’s website.
Collaborations - External
The Language Centre’s links with Tsinghua University in Beijing go back to 2003 when, together with The Open University, the online module Chinese University Teachers Training in English was developed.
From left to right: Professor Lu Zhongshe, Dr Christoph Zähner, Jocelyn Wyburd, Professor Zhang Wenxia, Dr Karen Ottewell, Professor Zhang Weiman
The aim of the collaboration was to support the Chinese teachers of English at Tsinghua and other Chinese universities in their teaching of Chinese academics at their own universities who needed to teach through the medium of English.
Some 10 years on Tsinghua and the Language Centre are collaborating again, this time, though, in two areas that have also become central to ADTIS’ provision: admissions testing and the cultural impact on writing. In March 2013, Jocelyn Wyburd, Dr Christoph Zähner and Dr Karen Ottewell went to Tsinghua to discuss these and other matters with Professor Lu Zhongshe and her team in the Department of Foreign Languages.
Tsinghua English Proficiency Test
As here at Cambridge, Tsinghua also has its own internal assessment instruments for assessment academic English language competency. Given the shared interests in this area, the Language Centre and Tsinghua are now collaborating on the development of the Tsinghua English Proficiency Test, whilst at the same time both universities are profiting from the insights that the other institution can give – in particular with respect to the cultural influence on Chinese students’ academic writing in English.
Research into cultural influences on Academic Writing together with Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Whilst currently at the embryonic stage, the Language Centre will be joining to a collaborative research project initially instigated by Professor Lu Zhongzhe at Tsinghua University and Dr Lan Li, Associate Professor in the Department of English at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Using a corpus-informed approach, the aim of the research will be to explore the ‘cultural impact’ on Chinese students writing in English at higher education institutions in China, Hong Kong and the UK. It is hoped that the research will provide a solid foundation from which to inform the development of academic English support and development for Chinese students at university-level institutions at home and abroad.
The initial findings will be presented at a conference at Tsinghua in October 2015. More details to follow.
As the University Language Centre, we act as an internal consultant for the University in matters concerning language and academic communication skills for international students. In this vein, we work closely with the Postgraduate Admissions Office, Cambridge Admissions Office, the International Student Team, and the Institute of Continuing Education in matters of admissions testing, and with all Departments and Colleges in matters relating to the development of academic literacy.
Whilst not one of our main areas of operation, we do provide external consultancy services; primarily, however, at the request of other Departments in the University, which are engaged in overseas research collaborations.
Our external clients have included:
- Ameson, in Nanjing, China, whose Aptitude Scholastic Test (AST) the University uses as a pre-screening tool to aid in the selection of candidates for interview.
- MISiS University in Moscow, who, as part of their language learning initiative, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Materials Science and the Language Centre. As part of this consultancy, the Language Centre and the Department of Materials Science jointly developed a four-week professional development course for MISiS faculty. The programme was designed to improve the academic English language skills of MISiS’s teaching staff and to help them explore contemporary approaches in teaching Master’s level Engineering courses through the medium of English.
- As well as UCAS on the point allocation for the English component of the HKSDE,
- the University of Winchester concerning the summative testing procedures on their Pre-Sessional and International Foundation Programme,
- and we have provided curriculum development consultancy for Sultan Quaboos University in Oman and Princess Noura University in Riyadh.