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EMI Teaching Community established for NSYSU’s bilingual future

2021-05-12

To become a bilingual university and support the government’s policy – Bilingual Nation by 2030, National Sun Yat-sen University (NSYSU) is currently implementing a comprehensive decade-long project, aiming at having all graduate courses taught in English and all undergraduate programs offering courses with English as Medium of Instruction (EMI). The University is now carrying out measures to equip teachers with the necessary capabilities to reach this goal and one of the most important strategic initiatives is the NSYSU EMI Teaching Community, recently established by the Teaching and Learning Development and Resources Center. By providing assistance and mutual support, the Community, coordinated by Professor Virginia Shen of Si Wan College, boosts confidence in faculty members and helps them advance their professional development.

The EMI Teaching Community plans to arrange four events per semester in the form of instructional training, seminars, workshops, peer micro-teaching feedback sessions or integration of research in practice. It has already organized two sessions, in March and April. During the first session, the attendees discussed concerns in groups regarding EMI teaching to help each other develop EMI lesson preparation skills and build classroom rapport.

Attendees’ discussions explored the possible challenges and teaching anxiety in an EMI environment. One of the concerns mentioned was student apathy – the result of increased difficulty of learning in a foreign language. Through discussion and group ideation, the attendees came up with a possible solution – segmenting classes into 3 sections: a review of the previous lecture, new content, and a concise summary to solidify students’ knowledge and boost their confidence. Another concern mentioned was students’ minimal reception. The attending faculty members suggested stimulating students’ enthusiasm with games and quizzes related to the course content.

To overcome teaching anxiety, Professor Shen recommended preparing teaching materials in English and drafting lesson plans in advance in accordance with the syllabus. She encouraged junior faculty members to seek support and mentorship from the EMI Teaching Community, which members brainstorm solutions and provide mutual assistance.

The in-person component often makes the lion’s share of the challenge in building classroom rapport in EMI teaching and requires more finesse to create a positive learning environment. The attendees came up with two strategies: adopting effective classroom management and building positive relations with students. They suggested that to effectively manage a classroom, ground rules should be explicitly laid out during the first class of each semester to standardize behavior and build consistency, assignments should have a clear format and guidelines, and examples should be provided.

To build positive relations with students, they recommended maintaining eye contact during lectures to keep students attentive and encourage them to follow along and understand the content. If an active participant gives an incorrect answer, it is better to guide and reveal the correct answers in a positive way instead of pointing out the mistake publicly not to discourage other students from participating. When students ask for academic advice, it is important to provide concrete guidance while praising their strengths and encouraging additional learning for growth opportunities.

NSYSU’s EMI Teaching Community will pave the way to the University’s 10-year EMI education project by addressing the challenges that teachers and students may face in EMI classrooms. The Teaching and Learning Development and Resources Centre is working on the NSYSU EMI Teaching Community website and Line group for interactive discussion. Through the efforts of its faculty and the determination of its students, NSYSU aims at becoming a model bilingual university in Taiwan.
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