Support increasing for EAL students

November 05, 2013

Earning a post-secondary degree can be tough enough. But throw in the challenge of learning complex concepts in an additional language and the difficulty factor rises exponentially.

Nearly half of SFU students speak a language at home other than English. And the university is ramping up its English-as-an-additional language (EAL) efforts to address the needs of this dynamic and diverse student population—through better coordination of existing services, gap analysis and the introduction of applied research projects.

Susan Rhodes, acting director of university curriculum and institutional liaison, and project coordinator Tzy Horng Sai have reviewed support and development opportunities for EAL students at SFU as well as the work of previous committees that have studied the issues. They have also conducted research on practices at other universities.

In addition, VP Academic Jon Driver visited a dozen Australian institutions last summer to assess practices in a country well known for its recruitment of international students.

“SFU is doing as well or better than most universities in terms of services provided,” says Driver, “but we still have gaps in our services and we could do better in coordinating and communicating what we offer. We also have an opportunity to become a leader in this field by undertaking research and applying what we find.”

In May 2013, the VP Academic’s office issued a request for expressions of interest to find an internal SFU unit that could establish a robust strategy for delivering and developing university-wide EAL supports and services. The office has now received and evaluated submissions and will issue an invitation shortly to one unit to develop a full proposal for an EAL coordinating office.

In addition to working with existing EAL services, the coordinating office will propose new EAL support and development initiatives, develop effective communication for students and instructors, and sponsor program assessment and research projects to improve English language development.

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