Upcoming English Learning Centre to assist international students

The centre will offer support to students who speak English as a second language

January 06, 2015

The SFU Faculty of Education is in the process of launching a new initiative to address the needs of English as an Additional Language (EAL) students, in the form of the Centre for English Language Learning, Teaching and Research (CELLTR).

The centre will be located in the West Mall Centre near the Centre for Online and Distance Education, with plans to launch sometime next year.

The idea for the space came in 2011 after a "report on EAL came through the senate," explained David Paterson, associate dean of the Faculty of Education and acting director of the centre.

Since then, he said, "There has been a great deal of talk on how you coordinate the services for EAL students and teachers, and how you understand the kind of diverse community we have here at SFU in terms of your pedagogy and practice."

According to Paterson, the goal of the initiative is "to curate and try to understand and bring together and organize all of the existing services for EAL learners (as well as staff and faculty) on campus, and then to look at designing programs that may complement those existing resources."

Ena Lee, a lecturer in the Faculty of Education whose research is related to EAL learning and teaching, explained that the CELLTR is unique as it "offers services for students, staff, and faculty." Not only are EAL students welcome to use the centre, Lee notes, but the programs will also benefit faculty and staff who interact with EAL students on a daily basis.

The centre will address needs that go beyond traditional academic areas, such as language support and language ability, in order to address a broad spectrum of challenges that EAL students face in a post-secondary environment.

Lee explained, "We are looking at overall socio-academic needs (and) how that works for someone who may also be coming from a very diverse language background or a different cultural background."

She noted that while there are existing services that address such needs — such as health and wellness — "accessing those (services) may be an issue of linguistic access [...] or having somebody to assist them and let them know what exists."

The CELLTR will also be able to connect individuals with services such as Health and Counselling, the Student Learning Commons, and International Student Services, among others.

Although still in its preliminary stages, the centre has already launched several initiatives, including a workshop and seminar series.

The first workshop was called '10 tips for giving effective feedback on EAL student writing.' The workshop discussed the difference between mistakes and errors, and how to ensure that an instructor is giving feedback when something is actually a linguistic need and not necessarily a simple error.

According to Lee, the need for the workshop arose from the fact that, while faculty members may wish to help EAL students, they may not necessarily have the background to know the most effective approaches to pedagogy.

The centre has also begun a partnership with the Beedie School of Business, the goal of which, as described by Paterson, is to "assess the language and literacy of students who are new to the school and then develop service plans (which could be used) to match students early on with the kind of literacy and communication services they might find useful."

Paterson added that, in evaluating the success of such programs, "the research component is inextricably woven into all the other goals that we have" and that the centre's organizers "are looking at (their) key deliverables or performance indicators all the way along through the process."

While the centre has begun to conduct "preliminary programs that are proof of concept," the launch date for the physical space will be announced sometime this month and will be scheduled after the space's ongoing renovations are complete.

The CELLTR will link EAL students with services specific to their educational needs.


Author: Jamal Dumas, Peak Associate
January 6, 2015

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