The Intensive English Program helps students prepare for academic study at American universities or community colleges. The first three levels in the program focus on helping students develop the basics for academic study. The focus of the two highest levels in the program is on University Preparation.
The University Preparation coursework consists of five classes:
Classes are scheduled on a quarterly basis, and each class meets between 4 and 7 hours per week, as described below.
The curriculum of Advanced Research Writing focuses on teaching students the formal process of writing based on reading. Students write summaries, syntheses and critiques of academic reading on a variety of topics, and they do research writing utilizing APA style.
The difficulties of understanding and avoiding plagiarism are covered. Students write at least two drafts of every essay, developing critical analysis skills as well as correcting their grammar, vocabulary and mechanical errors.
In this course, students gain a solid foundation for completing the kinds of writing assignments they will encounter in the university.
Academic Preparation is a course designed to introduce international students to the American university classroom. Students attend all sessions of a “regular” university lecture class for an entire quarter. In addition, students go to a discussion class two hours each week.
In the lecture portion of the class, students practice study skills, especially listening, note-taking, textbook reading, writing and exam taking. Lecture classes often break down into smaller mixed groups of American and international students, and students also use Blackboard, Western’s computer-based course management system.
In the IEP discussion section of this class, students review vocabulary, discuss ideas and ask questions about the lecture. IEP students take all the same tests and write all the same papers as the “regular” students in the class; however, they do not take the class for university credit and all their work is graded by their IEP teacher.
In Academic Preparation, international students are introduced to a new level of academic English. They also learn the unwritten cultural rules for expected classroom behavior. Most of all, they begin to grow comfortable in the American university classroom.
Advanced Academic Communications
Speaking in the classroom and in discussion groups:
Students need to improve their vocabulary and discussion skills as they transition from social-interpersonal language to academic fluency. Discussions focus on exploring controversial issues of international appeal. Students gain an understanding of American cultural values and attitudes, as well as language and presentation skills, through these discussions.
Students need to understand and become comfortable with culturally acceptable participation requirements, specifically the following:
- Speak confidently with short statements, opinions or questions
- Recognize the short window of time they will be offered to comment
- Feel comfortable brainstorming
- Use indirect language to cushion disagreement
- Ask for clarification
- Students practice among themselves in small groups with teacher encouragement and supervision and weekly with native college-age speakers who join them in one-on-one discussions and small groups.
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Students at the University Preparation level have generally studied grammar for many years. Their understanding of grammar tends to be highest in reading and in listening, and in grammar as a content area, but they are often less accurate in their ability to apply grammar to their own writing and speaking skills.
For example, they tend to comprehend all verb tenses but avoid use of the perfect tenses, past conditionals and conditionals, as well as past modals. Many still have comprehension and usage problems with adverb and adjective phrases. They often are not aware of the use of the passive to show objectivity when doing academic writing. Article usage continues to be a challenge. Understanding of count /non-count rules, and their relation to articles and quantifiers, needs expansion.
Increasing fluency at this level needs to move from a rule-based to an application-based understanding. The focus in the class is on helping students develop the skills to apply their grammar knowledge to their own language production, particularly in writing, in order to better communicate complex ideas.
Second-language learners entering university classes are often overwhelmed by the amount of reading required in their courses, by new vocabulary words in those readings, and by unfamiliar cultural references made by the authors.
They are also less able than a native English speaker to pick up many of the cues that indicate overall organization and the connections between ideas that form the basis of critical thinking in written language: contrast and comparison, cause and effect, chronology, concession, condition, definition, and the relationship between general and specific elements.
The Advanced Reading class addresses these concerns by approaching reading as a skill that is learned through doing a large amount of reading in various genres and disciplines; through producing language, both written and oral, in response to readings, with particular attention paid to elements of critical thinking; by working in small groups which force all students to participate in guided discussion; and by learning strategies for vocabulary development.