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Being a Teaching & Learning Champion

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In our institution, we have a small team of EAP practitioners. As is the case in many institutions (in the UK at least), scholarship is encouraged (specifically in terms of promotion, yet not workloaded), but it’s hard to find the time…

In an effort to afford the team some space for conversations around scholarship we have started two initiatives. One is a monthly ‘EAP Conversations’ session, which has become affectionately known as a ‘cake-to-face’ meeting. Any member of the team can set the ‘agenda’ (and supply the cake), which means choosing a topic to discuss, coming with a question or something to read, and the conversation flows from there.

The second initiative is asking staff to volunteer to be a ‘Teaching & Learning Champion’ in an area of interest to them. This year we have a Critical/Decolonial EAP Champion, a Creative EAP Champion, a Legitimation Code Theory Champion and an SFL Champion. Being a champion, doesn’t mean you need to be a self-professed expert in the area. We define it as someone who is interested in discussing EAP through a specific lens, sharing ideas about enacting specific pedagogies, engaging in specific scholarship, or peer mentoring in the enactment of certain practices.

Below are the thoughts of our Teaching & Learning Champion for SFL, Joanne Raynor.

I became a “Teaching and Learning Champion” this year. I am the Teaching and Learning Champion for Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) in our EAP team. This a short reflection on the experience so far. 

I am by no means an SFL expert and it’s important to be clear that being a T and L champion does not mean that you are claiming to be an expert and nobody else is expecting you to be an expert. It just means that you are someone who is interested in that particular area of teaching or language, willing to learn more, and prepared to share what you find with your colleagues, either in a reading circle discussion, coffee and cake session or even in a one-to-one chat. For me, I have found it to be a great way to develop my knowledge of SFL and inform my teaching. 

I recently organized a coffee and cake session where the team discussed Walsh Marr’s 2019 article grammatical metaphor and paraphrasing. Link here: It gave us the opportunity to discuss our approaches to teaching paraphrasing and consider a theory informed approach and whether it is something we would like to incorporate into our own teaching. Feedback from my colleagues suggests that we all enjoyed taking the time (1hr) out of our busy teaching schedules to discuss our pedagogy and theory informed approaches, not something we always feel we have time for, but something we clearly value. 

I attended the RESTES talk on SFL which was very thought-provoking and provided some new insights into the way SFL can be used to analyse student texts. The video is here. This has inspired me to investigate an aspect of my teaching using SFL. In our listening and reading assessments, students are asked to evaluate the text they have heard/read. By analyzing student answers, can I see what successful students do, and what lower scoring students do? That’s my aim. OK, so admittedly, I haven’t actually started the investigation yet, beyond accessing a book from the library, (same old story – student assessments this week, feedback due etc.), but I feel optimistic that having a tool to examine student texts will enable me to find out through analysis, rather than intuition, what a good “evaluation” answer is, which can inform my teaching practice so I can better equip the students to perform well on this part of the assessment.  

Being a T and L champion (reading up on SFL, sharing with colleagues and attending the RESTES talk) has actually given me the confidence to do this. To be honest, I don’t think I would have had the confidence to do this before. And yes, we are all busy with our teaching loads, and it will take some time, but instead of just wondering how I can help my students perform better on the evaluation question, I feel empowered to actually do something about it. What’s more, I’m really motivated to do it, not only to improve student outcomes, but for my own intellectual curiosity. So, while I hope that being a T and L champion has allowed me to at least provide some food for thought for my colleagues about SFL, the impetus it has given me to focus on my own development and interests has also been extremely valuable and the major benefit for me. If you are considering a similar type of scheme in your institution, I would definitely recommend it. 

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