English Language Programs
Summer and Fall Components: Course syllabus construction, content, and teaching focus
- The Gateway Summer and Fall curriculums and syllabi discuss the general background and context of US current events and public protests for racial justice – predominantly, the Black Lives Matter movement - to raise awareness, instruct, and familiarize international students from China with the recent history and circumstances (e.g., slavery, indentured servitude, systemic racism, racial slurs, decades of poverty and economic disparity, injustice by law enforcement officials and the legal system, discrimination in the workplace, lack of representation, etc.) surrounding the movement.
- The Gateway Summer Academic Oral Communications course teaches students to establish pronoun identification as a normal part of self-introductions; it also points out that “they” can be correctly used as a gender-neutral singular pronoun and explains that language (including systems of language) have entrenched discriminatory practices that should be recognized, evaluated, and re-formulated to establish new English Language principles that combat discrimination. This includes raising awareness of certain metaphors using the words ‘black’ and ‘white’ as a biased dichotomy. This course component also discusses and explores connections between systemic racism and various other issues in the US such as the climate crisis.
- The Gateway Summer Analytical Writing course familiarizes international students with American popular culture. In addition to teaching students the basic forms and processes of academic analysis and argumentation, the course curriculum focuses on popular culture’s historical and/or current representations and attitudes about the physical body, including those surrounding black bodies. Readings aim to foster greater awareness of bodies and body image, and acknowledge the value of different forms of the physical body. Students examine and question different forms of marginalization, including racial discrimination and exploitation surrounding black and brown bodies.
- The Gateway Summer Critical Reading course is designed around three extensive units on gender, race, and class - the course teaches Kimberle Crenshaw’s ideas on intersectionality, introduces fundamental concepts of critical race theory, and discusses the history of slavery in the United States. It also raises awareness of inequalities and equity gaps in American culture.
- The ESL 1a: Critical Reading and Analytical Writing Gateway Fall course curriculum promotes discussion of equity and equality by examining the mythologies/ideologies of American meritocracy and the American dream. Course readings invite students to investigate the American premise of equal opportunity. The course curriculum is inclusive, incorporating scholarly and literary texts authored by women and people of color. Among many others, authors include Langston Hughes, Rebecca Harding Davis, Richard Rodriguez, and Jennifer Hochschild. Course readings also incorporate representations of diverse experience, including those of women, people of color, immigrants, and members of the working and lower class. The course examines representations of poverty and working-class experience, and challenges students to reexamine popular beliefs surrounding “success” and “failure.”
- The Gateway Upperclassmen Buddy Program
- For AY 2019-2020 and 2020-2021, over 50% of Gateway Upperclassmen Buddies have been students of color. 48% and 30% of Gateway Buddies were students of color in AY 2017-2018 and 2018-2019, respectively. ELP actively seeks to maintain and increase recruitment of student workers of color from various backgrounds to work with the Brandeis Gateway Scholars community.
- Gateway Buddy Upperclassmen Training includes a discussion on the origin of students’ names and encourages them to learn how to pronounce the Gateway Scholars’ names in Chinese using the Chinese pronunciation tool developed by Xiwen Lu. The training also includes a discussion on intercultural communication and encourages to view their own cultural practices from an outside perspective. We emphasize that the Gateway Buddy Program is mutually beneficial to both the Gateway Scholars and Buddies. The Buddies have as much to learn, if not more, about the Gateway Scholars and their culture.
- The Gateway Scholars Summer Program: Liaison Leaders and Mentors
- All Gateway Mentors are international students from China. For many Mentors, it is their first paying job at Brandeis and in the United States and it provides them with the crucial opportunity to develop their professional skills.
- Liaison Leader training includes a discussion on the origin of students’ names and encourages them to learn how to pronounce the Gateway Scholars’ names in Chinese using the Chinese Names pronunciation tool developed by Xiwen Lu, Chinese language teaching faculty member at Brandeis University.
- ELP encourages Mentors and Liaison Leaders to lead – with ELP staff support – discussions on race, gender, politics, and current events in the US with the Gateway Scholars. These informational discussions help the Gateway Scholars better understand these issues and help them feel more comfortable discussing them with their peers and professors at Brandeis.
- In Summer 2021, Mentors discussed the Black Lives Matter movement with the Gateway Scholars and helped them understand how the protest movement was viewed in the US by their American peers.
- Liaison Leaders led discussions on how to introduce oneself using preferred gender pronouns and the Black Lives Matter movement.
ELP actively recruits first generation and students of color to work as Analytical Writing Tutors and Office Assistants each semester and retains them until they graduate. Since Fall 2017, the majority of ELP Office Assistants have been students of color. Since 2014, approximately 30%-45% of Analytical Writing Tutors in any given academic year are students of color. We will continue to hire and train a high percentage of student workers of color for every student position. Offering students of color these positions and training and mentoring them to succeed in these positions offers them a strong skillset which they can use for getting hired and trained in other jobs after graduating from Brandeis.
- ELP staff offer workshops for graduate students in Business Speaking and Business Writing at the Business School, as well as extended office hours to meet student needs in these skills. ELP staff works closely each semester with academic services staff and career services staff at the Business School to establish and run internship programs and other programs.
- ELP staff advocated for and hired qualified bilingual and non-native English speaker student tutors while running a peer tutoring program at the Business School from 2016-2018, recognizing that these tutors bring valuable multilingual backgrounds and that hiring only native speaker tutors is not only discriminatory but also misses out on a rich pocket of potential. This sets a precedent for any other tutoring program set up internally by the Business School by academic or career services in following years.
- ELP staff provide graduate students with English language feedback, instruction, and advising from an “English as a Lingua Franca” perspective; i.e. there is no one “perfect” English accent or dialect, rather, the goal is mutual communication between people from vastly different backgrounds and that these backgrounds and other languages spoken should be treated as an asset and not a deficiency.
- ELP staff provide a minimum of 20 hours per week of consultancy hours for Heller graduate students (approximately 10-12 hours for Analytical Writing, and 10-12 hours for Academic Oral Communications).
- These consultancy hours are tutorials which aid graduate students from diverse backgrounds learn the forms of American/Western academic writing and critical reading, teach self-editing strategies to promote student agent/autonomy, and help students express themselves as they wish to be heard and understood. The academic oral communications tutorials encourage students to focus on improving presentation techniques, pronunciation, and listening skills.
- ELP at Heller services promote equity because they provide international students who are non-native speakers of English with the training and background knowledge to participate in coursework on a more even footing with their domestic peers.
- ELP’s Writing Specialist worked closely with Dr Joan Dassin’s team and Brandeis research librarians to create, test, and revise the Heller Summer Institute’s online Plagiarism/Citation Training Tutorial.
The Director of ELP designs and leads training sessions for faculty and staff sessions for Faculty and Staff designed to teach Brandeis faculty best practices in the instruction of writing across the curriculum. The sessions raise awareness of English language dominance in academic writing and promote methods of assessing student writing without discriminating against them on the basis of language acquisition processes, which are naturally difficult and time-consuming. Sessions focus on the non-native speaker/international student experience in the academic classroom, writing goals, comparative assessment, equitable feedback with the focus on writing content and not artificially error-free writing, gradual/accelerated language acquisition techniques, assignment design, and pedagogy. Main goals are to help faculty members establish classroom strategies to create more equitable and inclusive classroom experiences for Brandeis students from all backgrounds and establish general and specific writing tasks for students which are achievable and equitable.
- ELP’s Director worked closely with GSAS, the International Business School, The Heller School, and Graduate Professional Studies at Brandeis to research, fine-tune, and offer important suggestions on updating the TOEFL waivers offered by each school to include a significant number of ‘outer circle’ countries as well as ‘inner circle’ ones, i.e. countries with black and brown people who speak English that differ from the English spoken by white colonized countries. Applicants from inner circle countries like Australia and Canada, for instance, are exempt from language tests when applying to universities like Brandeis, while TOEFL scores are often required from African, Caribbean and Asian countries, even when a large percentage of people there speak English at levels which should waive them from unnecessary and very expensive test-taking. This promotes equity in the graduate schools at Brandeis and increases the diversity of the applicant pool from various countries, which in turn provides important benefits to the Brandeis community. It also significantly improves Brandeis’s online (website) presence as a champion of equity.
- ELP staff select and train graduate tutors for the Brandeis TRIO Student Support Services Program SSSP program to provide important academic tutoring support to the students, who are low-income/first-generation students and predominantly students of color.
- ELP staff collaborated with Allyson Livingstone from the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to discuss best practices to promote equity in the academic classroom as well as developing better-structured job descriptions and equitable candidate searches for each position at ELP.
- ELP staff offer training sessions to Writing Center tutors each semester on working with international students. Training sessions focus on challenges and best practices, with special emphasis on promoting student autonomy and agency. Sessions encourage Writing Center tutors to help students evaluate their work for more than just “correctness,” whether at levels of argument or sentence level grammar/mechanics. Because many instructors at Brandeis still overvalue grammatical correctness and “error-free” prose, however, the ELP training sessions also focus on how to assist with sentence-level editing without appropriating student work.
- ELP staff are also currently collaborating with the Writing Center Director on developing and offering a Grammar Workshop series for students at Brandeis in upcoming semesters. Although the Writing Center and English Language Programs work to provide language and writing support to the Brandeis community, there is currently no campus-wide provision for formalized English grammar instruction; students and faculty perceive this as an area of significant need, and have consistently articulated their desire for grammar support services. Many imagine grammar support to entail basic rules instruction and/or line-editing or proof-reading. Unfortunately, such services have little pedagogical effect and do not lead to the long-term improvement in student writing, as there is little correlation between decontextualized grammar instruction (or simple error correction) and the ability to retain and transfer the knowledge of grammatical rules. This proposed grammar and style workshop series - which represents a significant collaboration between the Writing Center and ELP - aims to provide the general student population with grammar and style support, a support that goes beyond localized cosmetic fixes to improve grammatical proficiency, promote student autonomy, and enhance communication performance. Campus-wide, many faculty members who are not language teachers and many non-native speakers of English (predominantly from China) somehow feel much more secure as writers if using grammar support services despite the lack of sticking power with that method of rote learning and formal grammar instruction, and so ELP and the Writing Center aim to provide grammar support in the best possible way to fulfil this need while encouraging more effective methods of language acquisition.