A report on how an authentic university lecture at the LSE was incorporated into the English lessons on a long-term EAP course.
Wanting to make our B2 English for Academic Purposes classes less abstract and more meaningful recently led to a trip to the London School of Economics to see David Spiegelhalter, a world-renowned statistician, give a lecture entitled ‘Thinking and Feeling About Risk’. Additionally we wanted to deflate some of the apprehension that can build up before studying in a new education system in a different language, and familiarise the students with the university context.
Before going, we decided the skills we wanted to practise were note taking, specifically recording definitions, and understanding the structure of a lecture. Another important part of preparing was to attempt prediction of what might be talked about and identify language we would need to understand the lecture.
We also researched the lecturer through blogs and his Wikipedia entry to get extra clues. Finally, I wanted to give the students responsibility for finding the venue and arriving on time, so after printing a map we arranged to meet inside the lecture theatre. The lecture itself was not only accessible, but also highly entertaining and the students were buzzing with the ideas they had heard when we went for a meal afterwards.
The next day in class the students compared their notes in groups to fill in any blanks and iron out misunderstandings with each others’ support. This proved to them the value of trying to find a study partner for the lectures they will attend in the future. The students had generally made effective notes, but had struggled with recording visual data in the form of graphics and graphs.
They reflected that in the future sketching rough copies, or taking images with their phones, would be more effective than trying to write in words what the displays showed. We then wrote up a well-organised, ‘good’ copy of the notes, which could be referred to in the future. Our final activity was an extended discussion of the ideas we had been presented with, and their possible repercussions.
The students also had interesting reflections on the informal and unpretentious nature of the lecture, the use of humour and how the lecturer was not dogmatic, but was even critical of his own field and honest about the limitations of his work. This led to some interesting critical thinking points and a comparison of lecturing styles in different countries.
The enthusiasm of the students and their requests to attend other lectures in the future indicate the motivational benefits of this activity. They also developed a realistic appraisal of the level of English and study skills required to get the most out of lectures, something which had previously been quite an intimidating prospect. Like all the best activities, it was also worthwhile in its own right, by being both informing and entertaining. It was a hugely beneficial addition to the university foundation course to truly get the feel of Academic English far and beyond anything that a textbook or TEFL teacher can provide. Therefore, it’s an EAP course element that students will definitely be repeating.
If you would like to find a lecture to attend with your students, the following websites might help.