ITMO Faculty Learned How to Teach in English in Arizona

5 weeks, 10 ITMO staff, 7 classes, 4 teacher trainers, 50 hours of travel, 100 hours of study and a lot of sunshine. Why all the fuss? It’s called English as a Medium of Instruction (EMI), and it’s what is bringing ITMO University into the cutting-edge of internationalization.

It wasn’t just the allure of the Grand Canyon and a multitude of cacti that attracted the group from ITMO University to Arizona, the Center for English as a Second Language (CESL) at the University of Arizona (UofA) offers a special professional development program, known as CATT (Content Area Teacher Training), which is designed to assist content area teachers from around the world, with various disciplinary backgrounds to transition into teaching their subjects in English (be it chemistry, physics or programming) to students for whom English is not their native tongue.

While ITMO University already offers a host of English Language Masters courses, these are mainly geared towards international students, and not yet offered at the undergraduate level. The magic of English Medium instruction is that it’s not simply just about teaching in English in the same way you were teaching in Russian, but it’s about methods and approaches, it’s about scaffolding possibly difficult materials designed for native speakers of English, and about enabling students to get the most out of their learning experience regardless of potential language challenges. It is hoped that this course will spur on enthusiasm and motivation for more staff at ITMO University to begin offering courses in English at all levels.

"What I learned about EMI and English for Specific Purposes made me change my views about teaching in English for students for whom English is not their native language. I felt much more confident. In addition it was very interesting to plunge into the atmosphere of the campus of a major University and become familiar with the experience of teachers and the lives of the students," explained Artem Beresnev, senior lecturer for the Department of Intelligent Technologies in Humanities, sharing his impressions.

The 5 week course consisted of a 3 week online component and 2 week face-to-face session at the University of Arizona in Tucson. In participation were four content instructors from the Information Technologies and Programming Faculty, three content instructors from the Department of Informatics and Applied Mathematics, and three English language specialists from the Foreign Language Training Center.

Dr. Mouromtsev, Head of the Department of Informatics and Applied Mathematics commented that studying about "a systematic approach to teaching and learning in a second language allowed us to renew our approach to our courses and forced us to think about new ways of presenting educational material to students." He also commented on the effectiveness of the instructors who offered the course:

"I was very pleased to see the commitment and responsiveness on the part of the instructors at CESL. It was a lively and captivating interaction, where no question was left unanswered."

One of the highlights of the course was the practicum, all participants were required to offer a short lesson in their content area in English incorporating aspects of what was learned during the course. This was a great way to apply various aspects of the course materials studied over the five weeks. Together, all the participants made a rubric to evaluate the lessons, and after each lesson there was a lively feedback session. This proved to be both encouraging and testing, but everyone came out of it a better educator.
All participants also had an opportunity to observe some lectures at the University of Arizona in their field and talk with the lecturer about their approach.
A unique element of the course was that it included both content and language teachers from ITMO University, giving an opportunity for them to consider future collaborations in this field. As was covered during the course, experience has shown that a successful approach to EMI includes a strong relationship between the English language department and content instructors often require language support as teachers but also for their students.
One of the tutors from the Foreign Language Training Center at ITMO, Aleksandra Shparberg, who participated in the course, commented that:
"English language teachers studied together with content teachers, so the course helped to get a deeper insight into what both parts are going to face teaching EMI. It is a great start for collaboration and support programs while implementing EMI at ITMO."
There was also an opportunity during the course to generate strategies for how this relationship would look, for example, language teachers could observe classes and provide concrete feedback to the content lecturers, or english specialists could also provide special consultation hours to which both teachers and students could come for assistance with readings, assignments and materials.
Irina Radchenko, Associate Professor for the Department of Informatics and Applied Mathematics shared how informative and productive the knowledge gained during the course was. She also said:
"The experience gained will be useful in developing courses in English." Not only was the internal collaboration among ITMO staff useful but also the international relationships that were cultivated during the visit which "will serve as fertile ground for cooperation and joint projects."
Developing a strong EMI program at ITMO University is just another natural stage in the University’s internationalization. Having already expanded the English language program for students and teachers significantly over the last three years has created a healthy base for implementing an effective EMI program in various disciplines at ITMO.
Journalist
Translator
Archive by year: