Taking a Glance at Academic Writing in Arizona

Four of our staff spent the last two weeks of June enjoying the Arizona sun and learning how English and Academic Writing are taught at the University of Arizona. Here’s what they learned.

This June, Yulia Ryabukhina, head of the Foreign Languages Department, Inna Anokhina, Director of the Academic Writing Lab, Nina Tishukova, senior lecturer at the Foreign Languages Department and Elena Borisova, Deputy Director of the Foreign Language Training Center, spent two weeks at the University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ, USA, to learn how their Writing Skills Improvement Program (WSIP) is implemented and how their Center for English as a Second Language (CESL) approaches English language teaching. Cacti-filled landscape and toasty summer air were a welcome bonus.

Nina Tishukova, Yulia Ryabukhina, Inna Anokhina
Nina Tishukova, Yulia Ryabukhina, Inna Anokhina

During their stay at the University of Arizona campus, ITMO personnel shadowed staff from WSIP during individual and group academic writing consultations, and participated in workshops, thereby experiencing firsthand the work of the Graduate Writing Institute (GWI).

You could really feel the globalization there, to the point where it became almost tangible; we have the same challenges, the same motivations, the same achievements and we appreciate the same things. I wouldn’t say they have different teaching methods there. On the contrary, this wonderful opportunity to observe some classes has shown us that methods are the same all over the world, it is, perhaps, the students and their motivation that are somewhat different. This experience will help me to re-evaluate the methods I use and to better adjust them to any audience,” explains Yulia Ryabukhina.

One of the highlights of our trip is related to the teachers we met and whose classes we observed. Teaching techniques, alone, cannot make classes or consultations interesting and meaningful for students: it is the teacher's personality that always plays a crucial role,” shared Inna Anokhina.  

During her time there, Elena Borisova also arranged several meetings and observed a number of lessons at the Center of English as a Second Language (CESL) where she learned more about the running of the center, which was founded in 1968 and is a world leader in English instruction.

The qualifications of ITMO’s English teachers match those of CESL teachers. Despite the fact that FLTC has only been running for 4 years, we have achieved a lot. Our approach to teaching at ITMO corresponds with what I saw at CESL,” says Elena Borisova, “The biggest difference I observed was the assessment system. CESL only evaluates the students’ learning outcomes. Students have a high level of responsibility because they know that if they don’t pass their subject, they have to take the whole course again.

Elena Borisova
Elena Borisova

CESL has a rich experience in teaching English as a second language to incoming students as well as staff. In fact, 10 staff from ITMO University participated in the Content Area Teacher Training program in February 2017, which has since lead to a teacher training course in English-Medium Instruction at ITMO.

In a few months, staff from the Institute will come to ITMO to conduct training for our English language lecturers, content teachers and students. The work of the Academic Writing Lab at ITMO University will continue to develop new effective ways to support students and professors engaged in academic writing in English.

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