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The Use of English in Veterinary Education Curriculum, Article Review Example

Pages: 11

Words: 3042

Article Review

Teaching English for special purposes (ESP) should have a different approach than general language education. The use of language, phrases, expressions differs from one profession to another. The below literature review will look at some curriculum modification methods that can make teaching English for specific purposes more effective. For the purpose of simplicity, the authors will use Hutchinson and Waters’  (1991, p.  3) definition of ESL: a teaching approach of “designing courses to meet learners’ needs”.

The challenges of ESP Courses and Teachers

Day and Krzanowski (2011) conclude that all teaching of English should be tailored to individual needs. This statement also indicates that English education should be different for those in the medical profession, and engineers. Today, there are some ESP courses designed for working professionals, who need English for communication, reviewing research literature, or are moving to English speaking countries to practice their profession. The challenge of ESP teachers is that they need to read up on the subject they teach, and being assigned an ESP class does not necessarily mean that they are experts in the field. Preparation is one of the most important steps teachers can make to modify the course curriculum and tailor it to the needs of learners. However, in most cases, it is also important to engage in meaningful conversations with students, to find out more about their professional life, challenges, and what they are going to use the language for.

The authors (Day and Krzanowski, 2011, p. 19) recommend that teachers take into consideration the class profile, the aims of the course, learning outcomes expectations, anticipated difficulties, assumptions, pronunciation issues, and select the materials to be used and curriculum accordingly.

Curriculum Development

Hutchinson and Waters (1991) conclude that the need for ESL education arose when the revolution of linguistics happened. The shift meant that from classical linguistics approach, educators started to focus on how the language was actually being used. Learning a language from books will never be as effective as moving to the country where it is being used every day, and communicating using the same expressions that proficient people do. Therefore, experts and educators realized that the linguistic characteristics of the group need to be taken into consideration when developing a course. The focus shifted from the rules of the language to the learner (Hutchinson and Waters, 1991). While the concept of special language was introduced, it was also evident that learners had to focus on the rhetorical structure, as well as the sentences themselves. The learner-centered approach that has been developing since the end of the second World War is still improving, and has an even higher importance in the globalized world than any other time in the history. The authors (Hutchinson and Waters, 1991, p. 14) call this shift the fifth stage of ESP development.

It is also important to note that – According to Hutchinson and Waters (1991) ESP is an approach, and not a product. It cannot be defined as “a particular kind of language or methodology, nor does it consist of particular teaching material” (p. 19).

The approach of ESP should result in a customized course design that reflects the aims, goals, expectations, and attitudes of learners. The basic questions that course and curriculum developers should be asking themselves before creating a course are: what students would like to learn, how they would be involved in the learning process, what is the learning environment, time limit, and the needs of the groups.

During curriculum development, educators need to consider the needs of learners. As Hutchinson and Waters (1991, p. 53) summarize the issue: “What distinguishes ESP from General English is not the existence of a need as such but rather the awareness of the need”. In order to successfully modify the course material, educators need to find out what distinguishes the group of learners from those who are studying “General English”. Target needs are determined by necessities, lacks, and wants of the group.

The authors (Hutchinson and Waters, 1991) mention different course design approaches that can help teachers with tailoring the learning materials to the needs of students. The three design approaches are: language-centered, skills-centered, and learning-centered.

Curriculum selection methods and strategies are also described by Nunes (1999) is trying to distinguish between EFL (English as a foreign language) courses for general and specific purposes. The author asks the question: should EFL courses be general or goal-oriented? The author, just like Hutchinson and Waters find that there is a shift in language teaching from general to specific. Interestingly, the author reviews the English education system related to higher education in Portugal, where the language is taught for academic or educational purposes. Distinguishing between the two purposes might be a good approach towards curriculum development, as evidently researchers would need a somewhat different vocabulary set than those who practice the profession. While several learning materials have already been developed, such as English for science and technology. Further, medical English has existed for many years, and is currently being used by bilingual education institutions. As the current focus of the literature review is the use of ESP in veterinary education, this issue of specific dictionaries and education materials is extremely relevant. The author (Nunes, 1999) mentions curriculum development for social sciences, and technology, however, there are some specific courses for other professions, as well.

Salas et al. (2013) state that when developing a specific curriculum, teachers need to consider and negotiate needs, possibilities, and promises. Further, the author (Salas et al. 2013, p. 13) state the need that “ESP-specific vocabulary is presented in context, or closed communicative activities whereby learners put new words into practice within the context of their professional activities”. The above statement is extremely relevant to the research area the current literature review is focusing on, as veterinary training consists of both practical and theoretical education. One needs to take into consideration the skills inventory, the written and spoken professional use of the language within the profession, and focus on the areas of training. Further, the article also states that ESL course curriculum should be strategic, purposeful, and context specific. The focus in veterinary education should be on all three of the above qualities:  being specific means that individuals have to understand basic concepts, symptoms, and conditions, treatments, and approaches in English. The education should also be in line with the purpose of the course. Therefore, those working in disease control would need to use and posses different language skills and vocabulary sets than general practitioners who work in a veterinary surgery treating domesticated animals. It also matters which setting the professional would be using the language in: dealing with pet owners, or working on large farms owned by corporations, dealing with disease prevention and control.

Learners’ Outcomes

According to Salas et al. (2013, p. 18), “ESP needs analyses should be participatory—honoring and involving the perspectives of those on the receiving end of coursework”. This is an important aspect of language education for specific purposes, and can positively affect learners’ outcomes. Interactive education tools, conversations based on real life scenarios can improve the confidence of students and help them effectively use their language skills in their future profession. Still, the authors also highlight that some differences in professionals’ and educators’ interest and purposes might exist, and negotiation is needed to develop a course material that is relevant to both needs. Bringing up the example of a North Carolina farm, where migrant workers need to improve their language skills to comply with related health and safety regulators, the authors find a conflict of interest: workers would look at the course as a way of improving their general English conversational skills to get on with their new lives better, therefore, they would expect more general English to be taught. However, the farm’s owner has specific needs, and would not necessarily want to pay for basic English as a Foreign Language education.

Butler-Pascoe (2009) mentions how technological tools can improve the outcomes of TEFL and ESP education. In her introduction, the author makes an interesting remark about the roles of ESP. The author does not simply state that ESP is a standalone, technical education, but assumes that it serves two different roles: to acquire content knowledge in the specific field, and to develop English skills to be able to perform the job.

Effectiveness and Models of ESL

Butler-Pascoe (2009) describes three different models for delivering ESL. ESP taught by English teachers, based on modified curriculum is one of the most common delivery methods. Field-specific courses are more practice-based, and take into consideration the challenges of day-to-day tasks. The collaborative model, however, employs field-specific English teachers, and incorporate basic skills and practice-based scenarios. According to the author  (Butler-Pascoe, 2009, p. 3)  the main goal of profession-specific English education should be “to facilitate students’ skills to negotiate meaning in their professions and disciplines. Competence in research, communication, and understanding of issues is required to perform the job in English speaking settings.

One of the most effective instruction models that the author (Butler-Pascoe. 2009) mentions is task-based instruction, inquiry-based learning, and authentic audiences. Using WebQuest, for example, has been proven to be effective in improving learners’ language understanding and knowledge negotiation skills. The role of technology in today’s higher education is constantly growing, and many professionals (medical or animal health, alike) often look up information on the internet when searching for recommendations, treatment options, or general advice. Tasks assigned through GLOBE Network can be iterative ways of learning the specific uses of English.

There are several methods mentioned by the author, such as creating PowerPoint presentations for educational purposes, where narration is used. This  approach is effective in improving both written and spoken language skills of course participants. Web-based tools for video or voice interaction can also be useful, and they can be implemented in distance learning, as well as campus-based tuition.

English language learning through content teaching is also mentioned by the review, and this is an important method that should not be neglected. Indeed, many higher education institutions are now implementing bilingual instruction, in order to improve their students’ skills of understanding, communicating, and negotiating knowledge. This method will be discussed in detail when looking at ESL built in higher education curriculum.

Just like other authors, Butler-Pascoe (2009) also mentions student-centered ESP teaching as an effective approach. Indeed, when starting a course, there will be differences in individuals’ language skills and existing knowledge about different areas. This means that assessing the proficiency level of the group is necessary for developing an effective curriculum. It is also important that teachers select the right medium for delivering learning materials and lessons. One of the benefits of computer-based learning mentioned by the author is that it fosters the autonomy of students, and it is possible to track results of tests and assessments. As not all participants would feel comfortable speaking in front of a group or their classmates in a language they do not feel proficient enough, using computer-based software is a good way of overcoming barriers. As students build up a basic knowledge and vocabulary base, they can then move on to creating presentations and practice situational conversations with others in the group. Classroom scenarios can be extremely effective when trying to deliver job-related vocabulary and conversational skills.

ESP Built in Special Curriculum

Shing and Sim (2011) states that ESP is often focused around academic research and writing skills. That stated, in order to help students who struggle with academic English, it would be beneficial to include English induction, or translated materials in the curriculum, so they can understand the importance of English in research, using sources, and communicating with other professionals. While the area of teaching academic subjects (partly) in English is not fully explored yet, it is a promising approach. While teaching in English is not possible for students who have limited language skills, once they reach a level of proficiency, teaching different subjects in English would be an effective way of delivering essential, relevant, and up-to-date knowledge and competencies. In higher education, English is commonly needed for completing academic work, researching, and reading on subjects. According to Shing and Sim (2011, p. 5), there are several situations where EAP (English of Academic Purposes) is needed: “lecture / talks, seminars / tutorials / discussions / supervisions, practical / laboratory work / field work, private study, reference material, etc.”.

Alduais (2012) analyzed the ESP syllabus of Yemeni and Saudi Arabian universities. The author highlights the fact that English is the language of most academic journals, therefore, higher education institutions should always incorporate it into the course syllabus. The main goal of integrating ESP in mainstream induction, according to Alduais (2012, p. 249) is that “they need the basics of this language, albeit, reading and comprehending what they have read, writing reports for their experiments or whatsoever, and etc”. However, this approach does not take into consideration the need for communication, which is extremely important for many professions. Comparing the two approaches: teaching English as a second language in universities, and for specific purposes, it is evident that when English is the secondary teaching language, users become more proficient. Every department has the right to decide whether English is built in the curriculum as a second induction language, or an ESP course. Evaluating individual syllabuses helps universities determine the right approach.

ESP for Veterinarian Education

Using English for Veterinarian science purposes is discussed by the Quality Assurance Agency (2002) as a problematic area that needs to be regulated and controlled. Most people who complete higher education courses work in general practices, and can be specialized for different medical areas. Some of the professionals would deal predominantly with farm animals’ health issues and checks, while others would treat domesticated animals. The diversity of the profession means that even within the veterinary education, differences in curriculum for ESP can, and should exist. Evidently, those who choose to work in disease control and research will need more specific academic language skills, as they will be required to analyze, summarize, and research materials that are written in English. Further, the benchmark document (Quality Assurance Agency, 2002, p. 8) mentions that professionals are required to “obtain information from a variety of sources”. As several publications and research journals are today published online, it is important that veterinary professionals have an adequate and usable language skill that helps them through higher education and their professional development alike.

Lu et al. (2013) talks about practical issues related to veterinary education and English for specific purposes. Teaching Veterinary Surgery Medicine (VSM) is important for those who are looking to move into specialized or general practice and need to use their knowledge on a daily basis. However, students who need to perform their jobs for some time in an English speaking country would potentially face difficulties and be disadvantaged. This is the reason why there is a need for integrating English tuition in the curriculum. However, it is also mentioned by the authors that Northwest A&F University exploits the opportunities provided by modern communication technology, and tutors use multimedia facilities to engage with students on another level. The authors mention that there is currently a shortage in updated, relevant, and interactive teaching resources in Chinese. This indicates that universities worldwide could solve two problems at the same time by integrating English language materials in the curriculum. They could improve the language skills of students, allow them to interpret and negotiate online journal articles and research, while they would also have access to more relevant content online. One of the recommended solutions for improving the quality of teaching in the particular university is to integrate problem based learning facilities in the curriculum. This said, creating learning materials that look at problems and their negotiation in English could also make ESP education more effective, enjoyable, and learner-focused.

Read and Hacker (2013) reviewed the curriculum of the University of Calgary. The authors found that one of the main focus areas of veterinary education should be Declarative knowledge. According to the authors, (Read & Hacker, 2013, p. 1), “declarative knowledge relates to the justification for performing the skill”, therefore, it is important in professions where subject knowledge and technical skills are equally important. Integrating English in not only academic tuition, but also clinical skills education with real life setting would improve learning outcomes for those who would like to learn the profession in English, as well as their native language.

Conclusion

The above review has shown that curriculum modification, learner and profession assessment are essential for developing a specific ESP course. In Veterinarian education, it is important to incorporate English as a professional language, and review several scholarly sources, textbooks during the course, in order to ensure students are confident in both written and spoken English. Language acquisition should not be restricted to vocabulary or grammar knowledge: more importantly communication and task-related language skills. Integrating ESP in the curriculum of professional training is essential, as academic research in the globalized world has become problematic for those without English comprehension and knowledge negotiation skills, including those who participate in veterinary training.

References

Alduais, A. (2012) Analysis of ESP Syllabus: Analysing the Book Basic English for Computing as a Sample and Testing its Suitability for ESP Learners in Public and Private Yemeni and Saudi Arabian Universities.  International Journal of Academic Research in         Business and Social Sciences November 2012, Vol. 2, No. 11

Butler-Pascoe, M. (2009) English for Specific Purposes (ESP), Innovation, and technology. English Education and ESP. June 2009. pp. 1-15.

Day, J. & Krzannowski, M. (2011) Teaching English for Specific Purposes: An introduction. Cambridge University Press.

Hutchinson, T. & Waters, A, (1991) English for Specific Purposes: A  learning-centered approach. University of Cambridge.

Read EK, Hecker KG (2013) The Development and Delivery of a Systematic Veterinary Clinical Skills Education Program at the University of Calgary. Journal of Veterinary Science Technology, S4: 004.doi:10.4172/2157-7579.S4-004

Nunes, M. (1999) Teaching English for specific purposes: The GUTs to do it. Universidade do Porto

Lu, D., Ma, X., Zhang, Y. & Li, M. (2013)  The teaching of veterinary surgery medicine in Northwest A&F University. Creative Education 2013. Vol.4, No.1, 35-38

Salas, S., Mercado, L., Ouedraogo, L. & Musetti, B. (2013) English for Specific Purposes: Negotiating needs, possibilities, and promises. English Teaching Forum. 2013. Number 4.

Shing, S. &  Sim, T. (2011) EAP needs analysis in higher education: Significance and future direction. English for Specific Purposes World. Issue 33, Volume 11, 2011

Quality Assurance Agency (2002) Subject benchmark statements. Retrieved from http://www.qaa.ac.uk/en/Publications/Documents/Subject-benchmark-statement- Veterinary-science-.pdf

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