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Developing 21st century citizens

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A husband and wife team explain how and why they developed a new EAP course which helps students recognise their role as global citizens

ELT ‘golden couple’ Peter Levrai and Averil Bolster have been working together in ELT for 22 years and recently won an ELTon award for innovation in learner resources for Develop EAP, an English for Academic Purposes course. Here, they explain how and why they produced the programme, which is focused around the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Peter Levrai and Averil Bolster write: When we were working at the University of Macau (UM) we had the chance to redevelop the qualifying English course – the one that all students have to pass to graduate from their degree programme. Our main aim was to develop a course which would equip the students with the language and academic skills they would need to succeed in their degree studies and beyond.

The first two years of course development and piloting were really about clarifying the objectives and assessments, particularly how to structure and assess collaborative essays, an important innovation of the course.

After running the course for two years, though, we still had concerns about the topics, which were too focused on the humanities. In Macau we had mixed-discipline classes and wanted a topic which was relevant and accessible to students from any degree programme. We also wanted a topic with longevity that could be revisited over subsequent cohorts and kept up to date without major redevelopment.

Averil came up with the great idea of using the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set out by the UN. They cover a range of urgent global issues – from poverty to gender equality, climate action to strong institutions. This means that within the SDGs there is truly something to capture anyone’s imagination, and it is a rich topic for multidisciplinary study.

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 Once we had started designing our course and materials, we realised that there were a lot of resources available for schools based on the SDGs but there was a relative lack of SDG resources suitable for university-level students. Even though they are global goals, they can be approached on a regional, local and individual level. More importantly, there are constantly new resources and articles about the SDGs for teachers to draw on and students to explore.

One of the things we’re proudest of about the course is its flexibility and adaptability. We made a decision to use the classroom booklet to introduce the SDGs and the academic skills the students needed. More in-depth topic awareness development took place through videos and texts linked via Moodle, and included quizzes and discussion forums. This allows for a level of sustainability, where the classroom booklet can remain relatively unchanged while the resources in Moodle can be updated regularly. Furthermore, the course was written for an English for General Academic Purposes context but could easily be adapted for use with single discipline classes where students could do more focused analysis of the SDGs through the lens of their field of study. It could also productively be used on pre-sessional, in-sessional and foundation courses. Given the focus on academic skills, it could also be of value to native speakers.

Last academic year we piloted the course at the University of Macau and it was well received by teachers and students, who came out with some genuinely interesting and thoughtful work. We also presented the course at the Iatefl and Baleap conferences in April, and it generated a lot of interest and positive feedback. Develop EAP offers teachers a really relevant course that can help students recognise their role as 21st century citizens and also think about some of the global challenges they will face throughout their lifetimes.

 PETERLEVRAIweb

Teachers Peter Levrai and Averil Bolster have worked in universities around the world. They are currently based at the University of Eastern Finland delivering a course to Saudi educators.