Colloquium Presentation

Colloquium Presentation - Closing the Communication Gap...

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Closing the Communication Gap Between Undergraduates and Mathematics Professors Charles Center Honors Colloquium Dan Villarreal February 15, 2010
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Accessing this Presentation Copies of this presentation and the handout are posted at http://djvill.people.wm.edu/Colloquium.html In addition, feel free to email me for more information at [email protected]
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Introduction “My professors are brilliant, but I just can’t understand them!” “Chinese 101, a prerequisite to Calculus?” Is accent really the problem? Who’s responsible for solving it? What can we do to help students better understand their professors?
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Presentation Format Literature Review Quantitative Methods and Results Qualitative Methods and Results Conclusion Questions (time permitting)
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Literature Review
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Backstory Beginning in the 1980s, the majority of American-born science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) graduates began to choose jobs in industry rather than academia (Mooney, 1989) By 1989, more than half of STEM degree recipients were foreign-born (Mooney, 1989)
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The “Foreign TA Problem” In 1984, the linguist Kathleen Bailey identified what she called the “Foreign TA Problem”: “the communicative difficulties engendered by [the interaction between non-native speaking teaching assistants and their students]” (Bailey, 1984, p. 3) In a 1980 study of University of Minnesota undergraduates, almost half reported that having a ITA had hurt the quality of a course they had taken, whereas only 9% believed that an ITA had helped (cited in Bailey, 1984)
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The Communication Gap A 1989 study examined the effects of instructor gender, student SAT score, class term, age, international TA, and textbook on undergraduates’ test scores in a macroeconomics survey course. Of these, no variable was responsible for a greater drop in scores than was the presence of an international TA (Watts & Lynch, 1989) Anecdotal problems abound
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The Communication Gap, Cont’d The problem goes beyond the properties of the professor’s speech, however. Students in lecture with Chinese professor performed significantly worse than with American professor (Rubin, 1992) At least so they thought… Prof. Li’s California story Thus, in my formulation, the communication gap consists not only of actual misunderstanding, but also of bias
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English Language Learners The older a second language learner is at the time of learning a language, the more difficult it becomes to make one’s accent resemble a native accent (Gass & Selinker, 2001; Krashen, Long, & Scarcella, 1979) English language learners can have great difficulties pinpointing the source of accent- related communication breakdowns (Derwing, 2003)
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Professor Training Many universities, especially state universities, mandate that new hires (especially TAs) whose first language is not English pass TSE, TOEFL, SPEAK (Cassell, 2007; Davies, Tyler, and Koran, 1989; Plakans, 1997) Several researchers have doubts as to the efficacy of these tests in evaluating classroom readiness (Halleck and Moder, 1995; Tyler, 1992; Young, 1989)
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