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ASC: About Us - Our Team

English as an Additional Language (EAL) Supports

English as an Additional Language (EAL) Supports

By: Chelsey Finney & Cody Rogers

 

Picture of Kaleigh QuinnKaleigh Quinn joined the Academic Success Centre three years ago as an EAL Specialist. She collaborates with tutors and program staff to aide students as they develop the necessary language skills to be successful. Kaleigh and other EAL specialists provide students support through individualized and small group tutoring, workshops, and in-classroom services. Kaleigh’s education include a B. Ed, an M. Ed, and TESL Certification. She has extensive experience in supporting EAL learners through K-12, post-secondary, language training, as well as government capacities.

 We wanted to sit down with Kaleigh and discuss how her training and experiences have informed the EAL supports she provides. We also wanted to gain insights into which obstacles students who speak English as a second language commonly encounter. We feel the EAL specialists have a lot of resources and services to help students become more proficient in their academic programs and workplace. Kaleigh highlights the importance of seeking support early on in the learning process.​

 

Q: What have you learned from your training and background experiences that inform your coaching/tutoring style in the Academic Success Centre (ASC)?

Kaleigh: Within the ASC, we use an “English for Specific and Academic Purposes” approach to developing students’ language skills. Meaning, we assess and learn about a student’s current skill sets. Then, we analyze these skill-sets against what is required by their academic program and industry. Afterward, we prioritize the gaps (i.e. between where they are and where they need to be for the program and occupational success) and work with them to develop their language skills; all within the context of their program demands.

Take for example a student in Culinary Arts, who will be listening to and later giving very direct and abrupt orders and instructions in a fast-paced kitchen. In this case, we would not prioritize working on “softeners” for instructions, such as “Would it be possible for you to…”. This is not what is needed in the culinary industry. However, for students in Business and Management programs, these “softeners” and expected ways of delivering negative information and requests politely are really critical for students’ success in the program and industry. Therefore, we prioritize these more highly. In this way, we are able to meet the “specific purpose” of the program and industry.

We learn about the language demands of the program and industry by:

  • Reviewing resources from the program and industry
  • Talking to instructors about the communication demands of their course and industry
  • Talking to students on their co-op placements (or post-graduation) about their experiences with the language and cultural demands of the workplace
  • Analyzing job postings and government resources relating to occupation descriptions

Q: Do you find language barriers with incoming students can have an effect on the approach you take, to help them learn English as an additional language?

Kaleigh: The students we are supporting are already in their academic programs. So, they have already demonstrated that they meet the language proficiency requirements for their program. Despite this, they may still experience a lot of challenges with:

  • Learning the new content of their program, and the specific language and academic skills required for success
  • Building relationships within the program
  • Preparing for the unique contexts and demands of their work placements (within the program or post-graduation).

Many of our students are managing these challenges while they are settling into a new country, and trying to meet the settlement and financial demands of life. So, this can present a very significant challenge.

Depending on a student’s current skill-set, the demands of their program and occupation, their instructors’ assessments of their skills, and the student’s concerns, we may refer them for different language supports within the Academic Success Centre. These supports include:

  •    Existing language workshops within the student’s program
  •    Communication Skills Help Desk
  •    Individual or small group EAL tutoring
  •    The content supports within the ASC              

Q: What are some common obstacles you find students face when trying to learn an additional language such as English?

Kaleigh: Time management: The time needed to learn the academic content of their program, prepare for tests and assignments, meet settlement and family needs outside of college, all while doing this in a second or additional language is challenging. It is very hard to manage all of these commitments with such a limited amount of time. Seeking out supports early (like those available through the ASC) is a critical component of this journey for many students.

Understanding assignment descriptions: College assignments include many components, and require very detailed reading to understand. We spend time working with students to closely read and understand their assignments before they begin working on them, to avoid losing time on misguided work. We encourage students to include understanding the assignment description as part of the overall time needed to complete the actual assignment.

Technical vocabulary in their program: This is a new “language” for all students within an academic program, but it adds an additional load for the EAL students.

Doing the research and incorporating research into assignments: This is a new skill for many students at college, but can be a big challenge for students who speak English as an additional language. We encourage students to start early, seek out support, keep track of their sources, and develop their skills to paraphrase and summarize early to ensure they can meet the demands of these research-based assignments.

Building relationships with others: Because of the limited time available, uncertainty about the language needed and the cultural context to make new friends, some of our students share that they feel socially isolated. They also lack the network that can really be helpful to tap into when looking for work post-graduation. We support students to develop and practice the language skills they need for these purposes. We also encourage students to take a leap and start trying to build these relationships with their classmates and instructors (both through formal and informal ways).

Q: What inspired you to join Red River’s EAL team and work with this demographic of students?

Kaleigh: I have been working with newcomers to Canada for the last 12 years, both in academic and occupational contexts. I find the work extremely meaningful, supporting students with reaching their goals –professional, academic, settlement. It’s amazing to witness and support the incredible, challenging journeys of so many people. 

This position appealed to me because of the challenge and the variety that it presented. I get to work with students across a range of programs, with a wide range of questions and skill-support needs – from Child and Youth Care to Engineering and Management. I also love the team that I work with within the Academic Success Centre. So many intelligent, thoughtful, and supportive people all working together to help students.

“It is awe-inspiring. Seeing students’ motivation and dedication, despite many challenges and obstacles in their way. It motivates me to work harder!”