Teaching and Learning

A lot of research by CLaC members focuses on the use of corpus linguistics and corpus analysis in the teaching of languages. Data-driven learning (DDL) is a language learning approach which puts the learner firmly at the centre of things, encouraging them to engage with corpus data, discover lexico-grammatical patterns for themselves, and think of language learning as a kind of research project. Simon Smith’s research takes DDL a stage further, asking learners to actually construct the corpora they are going to use, rather than merely consult them.

The BAWE Quicklinks project is interested in the relationship between corpus research and teaching. The aim of the project is to raise students’ awareness of how English works, by linking errors and ‘infelicitous’ uses of English found in their assignments to carefully edited concordances retrieved from the British Academic Written English (BAWE) corpus. See also our news page for upcoming BAAL Corpus Linguistics SIG Event – ‘New Directions in DDL‘.

One of the issues in teaching English for academic study, whether in pre-sessional or in-sessional courses, is the extent to which teaching should be more general or more discipline specific. This is particularly an issue for mixed disciplinary groups, or where the teacher is not a specialist in the disciplines of the students. The genre instantiation approach (Gardner, 2016) offers a method that draws on BAWE corpus resources to provide a link between general class teaching on the nature and sections of genres such as case studies or lab reports, for instance, and specific instances of these genres from across the disciplines. As with data driven learning, some corpus preparation to guide students to appropriate instances initially is beneficial, and as students become more expert in corpus investigation, they gain confidence and independence as learners.

The Writing for a Purpose website on the British Council Learn English website offers online teaching materials developed by CLaC members that are available internationally. These can be accessed by discipline, genre, or language (e.g. useful vocabulary), and can be used by students individually or in class. Gardner (2016) provides examples of lesson plans that incorporate these materials for pre-sessional teaching of design specifications and in-sessional teaching of recommendations in case studies.