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May the New Year bring new beginnings, creativity, happiness and joy for everyone!

 

 

 

 

 

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Why Chemistry students should be given the chance to notice more scientific conventions (2016)

chemistry-image-to-use-in-pagesMany universities in Europe and Asia encourage their students to take up research writing classes in order to acquaint them with current scientific trends  and conventions. In most pre-sessional and in-sessional English for Academic Purposes (EAP) and English for Specific Purposes (ESP) classes, international students are introduced to formal academic English in accordance with the requirements of  IELTS examinations (Moore and Morton, 2015). However, given the lack of exposure to discipline-based texts in preparation for IELTS exam, teachers often ignore discipline-specific dos and don’ts which students are expected to notice and eventually use in order to communicate veracious scientific data in an appropriate way.

What is more, with discipline-based norms not being set in stone and varying from journal to journal even within the same discipline, undergraduate students are often confused. Coming from a learning environment that traditionally favours the duality principle of right or wrong, widely evident in secondary education around the world, students are often taken aback by the diversity of norms, practices and conventions featuring research papers. Not only are they shocked by the degree of hedging their ESP/EAP teachers use hesitating to commit themselves to anything but they are also dumbfounded by the sheer number of scientific journals within the same field-of-study or sub-discipline and a formidable amount of publications that often contradict each other in terms of content, methodology, evidence and style.

Yet, it is not just students that often feel bewildered by it all. EAP/ESP teachers are way out of their comfort zone when asked to provide generalisations when asked to confirm the normality of a linguistic feature. They often resort to published genre-related papers hoping to find some kind of direction. Not always aware of the very nature of the discourse they are to expose their students to, teachers may proudly show their students tables or research confirming a trend in a specific discipline making sure that they put emphasis on the sheer volume of exceptions, inconsistencies or deviations (Table 1). Then, in an attempt to facilitate student discipline acculturation, teachers find themselves vying for approval within an established status quo. Yet, by doing so, they  deprive their students of experiencing genres as “community resources which allow users to create and read texts with some assurance that they know what they are dealing with” (Hyland, 2015; 33), often misunderstanding an essential element of creativity scientific writing entails.

Table 1. Hyland 2015 Genre, discipline and identity

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It takes a lot of courage and experience to resist the temptation of spoon-feeding students whilst avoiding losing face as an “expert”. As such, some ESP teachers, regardless of their background, tend to fall into the trap of being prescriptive in order to meet the expectations of their students, managers observing classes and peer-pressure. By doing so, they often defy the very purpose of the course they are supposed to be facilitating. They might also deprive their students from the mere realisation that what seems to be the status quo in their discipline is actually highly organic in nature and not static. It evolves constantly depending on various factors. In fact, this realisation may at first bewilder students but eventually it can provide an empowering framework for young scientists, a springboard for academic research publications.

This might explain why more and more ESP teachers recently put more emphasis on noticing genre-specific features and examining the various circumstances and contexts that may determine the choice of one feature over another. They do so, without being prescriptive and by allowing students to make up their own mind regarding what may constitute a “convention” or a current trend. In an attempt to provide even more chances of discipline acculturation, some teachers may adapt existing processes by encouraging students to take an active role of peer-reviewers instead of just being recipients of teacher feedback, hopefully becoming more accountable for their own learning and taking ownership of their own experience “by constant exposure to [their] discourse…[and] work[ing] out what norm the[ir] group favours” (Hyland, 2015;33). Besides, isn’t that what every single national framework for teaching science aspires to attain?

References

Hyland, K. (2015) Genre discipline and identity. Journal of English for academic Purposes 19, 32-43.

Moore, T. and Morton, J. (2005) Dimensions of difference: a comparison of university writing and IELTS writing. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 4, 43-66.

 

 

Argumentative essay question for chemistry students (2016)

Researchers have developed man-made diamonds that when in close proximity of radioactive field, can generate electric current as a nuclear battery. They claim to have paved the way to a new clean ‘Diamond-age’ of power generation as, despite their low power, their batteries appear to be highly efficient as well as emission and maintenance free.

Read more here or watch the following video and then answer the following question:

Some researchers claim that when it comes to energy-harvesting the risks posed by tampering with radioactivity and the energy required to build nuclear batteries cannot be offset by their potential benefits. Argue for or against this claim and provide up-to-date scientific evidence to support your stance. 

 

Chemistry Mnemonics in an EAP class

Mnemonics are often used by chemistry students to enable them to regurgitate information. Associating chemical reactions, groups of elements in the periodic table  or orbitals with images to boost one’s memory can also be quite handy for international students grappling with new vocabulary.

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Today I used this drawing as an example of what happens at the cathode and anode of redox relations regarding loss or gain of electrons in electrolytic cells. The picture itself was self-explanatory and everybody seemed to understand what I was trying to say.

Plus, the smile on my students’ face was priceless.

On Argumentative essays

This week we looked at causes and effects of laboratory accidents as well as laboratory equipment uses and tips. E1 students will have to write their first 300 word argumentative essay on a relevant topic (check out post on online platform).

Just a quick reminder to those of you writing this type of essay for the first time. In science you cannot “prove” anything as “proof” is a mathematical term. Instead, you can provide evidence of recent, relevant, measurable and verifiable data to support your claim. Plus, writing an argumentative essay is about perspective (not truth) which might explain why you need to include counter-arguments and use solid evidence to back up your claims; just make sure your claims are based on facts and logical deductions (not just opinions).

The following link is about being critical and providing counterarguments; it clearly describes how you should use counterarguments to provide a well rounded analysis of perspectives and views on the issue discussed: How to build your critical response using argument-counter argument

This essay should also meet the following criteria listed here

I will be posting more on this next week. For now, just remember: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response.” Viktor E. Frankl

Kallia Katsampoxaki-Hodgetts
In-sessional EAP/ESP instructor/lecturer
School of Science and Engineering, University of Crete
Email: katsampoxaki@uoc.gr
https://twitter.com/kalliacrete

化学学术英语-克里特大学夏季预科课程

In a bid to explain writing conventions for different audiences to Materials science and Chemistry students

I came across this really interesting article from MIT which featured a pertinent example of the impact of cutting edge research, experimentation and serendipity. This discovery could lead to cost-effective and environmentally friendlier metal-production systems than those involved in most traditional metal smelting. With this process, researchers paved the way for the potential fabrication of more abundant and economically important metals such as copper and nickel.

When I read the actual paper in nature communications  and a few other science-related but not always scientific websites, I noticed stark differences between the writing style, wording, structure, argumentation and evidence.

In a bid to introduce fine nuances between academic and journalistic writing i.e. writing for different audiences, I put together a selection of articles on the same topic and asked my students to find similarities and differences. Then, I asked them to come up with “guidelines” or “rules” regarding academic/scientific writing. Following contentious discussions of “do’s and don’ts”, I then asked them to rank their rules in terms of importance, which created havoc among them as they could never reach consensus.

It worked out to be a great but time-consuming activity that enhanced not just students’ noticing skills but critical thinking. At the end of the lesson, students had to write a critical comparison of the scientific and the not-so-scientific articles.