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Libera Università di Bolzano


Language Learning: incentives are essential!

The quest for the perfect syllabus. An interview with Jemma Prior.

Jemma Prior is a well-known face among language learners at unibz. She started working at unibz two decades ago. The years spent giving classes to university students have taught her many things, but one important one is: a good teacher must be able to involve his or her students and to adapt the study program to meet their needs. 

In a scientific paper you published recently - Integrating extra credit exercises into a university English-language course: how action research provided a framework to identify a practical problem – you focused on a very specific problem: how the teacher can increase the attendance of economics students who are skipping classes. So how did you succeed in tempting the students back to the English classes?
First of all, as I explain in my article, I gathered data on the English language problems of the students. I sent them questionnaires over a three-year period and I interviewed all the academic staff that were teaching in English at the Faculty of Economics at the time in order to find out what difficulties the students encountered during their lessons. Generally, I was interested in discovering what kind of problems learners have when studying in English at the Faculty.  

What problems did you identify?
They were mainly of two kinds. On the one hand, we have students who don’t feel very confident with their speaking skills. Many colleagues agreed on this and said that many students are afraid to speak. For the academic staff, it’s therefore difficult to tell if the students don’t know the subject or if they have problems with English. The students pointed out their writing skills are also weak, another issue which all the professors were aware of. 

How did you use the gathered data?
These data revealed where I should focus my efforts...

Read the whole interview on Academia.