In our commitment to academic excellence at the University of Michigan, the English Language Institute has a responsibility to foster a learning environment where graduate students from non-English language educational backgrounds are fully and effectively participating in the varied and various instructional roles available to graduate students. As we assist these students in becoming active members of the instructional community, we recognize that our practices have both an impact on and are impacted by the social, intellectual, and educational climate of the University. We advocate and endorse those institutional policies and practices that equitably address the needs and rights of graduate students from non-English medium educational backgrounds, while, at the same time, valuing the needs and rights of other graduate students, undergraduate students, the faculty, the departments, and the various Colleges. We believe that the entire University community is responsible for successful teaching and learning and this can best be accomplished through collaborative programs and services.
To fulfill our responsibilities to the University, the English Language Institute provides a coordinated Testing and Instructional Program for graduate student instructors (GSIs) from non-English medium educational backgrounds. We develop and administer valid and reliable procedures for evaluating the English language classroom competency of prospective GSIs. We develop and provide instruction and on-going support to assist these prospective and new GSIs to become confident and competent GSIs at the University. Our instruction is designed for advanced English language learners to expand their linguistic repertoire, to enhance the intelligibility and comprehensibility of their spoken English, and to develop the communicative strategies that enable them and their interlocutors to engage fruitfully in teaching and learning together. Preparing these graduate students for their GSI roles contributes to their graduate education and personal and professional growth. We conduct and are informed by applied linguistics research, particularly in the fields of academic discourse, second language acquisition, language assessment, pedagogy, and intercultural communication.
Guiding Theoretical Principles
Our educational practices are guided by the following key theoretical principles and assumptions
Language and Communication
To derive meaning from language, the specific context of use is essential. Meaning is co-constructed and negotiated by participants of an interaction. Elements contributing to the development of meaning include background knowledge (content, cultural, social, linguistic) of the participants, social and cultural membership of the participants, the situated context of the interaction, nonverbal behavior, and the propositional content of the utterances. Culture is an integral component of context, and, by extension, language and culture represent a coherent whole and one cannot be separated from the other.
(Berger and Luckman 1967; Blum-Kulka, House, & Kapser 1989; Goffman 1974, 1981; Gumperz 1982a, 1982b, 1992; Halliday 1978; Jenkins & Parra 2003; Levinson 1983; Montgomery 2003; Ranney 1994; Tyler 1995; Young & He 1998).
Successful teacher performance is determined in part by the interaction of language competency, subject matter knowledge, the use of multiple teaching approaches, reflection on and adaptation of practices, and interpersonal skills. As stated by Popham (1967:2), "the quality of learning which transpires in a given instructional situation is a function of particular instructional procedures employed by a particular instructor for particular students with particular goals in mind."
(Inglis 1993; Larsen-Freeman 2000; Popham 1967; Stroot et al. 1998).
Communicative Language Ability
Multiple affective, cognitive, linguistic, cultural, social, and contextual variables interact to influence second language acquisition. Communicative language competence/proficiency is a dynamic, multi-trait ability, minimally consisting of language competence (grammatical, textual, pragmatic, sociolinguistic), strategic competence (assessing, planning, production), and neurological and physiological mechanisms. Communicative language use develops from the interaction between language users, the context, and the discourse. Therefore, communicative language instruction and assessment must be individualized to reflect the particular needs of the learners within specific contexts and unique discourse domains.
(Bachman 1990; Bhatia 2002; Chalhoub-Deville 2003; Douglas 2000; Halleck & Moder 1995; Hoekje & Linnell 1994; Hoekje & Williams 1994; Myers 1994; Smith et al. 1992; Swain 1985)