The Effects of English-Medium Instruction on Language Proficiency of Students Enrolled in Higher Education in the UAE
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This research seeks to discover what happens to students’ English language skills while studying in English-medium classes in UAE universities, and to look at how this compares with what instructors and students think happens to students’ English proficiency during the four years of study. This is explored through a retrospective panel study using a test/retest method to investigate score gains on the IELTS exam after four years of undergraduate study. Student and teacher beliefs about how English-medium instruction (EMI) affects language proficiency, the need for language support after admission, and the selection and delivery of course materials are discussed in conjunction with the research findings, leading to recommendations for institutions whose primary goal in using EMI is to increase proficiency. This research continues the exploratory research of Elder and O’Loughlin (2003) and O’Loughlin and Arkoudis (2009) regarding score gains in IELTS after a course of study, but this study is situated in a society where the language of instruction is not the language of communication for the students outside the university and at home. The research findings indicate that there is a statistically significant score gain in all four of the English-language skill areas that are tested by the IELTS exam after four years of EMI for the participants in this study. The most gain occurred in the area of speaking, followed by reading, writing and then listening. Results from questionnaires and interviews indicate that students and teachers have different perceptions regarding language ability and the problems associated with the use of English for instruction. Students generally do not feel that studying in English causes problems for them, and they rate their ability in listening, reading, writing and speaking as good to excellent. On the other hand, teachers do not feel their students’ language ability meets expectations for students studying in an English-medium environment and think that their students are especially weak in the areas of writing and listening. Teachers feel that they must make adaptations to course content and assessment criteria due to students’ language ability. The research indicates that institutions whose goal it is to increase language proficiency through EMI need to have clear instructional goals in place for language development along with support systems for teachers and learners throughout the entire educational experience and not just in pre-academic support programs.
This research explores improvement of students’ English language skills while studying in English-medium classes in one UAE university, and how this compares with what instructors and students think happens to students’ English proficiency during the four years of study.
EdD in TESOL