Clark Revamps Int’l Student English Program

By Leo Washburn in News

In a constantly changing world, educational institutions must evolve to provide the best tools for their students.

To keep up with the current needs of its international students, Clark launched the Intensive English Language Program this fall.

Kimberly Russell, faculty lead and instructor for the IELP, researched and developed the program as a revision of the English for Non-Native Speakers curriculum.

The ENL program was written five years ago, but in the years since, Clark’s population of international students has changed. Certain scores were once required to get into college. That requirement was removed.

“We needed to revise how we brought in students, what levels would be available and update the curriculum to bring it up to date with what is current best practices,” Russell said.

Starting in January she spent several weeks researching. She worked quickly. By spring the curriculum and texts were approved. In August the teaching staff involved with the program received their training.

Russell’s background and connections facilitated her research and development of the program. For over 25 years she has been teaching English as a second language both domestically and abroad. She is currently on the board of the Washington state affiliate of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages. She has been teaching at Clark since 2001.

She reviewed the curriculum that was in place as well as what was going on in colleges in the region as well as nationwide.

One of IELP’s features she is most proud of is that it gives the international students an opportunity to learn math at the pre-college level.

“Even though math is numbers, there is a lot of English in it,” she said. “If I am talking about the face of a cube, for instance, that’s different than your face.”

Very few international programs in the nation address this math language issue.

The new program also includes more levels of English. Only intermediate and advanced levels were available before. This left a void for people who were still in the early stages of learning a language.

Not all international students need to take IELP. If they have previous college level English, they do not need to take the Compass placement test. Without this, however, international students take an ESL version of Compass Test along with an in-house writing assessment.

Stand-alone pronunciation classes are emphasized less than in years past.

“Research shows that after you learn a language after your mid-teens you are not likely to master a language to the point of no longer having an accent. A more integrated approach to teaching pronunciation is more useful and more valuable.”

Faculty are working together planning lessons to ensure each course is integrated so the vocabulary and other elements are re-emphasized.

The “intensive” part of the program’s new name is evident in the students’ schedule. International students are required to take 18 credit hours while they are in the English Language program.

However, in its early stages the feedback is positive.

According to Russell, the students say that they feel they have the education they wanted and needed. They feel more confident in their personal lives even in these first few weeks. Continuing students are saying they feel the courses have been improved.

With the new IELP revisions, the goal is not just to survive but thrive.

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