Thank you for visiting. This blog is here to provide a place where we can share ideas on teaching EAP via Creative Approach to Language Teaching (CALT). CALT has been inspired by ideas of Ken Robinson, Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, Edward de Bono and many others who find creativity a natural part of our intelligence and necessary component of learning. It focuses on divergent thinking and combines constructivist, ICT-enhanced and task-based learning methods with a community-of-practice style of communication. Its basic aim is to make language learning in higher education as natural as possible.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

De-personalisation of academic language

The aim of this activity is to let students find out why it can be useful to de-personalise academic texts. It can show the importance of being aware of different perspectives we can adopt and consequent changes in work with language. It can be based on any type of film that is related to students´ fields of studies, ideally, a film, topic or situation most of them are not familiar with.

First, we show students a short part of a film. The instruction is just to watch the sequence, no title, names, characters or context are mentioned or explained before students watch that.
                                                                                                         (Hotel Rwanda, 2004)
Second, students are asked to write down a few sentences describing what they have seen. Then, they discuss their versions: first in pairs and then together with the rest of the class. All ideas, perspectives, points of view and types of expression are appreciated.

Third, students are given a text that offers a brief context to the situation. They are given time to read the text. It can also be useful to discuss some language issues or the meaning of the text. Some important information may be added to make sure everybody understands the context. For example:
Rwanda Genocide
Rwanda’s population of seven million was composed of three ethnic groups: Hutu (approximately 85%), Tutsi (14%) and Twa (1%). In the early 1990s, Hutu extremists within Rwanda’s political elite blamed the entire Tutsi minority population for the country’s increasing social, economic, and political pressures. The Hutu remembered past years of oppressive Tutsi rule, and many of them not only resented but also feared the minority.
On April 6, 1994, a plane carrying President Habyarimana, a Hutu, was shot down. Violence began almost immediately after that. Under the cover of war, Hutu extremists launched their plans to destroy the entire Tutsi civilian population. Political leaders who might have been able to take charge of the situation and other high profile opponents of the Hutu extremist plans were killed immediately. Tutsi and people suspected of being Tutsi were killed in their homes and as they tried to flee at roadblocks set up across the country during the genocide. Entire families were killed at a time. Women were systematically and brutally raped. It is estimated that some 200,000 people participated in the perpetration of the Rwandan genocide.
In the weeks after April 6, 1994, 800,000 men, women, and children perished in the Rwandan genocide, perhaps as many as three quarters of the Tutsi population. At the same time, thousands of Hutu were murdered because they opposed the killing campaign and the forces directing it.
Policymakers in France, Belgium, and the United States and at the United Nations were aware of the preparations for massive slaughter and failed to take the steps needed to prevent it. Aware from the start that Tutsi were being targeted for elimination, the leading foreign actors refused to acknowledge the genocide. Not only did international leaders reject what was going on, but they also declined for weeks to use their political and moral authority to challenge the legitimacy of the genocidal government. They refused to declare that a government guilty of exterminating its citizens would never receive international assistance. They did nothing to silence the radio that televised calls for slaughter. Even after it had become indisputable that what was going on in Rwanda was a genocide, American officials had shunned the g-word, fearing that it would cause demands for intervention.
                                                              (Adapted from: http://www.unitedhumanrights.org/genocide/genocide_in_rwanda.htm)

Forth, students are asked to contextualise their first texts. In other words, they should re-write their original pieces of writing using the information from the Rwanda Genocide text.

Then, types of changes are discussed. Students should exchange their ideas in pairs or groups and then share their ideas together in class. We focus on the differences between their text number one, based only on watching a segment of a film, and the text number two, based on watching a segment of a film with a context of the situation.
Students come up with a lot of different ideas but there are always some changes relevant to academic context that we can highlight, such as:

- improvement of accuracy: people → Hutus, Tutsies; in Africa → in Kigali, Rwanda;
- improvement of sentence or paragraph structure: forming full sentences or introducing a topic sentence at the beginning of their short text
- improvement of style: some say they try to be more formal (even automatically)
- higher responsibility: feeling "a higher level of fear” of making mistakes
- attempt to create a “more objective” description of the situation

This discussion can but does not have to have a concluding character. We can engage students in one more activity to offer them a more complex view on reasons for de-personalisation in the academic context.

In this part, students are given roles. In this case, they can include:

It is 12th April 1994, Kigali, Rwanda.
You are a European tourist at a hotel. There is a brutal civil war going on in this country and you are being evacuated.

It is 12th April 1994, Kigali, Rwanda.
You are a United Nations peacekeeping forces general. Your order is to evacuate citizens of foreign countries from Rwanda. You know you are safe because Rwandan Hutu militias kill only Tutsies or Hutus who help Tutsies. You know the hotel is full of Tutsies and other refugees. If you and your soldiers leave, the hotel residents are very likely to be killed soon.

It is 12th April 1994, Kigali, Rwanda.
You are a United Nations peacekeeper. Your order is to evacuate citizens of foreign countries from Rwanda. You know you are safe because Rwandan Hutu militias kill only Tutsies or Hutus who help Tutsies. You know the hotel is full of Tutsies and other refugees. When you leave, the hotel residents are very likely to be killed soon.

It is 12th April 1994, Kigali, Rwanda.
You are a humanitarian organisation worker. You have brought a lot of Rwandans to the hotel to be evacuated. Being a foreigner, you can be evacuated but the children and other Rwandans you have been trying to save are forced to stay. The United Nation peacekeepers will not help Rwandans; moreover, they prevent you from helping them more. You know the hotel is full of Rwandan refugees who are very likely to be killed soon.

It is 12th April 1994, Kigali, Rwanda.
You are a Hutu Manager of the hotel. You have to manage the process of evacuation of all foreigners from the hotel. No United Nations peacekeeper will help you to save the locals. You know the hotel is full of Rwandan refugees and you all are likely to be killed by Hutu militias.

It is 12th April 1994, Kigali, Rwanda.
You are a Tutsi employee of the hotel. You would like to be evacuated with all the foreigners but the United Nations peacekeepers stop you. You know if you stay in the country you all are likely to be killed by Hutu militias.

there can be many other characters…

When we make sure students understand which “role” they take on, they are instructed to watch the film segment again. They should watch it from the perspective of their role. In other words, they should see the situation from a specific point of view (of an insider of the situation). After watching this, students are asked to write a new description of the situation.
Then, we proceed in a similar way as in the step with contextualisation. We ask them to identify differences and changes made between their texts number three and texts number two.

Again, a great variety of different ideas appear, but usually, many students share three issues that can be emphasised: students

1) get “deeper inside” the situation;
2) focus on their own perspective only;
3) focus on details (not he wider picture) relevant only to the particular perspective and ignore the rest.

In this way, students have been guided to a deeper understanding of why de-personalisation can be useful: They may experience the difference of a personal involvement and more de-personalised perspective. When they are personally involved, they may go deeper into the situation but, at the same time, they can take only one perspective and focus on some details while ignoring other issues. On the other hand, when they are given some context or adopt a wider picture, they may introduce more accuracy, precision and responsibility in their writing.












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