CELFS Teaching and Learning Network

Lectures: how pre-sessional tutors can help to bridge the gap

by Maggie Boswell


I recently attended a CREATE (Cultivating Research and Teaching Excellence) seminar through University of Bristol Academic Staff Development on university lecturing. I came away not only inspired, and with a sense of better connectedness within the University, but also with the confidence that what we do at CELFS is in keeping, if not already paving the way to some of the ideas being promoted, discussed and negotiated amongst our esteemed academic colleagues. In thinking about why or how this must surely be important for CELFS pre-sessional tutors is that during a pre-sessional course, within a set time frame, we need to help bridge the gap across a multi-faceted programme. We absolutely need to provide our students with the support they need to enter the HE environment and deconstruct lectures with confidence.

So, for someone entering the world of pre-sessional instruction, while there are a multitude of factors that shape the experience for the tutor, from my experience, it is the process of the student transition into UK HE that is foremost in this programme. It is our job to provide a bridge so that students are better equipped to enter their community of discourse with an illuminated understanding of how the “lecture construct” will promote and enhance their own education experience and if I have a better idea of what the lecturers are doing, then that helps me help my students even more.

So, how can we help our pre-sessional students overcome difficulties in university lectures? Develop and enhance interrogative language construction, flip the material so that they come prepared for lecture-classes, cultivate an attitude of enquiry and consider the authentic environment that the students will go on to study in. Can we replicate and authenticate what our students will be doing then and thereby better prepare them?

The overarching message from this CREATE course is that lecturers should exude passion for their subject and possess a desire to stimulate such passion within students. Given the multi-disciplinary nature of our student’s destinations, it is impossible for me to possess in-depth knowledge across a multitude of disciplines, but by possessing an enquiring mind and engaging in the University academic staff development seminars and extending my connections with academics through such a conduit, I am better equipped to exude enthusiasm for their programme of choice and thus more confident in knowing how to guide my students towards what to expect in their HE future.

Here is a video extract Lecturing for (deeper) learning in large classes from the recommended short videos from the CREATE course.


2 Responses to “Lectures: how pre-sessional tutors can help to bridge the gap”

  1. steve22peters

    Hi Maggie!

    And thanks for the ‘cascade’ that provides insights into some of the behind the scenes work that EAP tutors and students may not usually gain sight of.

    It has got me thinking about how we can prepare our course participants to investigate these settings themselves. Not studying the training sessions (although that would be a powerful exchange – to see students providing input into those and learning for themselves the range and complexity of issues lecturers navigate in preparing learning events) but rather, lectures as they occur on degree programmes currently and as they may look in future curricula that may become far more pic n mix with participant-led input replacing some of the lecture input. This latter point perhaps responds to the increased Widening Participation agenda that would support mature students’ calls for greater opportunity to embed their previous professional and other experience in the tasks, assessment/ recognition and outcomes of any given programme.

    In practice, I see this happening through initial training for participants to investigate language use through case study designs or short ethnographic studies (two weeks?), further encouraging participants to reflect on the nature of data collection, analysis and representation. These approaches to research can also encourage participants to engage with the more complex ethical and values-laden issues that arise with these methods (in comparison with let’s say survey-based data collection), helping bolster how they navigate similar complexity within EAP work such as with attribution of others’ work.

    I can imagine that EAP programmes move participant engagement within Schools at the University forward in the programme, attending these lectures at the start of a programme rather than at the end. Here, the emphasis is placed on participants’ reflections on this experience and an analysis of what they can draw from this. Whether this would suit all participants and their needs is another question. Could it be made optional? That would take us back to the more pic n mix nature of a curriculum/ syllabus.

    As tutors, who act in this scenario as co-researchers and experts in learning, EAP practitioners learn alongside participants on the programmes. All involved, I feel, would then have much much more to bring to the following year’s programmes in terms of insights into the student experience – and that of the lecturers as well.

    Thanks for sparking some thoughts!


    • Maggie Boswell

      Hi Steve, Glad to provoke some reflexive cognition! You’ve got some great ideas. Thanks for your engagement with this.




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