Immunologically speaking: Oral examinations, ELF and EMI


Abstract – “English-medium instruction” (EMI) is the name given to the use of the English language in universities to teach academic subjects in countries where the majority of the population does not have English as a first language (Dearden 2014). What this definition fails to mention is that interaction during EMI courses is almost entirely through the medium of English as a lingua franca (ELF). This article focuses on the challenges facing lecturers and examiners working on English-taught programmes (ETPs) in ELF and the role of language experts in supporting them. As a basis for discussion, the article uses data from a set of immunology oral examinations carried out during an undergraduate degree programme in Medicine being taught through EMI. Qualitative analysis of the data shows that this particular oral examination involves students and examiners co-constructing highly specific, chronological narratives of immunological sequences. It is argued that, far from being an exclusively linguistic matter, this kind of narrative co-construction involves acquiring a unique discursive skill set and that preparing students for the examination needs to involve increasing students’ awareness and practice of the construction process. Discussion focuses on how far qualitative results of this kind of local examination data are generalisable to other EMI contexts and whether there are recommendations for language experts and policymakers in understanding and improving the quality of EMI lecturing and assessment through in other languacultures. The article will also examine how far an ELF orientation to pedagogy can assist EMI lecturers, examiners and students in their decision-making regarding materials, methods and their own English usage.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i22390359v24p185

Keywords: English as a lingua franca; English-medium instruction (EMI); oral examination; knowledge transmission; immunology.


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