"The only native speaker in the room"

Since communication is always about something, many academic skills teachers find that communication for academic purposes is best taught within the disciplines that students are learning. At the same time, however, it is useful for students to be aware of the commonalities underlying these apparently dissimilar modes of communication, so that they can study effectively within more than one discipline, and, more broadly, appreciate what coherence there is in a university degree and the nature of the skills they take out of it. Skills teachers, with their knowledge of the general considerations that inform academic discourse -- considerations of purpose, audience, and voice -- and subject teachers, with their knowledge of the forms these give rise to in particular disciplines, can collaborate to devise activiites to make these explicit to sudents as a regular part of their course.

It is helpful to think of such collaborations in light of Courtney Cazden's reminder that a teacher is always "the only native speaker in the room". Students entering a discipline benefit from immersion in the discourse as modelled by a native speaker; but they also need some "meta-talk" about what is being modelled.

This paper looks at a range of collaborations of this kind in the School of History at La Trobe University. Discussions of discourse have been incorporated into lectures, readings, and tutorials, and have accompanied both the preparation and the return of assignments. They have focussed on the modes of communication typical of spoken and written texts in the discipline and picked out what is shared with a wider range of disciplines in the B.A.

Publication Source Information
Kate Chanock
Year of publication: 
Place of publication; Publisher: 
Melbourne; Centre for Communication Skills and ESL, University of Melbourne
Title of Journal, Edited book or Conference and Page numbers: 
Proc. Australian Communication Skills Conference '98: Teaching Communication Skills in the Disciplines (pp. 45-59)
Joanna Tapper
Paul Gruba
0 7340 1437 6
URL or DOI: 
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