Moving from testing to teaching 

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The English Language Studies (ELS) department at Renison University College will be expanding to accommodate the faculty of math’s reforms to English language proficiency. 

ELS has taught roughly 1,200 students per academic year from both the undergraduate and graduate levels. However, this number is expected to increase as the faculty of mathematics is changing its English language credit requirements with plans to eliminate the English Language Proficiency Exam (ELPE). Instead, students are being strongly encouraged to complete two communications courses from a selected list of classes from the ELS, speech communications, and English language and literature departments.  

A majority of the students currently enrolled in ELS classes are international students or English second-language students from the math faculty, but the department is expecting an increased number of classes now that the courses are being emphasized. 

The extension to Renison will include eight classrooms and student space, and the department will be aiming to hire more staff.

“Right now we’re working within our existing suite of courses,” Julia Williams, director of ELS, said. “There’s a proposal to add a reading and listening course which will complement our existing courses.”

The students who enrolled in the 2013/2014 year already have the option to either write the ELPE or take a course, with the faculty of math strongly encouraging students to take courses instead. For 2015/2016, math plans on removing the ELPE as an option and replacing it with two communications courses.

“Math is the first faculty to move from testing to teaching, which is a great step forward really,” Williams said. 

This change will not be applied retroactively to older programs, but some upper year math classes will now have a communications component built in.

“What I really want to emphasize is that students can choose what course they want to take,” said Williams. “We already get a lot of undergraduate math students taking our ELS writing courses. Now some of them may take our speaking courses as well, and probably it will mean more students for English and speech comm as well,” Williams said. 

A “directed self-placement portal” is in the works to help students decide which communications courses are right for their proficiency and interests, according to Williams. 

“It will be one place where students can go, look at all the information, make a decision about what course they want to take, and then they can enrol,” she said. 

The faculty of math webpage outlines their reasoning for why math students need communication skills, including improvement in job interviews, studying, collaborating with other students, explaining mathematical theory to others, and the benefits of being bilingual.

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