Sunday, February 24, 2013

Week 6: Corpora

This week we previewed and explored corpora resources on the web, such as:
-BYU Corpora
-Compleat Lexical Tutor

I was especially interested in the Michigan Corpus of Upper-Level Student Papers (MICUSP), thinking that students in EAP programs might be motivated by the context of successful upper-level papers that can be searched by discipline and genre.  Teaching composition has taught me the importance of teaching students to think critically about purpose, a community of readers, and the conventions that meet the expectations of communities and help the writer achieve his/her purpose.  I see potential in using a student-paper corpus like MICUSP to encourage student investigation into these ideas.  Flowerdew's article outlined some concerns/criticisms of using corpora, one of them being that corpus data can present language out of its original context.  However, I think a resource like MICUSP could allow a teacher to create activities with the objective of teaching students to think critically about context.  Before incorporating MICUSP activities, students should be familiar with different genres and could even do research on the types of writing in their disciples/fields.

Sometimes we joke about topic-based ESL textbooks that include an SLA chapter, knowing that a chapter on SLA is probably only interesting to teachers, not students.  I think we have to be careful not to cater to our own interests and preferences for learning when teaching our students to investigate language use through corpora.  As MA-TESL students and ESL teachers, we may find corpus activities motivating and interesting, but some of our students may not.  Additionally, Flowerdew points out that an inductive approach to learning may not be the preferred way of learning for all students.  Corpora is a great tool for both teachers and learners, but as with any other classroom activity/tool/material, we must evaluate student attitudes and learning outcomes.

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