Thinking about the literacy issues your IB students face

One problem we face as teachers in an international context is an assumption about  literacy levels, that may not not be valid for all students in an IB classroom. Indeed, I have had examples of students, new to my Business and Management class, who struggled to make themselves understood in English at all, let alone cope with the level of additional specialist language skills demanded by the subject.

In this ‘guest post’, Martin Hartnett suggests an approach to support students in their understanding of specific Business and Management terms:

 

It’s easy to forget that many IB students face a ‘literacy gap’: they are required to work with resources, such as textbooks and online media, that assume a level of English literacy that some do not have.

This post describes a 2-step strategy that can be used to help bridge that gap:

  • Step 1 – Build a glossary of terms that are language appropriate for your students
  • Step 2 – Develop each term into an introductory paragraph suitable for short answer responses


Step 1: Build a glossary of terms that are language appropriate for your students

Many overseas students struggle with textbook glossaries. Teachers can help by creating a glossary of terms that are language appropriate for second language speakers. If you don’t already have a set of suitable definitions, you can use your own knowledge, a textbook and/or search online to start building a language appropriate glossary.

To demonstrate, I picked these 3 definitions for ‘Competitive Advantage’ from a Google search:

a)   Competitive advantage is a position of a company in a competitive landscape that allows the company earning return on investments higher than the cost of investments. Competitive advantage should be relevant, unique, and sustainable.   Wikipedia

b)   Competitive Advantage – A competitive advantage is an advantage over competitors gained by offering consumers greater value, either by means of lower prices or by providing greater benefits and service that justifies higher prices. Tutor2u

c)   Competitive advantage – The advantage that a business has over rivals, who are competitors. It can be gained in a variety of ways. Tuition.com

You then use your subject knowledge, and your knowledge of what level of English is best suited for your students, to create the definition that you want your class to learn.

For example, you may choose definition ‘a’ as a starting point if your students have very strong levels of English: it is more nuanced (the idea of earning return on investments higher than the cost of investments) and uses higher level language than ‘b’ or ‘c’ (through the use of adjectives, such as relevant, unique, and sustainable).

Similarly, you may choose definition ‘c’ as a starting point for a class with lower levels of English: this is the shortest definition, but covers the basic idea – though you may choose to develop it to make it more complete.

I would suggest that a combination of ‘b’ and ‘c’ may work best for the ‘typical’ overseas student. For example:

Competitive advantage: The advantage that a business has over rivals, who are competitors. This can happen in various ways such as lower prices and/or better service.

Step 2: Develop each term into an introductory paragraph for use as a short answer response.

Once you have a clear basic term that is suitable for your students, I would use the following ‘D.I.E’ acronym to develop the definition into a short answer or introductory paragraph.

Define: Competitive advantage: The advantage that a business has over rivals who are competitors. This can happen in various ways such as lower prices and/or better service.

Importance: This is important because it can help the business to achieve key objectives such as increased market share.

Example: For example, a supermarket that offers the quickest delivery to online shoppers will attract more customers and increase its market share.

So our definition created in Step 1 can be developed to produce the following introductory paragraph, which students can use for short answer responses.

Competitive advantage is the advantage that a business has over rivals, who are competitors. This can happen in various ways, such as lower prices and/or better service. For example, a supermarket that offers the quickest delivery to online shoppers will attract more customers and increase its market share. This is important because it can help the business to achieve key objectives, such as increased market share.

If you have additional strategies you would like to share, please contact me at paul@triplealearning.com, or add a comment to Martin’s post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you think about the literacy issues that your IB students face?

It’s easy to forget that many IB students face a ‘literacy gap’: they are required to work with resources such as textbooks, and online media that assume a level of English literacy that they don’t have.

This post describes a strategy that can be used to help bridge that gap, starting with a definition based appropriate level terms, which can be developed into a short introductory paragraph suitable for a short answer response

Step 1) Building an appropriate level term

Be clear about the literacy issues that your IB students face before creating terms for students to learn. A textbook glossary is not going to work for many students, and expecting them to find terms online for themselves isn’t likely to work either! For example, which definition would your students chose from this Google search for ‘Competitive Advantage’? My guess would either be the first one or the shortest one!

a) Competitive advantage is a position of a company in a competitive landscape that allows the company earning return on investments higher than the cost of investments. Competitive advantage should be relevant, unique, and sustainable (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Competitive_advantage)

b) Competitive Advantage – A competitive advantage is an advantage over competitors gained by offering consumers greater value, either by means of lower prices or by providing greater benefits and service that justifies higher prices. (http://tutor2u.net/business/strategy/competitive_advantage.htm)

c) Competitive advantage – The advantage that a business has over rivals who are competitors. It can be gained in a variety of ways. (http://www.tuition.com.hk/dictionary/c.htm#Competitive_advantage_(business)

Perhaps you could think closely about tailoring the terms you want your students to learn. For example, a combination of b and c may work best for students with reasonably good literacy skills: e.g.

Competitive advantage – The advantage that a business has over rivals who are competitors. This can happen in various ways such as lower prices, and/or better service

Step 2) Develop a short introductory paragraph. Once you have a clear basic term that is suitable for your students, use the following ‘D.I.E’ acronym to develop the term into a short answer or introductory paragraph.

· Define: Competitive advantage – The advantage that a business has over rivals who are competitors. This can happen in various ways such as lower prices, and/or better service

· Importance: This is important because it can help the business to achieve key objectives such as increased market share

· Example: For example, a supermarket that offers the quickest delivery to online shoppers will attract more customers and increase its market share

Competitive advantage is the advantage that a business has over rivals who are competitors. This can happen in various ways such as lower prices, and/or better service. For example, a supermarket that offers the quickest delivery to online shoppers will attract more customers and increase its market share. This is important because it can help the business to achieve key objectives such as increased market share

Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/karola/3623768629/

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