Ownership in EAP: Integrity, argumentation, and authorial voice
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Baleap November 2021 Professional Issues Meeting (PIM) was hosted online on November19th 2021 by University of York. It was a whole 1-day event full of great speakers from all around the UK universities with emerging discussion points regarding EAP, EMI and language learning ie. English. Almost all the presentations addressed the issue of authorial voice, ownership in academic writing, integrity and the use of machine translation and/or different AI tools. The discussion was not only limited with academic writing, but it also included the use of afore mentioned software in developing skills such as reading in academic English. I am very glad that I witnessed the most contemporary topics of discussion in the UK universities regarding EFL and EAP: “the future of language learning with the increasing effect of translation software and how to approach it”.
I had the chance to attend several presentations, the issues raised can be discussed hours and hours; however, I will try to be brief in presenting the fundamental discussion points. “Translation Software and AI: Implications for Assessment, Academic Integrity and Policy” by Stephen Gow from University of York showed the existing role of machine translation and the use of AI in education. He said that this is just tip of the iceberg that such disruptive technologies have affected language learning, but soon it will impact almost all the subjects. Besides, he introduced the research they have been conducting at the University of York to explore how to approach the use of machine translation by students. It was also interesting to hear that it was not only Gow but also other EAP professionals that have been discussing the fact that machine translation is becoming a reality in language learning. For this reason all the assessment designers, students, academic staff and policy makers should be involved in this discussion and rethink the accusations of academic misconduct and the modification of assessments considering this reality.
Another interesting session was done by Heather McClean entitled “Finding your voice: a multifaceted approach to originality and similarity in student writing”. Some colleagues might know that for the last 2 years I have had a special interest in the topic of academic integrity. I tried to research different applications of building the culture of academic integrity in a higher education institution to avoid academic misconduct especially for the students who are second language learners and who did not receive structural instruction of maintaining academic integrity in their work before coming to university. In this respect, the program they designed in University for the Creative Arts (UCA) Business School to increase awareness of academic integrity seemed very structural and helpful from multiple aspects. Using the advantage of being a small university, they introduced a multi-faceted approach to explain academic integrity and consequences of plagiarism to the students. For example they designed an online module devoted to understanding academic integrity and completing it is part of their assessment when they come to the university. On the other hand, EAP tutors and academic staff collaborated to improve and change the assessment methods in order to “fight against” paper mills and machine translation software. They implemented systematic reflective writing and personalized assignments. She argued that with these changes, they aimed to “ensure students fully understand the need to develop their own academic voice through conducting their own primary research and applying rigorous critical analysis to assessments.”
The most impressive presentation for me was the afternoon plenary by Mike Groves and Klaus Mundt “Machine translation and voice in academic writing”. They ran a great workshop addressing the emerging recognition of the use of machine translation for not only the students but the academics whose first language is not English. Their arguments were so thought provoking as they cited Bowker and Ciro (2019) who have recently introduced the notion of MT Literacy as part of Digital Literacies in the academic context. They argue that considering the dramatic improvement in the performance of machine translation “it requires consideration in EAP, where students are likely to utilise it as a facilitating tool for their academic writing”. It is where it gets tricky and complicated and a topic of a long debate. What they argued about machine translation was also quite enlightening: although such software has been getting better and better in translation regarding structure, syntax and vocabulary, it still has limitations in terms of academic style since it is not as smart (yet!) to know the academic style in English or German. That’s why it evokes the question “how does MT transfer a writer’s voice from one language into another?”
1.Web site of the event: https://sites.google.com/york.ac.uk/yorkpim-ownership-in-eap/home?authus...
2.Great article by Mike Grove and Klaus Mundt:
Groves, M., & Mundt, K. (2021). A ghostwriter in the machine? Attitudes of academic staff towards machine translation use in internationalised Higher Education. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 50, 100957. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jeap.2021.100957
3.Cormack, A. (2021, November 17). A pathway towards responsible, ethical AI. Jisc. https://www.jisc.ac.uk/reports/a-pathway-towards-responsible-ethical-ai