Periodisk emnerapport LING3090 - Bacheloroppgave i lingvistikk, våren 2019
LING3090 (Bacheloroppgave i lingvistikk) is currently organized as a weekly course with a total of 14 double hours of student-oriented research-based teaching. The classes take up linguistic research methodology (e.g. corpus studies) and the writing of a scientific text. The aim is to provide students with research-based training in academic writing, resulting in a BA thesis of approx. 10 pages. The focus is on original research (to the extent that this is possible towards the end of a 3-year bachelor program), i.e., students were explicitly instructed to find a research topic that suits them and carry out academic research to the fullest extent of their abilities. An overarching umbrella topic was provided, which, in Spring 2019, was “Empirical Approaches in Theoretical Linguistics”. This topic was chosen to be broad enough to accommodate students’ interests while guaranteeing suitable supervision on the part of the lecturer.
Attendance was good throughout the semester. All of the 11 students who were registered showed up at the beginning of the semester, and most of them came to class regularly, which indicates that students were satisfied with the course, its structure, and the quality of teaching. By the submission deadline in June, 8 of the 11 students (approx. 73%) delivered a bacheloroppgave. The average grade amounted to a B.
Overall, these numbers indicate that the course was successful. The course was organized similarly in Vår 2017 and Vår 2018 (but without student evaluations). Student numbers have more than doubled from V18 to V19, which indicates a growing interest in this type of course, as it is not obligatory in any study program. The increase in student numbers also changes classroom dynamics, which entails that the nature of the course will evolve accordingly.
The course was evaluated in two stages: [i.] students were asked to fill out an evaluation form via nettskjema, and [ii.] the lecturer held a group discussion towards the end of the semester, in which he asked students to provide feedback on different aspects of the course, which could be used to further improve it in future years.
In total, 8 students filled out the evaluation form (i.e., approximately 73% of the students who were registered, and possibly the same 8 students who submitted a bacheloroppgave). In personal communication with the lecturer, students indicated that they did not find the standard nettskjema questionnaire suitable for this type of course, as it is designed for typical lectures and seminars, which are less practically oriented. Nevertheless, their feedback was very positive overall, with 4 students (50%) indicating that they were very satisfied [svært godt fornøyd], 3 students (37,5%) indicating that they were satisfied [godt fornøyd] and only 1 student indicating that s/he was moderately satisfied [middels fornøyd]. None of the students indicated that they were less satisfied [lite fornøyd] or dissatisfied [misfornøyd].
In terms of the learning outcome, 5 students (62,5%) agreed with the statement that the course has taught them to analyze problems, 7 students (87,5%) agreed with the statement that the course has taught them facts, ideas and methods, and 7 students (87,5%) agreed with the statement that the course has taught them practical skills. None of the students disagreed with any of these statements; out of the three options (enig / vet ikke / uenig), all of the students who did not select “agree” for a given statements selected “don’t know” (vet ikke) instead. This confirms that the course is successful in pursuing the aim of teaching practical skills in academic writing, and, specifically, the skills needed in the writing of a 10-page BA thesis.
All of the 8 students (100%) who participated in the nettskjema survey indicated that the teaching has contributed to a large extent to their learning outcomes (which is the highest option on this question); students were also satisfied with the amount of time that was dedicated to the different parts of the course.
Since the nettskjema can only provide superficial insights into the students’ perception of this course, we had a group discussion at the end of the semester, and students were very open when discussing possible suggestions. Core points are summarized below.
First, the setup of the course (14 double hours of student-oriented research-based teaching) was evaluated positively. When students were asked about the number of sessions, they explicitly stated that 14 double hours is a good amount, which should not be reduced or otherwise changed.
On the critical side, the students had explicit suggestions on how to make the most of these 14 double hours. Up until now, the 14 sessions were mostly oriented towards feedback, provided by the lecturer(s) to the students on their ongoing research, in a group setting; by contrast, lecturing (e.g., on how to cite correctly, or on how to carry out corpus searches) was backgrounded. This setup worked well with 4 students, but was less optimal for 8-11 students. The students’ suggestion was to split up the 14 sessions into 7 lecture-type sessions and 7 feedback sessions. While the feedback sessions would continue in the tradition of the previous setup (with presentations, mini-presentations, Q&A, and so forth), the 7 lecture-type sessions would be full-length (90 minute) sessions, focusing both [i.] on topics that were already covered (but less extensively) in V17, V18 and V19 such as “how to carry out corpus studies” or “how to design an experiment/survey”, and [ii.] on topics that were not explicitly taught such as “what does an academic writing style involve and how does it differ from a colloquial style”. Lecture-type sessions may also involve additional guest lectures on survey design and descriptive statistics; in Spring 2019, three of the students who delivered a bacheloroppgave were interested in using corpus linguistic methodology, and the other five students were interested in carrying out a small-scale survey / questionnaire study via nettskjema. Students would also explicitly favor a guest lecture by an MA student or a PhD student on how they experienced academic writing when they started with it, and what they can recommend as a way in.
With regards to the feedback sessions, students were especially in favor of sessions where students were asked to submit datasets, and we discussed the datasets in class and focused on how one could go about handling the respective data. With regards to the lecture-type sessions, students felt particularly positively about a session where we discussed how to correctly cite and format references, and about a session where we went through published papers and aimed to filter out the overarching structure that the authors used. In general, the sentiment was that all of the lecture-type contents that were provided were useful, as bachelor students report that they have little to no background in how to write an academic text. When students present their work for feedback in feedback sessions, longer presentations of approx. 30 minutes would be preferred over shorter presentations of 15-20 minutes; the reason being that presenters need time to “get everyone on board”, so that other students stay interested in their research.
To conclude, the present instalment of LING3090 can overall be considered a success, and it achieves its goal of providing students with realistic training in academic research; the feedback provided by the students will be incorporated into future instalments, starting in V2020.
Patrick G. Grosz (emneansvarlig)