Language and Academic Assessment for Programmes taught in English (Academic Readiness Screening/ACRES)

Since 2015, the Center for Multilingual Academic Communication (Movi) has, in co-operation with the Strategic Development Unit, developed a set of tasks, implemented together with some master's programmes taught in English, as part of academic language proficiency assessment in the student selection process. The set of tasks consists of items aimed at determining applicant academic ability for accessing field-specific language skills as part of a larger process for determining suitability for programmes. This academic readiness screening* is a development project that has, from the beginning, involved master’s programmes taught in English in Educational Sciences (EDUMA) and Corporate Environmental Management (CEM). In the 2020 selection round, Nanosciences, Mathematics, and Nuclear and Particle Physics programmes also joined through an initial pilot process for the screening.

General academic language tests cannot give a complete picture of how students will perform within a specific field of studies, something the screening process aims to provide by tailoring the screening to specific fields of study at the university.

The aim of the development work is to look at language skills as part of a wider academic whole, not as a skill confirmed by separate validated tests. However, within current university resources, internationally validated language tests are still officially required for demonstrating language skills of applicants to master’s and doctoral programmes. Academic readiness screening complements the information provided by these official test results, providing both the department and Movi’s teachers with valuable and diverse information about the competencies of the students selected for the university. This is because general academic language tests cannot give a complete picture of how students will perform within a specific field of studies, something the screening process aims to provide by tailoring the screening to specific fields of study at the university (Dimova, 2020, p. 11-12, Rose, Curle, Aizawa & Thompson, 2020, p. 2149). The students involved in the screening pilots have found the tasks meaningful, as the tasks also give them an idea of the level of competence required at our university.

In 2016, this screening option was added to the general selection criteria for master's programmes taught in English at the university. For the 2020 selection criteria, EDUMA decided to choose the screening as the only form of language proficiency validation. For the 2021 selection process, Nanoscience (NSC), Mathematics, and Nuclear and Particle Physics also chose the screening as the only form of language proficiency validation.

In 2017, the screening was also added as a possible part of the language and academic readiness assessment for PhD dissertation researcher applicants. Currently, each year a number of PhD applicants do attend this screening. The development work is a continuation of the project Language proficiency and academic performance: Insights into international MA programs (2014–present) under the Education Council, which has monitored the progress of student studies in all master's programmes taught in English at the University of Jyväskylä from 2014 to 2017.

Literature

*) Academic readiness is a multidimensional concept. In our development work, we also strive to define the concept in line with our own policies and practices at the University of Jyväskyä. There is some literature on the subject. At this stage, the following, in particular, seems to be suitable for our application of the concept:

  • Barnes, W., Slate, J. R., & Rojas-LeBouef, A. (2010). College-readiness and academic preparedness: The same concepts?. Current Issues in Education, 13(4).
  • Cliff, A., & Hanslo, M. (2010). The design and use of ‘alternate’ assessments of academic literacy as selection mechanisms in higher education. Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies, 27(3), 265-276.
  • Conley, D. T. (2007). The challenge of college readiness. Educational Leadership, 64(7), 1-6.
  • Dimova, S. (2020). English language requirements for enrolment in EMI programs in higher education: A European case. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 47, 1-13.
  • Rose, H., Curle, S., Aizawa, I., & Thompson, G. (2020). What drives success in English medium taught courses? The
    interplay between language proficiency, academic skills, and motivation. Studies in Higher Education, 45(11), 2149-2161.


For more information about the project’s ongoing development

 

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