Our teaching approach relies on communicative language teaching (CLT), which enables our students to development communicative competence. To accomplish this, we use course materials that focus on the language needed for different kinds of social and academic situations. We give our students the skills they need to communicate successfully—in speech and in writing—in everyday, academic, and professional situations.
We follow integrated skill curricula model which allows us not to teach language skills in isolation, but integrate multiple skills in the context of all our classes.
Our program is content-based and follows the whole language methodology to address the differing needs and abilities of our students. For example, we work on grammar in our classes, but the focus is not on grammatical accuracy itself, but on grammar as a tool for meaningful English expression. By the time our students reach the advanced levels and are admitted to UMBC or another university, they are ready to succeed at the university level.
The English Language Institute has two main programs – an Intensive English Program (IEP) and an Academic English Program (AEP). IEP provides intensive training in all four skills areas of the English language. AEP prepares the students for entry into UMBC’s academic degree programs. The two programs have different purposes, and thus different objectives. Our major assessments are aligned with the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR).
We focus on academic preparation. Our students come to the ELI because they need a rigorous, academic language preparation program, often to pursue further degrees or business or employment opportunities. Therefore, we continuously update our course content and approaches to prepare students to reach their goals. For example, we visit undergraduate classes and study their syllabi to ensure that ELI course objectives provide the skills students will actually need to complete university-level academic work in English at an American university. Additionally, we offer a Student Academic Success Seminar to students in our level four and five classes. This seminar helps students transition to university life. Topics include the following:
We focus on individual students. We focus on the needs of each student and provide instruction and advising on an individual basis. For example, if a student is interested in economics, the student is given the opportunity to read about economic issues and to write paragraphs or papers on that topic. Occasionally, independent studies are offered to help students meet their personal goals.
We are flexible and responsive. Our program has traditionally been an academic preparation program. One way we respond to our students’ academic needs is by offering elective classes for specific majors (e.g., Medical Terminology for EHS majors, Accent Reduction, Professional Communication Skills). Students at and above high intermediate level (Levels 4, 5, and 6) can enroll in these elective courses.
We provide consistent and reliable learning assessment. Our core course assessments are aligned with program goals and with the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference), and we use rubrics to allow for reliable and timely student assessment. During the semester, instructors also design their own assessments to measure specific class goals and objectives. Instructors include authentic assessment activities, which measure both mastery and proficiency. We also conduct end-of-semester student surveys about our objectives, methods, and procedures. These surveys further affect methodology and content, as changes are made in response to student feedback. Finally, the end-of-semester exit tests allow instructors and administrators to verify students’ learning.
We review and update our program books and materials as needed each semester, and we provide additional resource materials, such as dictionaries, in the classrooms and the computer lab. The ELI also has a small student library with more reading materials. Our students have access to language learning software in our computer lab. In addition, our in-house tutoring programs offer both walk-in and scheduled tutoring sessions.
Our small class sizes allow for both whole class teacher-centered instruction and small groups of three to five students for communicative classroom interactions. We make every effort to maintain a low student-teacher ratio to preserve the atmosphere of a warm and welcoming program and to maximize intercultural sharing.