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Native speakers’ peerfeedback

25 February 2019

Native speakers’ peerfeedback

This project used native speakers as tutors for local academic language students to improve their language skills and to simultaneously increase integration of Dutch and international students.

Download the USO Project Proposal Native speakers’ peerfeedback
Download the USO Final report Native speakers’ peerfeedback

Background

The “Native Speakers’ Peerfeedback”  programme was implemented in 2012 in the French department of  Utrecht University by dr. Emmanuelle Le Pichon. The original program provided French native speakers – Erasmus and international UU/UCU students – to help correct and improve the written and oral tasks of students at the Bachelor and Master levels. USO funding was used to extend the ‘Native Speakers’ Peerfeedback programme to other departments of the UU and UCU.

Project description & goals

The project used native speakers as tutors for local academic language students, both from the UU and UCU. Tutors (a.k.a., ‘language buddies’) were recruited from the community of exchange students (Erasmus), the international pool of enrolled UU students from various faculties as well as from the international UCU campus. Language buddies could be approach for:

  • feedback on written texts (including Bachelor and Master thesis),
  • feedback for oral tasks (rehearsing an oral presentation, training for a final oral),
  • any other language needs students might have.

Goals

  1. For language students to improve their foreign language oral and written skills thanks to the valuable feedback of a native speaker, while
  2. reducing the overall correction time from teaching staff, and
  3. stimulating interactions between international and local students and thus creating a plurilingual community of practice which encourages intercultural competence.

Results

The Native Speakers’ Peerfeedback programme was successfully extended to the English, German, Italian and Spanish departments of the UU in the academic year 2016-2017 as well as to the UCU departments of French, German, Italian and Spanish. The following academic year 2017-2018, the project was further extended to include Dutch (as second language, NT2) at UU and UCU.

Visibility of the Peerfeedback activities has been greatly improved resulting in an increasing number of matches between native buddies and our students of various languages. At present, a website is being developed where all information about the peerfeedback program as well as contact information of all students/buddies/teachers can be found at once. This should further increase the programme’s visibility.

The project has contributed to more interaction between Dutch and international students from both UU and UCU therefore contributing to a better integration of international students, a greater internationalisation of the UU student body as well as more exchanges between the UU and UCU. In exchange for their help, native buddies can ask our UU/UCU students to assist them in another language; in most cases, the foreign buddies ask Dutch students to teach them some basic Dutch and help them find their way around Utrecht and The Netherlands.

Successful workshops have been given to train language buddies in giving clear and adequate feedback as well as to highlight and discuss the positive effects of peerfeedback on academic writing skills and intercultural communication. Results of an online questionnaire showed that all language buddies find that they have received enough instructions to carry out their task.

Benefits

… for students

  • significantly more exposure to the language they are studying, both orally and in writing thanks to the one-on-one feedback they are getting from native speakers;
  • improvement of written and oral skills;
  • particularly useful and popular for both BA and MA theses;
  • an increase in social contacts between exchange and international students;
  • 92% of the students find that having feedback from a native speaker is a valuable experience (49%) or even a very valuable experience (43%) (results online questionnaire). 

… for language buddies

  • language buddies are enriching their curriculum and developing their didactic competences;
  • language buddies from both UU and UCU get more interaction with Dutch students leading the way to a better integration in Dutch social and academic life;
  • 40 % of the language buddies find that their involvement in the peerfeedback program has contributed to their social life in The Netherlands; 60% think it contributed to it partially (results online questionnaire). 

… for teachers

Teachers save time:

  • when they involve language buddies in their course work;
  • when they match their students with native buddies to correct and improve the language of Bachelor or Master theses. Supervisors can focus on content-driven guidance instead of spending too much time addressing language issues.

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