English language needs of learners on the Openings/Level 1 courses in the Open University: a pilot study of tutors’ perspective.
EAL SIG (OU), Milton Keynes, UK.
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This study explores the English language needs of learners on OU Openings or Level 1 Courses across the university, with a particular focus on learners who do not use English as their first language. Essentially this research attempted to find out the views of a small sample of tutors about the language skills learners are expected to have before they join the OU, the language skills they lack or the areas they need support in, how these learners are supported and whether the current provision of language support is sufficient.
The research was conducted with eleven tutors and one student via telephone interviews and emails for which a questionnaire was developed and given out prior to the interview. This was fundamentally a qualitative study, attempting to capture as much information as was possible in the short time available. The study was conducted in six days, which was very limited for this kind of study.
The findings suggest that these tutors perceive a clear need for English language support for the non-native speakers of English on the OU Openings or Level 1 courses. Efforts have been made at the regional level to support these learners. However, the responses in this study suggest that the current provision is not as effective or adequate as it should be.
This study also makes several recommendations about how the current situation can be improved. It should be noted that it is not possible to generalise the findings due to the size of the data sample. However, this pilot study indicates a need that deserves further investigation.
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