Academic Conversation Skills Intensive Course
Why, What, and How?
Why a 5-Day Intensive Academic Conversation Skills Course?
The 5-day August intensive online version of the ACS course is designed for incoming multilingual international students who are adjusting to living in an English-speaking environment. By providing a mix of explicit instruction, chances to use the speaking/listening strategies being learned, and time for interaction with other incoming students from a range of departments, this course aims to prepare graduate students to be active in conversations in graduate school, both online and in person, from their first days at the U of T. The course is offered in August in order to help students get ready to participate fully in orientation activities.
What is the goal of the Academic Conversation Skills (ACS) Course?
ACS is a course for non-native speakers of English who wish to improve their listening and speaking skills in order to communicate more effectively in an academic environment. If you anticipate you might have difficulty participating in class/lab discussions in English, or speaking to your classmates and professors online or in person, this course is designed to meet your needs. Over 15 hours (3 hours a day for 5 days), you will learn and practice a range of strategies designed to help you gain confidence as you develop your ability to engage in academic discussions. In the course, we consider a range of topics, such as how conversational practices might differ across cultures (factors such as levels of formality, types of interactions with professors, use of eye contact, etc.). Through a series of class exercises that require active student participation, ACS focuses on topics such as how to enter and exit conversations politely, how to present your ideas orally, and how to disagree respectfully. The goal of the course is to increase students’ confidence and effectiveness in participating in academic conversations.
How does the 5-Day Intensive Academic Conversation Skills Course work?
This course begins each day at 9:00 am with a 30-45 minute live online lecture and question and answer (Q and A) to introduce some of the topics that will be discussed during the day: topics such as cultural differences in conversational preferences, strategies for active listening, and common causes of miscommunication in academic conversations. Lectures will include conversational activities that students will complete in short online break-out groups. Following the lecture, students will be assigned to small groups, which they will return to daily for a range of activities during the course. Throughout each day’s three-hour class, students will alternate between groups that are large and small, as well as between groups that are discipline specific (bringing together students who are all starting graduate degrees in Engineering, for example), and groups designed to bring students together from a wide range of graduate departments. All groups are led by experienced teachers of academic conversation skills. In these various groups, students will have lots of chances to meet other new students, and to listen and speak as they learn and practice a range specific strategies for improving their English conversation skills. By alternating between large and small, and general and specialized groups, students will gain experience participating in various online formats and in introducing themselves and their research to students both in and out of their own fields.
The course runs from 9:00 am – 12:00 pm on Monday August 17 – Friday August 21 inclusive, and only students who are able to attend all 15 hours of the course are eligible to register. All parts of the course are online, and incoming graduate students in all time zones are welcome to participate. Following the course, group leaders will reconvene the groups weekly for the first few weeks of term to allow students to gather with their conversational colleagues to discuss and address conversational challenges/surprises they have encountered in their early weeks at U of T. The course is free and open only to U of T’s graduate students.
Eligibility & Registration Procedures
Who is eligible to enroll in the 5-Day Intensive Academic Conversation Skills Course?
In order to sign up for the 5-day intensive ACS course, you must meet the following conditions:
- You speak English as a second (or third or fourth) language
- You are starting a graduate degree (a Master’s degree or a PhD) at the University of Toronto in September, 2020, or you started a graduate degree at the U of T in the last six months and have not yet taken the ACS course
- You are able to attend all 15 hours of the course (9:00 am – 12:00 pm on Monday August 17 – Friday August 21 inclusive).
PLEASE NOTE: The course is offered in its regular (non-intensive) format of 2 hours a week for six weeks in multiple sections starting in September. If you are not able to attend the full five-day intensive version, you should wait and register for a section of the course starting in September or late October.
The course is full so registration is closed.
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