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'The language of business cases' - an interdisciplinary approach to teaching language at HKUST

Authors Christopher, Elsie R.
Issue Date 2004-05
Source Proceedings of the second teaching and learning symposium, Hong Kong, Senate Committee on Teaching and Learning Quality, and Center for Enhanced Learning and Teaching, HKUST , 7 May 2004
Summary Business Studies (SBM) students are required to read and analyze Case Studies from their first year at the university. Faculty throughout the School of Business and Management (ISMT, ECON, MGTO, MARK, ACCT, FINA) often require students to read and produce written analyses of cases specific to the courses being taught. Indeed, cases may range from a simple one-page content-related article to a 20+ page Harvard Business Case often used in internationally recognized MBA programs.Due to the linguistic demands of such texts, therefore, it is not surprising that L2 students often experience a considerable amount of difficulty in coping with the reading and writing tasks set for them in content-related courses. Reading for specific information, understanding subtle linguistic clues, extrapolating and synthesizing essential facts for use in academic writing are just a few of the areas where students need more communication skills support. Case studies provide students with a unique opportunity to read, discuss and explore various situations that involve 'real life' language presented within specific situational contexts. Each case is compelling in nature as it involves a specific dilemma that requires the learners to be actively engaged in all aspects of communication skills including discussions, debates and negotiations. Through the use of Case Studies, students can further develop their analytical and problem solving skills while improving their linguistic fluency, proficiency and self-confidence. The 'Language of Case Studies' adopts elements of Problem-Based Learning with regard to its pedagogic approach as tasks and activities are designed to build upon each other as the learner progresses. It also follows a systematic step-by-step approach to Case Analysis that is closely related to specific language acquisition aims and objectives. Overall, the course has been designed in such a way that the integrations of both analytical and communication skills occur simultaneously. The face-to-face classroom sessions will be used mainly for oral skills development and practice; whereas the reading and writing tasks will be mainly reserved for homework which will be accessible via a course website. The course website will not only contain essential reading and writing tasks for classroom use, but it will also present relevant and timely reference materials, visual learning cues to reinforce skills and an online student portfolio where students can collect their work. Each major unit will conclude with a formal assessment. These assessments are designed as a combination of individual and group tasks which cover all four language development skills. At the moment, the trial course is being taught in several Language Center classes for Y.1 SBM students. The qualitative feedback that has been collected thus far from both teachers and students has been very positive and encouraging. These initial findings will be presented and discussed as the basis for further revision of the course materials.
Language English
Format Conference paper
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