Josh Richardson talks to Shawn Lee about his favourite module this year: ALE250 Child Language and Literacy

Josh Richardson

As intern for the Applied Linguistics and English Language blog this year, I was lucky enough to speak to one of my classmates, second year Josh Richardson, about the year just gone, and about his favourite module.

1. What is your favourite module about, and why do you like it?
ALE250 Studying Child Language Language and Literacy, taught by Dr Cornelia Tschichold, was quite revelatory to me. There have been many points in the module where I’ve been able to use the knowledge gained to help myself understand things that I see in developing children, as well as the problems I ran into understanding language as a child myself. You could say I prefer modules that translate well into the real world, as there’s plenty of knowledge I’ll be taking with me when I go on to teach English and work with younger folks.

2. What are the assessments like for this module?
The assessments for this module were unusual, but this wasn’t a bad thing. The first task we had was to group together and perform a brief presentation on a research paper regarding child language learning. This then led to peer-to-peer feedback which was quite beneficial (and any kind of feedback was essential during the pandemic). We then had a summary project where we had to break the very same research paper down into an accessible format for a layperson. We used the OASIS format (Open Accessible Summaries In Language Studies), which meant we had to go through the paper itself and pick out the most vital elements and findings. Then, we had to restructure the paper into a version that maintains the overall aim and conclusion of the research, whilst being much more approachable for people outside the field of linguistics. This in itself is highly practical and incredibly useful for so many different jobs after university; to be able to break things down into explainable parts for others is an important skill. It was a fun challenge!

There were also weekly quizzes, and the format meant I had to keep up with weekly reading. I thoroughly appreciated the structure and guidance here: “what you need to know is right here – so dig in!”

There was also an exam. We were given lots of time and space to regain energy and to revise for this. Plus, Dr Cornelia Tschichold’s generosity regarding the availability of the slides and resources in this unusual online environment was a welcome aid. I appreciated the extra efforts in making material available and providing as much help as was possible on the Canvas page.

3. How were the classes & workload?
The classes were twice a week; one lecture, and one seminar. However, there was plenty of reading to be doing outside of the contact time. The lectures themselves were fast paced (in typical Cornelia fashion), but wonderfully presented with many visual aids, such as animations. The seminars were good to catch up with people (even if it is slightly off topic sometimes) and of course to discuss some of the recent topics we’ve covered.

4. What did you wish you knew before taking the module?
I wish I had brought with me a little bit of experience with working amongst developing children, especially those with special needs. It would have been interesting for me to have been able to interpret some past experiences. The module focuses quite a lot on learning difficulties, which again is super useful for anything related to education. But this just means I can take this knowledge with me over the next few years!

5. How has the learning been meaningful to you?
I’d say the practical application of this module is quite wide, so I’m chuffed to say I’ve been a part of it. I’d like to think I’d be more confident if I ever find myself working with younger people, and especially children with disabilities, after this module. It was very enlightening in that way.

6. Tell me about your last assignment – what was it about?
My last assignment was the OASIS style summary, specifically regarding how children with Downs Syndrome acquire language when compared to typically developing children. It was quite difficult at times (or challenging – whichever word you prefer!) but that’s because I’ve never been tasked with something like this before.

Breaking such a dense report down into bitesize chunks is a tricky balancing act, because you must include relevant information without overwhelming the reader. But even then, there are some essential terms and pieces of knowledge that must be explained, eating up that precious word count! After some determination, however, I’d like to think I produced a concise report that was easy to follow. Bullet points were encouraged – and welcomed – a convention not usually seen within traditional academic writing (essays, that is), but this was a pleasant change of scenery.

Again, I can see myself taking this sort of knowledge with me to my next employer, and it also challenged the way I approach projects in general. Managing the workflow and breaking things down was an incredibly unique experience.