Postgraduates in Focus

Our blog post today is by Ashwaq Alshaikhi, who shares her recent experience as a postgraduate student in the English Language and Applied Linguistics department. As part of the MA TESOL 2015-2016 cohort, she graduated with distinction.
Congratulations Ashwaq!

Hi, my name is Ashwaq Alshaikhi and I am from Saudi Arabia. I completed my MA in TESOL here at Swansea University in 2016.

At the beginning of my postgraduate journey, it was really difficult to understand the polices and rules of the UK educational system, as it was new and completely different from my own.

I went through culture shock: I was very excited at first but started to notice the differences – even the smallest thing, such as going to the supermarket, was difficult!  I also felt homesick and the strain of studying. However, I worked really hard to overcome these challenges and enjoy this great opportunity. As soon as the first few weeks passed, I started to understand and enjoy the interesting subjects we were exploring such as Vocabulary: Teaching and Learning, Discourse Analysis for ELT, Describing English, Research Methods for ELT, Second Language Acquisition, and Young Language Learners

In the second semester, as part of the research module, we were asked to select a dissertation topic and write a proposal. I chose to examine ‘The Impact of English Textbooks on Learners’ Vocabulary Acquisition in Saudi Public Schools’. Unfortunately, it was a topic that had already been explored by Professor Milton and a previous student in 2012. However, I noted that the books they had investigated in 2012 are no longer used in Saudi schools, which meant the new books needed to be examined and I could continue with this topic.

With great help and support from my supervisor, Professor Milton, and Swansea University’s English Language and Applied Linguistics Department, I was able to carry out my study. The purpose of the study was to investigate the vocabulary content of one set of these new textbooks and the scale of students’ vocabulary learning when using these books. The results were compared with the earlier study of Alsaif and Milton (2012). It was hoped that if the volume of vocabulary present in these books had increased, students’ vocabulary learning would be positively influenced.

The results of the study showed that the vocabulary content of these books had increased in comparison to the previous books as well as the students’ vocabulary level. Although this study is not conclusive proof that the new books have caused this increase in uptake, the coincidences are very striking. Learners now have knowledge of about 3,000 English words from the 5,000 most frequent words; a greater number than they were exposed to in the old books.

After I submitted my dissertation, Professor Milton and I rewrote it in article form. The article was published in February 2017 in the TESOL Arabia Perspectives, one of the journals interested in teaching English in the Middle East.

After graduating, I returned to my job with better qualifications to work as a language instructor at the North West Armed Forced Hospitals (NWAFH) Nursing Institute, a branch of the Prince Sultan Military College of Health Sciences.


If you are interested in reading Ashwaq and Professor Milton’s article, ‘The Impact of English Textbooks on Learners’ Vocabulary Acquisition in Saudi Public Schools’, it is available in TESOL Arabia: Perspectives, Volume 25 No. 1, February 2017, pp. 25-31, which can be found at