We had a situation that brought this to our attention a number of years ago. A solution that we came up with is having magnetic dry erase markers on the sides of each sash. To make sure that students understood important safety instructions, they use the markers to write important safety notes on the sash during set up. The instructor can walk the room quickly to make sure each student got the important points and correct them if they missed anything before they start.
Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry
University of Michigan - Flint
I am going to second Yaritza. I have had many students over the years whose native language isn't English. I also grew up in a community in which the dominant native language was not English. I have also lived in a few different countries where my language was not the dominant language. I have experienced what she has described quite a lot: the written/read command is very strong, but verbal can be difficult — adding on having to deal with the language in multiple accents or with a native speaker speaking quickly and inadvertently using slang does not help the situation. In fact, anyone who has spent any time learning a second language knows this to be true.
Small classes help learning in a variety of ways, and this situation is just one more that can benefit. My classes never had more than 16 students, which helps with what I am about to say. The 2 strategies that have helped me (and my students) the most:
1) Learn to speak more slowly and enunciate (and avoid slang as much as possible) when speaking to groups of students. This actually helps everyone.
2) Be very available to your students during lab (i.e. walk around and ask questions). While doing this, make a particular point to go up to your non-native English speakers (or just the very quiet students in your class), and ask open-ended questions in a friendly manner. If there are opportunities to do this outside of lab, that is even better. Often, these students are intimidated by the speed of the language and don't feel comfortable coming up and speaking to you or asking you questions. Making a special point to open up conversation with them will encourage them, not only to converse with you (thereby practicing their English), but will also make them feel more comfortable asking you questions. Again, this tactic actually works to open up a lot of students, not just non-native English speakers.
3) Lab partners: I have observed what Yaritza was saying in terms of "crutch"-like relationships developing. I was fortunate in that I taught a class where we had a lab section and a discussion section with the same group of students. In lab, I was always a little nervous to remove the crutch because their understanding of safety and what they were supposed to be doing in lab seemed more important to me. However, I would use the Discussion period to mix up the groups a bit. One of the reasons was to get native speakers and non-native speakers to interact a bit more. I would also float around interacting, intentionally sitting down and speaking to the non-native speakers. I often found that non-native speakers were among the stronger students in the class, so I would take it as an opportunity to show off to the native speakers that this student was knowledgable and could actually be helpful if they all spoke to one another. Additionally, they became more friendly with one another and asked question of one another more in lab.
Jessica A. Martin
NSF Graduate Research Fellow
Graduate Student Career Council
Joint Safety Team
Pinkhassik Group, Department of Chemistry
University of Connecticut
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On Apr 9, 2019, at 7:19 PM, Yaritza Brinker <YBrinker**At_Symbol_Here**FELE.COM> wrote:
My advice to you:
Don't translate the instructions, but rather exploit your student's proficiency in the written word.
I'm a non-native English speaker. I started college in the US with an OK conversational English skill. None of the students in my cohort spoke my native language, Spanish. I was lost in class half the time. I routinely saved questions for later, simply because I could not formulate the question in my mind (in English) quickly enough before the teacher moved onto another topic.
If you have more than 1 student that speaks the same language, your problem is 2-fold… as soon as 1 gets lost, it will ask its neighbor for a translation… now you have 2 lost ones… and it multiplies from there. What is worst, the weakest speaker will not improve because he/she will use their friends as a "conversational crutch". (BTW… I was someone else's conversational crutch for a while.)
In the US, all of the admission and placement testing is written. Thus, your students come into the door being proficient in the written word. If it is important for them to know, imperative perhaps, then make a handout. But not just hand it out... actively refer to it during your pre-lab instruction. This will help your student "cross-reference" what they though they heard with what you actually said. And just as important… this will help the weakest speaker improve faster. (Same idea behind subtitles on a movie.)
** External Email **
WE have been looking at ways to up level safety training and awareness. I will pass on information on this resource.
Pamela Auburn, PhD
Houston TX 77098
Division of Chemical Health and Safety <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**PRINCETON.EDU> on behalf of Craig Merlic <merlic**At_Symbol_Here**CHEM.UCLA.EDU>
Sent: Tuesday, March 5, 2019 5:41 PM
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] English in Lab
The Safety Training Consortium is an association of ?higher research universities that develops safety training for the research community. There is an e-Learning course on Fundamentals of Laboratory Safety in Mandarin. If you need a Spanish course, that is not available yet.
Professor of Chemistry, UCLA Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Executive Director, UC Center for Laboratory Safety
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1569
I was wondering if anyone might help me with this issue. I have a number of English language learners in my classes. Recently there was a near miss accident that was in part due to the student not understanding me and me not being able to catch the issue as their conversation in lab is not in a language I understand.
I want the class to be inclusive but it is hard monitor issues when the conversations among students are not in English.
Does anyone have any ideas on how to handle this?
Pamela Auburn, PhD
Houston TX 77098
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