PROFICIENCY LEVEL IN ENGLISH AND LANGUAGE SKILLS IN TELECOMMUNICATION ENGINEERING STUDENTS
Polytechnic University of Madrid (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Conference name: 14th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 8-9 November, 2021
Location: Online Conference
Abstract:Ten years ago, essential changes were produced in engineering degrees across Spain affecting their structure, academic content and teaching approach. At Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM), an innovative compulsory subject was included in the, then, “new degrees” common to all its engineering schools and other faculties. “English for Professional and Academic Communication” was designed, developed and taught by the Department of Applied Linguistics. The University established a B2 proficiency level, in accordance to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFRL), as a minimum level for students to enroll in the subject. In the next years after an initial short-term solution, two ways were regulated by the University to certify the necessary B2 level that were called “internal” and “external” accreditation. Internal accreditation was hired to carry out TOEIC English tests twice a year whereas, to certify the level externally, any certificate accepted by the Spanish University Rectors Conference (CRUE) would be accepted. With regard to the internal accreditation, it was agreed to just use the listening and reading part of the official exam, leaving apart the speaking and writing one. As regards the external accreditation, in practice, there are three main accreditations preferred by students form the extensive offer: the School of Languages Certificate (national certificate), the First Cambridge Certificate and above all, APTIS, like the previous, administered by the British Council.
In this context, an experiment has been developed to identify the extent to which the English B2 accreditation presented by the students when enrolling the subject is a predictor of their performance and/or results in the subject of professional an academic English. The research has been carried out with a group of 48 students, 22 students from this group followed the course only in an online modality, and a control group of 32 students who followed the course with a different teacher. The 102 students completed two course tests: the first test took place in the 6th week of the course and the second in the 12th. These tests are the same for all the students and consist of three parts: a listening part which is worth 30% of the test mark; a “content and language integrated learning” (CLIL) group of questions which blend use of language and specific academic and professional content of the course, this worth 40%; and a “writing” part, worth 30%. With the data from these tests, quantitative analysis were carried out. This study presents the statistical results of the variance in order to first, observe the degree of variation within discrete marks and second, to describe the degree of correlation between the discrete and/or final results of students in different groups.
Semi-structured interviews with a number of students representing the three groups and with the two teachers were also carried out to add qualitative insights that could explain the results obtained, which point to the fact that there is in fact correlation among the certificate presented and the students’ performance and/or results in some learning skills, and finally, their overall result. This predicted result also agrees with the teachers’ perception that the students’ departing English proficiency level is not the same, and eventually below the B2 level, despite the official requirement.
Keywords: B2 proficiency level, accreditation, testing, professional and academic communication.