Crossing Institutional Borders: A Collaborative Study in Pragmatics Between University Students and a Settlement Organization

Lecture | March 13 | 3-5 p.m. | B-4 Dwinelle Hall

 Julie Kerekes, Associate Professor, Language and Literacies Education, Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning, University of Toronto

 Berkeley Language Center

Soft skills, or workplace-based pragmatic competencies, are increasingly a focus in language education programs for internationally trained professionals and other job seekers who have migrated to North America. This trend stems from employers’ stated desire to hire job candidates who have both technical skills and the ability to collaboratively problem-solve – the latter being closely related to communicative skills including pragmatic competencies. In response to this demand, Kerekes and her graduate students began a collaboration with an immigrant settlement organization in the Greater Toronto Area. Kerekes created a graduate course, Communication and Second Language Learning in the Workplace, in which University of Toronto students teamed up with Mesa Centre instructors and administrators who provided sector-specific English language courses for newcomers to Canada. Together they developed Mesa’s approach to teaching “soft skills.” This presentation will describe the creation and objectives of the course, the graduate students’ analyses of the data they collected, and implications for both vocational ESL and graduate student education.

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