UTS has a strong commitment to ensuring that academic English is at an acceptable standard for all students across all disciplines. In addition, a number of standards are required by the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA). These factors led to the establishment of an English Language Working Group (ELWG) to embed the raising of English language ability across the Institution.
These factors led to the establishment of an English Language Working Group (ELWG), chaired by the Pro-Vice Chancellor (Education), to embed the raising of English language ability across the Institution.
The ELWG had input from the Institute for Interactive Media and Learning’s (IML) Academic Language and Learning Group, CIC, UTS International, UTS HELPS and other interested parties. A number of strategies were recommended and endorsed by the UTS senior management and their implementation is being led by IML. CIC’s “rather unique” Data Scientist, Jedi Master Mike Pracy, was called in to help with one particular recommendation:
UTS develop a formal process for analysing the English language proficiency of cohorts entering UTS from various pathways. Where the analysis indicates that cohorts from particular pathways can be identified, on average as having insufficient English language skills to embark on their course of study, any individual applicant from this pathway can be required pre-enrolment, to undertake a test of their English language proficiency.
Mike worked with the ELWG looking at various approaches to analyse the state of English language at UTS. The analysis was based on combinations of data related to English Language, Entry Pathways, Student Performance, Subject Results, and quantitative as well as qualitative responses to a range of Student Surveys. For example, UTS uses a product called the Online Post-Enrolment Language Assessment (OPELA) to assess academic English language skills. Mike was asked to verify if its assessments were valid and reliable. One of his analyses is summarised in the figure below, which confirmed the validity and reliability of OPELA in relation to the widely used International English Language Testing System (IELTS). It can be seen that they rise together, suggesting that they are indeed assessing common competencies.
Mike’s analysis was also able to identify which pathways to entry at UTS were most in need of support. IML staff described this analysis as extremely useful, and there are plans to continue to work together to continue to improve the outcomes for our students.