08 December 2021 | Story Nonsindiso Qwabe
Dr Bernard
Dr Eleanor Bernard heads the Centre for Teaching and Learning on the Qwaqwa Campus.

“I realised that our students are not regularly exposed to and immersed in an English first language environment. So, for two years, I created control groups and tested how to implement a film club to support their language learning as well as engage them. In the end, I created a framework that university language teachers can use, with very specific guidelines as to how to make it successful.”

For her PhD study in Higher Education Studies, Dr Eleanor Bernard created a play on traditional learning by implementing a film club as a way of enhancing the basic interpersonal communicative and English literacy skills of non-native speakers on the Qwaqwa Campus. Dr Bernard is the Assistant Director of the Centre for Teaching and Learning on the Qwaqwa Campus. She will be graduating with her PhD in Higher Education Studies during the December 2021 graduations. The title of her study is: Implementing a film club to enhance English second-language students’ basic interpersonal communicative and basic English literacy skills.

Building on her passion for language learning and acquisition, Dr Bernard wanted her study to be a fun and interesting way of enhancing the already existing General English language module by creating a space for exposure and social interaction. She did this by forming student groups that would regularly watch films and opened spaces for engagement as a way of focusing on the language development of the students.

“The highlight for me was sitting in a university lecture venue, while watching Tsotsi or Pitch Perfect with students, and seeing them interacting, laughing, and enjoying a usually very serious space. Also, the wonderful discussions they shared on Blackboard around elements such as lobola, or stereotypes. Lastly, seeing how by the end of the year, they would walk into my office and interact with me more confidently in English,” she said.

Language studies has been a part of her academic journey from her Honours qualification. She has an MA degree in Language Studies from the UFS. She said working on the Qwaqwa Campus with language and literacy modules, she loved the process of watching students blossom as they gained more confidence in using the English language. “I especially love receiving a student at the beginning of the year, who you can see struggling and almost battling through the content and the skills. And then to see the change by the end of the year, and how their confidence increased.”

‘No learning can take place without engaging students’
She said she hoped faculties would also see the value of focusing on the language development of students as a baseline for academic literacy skills development.

“No learning can take place without engaging students, and there are so many guidelines and practical ways to ensure this engagement, including in language learning. Student success is not just about performance or final marks, but also about students completing a year where they have interacted with others and learned to care for them, where they have been changed to want to impact societies and communities, and where they have acquired skills that they will use when they enter the world of work.”

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