Students are customarily required to perform oral presentations in class in many study programmes at Higher Education. However, this learning tool is employed by teachers on the assumption that university students know how to make use of this tool effectively, disregarding the fact that they have typically received little formal training in how to make a good oral presentation in previous educational stages. Furthermore, the implementation of study programmes where English is used as a means of instruction for some subjects is becoming ever more frequent at universities in Europe (Wächter & Maiworm, 2008; Doiz, Lasagabaster & Sierra, 2013), in accordance with the European Commission policy to promote multilingualism and language diversity in language learning, so university students are confronted with the task of presenting contents orally through a foreign language in the classroom.
The aim of the present study is to gain insight into the use of oral presentations in English at Higher Education in Spain. More specifically, we present the results from an educational experience in which two different university student profiles were involved – a group of English-medium instruction (EMI) students and a group of English as a foreign language (EFL) students. Both groups took part in a teaching experience aimed at improving students’ oral presentation skills. They all had to subsequently perform an oral presentation in English in class, and assessed the whole experience afterwards. Students reported having learnt in all the areas involved – content, language, performance, and use of visual support. However, EMI students did not perceive that their English language skills had improved in comparison with the significant gains reported by EFL students as a consequence of their participation in the experience, which suggests that perhaps EMI lessons, in contrast to EFL settings, are exceedingly focused on the subject content and considerably disregard the language component (Ruiz de Zarobe, 2010). In fact, students participating in multilingualism programmes at university usually highlight their limitations in English language proficiency, in particular when it comes to writing and speaking (Doiz, Lasagabaster & Sierra, 2012). Hence, in line with the European Commission’s action plan to promote multilingualism, we make a call for a more integrated content-language approach in EMI contexts at university, where planned Focus-on-Form (FonF) techniques could be used as a means to promote a better development of particular areas of language (García Mayo, 2009, 2012; Ruiz de Zarobe & Lasagabaster, 2010; Basterrechea Lozano, 2012; Gallardo del Puerto & Martínez Adrián, in press; Martínez Adrián, Gallardo del Puerto & Gutiérrez Mangado, in press).
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