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To Apply or not to Apply for a Job Efficiently: That is the Question

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This paper presents a pedagogical proposal for higher education students of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) who need to be trained on how to apply for jobs. Students are required to produce oral elevator pitches, written CVs with covering emails,
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   28 To Apply or not to Apply for a Job Efficiently: That is the Question M. Iglesias   School of Tourism, Hospitality and Gastronomy CETT-UB, University of Barcelona Abstract.  This paper presents a pedagogical proposal for higher education students of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) who need to be trained on how to apply for jobs. Students are required to produce oral elevator pitches, written CVs with covering emails, and take part in job interview simulations. The s tudents’ oral productions are video recorded, and self, peer and teacher feedback is provided through a class blog. The paper includes an account of the rationale and lessons plan, as well as the materials used and authentic examples illustrating their implementation. This approach was followed during the academic year 2018-19 with a group of first year students of the Bachelor’s degree in Tourism in the context of the School of Tourism, Hospitality and Gastronomy CETT- UB, from the University of Barcelona (Spain). The students’ level of English was B2 according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. Due to their very limited or even non-existent work experience, the development of their communicative competence in EFL with a specific professional orientation is a must so as to become successful job applicants for middle or top management positions in the tourism sector. The most significant aspects of the teaching-learning-assessment process are reported, along with the main drawbacks, limitations, practical implications and future research avenues. 1 Introduction In the era of the Internet of things, social media, youtubers and virtual reality, education can no longer follow a traditional approach. Times have changed, the world has changed and learners have changed, so teaching and teachers have also had to face change in terms of why, what, how, where and even when to teach. In Europe, this transformation has been particularly noticeable in primary and secondary education. However, higher education seems to be less proactively willing to embrace change and is rather anchored in pre-constructivist conceptions and methodologies. A constructivist approach entails that “each individual constructs his or her own reality and therefore learns different things in very different ways even when provided with what seem to be very similar learning experiences” ( Williams & Burden, 1997, p. 2). The development of learners’ competences is nowadays supposed to focus on facilitating applicability in real life professional contexts (Peguero et al., 2014). Communicative competence in a foreign language is one of those must-have skills, not only for future professionals in most sectors, but also for lifelong learning. More specifically, the acquisition of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) is fundamental for tourism students. The need for a cross-curricular perspective to allow for knowledge transfer, coupled with the understanding that teaching-learning-assessment processes should be integrated to enable significant language acquisition in higher education environments, underlie the pedagogical proposal described in this paper. Such proposal was designed and implemented in the academic year 2018- 19. The participants were a group of 12 first year students of the Bachelor’s degree in Tourism at the School of Tourism, Hospitality and Gastronomy CETT-UB, from the University of Barcelona, in Spain. The underpinning constructivist principles follow along the same lines as reported past course of action in this educational setting (Iglesias, 2013a, 2013b). They involve the fostering of formative continuous assessment, which in turn requires informing students systematically of assessment criteria and procedures. They must play an active role in their own learning and reflect on their   29 competence development in professionally-oriented situations. The spotlight is on learners’ communication strategies and on their pragmatic and socio-cultural competences. Language accuracy is taken care of, as well as the adequacy and coherence of their performance in accordance with a formal register. Therefore, accuracy and adequacy problems are positively regarded as opportunities for feedback and progress (Iglesias, 2013b). Since the key to efficient communication lies in finding the balance between accuracy and pragmatic fluency, pronunciation is also worked on at a supra segmental level to minimise communication breakdowns caused by mispronunciation interference. Mistakes are dealt with constructively, and self-correction and peer-correction are carried out under the teacher's supervision to promote students’ awareness of their strong and weak points by reflecting upon them (Iglesias, 2013a). 2 Pedagogical Design At the end of the academic year 2017-18 the Career Services Department from the School of Tourism, Hospitality and Gastronomy CETT-UB held an orientation session for CETT-UB language teachers. As the name indicates, Career Services is in charge of managing CETT-UB students’ internships and job offers coming from the tourism, hospitality and catering industry worldwide. Career Services also organises workshops for CETT-UB students providing them with practical assistance and guidance on how to take part in candidate selection processes. Following the guidelines provided by Career Services, a lesson unit was designed aimed at first year CETT-UB students of the Bachelor’s degree in Tourism in the context of their EFL class. These students had taken a placement test before starting their classes according to which their level of EFL was B2.2 within the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. Their communicative competence in EFL was, therefore, upper intermediate. However, as most of them were 18 years old and their professional experience was rather scarce (if not totally non-existent), they lacked the job search skills and professional lexicon required to apply for a job. Their EFL course consisted of 120 teaching hours, beginning in September and ending in May, and as these students had been allocated to an advanced level group, their syllabus had a business English approach combined with the requirement to conduct an academic research project. Yet, applying for a job was not initially part of their syllabus, since this area is usually covered by second year students whose level of EFL is rather B2.1. The textbook used by advanced level students does not deal with this topic, either. Hence the need to design special learning materials adapted to these students’ profile, to keep to the orientations provided by Career Services in order to avoid any cross-curricular contradictions, and to guarantee that what they learn can be transferred to future real life situations in practical terms. The vehicle used as a platform to facilitate the teaching-learning-assessment process is a class blog : Welcome to CETT’s blog ( http://englishcett.blogspot.com). The blog was created in 2007 and is often used as a tool for feedback provision and peer assessment (Iglesias, 2014). In previous academic years, the students’ oral skills have  been developed by video recording their oral  productions, posting them on the blog with the students’ prior consent, and asking them to comment on their own performance and their classmates’ performances. Their comments are often complemented by teacher feedback and follow a set of guidelines based on assessment criteria they are familiar with. As a matter of fact, since the beginning of the academic period students usually receive training on how to interpret each criterion, how to talk about their strengths and weaknesses, and how to contribute to their learning process constructively by focusing on positive points and aspects that need reinforcement and improvement. Other skills are also worked on through the class blog, such as writing skills and academic research skills, usually linked to the promotion of critical thinking. The blog allows for the   30 provision of instruction while encouraging interaction and reflection as well, producing a mirror effect. Thus, the class blog can be considered the best medium to support a job search learning unit, which has been designed and structured in different stages. 2.1 Stage 1: Introduction The first stage comprises a warming-up activity to contextualise the topic and to elicit students’ prior knowledge and experience in relation to jobs and careers. Several open questions are posed by the teacher to generate a discussion. Initial advice is offered by the teacher through Welcome to CETT’s blog  by means of a post entitled “Applying for a job”  (see Annex 1). It includes a number of tips and useful links aimed at helping students to video record an elevator pitch, to produce a written or a video CV and a covering email, and to prepare and practice for a job interview by employing some online resources such as Canva (https://www.canva.com) or Hirevue (https://www.hirevue.com), along with practical hints and examples. 2.2 Stage 2: Elevator pitch Having dealt with the theory, the post “Create your el evator pitch ”   on Welcome to CETT’s blog  prompts students to start with the practice by creating and delivering their own elevator pitches individually, video recording and posting them, and commenting on their performances following the usual set of assessment criteria (see Annex 2). Such criteria are concerned with linguistic use, i.e. grammar and vocabulary accuracy, range and register adequacy; task achievement, i.e. the efficient achievement of communicative purpose, content relevance and extent; fluency and pronunciation, i.e. speech flow, intonation, stress and rhythm; and communicative resources, i.e. the use of linguistic and non-linguistic resources, support materials and attitude. As mentioned above, students should already understand the meaning of this meta language, since they have used it previously to comment on their utterances. Moreover, they have already got used to the idea of analysing their own speeches and helping each other thanks to their comments. 2.3 Stage 3: CV and covering email The next stage consists in writing a CV and a covering email in pairs, as instructed on Welcome to CETT’s blog though the post “Job interview simulations” (see Annex 3).  Students are offered a set of authentic job ads found on the Internet and slightly edited by the teacher. Each pair reads the job ads carefully, weighing up the pros and cons of applying for each post so as to choose one. Their choices are then put in common and a consensus needs to be reached, as all the students must apply for the same job. After selecting the job advertisement, each pair of students must invent a suitable candidate profile and use Canva to design their CV as a single applicant. Due to their limited real professional backgrounds, students can look for inspiration on the Internet and use their imagination. Once they have completed their CV, they must write a covering email and send their CV as an attachment to the contact person  –  the teacher, in this case. The teacher revises the CVs and emails and returns them to the students so that they can rewrite an improved version and/or write their own CVs using their real data following the model they have used as imaginary applicants. This can be a very useful basic resource that can be customised when applying for an internship or a job vacancy in the future. 2.4 Stage 4: International internships presentation   31 The following session is conducted by Career Services. It consists of a general presentation in English on international internships at hand for CETT-UB students. The presentation supplements all the aspects that have been worked in the EFL class, and includes information on internship opportunities abroad, as well as the testimonials and advice supplied by CETT-UB current students and alumni, both face to face and through Skype. 2.5 Stage 5: Job interview The last stage of the teaching-learning-assessment process focuses on how to face a job interview by means of two more sessions. In the first one, after listening to a recording of a personnel manager explaining how he usually interviews and selects candidates (taken from New Insights into Business Unit 2), students suggest possible questions that they might have to answer at a job interview. Additionally, they read other similar questions listed on the post “Job inter  view simula tions”, and discuss  their potential replies. Students are now ready to take part in simulated job interviews and take turns to be interviewers and interviewees. Each student must ask a couple of questions as an interviewer, and everybody has to apply for the same job using the materials they have prepared in previous sessions. Their interviews are video recorded by the teacher. Afterwards they must write their comments on their own and their classmates’ performances following the usual guidelines, and the teacher collects their reflections to upload them on Welcome to CETT’s blog , along with anonymous teacher remarks. Students must finally vote anonymously for the best candidate, who obtains a prize. In the last session, the group watches the video recordings and goes through the feedback on strengths and weaknesses posted on the blog. This is complemented with open oral improvement suggestions and a group discussion, and the process concludes with an evaluation of the learning unit by means of a “ Mid-term self-assessment sheet ” (see Annex 4). 3 Implementation The pedagogical design was put into practice throughout seven two-hour sessions. The procedures followed in each session will be described in detail and the materials used will be supplied. The lesson plan report for each session has been adapted from Your Teacher Training Handbook (McGrath & Coles, 2014). 3.1 Session 1 The first session took place on 22 November 2018.    Learning objectives: By the end of this session students should have a clear idea of the procedures involved in applying for a job. They should also understand how to create an elevator pitch.    Learning-teaching activities and grouping: We start with an oral c lass discussion about students’ work experience, participation in employee selection processes and professional expectations. We go together through the  blog posts of 12 November 2018 to make sure that students understand the different stages involved in applying for a job, the recommendations given and the examples. Students need to video record their own elevator pitches individually at home and upload them on the blog before the following session.    Setting and resources: Usual classroom and projector. Welcome to CETT’s blog  posts 12  November 2018 “Applying for a job”   and “Create your elevator pitch”.      Assessment of learning outcomes: Throughout the following sessions.   32    Problems and solutions: Even though the blog is full of videos recorded by CETT-UB students in the past with their consent, this year some students are reluctant to upload their videos on the  blog. They do not feel embarrassed to show their performance to their classmates, but they prefer not to show them to the rest of the school. Instead, they agree to email their videos to their teacher so that they can be used in the next session.    Evaluation of session success: For most students this has been their first realistic taste of job application in EFL, so the introductory target has been achieved. In spite of their lack of self-confidence students seem motivated. 3.2 Session 2 The second session took place on 27 November 2018.    Learning objectives: By the end of this session students should be able to identify strengths and weaknesses in their elevator pitches.    Learning-teaching activities and grouping: The session starts with an oral class discussion about the main difficulties they have  encountered when producing their elevator pitches. We watch each video all together, and after each performance they have some minutes to take notes in order to post their comments on the blog anonymously. Each student must write some positive aspects and some improvement suggestions for each elevator pitch.    Setting and resources: Computer room and projector. Videos of elevator pitches stored in private Youtube channel (https://studio.youtube.com/channel/UC8hSWFHdkkrIiA2ZPU5pjxw). Welcome to CETT’s blog    post 12 November 2018 “Create your elevator pitch”.      Assessment of learning outcomes: Anonymous peer and teacher analytic assessment is provided in writing through the blog. Self, peer and teacher holistic feedback is also provided orally. Taking into account that most of the students are 18 years old and that they were unfamiliar with elevator pitches, most of them have done a good job, but there is also room for improvement. After showing some of the videos to the head of Career Services, she agrees that this has been a very good first step, and that more orientation and work are needed from this starting point in the future, ideally by means of cross-curricular cooperation between the school’s Career Services and English teachers.    Problems and solutions: As it is not possible to watch all the elevator pitches in this session, some of them are left for a forthcoming session.    Evaluation of session success: Although not all the videos have been examined, students seem to have grasped the concept and purpose of this task successfully. Their motivation and implication have been considerable. 3.3 Session 3 The third session took place on 29 November 2018.    Learning objectives: By the end of this session students should be able to write a CV and a covering email.    Learning-teaching activities and grouping: We go together through the blog post of 12 November  2018 to revise the guidelines for writing CVs and covering emails. In pairs, students are given the printouts of four authentic advertisements published on the Internet and edited by the teacher for the sake of confidentiality. The ads aim to recruit an Assistant Front Office Manager, a Corporate Travel Consultant, a Hotel Sales Co-ordinator, and a Meetings & Events Manager, all of them based in the UK. Students must read the job description, requirements and recruitment conditions, weigh up the pros and cons for each post, and choose the one each pair would like to apply for. After a class discussion to put their choices in common, they must all agree on the job ad which everybody will focus on. In this case, almost everybody seems
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