‘Shortening the Distance’ for PhD Students

mgr Agnieszka Humięcka

Within each university, different groups of foreign language learners can be distinguished. The word ‘different’ is a vague one in this context as it refers to a wide range of distinct factors conditioning the selection of the language material and teaching methods as well as to characteristics displayed by particular language groups. This paper briefly outlines the basic criteria for identifying these different groups of learners at the university level, and the implications of this identification, to finally focus on language courses for PhD students. An analysis of the factors which influence the teacher’s choices with reference to the content of such courses and the style of instruction is presented. This analysis is based on the author’s experience gained through teaching English to doctoral students from different faculties of the AGH University of Science and Technology. This context usually requires a lot of flexibility from the teacher. Flexibility does not mean complete freedom. The teacher’s choices are always subject to external requirements; nevertheless, these choices also have to take new circumstances into account, inevitably leading to a compromise. What is crucial is that this compromise is satisfying for all the parties involved. The paper looks at how the selection of the issues and materials to be included in a given language course for PhD students and what methods, including appropriate assessment procedures,  guarantee the effectiveness of the teaching/learning process.  It also examines the underlying principles reflecting the author’s approach to teaching, which is eclectic by nature and far from adhering to any stiff classifications and dichotomies. The general motto is to “shorten the distance”. On the basis of the provided examples, this paper aims to answer the following questions: the distance to what, for whom, and how to achieve that.