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Issues in Educational Research, 2021, Vol 31(1), 56-75.
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A comparative study of academic literacy in English medium instruction programs in UAE and Finland

Geraldine Chell
United Arab Emirates University, UAE

Mirjamaija Mikkilä-Erdmann, Tuike Iiskala
University of Turku, Finland

Anna Dillon
Zayed University, United Arab Emirates

Graduate students in English medium instruction (EMI) programs face challenges with academic literacy, the fundamental tool for thesis writing. Therefore, this paper investigates the promotion of academic literacy from the perspective of curricula. Aligning with Tardy's (2009) genre knowledge theory and its four genre knowledges necessary for developing academic literacy, this comparative study adopts a socio-cultural position of learning by utilising the knowledges as analytical lenses to explore and compare the documents of two masters programs in the UAE and Finland. Iterative theory and data-driven coding revealed that for both curricula, the intended learning outcomes address these four genre knowledges. However, tacit assumptions of two genre knowledges and possible culture shock concerning the transition from didactic learning to substantial independent study may be barriers for students in EMI settings. In addition, bridging the gap between English language entry requirements and learning outcomes, and fostering community learning environments may better facilitate the realisation of students' full potential.
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Authors: Geraldine Chell is an EAP Instructor in the Developmental Instruction Unit, University College, United Arab Emirates University, and is also a doctoral candidate at the University of Turku, Finland. She has worked as an EAP instructor at universities in the UK and the United Arab Emirates. Her research interests include English Medium Instruction, academic literacy and community of practice.
ORCID ID: 0000-0002-5896-1176
Email: geraldine.c@uaeu.ac.ae, geraldine.g.chell@utu.fi

Dr Mirjamaija Mikkilä-Erdmann is head of the Centre for Research on Learning and Instruction in the Faculty of Education, University of Turku, and a professor in the Department for Teacher Education. Mikkilä-Erdmann is an internationally experienced scholar, supervisor and teacher trainer with expertise in research on learning and instruction.
ORCID ID: 0000-0003-1569-794X
Email: mirmik@utu.fi

Dr Tuike Iiskala is a University Research Fellow at the Department of Teacher Education and the Centre for Research on Learning and Instruction at the University of Turku, Finland. She has versatile experience of research and teaching in the field of learning research.
ORCID ID: 0000-0002-3114-3317
Email: tuiiska@utu.fi

Dr Anna Dillon is an Associate Professor and Assistant Dean for Student Affairs in the College of Education at Zayed University, United Arab Emirates. She has worked as a teacher, head of faculty, school principal and teacher educator in Ireland and in the UAE. Her research interests include bilingual education, language education, translanguaging, TCKs, and action research.
ORCID ID: 0000-0002-8213-1295
Email: anna.dillon@zu.ac.ae

Please cite as: Chell, G., Mikkilä-Erdmann, M., Iiskala, T. & Dillon, A. (2021). A comparative study of academic literacy in English medium instruction programs in UAE and Finland. Issues in Educational Research, 31(1), 56-75. http://www.iier.org.au/iier31/chell.pdf

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Created 4 April 2021. Last correction: 4 April 2021.
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