English Courses for Postdoctoral Scholars

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“Specific knowledge of the culture, language and technical aspects of any discipline…provides a strong foundation for both traditional and non-traditional professions.”

(The NPA Postdoctoral Core Competencies, 2007-2009)

The Office of Postdoctoral Affairs and the Workplace and Professional ESL Program have worked together to design courses that meet the needs of Ohio State’s international postdocs. ESL administers the courses, and OPA provides scholarship funds for postdocs.
Please see below for course descriptions.


Course Rotations

1st Seven Weeks of Semester*
2nd Seven Weeks of Semester*
Autumn Speaking Skill/Pragmatics Professional Presentation
Spring Speaking Skill/Pragmatics Professional Presentation
Summer Understanding American Culture Professional Presentation
Summer Writing Course

*Please note, each course is listed (and must be registered for) separately.
Until further notice, all courses will be offered online.


Course Descriptions

Understanding American Culture (Summer, 1st seven weeks)
This course provides a forum for participants to sharpen their language skills as they increase their cultural fluency in a relaxed and supportive setting. Topics will be drawn from American history, business, education, government, social issues, the arts, and entertainment, depending on participants’ interests. Our meetings will include short presentations from the instructor and the participants; group and class discussion of topics covered in short readings and topics the participants raise from their experience; guest speakers; community contact exercises; and short field trips. This course will enhance your knowledge of American culture and the ease with which you negotiate your day-to-day, academic and professional interactions. We will explore, examine and discuss American perspectives on Individual Freedom and Self-Reliance; Equality of Opportunity and Competition; Material Wealth and Hard Work1

1Datesman, Crandall & Kearny (2014) American Ways: An Introduction to American Culture, Pearson Education, p. 32.

Professional Presentation (Autumn, Spring, and Summer, 2nd seven weeks)
In this course, postdoctoral scholars will develop and practice communication skills required within their professional contexts: within a team, an institution, a discipline and a society. Participants will have opportunities to present their research in various forms (poster sessions, conferences or seminars, PowerPoint presentations, for example). The focus of the course is presentation skills, and the goal is to create a forum where participants may refine aspects of their oral/aural English skills, body language, academic and professional etiquette, and overall comfort and confidence in making professional presentations.
Meetings will consist of instructor presentations on topics ranging from English prosody and pronunciation to Kawasaki’s Presentation Zen, followed by group or class discussion. This will be followed each session by participants’ presentations, with guided peer and instructor feedback.  Exercises designed to enhance spoken English and public speaking will also be a significant part of the course.

Speaking Skills: Pragmatics (Autumn and Spring, 1st seven weeks)
Postdoctoral scholars, as future professionals within the disciplines, require not only a high level of expertise in these disciplines but also ease with English when it is the language used to communicate and exchange ideas. “Postdoctoral scholars are expected to demonstrate interpersonal and other communication skills that enable them to communicate effectively with colleagues at all levels” (The NPA Postdoctoral Core Competencies, 2009).

In this course, participants will refine and practice their spoken English pronunciation, intonation, rhythm and syllable prominence. In addition, the course will address the pragmatics of English. That is, we will study the practical ways English is used and understood in many different contexts and situations: in the lab, among colleagues, with department staff, with undergraduate students, and in day-to-day social interactions outside of the university. In a general sense, pragmatics determine the way a speaker may be perceived by others, such as how polite a speaker seems to the listener. Class meetings will include instruction on aspects of pronunciation at the level of phrases, sentences, and longer discourse, followed by practice in small groups; and presentation and discussion of English in interpersonal interactions followed by practice both in and out of class through community contact-type exercises.

Writing Course (Summer, 1st seven weeks)
This course is design to help postdoctoral scholars improve their academic and professional written communication skills. Participants will receive guidance and practice in composing and editing research papers, abstracts, email communication and other relevant academic/professional genres. Class modules and individual tutorials in these various written forms will focus on improving English grammar control, as well as on achieving coherence, appropriate style, and effective written academic discussions.