Teaching popular science to master’s students in Clinical linguistics – By Adrià Rofes
As an assistant professor in neurolinguistics at the University of Groningen, I ask graduate students to submit regular coursework and, for a couple of years now, I also teach them a bit of science communication and ask them to write popular science articles. Most of the work they normally do stays “inside the walls” of the university. However, last academic year, I was particularly happy with the assignments of two students from the European Master’s in Clinical Linguistics. So I encouraged them to work together on a popular science article for on-line magazine and, surprise-surprise, they got it published (see here)!
I am interested in popular science for many reasons: other than the intrinsic need to make scientific knowledge more malleable and understandable by non-expert audiences, students enjoy writing such articles and, some of them, even excel at this! Indeed, students that may not be as strong at writing formal assignments, or those for whom English may still be a tough nut to crack, can sometimes be excellent at popular science. So why not help them realize that they have skills that can also grant them entrance in an exciting professional career? All of this undoubtedly makes me think that I should keep popular science in my assessment armamentarium, and why not? Perhaps also preach a bit about it?
In the article the students published, they went over the case of a person with a brain tumor that was asked to sing during surgery. The students made the article even more interesting by connecting this case with that of other people, like the famous Russian composer Vissarion Shebalin and a professional opera singer. This exercise and overall teaching popular science has been a very rewarding experience. So, I encourage you, fellow teachers, to try out this type of assignments in some of your courses. It does not need to be in the form of an article: tweets, short videos, blogs, podcasts… Anything works! You only need a couple of very motivated students and a good linguistics story.