Who do you think you’re talking to? A learner-centred approach to teaching scientific writing

Felicity Neilson (France)
Many non-native English speakers who seek scientific writing courses already have considerable knowledge and experience in their academic field. In addition, they often resent the requirement to communicate their work in a foreign language and see it as an unfair obstacle not faced by their Anglophone counterparts. As a consequence, many traditional teaching styles can increase resistance among participants and may not lead to the most effective results. In this talk, I will describe my experience of adopting a learner-centred approach to training, based on the observation that learners better assimilate new information if it is built on what they already ‘know’. This approach is particularly suited to the teaching of scientific writing to non-native English speakers, as the trainer aims to make the most of the group’s collective knowledge through analysis and discussion as a way of leading them towards their goals. The trainer has to stay focused on the group’s needs, learn to listen, share the learning experience, and follow the trainees’ progress. The result is a relevant training experience that ‘speaks’ to the trainee and is immediately applicable.
Felicity Neilson has been working as an author’s editor, project manager and communications trainer for 18 years. She runs Matrix Consultants, a Paris-based agency handling a range of services for international biomedical communications in France: training, translating, writing and editing.