ESL / EFL visual arts student guide - IELP (1995)

R.J. Preece (EFL)
English for Art & Design | 16 November 2011
This guide was previously published as a resource document for Temple University ESL / ESL students studying at the Intensive English Language Program (IELP), with the title "IELP guide for visual arts students" in 1995. Click to see the English for Art and Design overview page.

ESL / EFL visual arts student guide - IELP

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This guide is designed for foreign students in the visual arts fields studying at Temple University (Pennsylvania) through its intensive English language program (IELP). It focuses on the practical information needed by students to make educational and personal decisions. The first two sections outline various educational opportunities in the arts both at Temple University and at other institutions in the United States, including opportunities for study outside the United States. Such issues as program design, school rankings, alumni networks, tuition, information sources, academic progress, transferring between schools, and majors are discussed. The third section offers practical information about applying to schools, including the role of portfolios, language test scores, and oral language requirements. Visual arts study opportunities for Temple University IELP students are covered in greater detail in the fourth section, and places of interest for visual arts students in the Philadelphia area are described briefly in the final section.

Foreword to ESL Professionals

This student guide has three purposes:
[1] to provide information that would enhance the study abroad experience for ESL students interested in the visual arts at Temple University’s Intensive English Language Program (IELP).

[2] to present different visual arts study opportunities for students while they are in IELP.

[3] to clarify the application process for students who plan to apply for admission into a visual arts program in the United States.

This guide, although specifically developed for IELP students, can be used as a model or reference for addressing the needs of students interested in the visual arts in other university ESL programs, or it can be applied to other content areas.

A great distinction must be made between the study abroad experiences of students in the United States and those of native English speakers studying in Europe. At the Tyler School of Art in Rome, students can take a variety of course work that focuses upon the visual arts of the studied environment with a significant amount of class time spent on-site. Meanwhile, ESL students in the United States have limited access to learning about the artistic culture of the host country, as they are almost exclusively restricted to instruction in general ESL programs. At most, these programs offer field trips, but they don’t often address the content and tourist-oriented needs that the students may have.

Consequently, the medium of instruction is the foremost distinction between these two experiences. The program in Rome is taught in the student’s first language, English, while the latter is taught in the students’ second language, also in English. However, with developments in content-based instruction, we are now able to address students’ content and tourist-oriented needs; in this case, by shaping course work to expose the host country’s artistic culture and / or to prepare students for content study in the visual arts. At Temple’s IELP, this takes the form of advanced content electives in the visual arts, ESL-oriented field trips that explore Philadelphia’s artistic heritage, and study opportunities with Temple / Tyler faculty which were initiated when IELP approached the visual arts departments.

Meanwhile, the application process for ESL students wishing to apply to visual arts programs can seem daunting. Information in school catalogs is often hard to find, difficult to read, and doesn’t describe activities specifically for the ESL visual arts student. Current administrative support and advising, while well-meaning, is often understaffed and is responsible for students of all academic interests. Often is the case where students ask ESL faculty to recommend schools and explain the application procedure, of which their knowledge of art and design programs is spotty at best. Advising services and admissions offices have not had adequate ESL training which would facilitate student understanding of technical matters; even advanced students need linguistic modifications. Also, in their investigations, students learn about differences in requirements for admission that often conflict with "official information". Adding to difficulties with comprehension, this, in particular, causes a great amount of confusion and students learn that their investigation tactics need to be reconsidered.

At Temple University, four problems arose. First, Temple’s art school, the Tyler School of Art, is a top-ranked school which is extremely competitive and strictly upholds its TOEFL requirements (500 undergraduate, 575 graduate). For example, in 1995, 5% of applicants were admitted into its MFA / Painting program. For ESL visual artists, this sometimes meant that Tyler was, at best, a "first-choice" school. Despite constant encouragement, most of our students did not know how to go about finding a school that suited their individual needs; instead, they preferred to apply to schools identified by teachers that they respected in their home country or at IELP.

Second, as I had an art background and taught the advanced content elective, Language of Art and Design, I often acted as a resource person for the students. This, in turn, created two problems: I was asked the same questions repeatedly (addressed in this guide); with my impending departure, it was desired that something be organized to assist the students and the IELP faculty that advise them.

Third, students learned about different visual arts study opportunities in an ad-hoc manner. They sometimes learned about tourist-oriented activities that interested them after being at IELP for quite some time, which was disappointing to some who were in Philadelphia for only a brief period. For study opportunities, this meant that students who had access to me took part in courses and lectures, while others did not have this information. For the application process, some students neither knew about portfolio requirements nor had a portfolio, perceived the TOEFL requirement as an inflexible barrier and the sole factor in admissions decisions, and had no idea about admissions deadlines. Finally, because of the transient nature of ESL programs and the differences in the first languages of the students, information did not flow as one might expect.

While the issues of ESL visual arts students are addressed in this guide and language modifications have been made to facilitate intermediate- and advanced-level understanding, this is not a direct language teaching tool. Instead, the objective is to empower these students with practical information relevant to their specific situation and interests as a means of culturally enriching their study abroad experience, be it two months or four years, and speeding up their ability to confidently approach the application procedure for admission into a visual arts program.

In this guide, you will find the following:

I. Introduction, page 3

II. What is offered at Temple University? Pages 4-5
A. Two art programs— Temple and Tyler
B. Architecture
C. Art history
D. Opportunities for study outside of the U.S. through Temple

III. Which schools should I apply for in the United States? Pages 6-9
A. Changes in ranking of schools
B. Alumni networks
C. Price of tuition
D. Sources for information about schools
E. You got in, but can you get through?
F. Transferring to a different school the American way
G. What if I want to change my major?

IV. Practical things you need to know when applying to a school, pages 10-11
A. Applications
B. Portfolios
C. TOEFL scores
D. Speaking requirements: not on the TOEFL, but...

V. Visual arts study opportunities for IELP students, pages 12-15
A. IELP’s course in the Language of Art and Design
B. IELP’s drawing course
C. Portfolio preparation
D. Other study opportunities at the Tyler School of Art
E. Arts courses for credit at Temple
F. Observing classes
G. Other opportunities
H. Private tutoring
I. Transferring courses

Click to see the section V. Visual arts study opportunities for IELP students online.

VI. Places of interest for visual arts students in Philadelphia, pages 16-19
A. Museums / exhibition spaces
B. Tours of architecture
C. Sources for information
D. Bookstores
E. Selected coffeehouses

To read this guide in full, click here.