American and Canadian Studies
How will I be taught?
As a Birmingham student, you are joining the academic elite and have the privilege of learning from world-leading experts in their fields. Throughout your studies, you’ll be encouraged to become an independent and self-motivated learner, thriving on challenge and opportunities to think for yourself. At first, you may find these new ways of working and learning a challenge, but we’ll help you to make the transition and you’ll soon be benefiting from some of the most highly regarded teaching in this subject in the country.
Lectures explore a particular text, topic or context, often involving brief factual descriptions and outlining major questions and interpretations. Their main purpose is to challenge and stimulate, encouraging you to come to your own conclusions based on further reading and seminar debates.
Small-group tutorials/personal tutorials run alongside the lecture course, addressing any individual problems you may have and allowing you to consolidate lecture material, engage in constructive debate and expand your understanding. Some options and all final-year special subjects are also taught in small seminar groups.
Workshops fall somewhere between a lecture and a seminar. After a short lecture, the workshop takes the form of group activities and project-based work. Working from previously circulated material, you’ll approach critically different aspects of a problem or issue, developing and deepening themes and questions raised in the introductory lecture.
Supervised self study. In your final year you’ll undertake your dissertation, a substantial piece of independent research. We support you in this through a series of workshops, as well as one-on-one supervisions with a tutor who’ll be an academic expert in your chosen topic
Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) is an excellent tool for supporting our academic modules, allowing you to share throughts on assignments with other students via the discussion group facilities, and even submit your work electronically.
Enquiry Based Learning (EBL) means that learning is driven by the shared enquiry of students and tutors. This places you, the student, at the centre of your own degree: you learn through involvement and ownership, not simply by being a passive recipient of information thrown at you. We believe that this is the best way of learning while you’re at Birmingham as it’s very effective in enabling you to acquire the key skills and attributes that are valued by employers: creative and independent thinking, self-motivation, self-organisation, team-working, goal-setting and problem-solving.
From the outset, you will be assigned your own Personal Tutor who will get to know you as you progress through your studies, providing academic and welfare advice, encouraging you and offering assistance in any areas you may feel you need extra support to make the most of your potential and your time here at Birmingham.
Student Mentor Scheme
Our enthusiastic established students act as mentors to our new American and Canadian Studies students. This provides you with a friendly face to help you settle in.
Academic Writing Advisory Service
The Academic Writing Advisory Service (AWAS) will provide you with individual support from an academic writing advisor and postgraduate subject-specialist writing tutors. You’ll receive guidance on writing essays and dissertations at University-level which can be quite different from your previous experiences of writing. Support is given in a variety of ways, such as small-group workshops, online activities, feedback through email and tutorials.
On this degree programme you will engage with the structure and character of the English language, including phonology, lexis, grammar, and discourse; the variation of the English language; theories and methods of linguistics; methodologies and practices of linguistic research; and the history and development of the English language. Throughout the course you will gain a broad range of knowledge and understanding of the English language, and critical skills in the close reading and analysis of texts both literary and non-literary. You will also have developed your skills that are valued by employers including effective oral and written communication and argument. The course will give you a secure understanding of how different social and cultural contexts affect language norms and meaning. You will be taught through a variety of lectures, small-group seminars, workshops, and individual supervisions.
In the first year you will be introduced to a range of topics in English Language study including the history of English Language phonology (the sound system of English), morphology (word formation), grammar, children’s language development, discourse analysis (both spoken and written) and sociological issues such as the role of language in education. You will also have the opportunity to develop your research skills by investigating a topic of your choosing, which will enable you to develop your essay writing skills in English Language. Finally you will gain in-depth knowledge of different genres, and acquire appropriate tools for genre analysis which you will then be able to employ in your own writing.
Building on your first-year work, your second-year modules will provide you with a thorough grounding in the core technical aspects of the language, concentrating on English phonology and morphology and then on English grammar/syntax. You will also be able to choose from a range of options including History of English Language, which focuses on the history and development of the English Language, Talk and Text, which provides in-depth analyses of different kinds of spoken interaction, Language Acquisition, Variation and Change, which studies how these happen and what enables them, and Introduction to Teaching English as a Foreign Language. You will also take a module in Research Skills in English Language. This module is designed to develop your group and individual research skills by guiding you in such tasks as doing fieldwork, collecting data, and handling and oral presentation of results as well as a project write-up.
In the final year, you will study Linguistic Theory which provides an overview of linguistic theory, with an emphasis on data-based analysis. The module normally includes treatment of Saussure (the ‘founder’ of modern linguistics), Halliday (whose systemic model is very influential in the Birmingham School of Linguistics) and Sinclair (the Birmingham University-based founder of corpus linguistics). You will also be able to choose from a wide array of optional modules, on such topics as The Politics of English; Discourse and Society; Talk, Text and Identity; Lexicography and Word Meaning; and Narrative Analysis.
The degree builds to a final year substantial Research Project, which you will conduct independently but under supervision, on an issue of your own choice. You will be asked to select a suitable topic for research, collect data, assimilate relevant literature and construct a 10,000-word paper, showing judgement and persuasiveness. Ideally this will be of a standard which shows your eligibility for postgraduate study, or, if that is not your goal, for immediate employment.
American and Canadian Studies
Studying at degree-level is likely to be very different from your previous experience of learning and teaching; you’ll be expected to think, discuss and engage critically with the subject, and find things out for yourself. We’ll enable you to make the change to this new style of learning, and the way that you’re assessed during your studies will help you develop the essential skills you need to make a success of your time here at Birmingham.
During your first year you will part take in a formal ‘transition’ review with your personal tutor to see how you are getting on and whether there are particular areas where you need support.
To test your knowledge and develop your core skills we use a range of different assessment methods, including traditional written exams and assessed essays, presentations, book reviews, critical think-pieces, web discussions, class participation and digital editing projects. Some assessments count towards your final marks while some are purely aimed at allowing you to test out your ideas and techniques. The module outlines give you more information on assessment methods and our marking criteria.
At the beginning of each module you’ll be given information on how and when you’ll be assessed for that particular programme of study. You’ll receive feedback on each assessment within four weeks, highlighting the positives of your work as well as any areas that need more attention, so that you can learn from and build on what you’ve done.
You will be assessed in a variety of ways including essays, assignments, language commentaries, projects, unseen examinations and group presentations. Both formative and summative assessment will be provided. Summative assessment is supported by detailed and informative feedback. This feedback will help you to identify weaknesses and areas that require more attention, and will enable you to improve your work and marks. A Personal Tutor will be assigned to you at the start of your course and will remain with you until graduation. He or she will go through your feedback with you and help you to use it to improve your subsequent work.