Innovation in Language Learning

Edition 16

Accepted Abstracts

Disrupting English for Academic Purposes Online: Assemblages of Technology, Space, and Language Learning

Eugenia Vasilopoulos, University of Ottawa (Canada)


This presentation reports on a study of instructors’ experience with an online English for Academic Purposes course, a course designed to prepare incoming international students for university-level study. More specifically, it explores how the absence of the physical classroom, body-to-body interaction, and shared geographic community transform how EAP is taught online. To do so, this study draws on Deleuze & Guattari’s (1987) concepts of assemblage, rhizome, and molar, molecular, and lines of flight to highlight the relationality and contingency between elements in the EAP instructor’s online teaching assemblage.  Assemblage refers to the interrelation of elements (human/non-human, material, and expressive) that operate in unpredictable (non)habitual ways around actions and events (Wise, 2005). The concept of the rhizome, is characterized by six principles: connection, heterogeneity, multiplicity, asignifying rupture, mapping, and tracing: “At any point a rhizome can be connected to any other… a rhizome ceaselessly establishes connections” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987, p. 7). Rhizomatic lines can be either molar, molecular, or lines of flight, and these lines work together in the assemblage to maintain order, to disrupt, or to completely transform. A post-qualitative approach informs the research design. The study is situated in an English for Academic Purposes Program, Faculty of Arts, at a large Canadian university. As per COIVD pandemic response protocol, the program shifted to online delivery in March 2020. At the end of the Fall 2020 semester (December, 2020), seven part-time instructors and five teaching assistants participated in a one-hour online zoom interview to discuss their experience teaching EAP online. Data was then read through the Deleuzian-inspired non-method of rhizonanalysis (Masny, 2013) to trace molar themes and molecular divergences. Molar and molecular themes include: 1) Molar continuity in prescribed practices and molecularity in adapting online practices; 2) Molar engagement with new technologies and molecular exploitation the exigencies of new technologies; and 3) Molar cohesion in the implementing new Academic Writing Policy with molecular breaks from lack of transparency in assessment procedures. Data is then mapped through vignettes to illustrate the complexity and nonlinearity between instructor-student interaction, student engagement, student accountability, and academic integrity, and lines of flight. To conclude, implications for online language education curriculum and teaching practices will be proposed. 

Keywords: online teaching, English for academic purposes, international students, assemblage, rhizome.

References (partial list):

  • Bangou, F. (2014). On the complexity of digital video cameras in/as research: Perspectives and agencements. McGill Journal of Education, 49(3), 534–560.
  • Biswas, A. E. (2015). “I second that emotion”: Minding how plagiarism feels. English Faculty Publications, 25.
  • Buchanan, I. (2017). Assemblage theory, or, the future of an illusion. Deleuze Studies, 11(3), 457–474.
  • Cook, G. (2010). Translation in language teaching: An argument for reassessment. Oxford University Press.
  • Deleuze, G. & Guattari, F. (1987). A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. (B. Massumi, Trans.). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

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