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CAES9203 Academic English: Philosophy and the History of Ideas

Coordinator: Colin TAIT

Course Description:

This course aims to help students develop the English language skills they need to succeed in their major. The course is open to all BA students, but is most relevant to the needs of students majoring in, or intending to major in, Philosophy; students of other majors such as Comparative Literature, Chinese History and Culture, Fine Arts and Gender Studies will find the history of ideas element of the course useful. The primary aim of CAES9203 is to enable students to read texts on philosophy and the development of influential, critical ideas (e.g. Marxism, liberalism, critical theory), and to use a range of analytical and rhetorical techniques to produce persuasive disciplinary essays. The course has a substantial secondary focus on the development of disciplinary speaking and listening skills.

Learning Outcomes:

By the end of the course, students should be able to:

  • Identify and distinguish between critical ideas and supporting details in disciplinary texts, and demonstrate understanding of disciplinary arguments
  • Use a range of rhetorical features to build written and spoken academic arguments which draw from appropriate disciplinary literature
  • Demonstrate control of grammatical accuracy and lexical appropriacy, and awareness of methods for improving performance in these two areas
  • Reflect critically on one’s reading, writing and research skills as well as one’s learning and learning processes in the context of an academic tutorial or interview
  • Critically research and write an essay on a specific and narrow topic related to their major discipline as well as produce “elemental genres” (i.e key rhetorical functions) found in academic essays


  • Students follow a “process-writing” approach to complete argumentative essay in stages, including submission of: a research topic and references, a single-source summary and response text, a partial draft of their essay, a full draft of their essay for peer feedback, and a final essay.
  • Students also complete 3 “product-focused” collaborative writing (CW) tasks that require use of important disciplinary rhetorical conventions. From these 3 CW drafts, students choose 2 to individually revise and submit in a mini-portfolio at the end of the course.
  • Numerous small-group and individual writing feedback tutorials encourage revision of writing to improve argumentation and language accuracy.
  • Students engage in pre-writing discussions on input texts in CW sessions.
  • In a tutorial style speaking test, students will reflect on their experience of researching and writing their essay.

Assessment Methods:

(with breakdown of percentage weighting of the various methods)

  • Essays (45%)
  • Tutorial discussions (4-Year Only) (25%)
  • Portfolios (30%)