Poor English language proficiency hinders generic skills development: a qualitative study of the perspectives of first-year medical students

Michelle McLean*, Deborah Murdoch-Eaton, Sami Shaban

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


A number of generic skills have been identified as outcomes of higher education, largely to prepare graduates for the unpredictability of their professional practice. Generic skills include-but are not limited to-information-handling, managing learning, communication and presentation, computer literacy, critical thinking and problem-solving. After completing a quantitative validated skills audit, three cohorts of new medical students at a Gulf university (English second language learners) were surveyed for their self-identified strengths and deficiencies in terms of these generic skills. A year later, again, after completing the skills audit, they were provided with their skills list from the previous year and asked to identify factors that had promoted or hindered skills development. Students identified information-handling and communication and presentation skills as two skills categories in which considerable development had taken place. Despite these gains, due largely to the activities in a Medical Communication and Study Skills theme (English for Special Purposes) and extra-curricular activities such as research, students acknowledged that poor English language skills (e.g. vocabulary deficiency, difficulty reading) had hindered the development of their communication and presentation and information-handling skills. For some, poor English language proficiency had affected their behaviour in terms of classroom participation and approaching their teachers. With English as the international language of higher education, the implications of language deficiency amongst English second language learners in terms of the development of some generic skills as well as recommendations for remediation are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)462-481
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Further and Higher Education
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jul 2013
Externally publishedYes


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