History of EAP through textbooks

I have been collecting old EAP textbooks for a while now and have quite a good collection.

You can see a summary of them at:


I’ve been trying for some time to come up with an analysis of trends in EAP as shown through these books. It needs more work, but this is what I have come up with so far, with some examples: Continue reading

Does EAP work?

I’ve long been interested in whether or not what we do is successful. Do the EAP courses that we teach help our learners to succeed in their academic lives?

There is very little research in this area and one reason for this is that it is very difficult to define what we mean by success and even more difficult to be clear about what causes it. Continue reading

The Future of EAP.

I was discussing the future of EAP with someone at the ESP day at the IATEFL conference recently. It is a complicated question as it depends on international politics and economics. For example, in the UK, the present visa policies and cost of university education and how they change in the future will affect everything connected with HE and therefore EAP. As well as this we need to consider the role of English in the world in the future, including the prevalence of English medium HE and international student mobility – see, for example, Breeze (2012), Jenkins (2014).

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“EAP is a waste of time”?

In several talks during the last few years, Stephen Krashen has stated that teaching EAP is a waste of time. I like Stephen Krashen and most of what he writes. So if he says that teaching EAP is a waste of time, the only conclusion that I can come to is that he must misunderstand what I think EAP is. As I do not think what I – and other people I know around the world – do is a waste of time! Continue reading

“There really is no need for needs analysis”?

Hugh Dellar – Twenty Things in Twenty Years

At the recent IATEFL conference in Harrogate, Hugh Dellar looked back on 20 years in the classroom and what he had learned. His broadly insightful presentation focused on “20 nuggets of hard-earned wisdom”. You can see it at:


This was a very interesting talk and many of the things he has learned in 20 years are similar to things I have realised – and written and talked about – after nearly 40 years in ELT.

Hugh’s 5th point, though “there really is no need for needs analysis” requires some comment as it is central to what I understand by ESP and EAP.
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EAP and Student Motivation

I have spent most of my life teaching ESP, especially EAP and in talks that I have given and courses that I have run, I’ve always given three strong reasons for teaching ESP or ESAP as opposed to general English or EGAP. The first is linguistic – different subjects use different language. There is a large amount of research evidence for this – see, for example, Hyland (2011, 2012).  The second is to do with knowledge transfer: the nearer you can get to the student’s ultimate reason for learning English, the more likely it will be that the student will be able to make use of what you are teaching in the new context (see, for example, Dias, Freedman, Medway & Paré, 1999; Willingham, 2007; James, 2014). The third is motivation. This is something that everyone seems to agree with (see, for example, Stevick, 1976; Krashen, 1982; Wenden, 1981). – that students will be more motivated when the English course is directly related to their main subject course or professional needs (intrinsic rather than extrinsic motivation (Deci & Ryan, 1985) or ideal self compared to ought-to self (Dornyei, 2009)  –  so I’ve never felt the need to justify it. Students do not see the learning of a subject separately from the learning of the language of that subject: Learning the content of a subject means learning the language of that subject. As Ushioda (1998) points out:

…the language learner, unlike the researcher, seems unlikely to perceive the motivation for language learning to be wholly independent of the motivation (or lack of motivation) for other areas of learning (p. 83).

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Teaching EAP for No Obvious Reason.

I have just been reading an article in the latest issue of ELT Journal by Duncan Hunter and Richard Smith (Hunter & Smith, 2012) about Communicative Language Teaching. In the article, they take a historical view by studying the use of the term Communicative Language Teaching – or CLT in ELT Journal during the period between 1958 and 1986. I find it interesting as, in my view, EAP is Communicative Language Teaching par excellence. Since the early days, CLT had focussed strongly on the authentic language of communicative purpose as well the belief that learners need to use the language actively in order to learn. Hunter & Smith argue that precise academic definitions of CLT existed in early days and still do to some extent, and this was supported my many academic publications (see, for example, Brumfit & Johnson, 1979). However in the last 20 years or so publishers have so diluted the meaning of the term CLT that it is almost meaningless these days. As a consequence of this, perhaps be this will lead to the end of CLT as we know it. And I think that would be a shame. Continue reading

Teaching EAP at Low Levels.

It is often believed that EAP can only be taught at advanced levels and that lower level students need a course in general English before they start their EAP course.

Before we can discuss this, however, it is important to understand what we mean by general English. General English means different things to different people. To some people it is survival English; to others it is conversational English. However, in the context of EAP, it is often used to mean the core of grammar and vocabulary that is common to all registers. It is often believed that this common core must be mastered before more specific  aspects of the language can be learned. Continue reading

Designing a Web-Site for English for Academic Purposes


Many Students in Higher Education studying at British institutions of higher education experience problems. Some of these problems will be general to all students, but many will be particular to those students who are non-native speakers of English. Most UK universities therefore run EAP (English for Academic Purposes) courses. The object of these courses is to help Students in Higher Education overcome some of the linguistic difficulties involved in studying thought the medium of English. These courses are normally taught in groups with the content determined by the lecturer in advance. The students in the class are from different countries, studying different subjects at different levels. There are three main problems, though, with these classes, which means that attendance is often low:

  1. Access. Access to these classes is difficult for many of these students. Even for the ones who are physically present on one of the campuses in Hertfordshire, the big problem is timetabling. It is very difficult to find a time and a room when students are available.
  2. Language needs. Another difficulty with these classes is that the needs of the students vary enormously. From a language point of view some students need to improve their writing, while others need to improve their listening. Even if it was possible, for example, to form a group of post-graduate business students from China who all wanted to improve their writing, there could still be very big differences in the competence and needs of the students.
  3. Learning styles. Students, especially from different cultures, also have different preferred learning styles (Thorpe, 1991 Jin & Cortazzi, 1993 1993) they prefer to work in different ways. Some students, for example, prefer to work alone while some prefer to work in groups. Some students prefer a step by step presentation by the lecturer whereas others like a holistic presentation. Some want to organise their own material and others want the lecturer to present and explain everything.

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