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

“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

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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The Relationship between Academic Content and Language

The Graduate Certificate in Business (GCIB) at Hertfordshire Business School (HBS)  is a 15 week  pre-master’s programme with the aim of preparing students for a range of Business related Masters courses. In order to achieve its aim, the programme attempts to present the language and content together as an integrated whole. For that reason, the teaching is organised around the subject lecturer and the English lecturer working together.

The idea is one of team teaching (Johns & Dudley-Evans, 1980; Dudley-Evans & St John, 1998). Of the several levels of subject-language integration mentioned by Dudley-Evans & St John (1998), team teaching is the final level, as it involves subject and language specialists working together for some of the time in the classroom. It however goes further than as the materials – written and spoken – drawn on by the language teacher are those used by the subject lecturer in teaching the subject. More importantly, the tasks carried out in the language classes are those that are required by the subject lecturer. Continue reading

The Grammar of EAP

EAP teachers often discuss whether or not grammar has a role in an EAP course. They often talk as if EAP is simply about vocabulary, texts, strategies, referencing etc, forgetting that without grammar, there is nothing to hold the vocabulary items together within the texts.

Grammar is an important part of ESP, especially EAP, as, ultimately, all that exists is words on the page or sounds in the air. These words are constructed from parts and inflect (morphology) and occur in sequences (syntax). Like all registers of English, ESP uses prepositions, articles, adverbs etc.  So it is obvious that grammar is an important component of any EAP course.

Many people have also said that ESP is for advanced learners and that learners should have learned most of the grammar before they start their ESP course, or that they cannot learn ESP without a good grammatical foundation.

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