A group of students wrote something for me at the beginning of the semester. They were scientists and their lecturer wanted to see how well they could write so if they needed to develop their writing, we could start early in the year and not wait until they had submitted their first assessed assignments. Much of the writing was not very good and the lecturer was determined to arrange writing classes as soon as possible. I decided I’d try to talk to the students before we made decisions to see what I could find out about their experiences of writing. Continue reading
I was recently asked to work with a group of students on blogging. The students had been asked to write a weekly assessed blog of between 500 and 700 words and were having difficulty.
As I thought about it, I realised that I did not have enough information about what the students were expected to do, and neither – I think – did the students. Continue reading
After 10 years of support, Garnet Education are no longer be in a position to sponsor the IATEFL SIG Journal after issue 47. Garnet Education has provided unmatched professional support of the highest quality which stretches from issue 30 (Summer-Autumn 2007) until now (issue 47). They have also sponsored the publication of four ESP SIG books, and for this we are indebted too. With Garnet’s sponsorship we have been able to develop a solid set of EAP and ESP publications which we will now have to maintain in our own right.
It is now necessary to make plans for the future of the journal. The opinion of the ESP SIG committee and the journal editors is that they should take this opportunity to switch to an electronic version of the journal in the immediate future in order to keep up with the times. The committee wanted to know what members thought of this proposal. A short questionnaire was sent out. The committee hoped that IATEFL would publish the findings, but, as they didn’t, here they are: Continue reading
I’ve often quoted Frank Smith when discussing writing. In Writing and the writer, Smith distinguishes between “composition” and “transcription” in writing. “Composition” is deciding what you want to say, and “transcription” is what you have to do to say it. His advice is “The rule is simple: Composition and transcription must be separated, and transcription must come last. It is asking too much of anyone, and especially of students trying to improve all aspects of their writing ability, to expect that they can concern themselves with polished transcription at the same time that they are trying to compose. The effort to concentrate on spelling, handwriting, and punctuation at the same time that one is struggling with ideas and their expression not only interferes with composition but creates the least favorable situation in which to develop transcription skills as well” (Smith, 1982, p. 24).
After watching Juzo Itami’s 1995 film Shizukana seikatsu (A quiet life) recently I decided to read Nobel prize winner Kenzaburu Oe – on whose novel the film is based. In his novel The Changeling, he deals with a similar situation: Continue reading
I’ve just returned from the IATEFL English for Specific Purposes (ESP) Special Interest Group (SIG) Pre-Conference Event (PCE) in Birmingham, UK.
The theme of the PCE was tensions and debates in ESP and EAP.
As usual it was a very interesting day with teachers from many parts of the world discussing how they go about trying to meet the academic and professional linguistic needs of their students, sometimes with limited resources. Continue reading
I recently took part in a TESOL – IATEFL online discussion about how ESP projects can create positive social change.
Kevin Knight – the organiser – gave us the following task:
You are all members of a task force team to provide language training for employees of multinational corporation. The HR department of the company is interested in your ideas about providing not only in-house training but also involving local universities in the training of its employees. In addition, the HR department is wondering how such training could be connected to its annual report on Corporate Social Responsibility. Share your ideas in connection with the big picture: How ESP projects can create positive social change.
There has been much discussion recently about what exactly students have to do in order to succeed in HE. Gillett & Hammond (2009), for example, identified a range of tasks that need to be managed in order to succeed and Nesi & Gardner (2012) looked in great detail at the genres which students need to work with. This has been a very useful contribution to the development of EAP. However, Feak (2011) identifies the difficulties that some students might have with these genres in multidisciplinary degrees and courses. Furthermore, my recent experience working with students from one discipline, business students, has shown that many of the assignments that the students have to produce are much more complicated and not so easily classified. I’d like to show some examples of these and ask how we can best help our insessional students to deal with them.
I was visiting a colleague’s office recently and he showed me a piece of student work from another university where he was an external examiner. The piece of work was covered with red ticks, crosses, under-linings, crossings out and illegible comments. We discussed it and came to the conclusion that this feedback – if that’s what it was – was not very useful and that it was something that he – as an external examiner – should comment on. As I was leaving the office, I suddenly thought of something and went back to look at the text again. As I thought, the text was on formal examination paper and it was clear that the writing we had been looking at was an examination answer, something that the students would (might) never see again. It made me realise that comment/feedback on student writing – as with all writing – depends on purpose and audience, something that does not seem to have been discussed elsewhere. Continue reading
In the latest issue of IATEFL Voices – the bimonthly newsletter of IATEFL – Adrian Tennant, in his featured article, claims that ESP is failing students. He justifies this by referring to a YouTube video and his own experience as a visitor in China. Continue reading
The theme of the Pre-Conference Event was employability and transferability in EAP and ESP. It was a joint event with BALEAP – the global forum for EAP practitioners. Thinking about this topic from a needs analysis point of view, I tried to investigate from different angles how institutions of higher education are dealing with this issue. My conclusion was that they they are trying to deal with it, but there is a large amount of confusion, especially with regard to professional and academic genres. One example I mentioned – and so did others – was when students are asked to write a report for their manager – a professional genre – but are required to give references – typical of academic genres.