Failure to write

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

Where Next for EAP?

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.

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The issue of proofreading is often discussed on various discussion lists. As far as I am concerned, proofreading is the reading of early drafts of a piece of work to correct errors. The extent to which EAP teachers should be involved in the proofreading of student work is controversial: see, for example, Turner (2010); Harwood, Austin, & Macauley  (2010).

I do not, though, think that as EAP or ESP teachers or lecturers we should be involved in proofreading. 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

“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 & 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 – that students will be more motivated when the English course is directly related to their main subject course or professional needs  –  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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Authenticity in EAP

In preparation for the BALEAP Professional Issues Meeting (PIM) at the University of Leeds in February next year, I have been thinking about the meaning of authenticity in EAP.  The concept has been around for a long time, particularly since the communicative 1970s. Indeed Dick Allwright (1981, p. 173) points out that when working on a pre-sessional course at the University of Lancaster in 1974, he was instructed to “use no materials, published or unpublished, actually conceived or designed as materials for language teaching”. More recently Helen Basturkmen (2010, p. 62) has reminded us of the importance of authenticity in ESP and EAP:  “One of the key characteristics of ESP is that teachers and course developers value the use of authentic texts and tasks.” Continue reading

What is EAP?

1. Introduction

EAP – English for Academic Purposes – refers to the language and associated practices that people need in order to undertake study or work in English medium higher education. The objective of an EAP course, then, is to help these people learn some of the linguistic and cultural – mainly institutional and disciplinary – practices involved in studying or working through the medium of English. Continue reading