What is a blog?

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

How to write – What to write.

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

IATEFL ESP SIG PCE, 2016 – Overview

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

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:

http://www.uefap.net/materials/materials-history

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

ESP Training

I did some work for a well-known organisation recently. My job was to investigate ESP teaching in universities in the capital city and make recommendations. I spent a few days driving round the city, meeting teachers, lecturers, administrators, course directors, students, subject lecturers etc. and was generally very impressed. The ESP teachers knew what they were doing. They had talked to students, lecturers and course managers. They had examined students materials. They knew what the students had to read and to write and had analysed the required language and designed their courses accordingly. The only problem I could see was that the various universities did not talk to each other and so the main recommendation I made was that there should be ways in which the universities could talk to each other and share materials and ideas. Continue reading

Designing a Web-Site for English for Academic Purposes

Introduction

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.

Continue reading