IATEFL ESP SIG PCE

I’ve just returned from the IATEFL English for Specific Purposes (ESP) Special Interest Group (SIG) Pre-Conference Event (PCE). I cannot handle – or afford – the whole conference!

ESP SIG

IATEFL ESP SIG PCE Participants

The theme of the PCE was ESP and Learning Technologies: What can we learn?

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.
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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, Bharuthram & Clarence, 2015). 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, 2010)  –  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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Analytic & Synthetic EAP

The title refers back to David Wilkins’s (1976) distinction between analytic and synthetic syllabuses. He argued that a synthetic language teaching strategy was one in which the different parts of the language were taught separately and step-by-step so that acquisition was a process of gradual accumulation of the parts until the whole structure of the language has been built up. The learner’s task was then, therefore,  to re-synthesize the language that has been broken down into smaller pieces with the aim of making his or her learning easier. Continue reading

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