Steve Kirk represented “ESP and EAP” content area at the E-merging Forum-5.


Steve is director of EAP Pre-Sessional programmes and a senior teaching fellow at Durham University English Language Centre (UK). He also teaches courses in second language acquisition for teachers and in teaching EAP on the Centre’s MA Applied Linguistics for TESOL programme. He is an external examiner of EAP programmes across the UK, and has spoken widely in the UK and overseas on issues of EAP practice and pedagogy.
Steve has been involved over the past few years in the development of a CPD accreditation scheme for EAP practitioners (BALEAP TEAP Working Party), and is author of an online EAP teacher education course, to be published as part of English for Academic Studies (Epigeum) in 2015. He is currently conducting doctoral research into EAP teachers’ interpretation and translation of materials into classroom practice.
Topic: Teaching ‘EAP’: enabling academic participation
In this session we consider what teacher practice and development might look like when we take more seriously the ‘A’ in EAP. Much EAP practice takes place in higher education environments; yet, perhaps ironically, teacher knowledge and pedagogy are not always informed by a sense of the university. Starting with the ‘A’ enables a view of language work as emerging from the values and practices of the university, not as separate from them. Seeing the ‘A’ enables teachers to bring classroom materials alive and off the page in ways that may more effectively serve student learning.
We consider what this perspective means for course design and for pedagogy, and explore the creative and collaborative roles teachers themselves might play in ‘bringing their A-game’ to the classroom. With this shift in perspective, we might allow EAP, at least sometimes, to stand for Enabling Academic Participation — academic participation both for students and for EAP teachers.
Video recording of the plenary session
You can watch the full recording of Steve Kirk’s talk on British Council Russia’s YouTube channel by clicking the link below:
In this interview, Steve Kirk talks about some of the key points in his talk at the conference, including his interest in English for Academic Purposes (EAP) from a teaching and development perspective, particularly in relation to a university context. He expands on his ideas that EAP is about maintaining a balance between the language focus and the academic focus and provides some advice for teachers who are new to teaching in this area.
Watch the interview with Steve here:
As part of the interview, Steve also answered some of the questions that our online audience asked. Read the questions and his answers below:
What tips would you give to an EAP teacher working with researchers from different fields of specialism studying together?
I think a really interesting approach might be first to explore two contrasting academic texts with the whole class. Examine not just the language differences but how these differences may reflect different values (of the writers / of the disciplines). If your students are postgraduates, they may well be able to tell you (in L1 or L2 depending on level). I think it's important to draw on the subject expertise of our students, if we can. This kind of comparative academic text work can build awareness and strategies that students can then take to their own disciplinary areas. So, after comparing two texts in some detail, students can then be encouraged to do the same with texts in their own subject areas. They might then come back together to share and compare findings. You might even do this in an online space (Google Docs or similar), so that students could comment on each other's analyses. This can be a productive way to enable work that feels relevant to everyone in the class.
Do you work in close collaboration with the departments your Ss are to join later in the fall? Or are you 'all alone' when it gets to choosing the content?
We have worked hard to build relationships with receiving departments. It can sometimes be an uphill struggle when academic staff change roles and departmental awareness shifts. Historicaly we were "all alone', as you say. Things are better and richer now. We visit departments, speak to academics, ask them to show us examples of student work and why they gave it the grades they did, etc. On our summer programmes, they provide us with assignment questions and examples of texts that students should be reading. We have lots of work to do still with certain departments, but we are learning lots about what our students will be doing in their departments now, and I think it makes our EAP better.
Should the EAP precede the ESP in the university education? In other words, is there a need in teaching academic skills without focusing on a specific subject context?
Good question. I think the answer depends on the context in which you are working. It depends on whether you have access to the texts / assignments / research papers / etc that students will need to be producing. It also depends on teacher awareness. Even an ESP-oriented curriculum risks not meeting student needs if the teacher does not have the awareness to lift the materials off the page and bring them alive in ways that give insights into the discipline. I don't think EAP and ESP (or 'EGAP' - English for General Academic Purposes. and 'ESAP' - English for Specific Academic Purposes) are not dichotomous. There is a continuum between them and the extent to which you can bring in specificity depends on, as I said above, context and knowledge. So...I don't think EAP 'should' precede an ESP approach. In principle, E(S)AP is probably better; in practice it may not always be entirely feasible.

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