In an EFL context, I have found motivating learners the most challenging aspect of my teaching job. If students don’t have motivation, then the teaching- learning process becomes a one sided show (reminds me of what Coleman referred to as ‘puppet show’, from his observation in Thai language classrooms some years back).
I have observed that university students do not invest as much time in learning English as they do in learning their specialist subjects. One of the reasons is that they don’t see English playing a significant role to major in a certain discipline. Any time I ask them why they are not making effort to improve their English they usually say they are not in the university to major in English. I think underlying this view is segregation of knowledge into major and minor or major and support courses.
Students’ approach to EAP depends on their vision of their future identity and career or community they will be part of. There are some who seem to have a better vision of themselves of using English in their future career and they try to learn and improve their English. But then they are discouraged by the students’ culture (of the majority). Any time these students make effort, you can hear others teasing them or laughing at them trying to express their ideas in English. Adult students are particularly too sensitive about their image, so they abandon their goals under the pressure of the inhibitive students’ culture.
The practices of the subject disciplines for which EAP department is catering, is not helpful. Although some teachers do try to emphasise the importance English, others want to apprentice the students into academic tribalism between disciplines and EAP.
The solution for me is to adopt a more integrationist approach in offering EAP courses.
Firstly, specialist subject lecturers, departments and the universities should see clearly the role EAP plays in their students’ academic and professional development. It is also possible to combine EAP content with the specialist courses. For instance, contents in English for management department, such research paper writing, report writing, letter writing, technical writing or oral communication could be integrated into management courses like administrative communication or research methods taught by the specialist subject lecturers. From my knowledge of practices in the UK, I think some aspects of English for specific academic purposes can be team taught by the EAP and specialist subject lecturers. I have myself tried these in my institution. Although I have found some encouraging responses from very open subject lecturers, many still see English and their discipline as totally different tribes.
What is teaching EAP like in your context? Do you face challenges in relation to students’ motivation influenced by students’ culture and academic culture?
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