My entire teaching career (almost) has involved teaching English for academic purposes (EAP) in the UK.

I jumped through the firey hoops of a CELTA in 1992 and enjoyed a summer teaching students in a private language school. At the end of three months I felt I'd spent most of my time playing party games. I'd kept my students entertained well enough but I couldn't see a purpose to my teaching. Occasionally I'd taught classes of students who were preparing to sit language exams and I'd enjoyed these because there was a definable goal we were all working towards and a sense of achievement when we got there. This for me is the fundamental attraction of EAP. It is goal oriented. You can see the point.

My first real EAP job was in a further education college which provided classes for overseas students from local secondary schools who needed an academic English qualification in order to get into university. The main challenge was only having four hours each week (in the 'twilight zone' - 5.15 to 7.15) to help them prepare for their academic English exam. I learned that everything I did had to be maximally relevant because there was no spare time. This time constraint has followed me throughout my EAP career. I'm always asking myself 'Why is this activity/task/text the most useful thing for students to work on at this point?' and 'How will this help students in their future academic careers?' If I can't find an answer to these questions, I can't justify using the activity/task/text.

I appreciate that not every teacher responds to the challenge of teaching EAP in this way. Many of the 150 teachers who have attended the EAP Teacher Development course that I ran with my colleagues Sue Argent and Jenifer Spencer have talked about their experiences of beginning to teach EAP. They talk about feeling 'deskilled' because it seems to them that their previous experiences of English teaching are no longer required in EAP. They worry about being able to understand the ideas and texts in the disciplines their students are entering. They actively rebel against the different approach required to teach EAP claiming it does not match their 'teaching style'.

I'd be interested to know how other teachers came to teach EAP - did you jump or were you pushed? What were your first impressions. And what support or information would you have found helpful but didn't get?

Comments

Dear Olwyn,Thank you so much for sharing your experience on teaching EAP. This time I 'd also appreciate very much your view on the following: you said you're interested in investigating on whether EAP could be taught to very low levels. When would you consider appropriate for learners exactly to start with EAP? How would it be achieved more successfully both for learners and teachers?If you allow me to say so, I think "low level" learners of the same area of studies should integrate the same class, learning about topic contents on their interest areas, working on language as well as specific reading and writing skills. I'm also thinking of the teachers' knowledge, their cultural background within a specific area of studies, beyond their English language proficiency, and motivation. I believe these are premises to take into account for the whole process to be "goal oriented".Thanking you in advance,Best wishesMaria

Dear Maria,Thanks for your comment. Your question about when it is appropriate to start teaching EAP is certainly one that many people would like a definitve answer to. I responded to a similar comment by Irina (in response to my biography posting) to say that I think it can be taught at quite low levels. However, I had in mind what I would call English for General Academic Purposes (EGAP) and you have asked an interesting question about English for Specific Academic Purposes (ESAP) for low levels.I agree that it is ideal if students who are all studying the same academic subject are taught English together but very often this is not possible. Most institutions will group students by level for English, not by degree subject, so it is much more likely that the EAP class will have mixed disciplines.I don't see this as a big problem. I would expect most students would be interested in what other students are going to study, particularly nowadays as cross-disciplinary research is becoming more important in universities. So already we have a genuine information gap in the classroom because each student is an expert in his/her discipline and can try to explain it in English to the others, e.g. describe a process, define a concept, explain a problem.In addition there are some subjects which easily cross disciplines, for example project management, and texts related to these subjects should be of interest to all students. I have sometimes had engineering students ask me why we are using texts from management but my response is to ask them if they want to be a car mechanic all their life or one day run the company!I also think it is important for EAP teachers to understand that they are not required to be experts in the disciplines their students are going to study. An EAP teacher's expertise lies in understanding how texts work, how to get relevant information out of texts and how to use this information for a different communicative purpose from the original text. With these skills a teacher can 'read' most texts well enough to help students to read them, particularly at low levels.It's good for EAP teachers to be open with students that their area of expertise is linguistic and they cannot be expected to know about other disciplines although they are interested in them. In my experience this gives students greater ownership of their subject area and is highly motivating for them.Best wishes Olwyn

Dear OlwynThis is just to answer your question of coming to EAP teaching.  In my case, no jumps, no pushing and pulling etc, everything happened quite natural: from my own learning experience and experiential knowledge got from project work to teaching.To be brief, being involved in National ESP Curriclum Project initiated by the Ministry and supported by the British Council we started with Baseline Study. To be able to write it and do the research in order to discover if there is any need for change, willingness to change, readiness and openness to change among different stakeholders I listened to the lectures, participated in seminars and discussions, gave presentations, did much critical reading, brainstorming, mindmapping, note-taking, wrote reviews, reports, articles, sortified, classified and analysed various information, did statistics, interpreted data and so on and so forth. On the way from the Baseline Study to the Curriculum design personally I faced many challenges concerning academic English: writing reports, interpreting various data including graphs and charts etc.  Unfortunately, I didn't keep a diary as our British consultants adviced us that would be of great help for me as a teacher/trainer now.  But the main lesson from the project is that I was lacking some skills and knowledge to be used in academic English.So, it's quite natural that my learning experience is reflected in the idea that EAP component should be incorporated in any English course.  For those who are still hesitating I propose to think of: can you develop professionally without academic English skills? 

[quote=zira]On the way from the Baseline Study to the Curriculum design personally I faced many challenges concerning academic English: writing reports, interpreting various data including graphs and charts etc... But the main lesson from the project is that I was lacking some skills and knowledge to be used in academic English... For those who are still hesitating I propose to think of: can you develop professionally without academic English skills? [/quote]Thanks, Irina, this is a really interesting insight into how your own EAP practice came to inform your teaching. I agree with you that EAP skills are essential for teachers who want to develop professionally. In order to gain new insights, I would suggest that a teacher needs to be able to read academic research about teaching, critically assess its relevance and reapply it to their own context, and, ideally, write about it so other teachers can share the results.However, another essential EAP skill is reflection, as you mentioned in the lesson from the project. I believe that it takes a lot of confidence for a teacher to admit that they didn't understand something or lacked particular skills. It is a very uncomfortable position to occupy. And of course the more you learn, the more you know how much you don't know!

I've been studying your book EAP Essentials. Very useful for my teaching EAP at a Bulgarian university. Thank you and your colleagues!Silvia

Thanks, Silvia,Let me know if you have any questions or comments about the book. How have you been using it?Olwyn

Dear Olwyn,I'd be very interested to hear your advice about out how I can start a career in EAP. I've been teaching General English for 6 years now, but like you, I want to get into teaching which is 'purposeful'. I have a DELTA, but find a lot of positions advertised for university work request 'experience'. The problem is the same old circular one - how do you get experience if everybody is requesting it?What can I do to get into the EAP sector?Your advice would be much appreciated.

[quote=simon10]A lot of positions advertised for university work request 'experience'. The problem is the same old circular one - how do you get experience if everybody is requesting it?What can I do to get into the EAP sector?[/quote] Hi Simon,Sorry I haven't visited here for a while and hope you're still reading. The two main ways into an EAP career are to get a job in a university outside the UK - but there is no guarantee that you will actually be teaching academic English rather than acting as a native speaker resource - or get work on one of the summer pre-sessionals that run in the UK between about May and September each year. There are usually too many teachers and not enough students for these courses. The content is usually quite fully prescribed so you learn by using the materials.The only other option is to try to network with people at your local FE College or University and be available for emergency cover - not an easy way to make a living though.best of luckOlwyn

HelloAnd many, thanks for initiating this topic.(And particularly re the time aspect of teaching, which seems to be prevalent in teaching as a whole. I am so pleased that it isn't just me!).From my own very early-stage post CELTA experiences, any ad-hoc type work brought me into contact with a range of asylum seekers and refugees.Amongst these occasionally were students on highly demanding programmes.Due to the huge level of investment they had made, they are extremely motivated. So I began a little there on a one-to-one basis. Obviously at the moment maintaining the momentum with this is my critical priority in these times and I am on the look-out.Finding ways of assimilating any corrections that can be useful in other parts of their English is my key challenge. If anyone can advise on this, it would be appreciated. ie how to draw out the key written errors in complex essays that can have an immediate impact in their listening etc.Thanks again and regards.

I'm currently studying MA TESOL at IOE in London after completing a DELTA, neither of them cover EAP, and yet I am required to have them both for a career in EAP, any suggestions as to how I can make my studies more relevent to what I need in my career?
They would be most appreciated!
Thank you.

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