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?

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