After completing the DipTESOL in August 2015, Adam Donnelly is left with some questions (and fewer answers) regarding the place of such courses in the world of EAP and the absence of EAP-specific training programmes.
I’m relieved, proud, happy.
In autumn, I received a shiny certificate in the post from TESOL Training Scotland, the body which oversaw my completion of the Trinity Diploma. It was an intensive course which took a year to complete all in, and I learned a great deal in that time. I feel a better teacher for it, and I enter classrooms now with a much improved and refined teaching toolkit.
And yet, as I readjust to having my evenings and weekends back to do with as I wish and not as I must, I’m left with questions about the course I’ve just completed and its place in the teaching context most familiar to me.
I am an ‘EAP tutor’ teaching in a university where a ‘typical’ group of students does not necessarily conform to the conventional image formed and consistently reinforced on the Dip: a group presenting a range of language needs and motivations to learn, eager to get to grips with the present continuous, function language for making requests, or mastering the diphthongs.
I was struck throughout my Dip experience by how marginal a place EAP seemed to occupy. In a cohort of over 30, I was the only candidate on the programme teaching (mainly) postgraduate students in a university. In 448 pages of our Dip bible, Harmer’s ‘The Practice of English Language Teaching’, there are 3 references to ‘EAP’.
Communicative competence, I learned, is at the core of the Diploma. Colleagues already boasting the Dip badge suggested that Preparatory English classes with an emphasis on General English might be more suitable to “show Trinity what they’re looking for” during assessed observations. As I became more familiar with the rubrics and expectations of the course, I began to see their point – ‘typical’ EAP materials, it appeared, wouldn’t meet the brief so easily.
Julie King (2012) has grappled with similar questions regarding EAP and its position within (or beyond) ‘general’ ELT, citing an uncertain sense of self in the field and a prevailing image of EAP as dry, ‘anti-communicative’ and obsessed with the complexities of academic discourse.
Indeed, the distinctions between English for General Purposes (EGP) and English for Academic Purposes (EAP) have been well documented:
- EGP begins with the language; EAP begins with the learners (and their needs).
- Language-based syllabi in EGP; task-based EAP syllabi.
- Primacy is given to speaking and listening skills in EGP; reading and writing (academic literacy) are of greater importance in EAP.
- Expert-novice relationship dominates teacher-student interaction in EGP; EAP/ESP is more collaborative – students often provide subject expertise.
Such observations may be fair, if somewhat simplistic, and may go some way to bordering EAP’s niche within ELT. But what do they mean for teachers newly arrived to EAP? Faced with such distinctions, and a deficit of EAP-specific training, what confidence can EAP teachers have in the pedagogical toolkit afforded them in the Dip or MSc to the realities they are to face in the classroom?
Happily, in recent years, the TEAP Competency Framework has emerged as a means of delineating the discipline, ‘in recognition of a gap which exists in EAP-specific qualifications’ (BALEAP, TEAP Competency Framework, 2008). However, without deliberate guidance on what the framework is, how principle is translated to practice, and how, if at all, its mantras differ from those set out in the Diploma (or equivalent), less experienced teachers are ‘often not sure where to start’ (Guse, 2011) when entering the world of EAP. Such considerations are key not least for pre-sessional staff who are often recruited from a diverse range of ELT contexts and backgrounds (King, 2012). Indeed, after recently coming to terms with the myriad pedagogical imperatives of the Diploma, the TEAP framework can feel decidedly different and somewhat opaque.
Are EAP and EGP really so different then? If so, why do the DipTESOL/DELTA or PG equivalents remain essential entry qualifications to EAP teaching contexts? Why does the absence of EAP-specific qualifications persist? If not, what, if anything, makes EAP distinct?
In these questions are built up considerations of discipline definitions, training needs, teacher identity, and classroom practices.
I don’t feel suitably equipped to address them all, but I’ll be looking out for some answers as I continue beyond the leap into TEAP.
I’ll also be keeping my Dip certificate in a safe place.
I wonder if any of my colleagues have been puzzled by the same issues. Has anyone taken part in an EAP-specific course? How has the TEAP Competency Framework helped you to isolate EAP from language teaching more generally?
Adam’s been teaching English full-time for around 2 years after completing his CELTA in 2008. He’s taught on a range of EAP and EGP courses, and he completed his Diploma in 2015.
BALEAP, (2008), Competency Framework for Teachers of English for Academic Purposes Available at: https://www.baleap.org//media/uploads/pdfs/teap-competency-framework.pdf Accessed: 03.10.15
Campion, G., (2012) The Learning never ends: investigating teachers’ experiences of moving from English for General Purposes to English for Academic Purposes in the UK context; What are the main challenges associated with beginning to teach EAP, and how can these challenges be overcome? Unpublished Masters Dissertation. University of Nottingham. Available at: https://www.baleap.org//media/uploads/dissertationawards/Gemma_Campion_dissertation_2012.pdf Accessed: 01.10.15
Guse, J., (2011), Communicative activities for EAP, Cambridge: CUP
King, J., (2012), ‘Credentials, Credibility and the EAP practitioner’, Teaching EAP (Blog) Available at: https://teachingeap.wordpress.com/2012/06/07/credentials-credibility-and-the-eap-practitioner-6/ Accessed: 01.10.15
That is the question… by Beatnik Photos under CC Licences