‘The leap into TEAP’: the ‘Diploma’ qualification in the world of EAP

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 Donnelly

Adam’s Bio

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

Image credits:

That is the question… by Beatnik Photos under CC Licences



3 thoughts on “‘The leap into TEAP’: the ‘Diploma’ qualification in the world of EAP

  1. Riccardo

    Hi Adam,

    Thanks for writing that down and sharing your experiences; it was an interesting read especially because when I did my Delta I often found myself asking the same questions – in what way is this course relevant to teaching EAP to UGs and PGs and how can I make my teaching fit in such a way that it satisfies Delta assessment criteria? For Module 2 (Developing Professional Practice), I invariably struggled to find that fit within my teaching commitments, and had to edge classes away from real needs and syllabi to make the class a ‘Delta’ class. Equally, I felt that what really served me well as an EAP tutor was my knowledge and experience of academic discourses, built up over the years as a UG & PG student, a university subject tutor, an EAP tutor and an active reader of EAP research and literature.

    However, this is not to say that I think the Delta has no place in our field (on the contrary), because what I did get from that part of the course was, as you say, a very nice set of practical classroom teaching and management skills as well as a much keener sense of how to meet class aims in a more structured way and with greater variety. The course constantly challenges you to think about the learner’s learning, and to demonstrate this in the classroom, thus developing skills that I wouldn’t necessarily have developed by taking a more theory based Masters, for example. Also, and I think this might be one of the advantages of the Cambridge Delta, in their Module 3 (Extending Practice and ELT Specialism) I was able to focus on EAP and devoted one third of the course to EAP course design, which was very beneficial and absolutely relevant to our role as EAP practitioners.



  2. Jon

    Hi Adam,

    Many thanks for sharing your experience.
    I’m particularly interested in the status of the Cambridge DELTA diploma for EAP teaching, but I’ve never felt it appropriate to start a BALEAP e-mail discussion on the subject, for fear of undermining a ‘sacred cow’.
    Whether appropriate or not, at least the DELTA is a welcome peg hammered into the EAP landscape.
    Back in 2013 I noticed that Manchester requirements for EAP pre-sessional teaching credentials made the DELTA compulsory while the M.A. TEFL/Applied Linguistics was classed as a desirable option, whereas at Birmingham the requirement for qualifications favoured the reverse priority for compulsory vs optional. In fact I am glad that there is apparently no consensus between universities about this, because it gives more local identity to each campus and narrows an otherwise bewildering choice for applicants.

    I have also found it very difficult to find anyone willing to speak about the DELTA on behalf of the Cambridge corporation that sells it. At the last BALEAP conference I requested contact details at the Cambridge stand, but was told that I must instead write down all of my questions, submit my e-mail address, and wait for a reply. I am still waiting in vain for answers to the following questions:-

    -Is there any prospect of Cambridge English Language Assessment ever providing a video platform of DELTA-standard lessons to accompany the Module 2 course?
    -Will there ever be a requirement for DELTA Module 2 tutors to have have a first degree in linguistic science?
    -Will the DELTA Module 2 tutors ever receive course materials that are the acknowledged intellectual property of Cambridge English Language Assessment?
    -Will the DELTA tutors ever be at liberty to include academic references in their course materials?
    -Will Cambridge English Language Assessment ever drop the requirement for all DELTA Module 2 customers to sign a statement promising not to attempt to prosecute the corporation for any matters concerning the content and delivery of the course?
    -How long is the current incarnation of the 3-module DELTA likely to last? (In previous lives it was once just a 3-and-a-half hour theory paper, and then a split native speaker vs non-native speaker qualification)

    The uncomfortable truth about all monolingual communicative language teaching is surely that there can hardly be any assumption of pedagogical effectiveness that cannot be critiqued at doctoral level by appealing to a discipline of linguistics that goes beyond the DELTA’s mandate, such comparative phonology or syntactic typology.

    By referencing any of its course materials, the DELTA would be implying that it has an allegiance to the particular school of language theory that the reference was taken from – but as a ‘universal bastion of good practice’, any such allegiance would undermine the neutrality of the qualification.

    I’ve certainly never been in any doubt about the exhaustive excellence that has gone into producing the suite of Cambridge English exams in the KET, PET, FCE, CAE and CPE, but the compromising nature of teacher training for monolingual communicative methods makes me question whether it was wise for Cambridge to go there at all in the strictly academic sense.

    Did you feel that your Trinity Diploma had the same problems regarding academic accountability?



    1. Hi Jon

      I was wondering what you meant about pedagogical effectiveness and monolingual methods. Were you suggesting there is a good approach or method that universities are ignoring?

      For my own part, I did my DELTA 10 years ago and I’m not sure I remember that much about it, though I did learn, as Riccardo touched on above in his comment, some useful lesson planning skills e.g. considering aims and lesson structure. I also found that exposure to different psychological perspectives on learners, activities, order of activities to aid learning, motivation, etc was very useful and a great step up from the CELTA, which is what I always saw it as even before I did it.


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