MELTA Articles

MELTA YouTube

Introduction

The MELTA YouTube Project, approved earlier at the MELTA exco meeting in March 2016, was  eventually launched at the MIRCELE on 26 Nov 2016. It started off with a contest calling for  English Language teaching/learning videos sharing tips for teachers (T4T), open to Malaysian teachers/ teacher-trainees/TESL students. Soon after its launch,  invitations were sent out in mid December to about 20 institutions and to all MELTA members to participate in the contest called MELTA T4T Video Contest. Announcements also appeared on the MELTA website and the MELTA facebook page.

Submission of video entries closed on 14 February 2017, but a call for a second round of submission of videos was announced in early March 2017, with the new closing date on 15 July 2017. Please look for the MELTA T4T Video Contest: Second Round poster on the MELTA website and the MELTA facebook page.

Prizes offered for this inaugural contest are:

First Prize: RM1,000 cash, Presentation slot at the next MELTA conference, Certificate, One year  paid-up MELTA membership.

Second Prize: RM700 cash, Presentation slot at the next MELTA conference, Certificate, One year  paid-up MELTA membership.

Three consolation prizes: RM500 each, Certificate, One year paid-up MELTA membership.

Fluency and Learning

Fluency and Learning

PAUL NATION
Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

 

 

Role of Fluency Activities

This paper looks at activities for developing fluency in classrooms where the learners have little or no opportunity to make use of the foreign language outside the classroom. In such situations work done in the classroom has to move learners on in their knowledge of the language as well as to develop the fluency to make effective use of this knowledge.

The goals of learning in language classrooms can be divided into four groups, namely Language, Ideas, Skill, and Text or discourse (Nation, 1990). In this paper the focus is on an: aspect of skill learning, fluency, which can be loosely defined as having ready access to what you already know (Brumfit, 1985). The importance of fluency in language use is highlighted in first-language research on the relationship between vocabulary learning and reading comprehension. One of the several possible explanations for a lack of success of many studies in showing that preteaching vocabulary results in improved comprehension is that it is not sufficient just to know the meanings of new words in a text. It is also necessary to be able to retrieve these meanings quickly and fluently when their forms are met in the text. Many learners of English as a foreign language experience this difficulty. Their language knowledge of vocabulary and sentence patterns may be substantial, the result of several years' learning, but their ability to access and use this knowledge fluently is extremely low. The aim of the fluency activities described in this paper is to make language knowledge become readily available for use.

 

Nature of Fluency Activities

The main idea behind this paper is that fluency activities depend on several features to achieve their goal. These features can appear in a variety of techniques over the whole range of language skills. By looking at these features we can judge whether an activity will develop fluency in an efficient way and we can devise other activities that will. Let us look first at a well-researched activity. The 4/3/2 technique was devised by Maurice (1983). In this technique, learners work in pairs with one acting as the speaker and the other as listener. The speaker talks for four minutes on a topic while her partner listens. Then the pairs change with each speaker giving the same information to a new partner in three minutes, followed by a further change and a two-minute talk.

From the point of view of fluency, this activity has these important features. First, the user is encouraged to process a large quantity of language. In 4/3/2 this is done by allowing the speaker to perform without interruption and by having the speaker make three deliveries of the talk. Second, the demands of the activity are limited to a much smaller set than would occur in most uncontrolled learning activities. This can be done by control by the teacher as is the case in most receptive fluency activities such as reading graded readers or listening to stories, or can be done by choice, planning or repetition by the learner. In the 4/3/2 activity the speaker chooses the ideas, language items and way of organizing the talk. The 4- and 3-minute deliveries allow the speaker to bring these aspects well under control, so that fluency can become the learning goal of the activity. Note that the repetition of the talk is still with the learner's attention focused on the message because of the changing audience. Third, the learner is helped to reach a high level of performance by having the opportunity to repeat and by the challenge of decreasing time to convey the same message. Usually this level would be measured in terms of quantity and rate of production rather than quality. However the research by Nation (1989) and Arevart and Nation (1990) shows that, in the case of 4/3/2, increase in rate as measured by words per minute is accompanied by improvements in the quality of the talk as measured by hesitations, grammatical accuracy and grammatical complexity. This is a very important effect of fluency activities. Improvement in fluency is not simply improvement in speed of access. Speed of access to be of value must be able to occur under a variety of conditions and contexts and this means that the development of fluency wilt also involve the enrichment of knowledge of language items as known items are processed in new situations.

Let us now look at how the fluency activity features of quantity, limited demands and high level of performance apply across the range of language skills.

 

Fluency Activities across the Four Skills

Fluency is important in the receptive skills of listening and reading as well as in the productive skills of speaking and writing.

Listening: (1) Listening to stories that contain very few unknown items is an excellent way of developing listening fluency. It can be done in this way. The teacher chooses a simply-written but interesting story. I have found the graded readers In the Beginning (Longman Structural Readers, Stage 2), Of Mice and Men (Heinemann Guided Readers, Upper level) and Animal Farm (Longman Bridge Series) to be particularly good. The story is then read to the learners for a few minutes in each lesson as a kind of serial. Initially the story is read quite slowly with repetitions of phrases or sentences that might cause the learners difficulty. In addition, words that the learners might know in their written form but have difficulty recognizing in spoken form are written on the blackboard without too much interruption to the story. As the story continues, the repetitions and writing on the blackboard are reduced, and the speed of presenting is increased. Interest in the story and before keep the learners involved.

(2) Controlling the teacher involves the teacher reading a text of 100-200 words to the class. The learners have been told that, when the teacher reaches the end of the text, there will be a test on the language and ideas in the text. In order to encourage the learners further to get the teacher to repeat parts of the text, a list of phrases such as "Please read more slowly", "Please go back to the beginning", "What was the word in front of….?" is put on the blackboard and the teacher deliberately reads some parts too fast or not clearly. This activity has an additional benefit of teaching the learners strategies for controlling spoken communication. Allowing the learners to control the presentation of the material is one way of limiting the demands of a task.

 

Speaking: (3) The 4/3/2 technique has already been described. It combines the features of quantity of production (the speakers speak for a total of nine minutes), learner control over the topic and language used, repetition, and time pressure to reach a high rate of production through the decreasing amount of time available for each delivery.

(4) The best recording is a useful fluency activity involving a tape recorder or the language laboratory. The learner speaks on to the tape talking about previous experience or describing a picture or set of pictures. The learner listens to the recording noting any points where improvement could be made. Then the learner re-records the talk. This continues until the learner is happy with the recording. This technique can involve planning and encourages repetition through the setting of a quality-based goal.

(5) The ask and answer technique (Simcock, 1990) is a follow-up to reading. The learners read a text to a high level of comprehension and then they work in pairs with one learner questioning the other about the text from a list of teacher-prepared questions. The answers to these questions provide a summary of the ideas in the text. The goal of the activity is for learners to perform the asking and answering in front of the class at a high level of fluency, so each pair practises asking and answering several times before doing their class presentation.

 

Reading: (6) Speed reading and extensive reading of graded readers provide fluency improvement through the features of limited demands because of language control, and quantity of processing. To be effective, speed reading courses need to be written within a limited vocabulary so that learners can focus on the reading skill without having to tackle language difficulties. Speed reading courses also have the added benefit of involving the learners in keeping a running record of their speed and comprehension scores. Research on graded readers (Wodinsky & Nation, 1988) shows that reading only a few books at one level would provide the learners with contact with almost all the words at that level. This shows that graded reading can provide a reliable basis for systematic coverage of vocabulary for fluency development.

(7) Repeated reading is one approach to developing fluency in reading (Dowhower, 1989; Rasinski, 1989). The learners read the same text several times. There are several ways of doing this. One way is to set the learners a new task to do each time so that each reading is for a different purpose. The tasks would become more demanding with each repetition. Another way is to set a time goal for reading the text, say, 3 minutes for a 500 word text. The learners reread the text until they can do it in the set time. An even simpler goal is to get the learners to reread the text a set number of times. Research suggests that 4 or 5 times is most effective (Dowhower, 1989)

 

Writing: (8) Continuous writing is an activity where learners are given a set time (usually 5-10 minutes) to write with the aim of producing a large quantity of writing within the time. The learners can record the number of words they wrote on a graph. The teacher responds to the writing not by correcting errors but by finding something positive in the content of the writing to comment on briefly.

 

Making Fluency Activities

Fluency activities make use of a limited range of features and there are various ways to make sure that these features occur. Table 1 lists these features which have been described earlier in this paper and lists ways of producing them. All of these ways are exemplified in the activities described in the previous section. It is not difficult to think of ways of making other fluency activities working from the list in Table 1. For example, fluency activities for writing can involve repetition (the same information is written for different readers), seeking feedback (polishing a piece of work for publication), and preparation (spoken rehearsal of the ideas that will be written). Fluency activities for listening can involve preparation (reading before listening), a high rate of output (listening to faster and faster deliveries of the same material), and repetition (retelling from "blown-up" books).

 

Fluency and Language Learning

There is considerable evidence to show that fluency activities result in language learning gains as well as skill gains. The study by Elley and Mangubhai (1981) is a good example of this. By dramatically increasing the quantity of material children read, the researchers found that "the average pupil made one-and-a-quarter year's progress in 8 months in Reading Comprehension, and improved almost as much in Listening Skills and English Structures. Growth in Oral Sentence Repetition, Word Recognition and Written Composition was marginally better than that of the Control Group" (p.26). The more narrowly focused studies by Arevart and Nation (1990) and Nation (1989) also show improvement in control of language items when the main learning goal is fluency.

 

 

Fluency and the Syllabus

Research on vocabulary statistics shows that only a relatively small amount of knowledge is needed for successful language use (Nation, 1990). It is important that this knowledge is available for use and therefore a part of class time should be given to fluency activities. Brumfit (1985) suggests "Right from the beginning of the course, about a third of the total time could be spent on this sort of fluency activity, and the proportion will inevitably increase as time goes on."

If fluency activities are included in each lesson and make use of new language items taught in that lesson, then these items should occur at a low density in the fluency material. In reading material this means that at least 85% of the words (Dowhower, 1989) should be very familiar to the learners. A second alternative is to include fluency activities in each lesson that make use of items learned several days or weeks before. It is likely that the optimal spacing of fluency activities agrees with Pimsleur's (1967) memory schedule, where repetitions are spaced further and further apart. A third alternative is to periodically give large blocks of time to fluency activities. This suggestion corresponds to Brumfit's (1985) "syllabus with holes in it". These holes or gaps are times when no new material is presented and there are fluency directed activities.

One of the biggest obstacles to fluency in a foreign language situation is the lack of opportunity outside the class room to use the foreign language to communicate. As teachers we should believe that every problem can be solved through informed and imaginative pedagogy. The purpose of this paper has been to suggest that teachers can not only help learners learn the language but can also help them reach a high degree of fluency in using it.

 

References

Arevart, Supot & Nation, I.S.P. (1990), 'Fluency improvement in a second language' (Unpublished paper).

Brumfit, Christopher J. (1984), Communicative methodology in language teaching: The roles of fluency and accuracy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Brumfit, Christopher J. (1985), 'Accuracy and fluency: a fundamental distinction for communicative teaching methodology', in C.J. Brumfit Language and literature teaching: From practice to principle, Oxford: Pergamon.

Dowhower, Sarah L. (1989), 'Repeated reading: Research into practice'. The Reading Teacher, 42, 502-507.

Elley, W. B. & Mangubhai, F. (1981), The impact of a book flood in Fiji primary schools. Wellington: New Zealand Council for Educational Research.

Maurice, K. (1983), 'The fluency workshop'. TESOL Newsletter, 17, 429.

Nation, I.S.P. (1990), Teaching and learning vocabulary. New York: Newbury House.

Nation, Paul (1989), 'Improving speaking fluency'. System, 17, 377-384.

Nation, Paul (1990), 'A system of tasks for language learning', in S. Anivan (ed.) Language Teaching Methodology for the Nineties, RELC Anthology Series No. 24, Singapore: RELC.

Pimsleur, P. (1967), 'A memory schedule'. Modern Language Journal, 51, 73-75.

Rasinski, Timothy V. (1989), 'Fluency for everyone: Incorporating fluency instruction in the classroom'. The Reading Teacher, 42, 690-693.

Simcock, Moina (1990), 'Ask and answer'. A paper delivered at the Second National Conference on Community Languages and ESOL, Wellington.

Wodinsky, M. & Nation, P. (1988), 'Learning from graded readers'. Reading in a Foreign Language, 5, 55-161.

The Author

Paul Nation is a Reader at the English Language Institute at Victoria University of Wellington. He has taught in Indonesia, Thailand, the United States and Finland. 

© Copyright 2001 MELTA

Fluency and Learning by PAUL NATION

Fluency and Learning

PAUL NATION
Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

 

 

Role of Fluency Activities

This paper looks at activities for developing fluency in classrooms where the learners have little or no opportunity to make use of the foreign language outside the classroom. In such situations work done in the classroom has to move learners on in their knowledge of the language as well as to develop the fluency to make effective use of this knowledge.

The goals of learning in language classrooms can be divided into four groups, namely Language, Ideas, Skill, and Text or discourse (Nation, 1990). In this paper the focus is on an: aspect of skill learning, fluency, which can be loosely defined as having ready access to what you already know (Brumfit, 1985). The importance of fluency in language use is highlighted in first-language research on the relationship between vocabulary learning and reading comprehension. One of the several possible explanations for a lack of success of many studies in showing that preteaching vocabulary results in improved comprehension is that it is not sufficient just to know the meanings of new words in a text. It is also necessary to be able to retrieve these meanings quickly and fluently when their forms are met in the text. Many learners of English as a foreign language experience this difficulty. Their language knowledge of vocabulary and sentence patterns may be substantial, the result of several years' learning, but their ability to access and use this knowledge fluently is extremely low. The aim of the fluency activities described in this paper is to make language knowledge become readily available for use.

 

Nature of Fluency Activities

The main idea behind this paper is that fluency activities depend on several features to achieve their goal. These features can appear in a variety of techniques over the whole range of language skills. By looking at these features we can judge whether an activity will develop fluency in an efficient way and we can devise other activities that will. Let us look first at a well-researched activity. The 4/3/2 technique was devised by Maurice (1983). In this technique, learners work in pairs with one acting as the speaker and the other as listener. The speaker talks for four minutes on a topic while her partner listens. Then the pairs change with each speaker giving the same information to a new partner in three minutes, followed by a further change and a two-minute talk.

From the point of view of fluency, this activity has these important features. First, the user is encouraged to process a large quantity of language. In 4/3/2 this is done by allowing the speaker to perform without interruption and by having the speaker make three deliveries of the talk. Second, the demands of the activity are limited to a much smaller set than would occur in most uncontrolled learning activities. This can be done by control by the teacher as is the case in most receptive fluency activities such as reading graded readers or listening to stories, or can be done by choice, planning or repetition by the learner. In the 4/3/2 activity the speaker chooses the ideas, language items and way of organizing the talk. The 4- and 3-minute deliveries allow the speaker to bring these aspects well under control, so that fluency can become the learning goal of the activity. Note that the repetition of the talk is still with the learner's attention focused on the message because of the changing audience. Third, the learner is helped to reach a high level of performance by having the opportunity to repeat and by the challenge of decreasing time to convey the same message. Usually this level would be measured in terms of quantity and rate of production rather than quality. However the research by Nation (1989) and Arevart and Nation (1990) shows that, in the case of 4/3/2, increase in rate as measured by words per minute is accompanied by improvements in the quality of the talk as measured by hesitations, grammatical accuracy and grammatical complexity. This is a very important effect of fluency activities. Improvement in fluency is not simply improvement in speed of access. Speed of access to be of value must be able to occur under a variety of conditions and contexts and this means that the development of fluency wilt also involve the enrichment of knowledge of language items as known items are processed in new situations.

Let us now look at how the fluency activity features of quantity, limited demands and high level of performance apply across the range of language skills.

 

Fluency Activities across the Four Skills

Fluency is important in the receptive skills of listening and reading as well as in the productive skills of speaking and writing.

Listening: (1) Listening to stories that contain very few unknown items is an excellent way of developing listening fluency. It can be done in this way. The teacher chooses a simply-written but interesting story. I have found the graded readers In the Beginning (Longman Structural Readers, Stage 2), Of Mice and Men (Heinemann Guided Readers, Upper level) and Animal Farm (Longman Bridge Series) to be particularly good. The story is then read to the learners for a few minutes in each lesson as a kind of serial. Initially the story is read quite slowly with repetitions of phrases or sentences that might cause the learners difficulty. In addition, words that the learners might know in their written form but have difficulty recognizing in spoken form are written on the blackboard without too much interruption to the story. As the story continues, the repetitions and writing on the blackboard are reduced, and the speed of presenting is increased. Interest in the story and before keep the learners involved.

(2) Controlling the teacher involves the teacher reading a text of 100-200 words to the class. The learners have been told that, when the teacher reaches the end of the text, there will be a test on the language and ideas in the text. In order to encourage the learners further to get the teacher to repeat parts of the text, a list of phrases such as "Please read more slowly", "Please go back to the beginning", "What was the word in front of….?" is put on the blackboard and the teacher deliberately reads some parts too fast or not clearly. This activity has an additional benefit of teaching the learners strategies for controlling spoken communication. Allowing the learners to control the presentation of the material is one way of limiting the demands of a task.

 

Speaking: (3) The 4/3/2 technique has already been described. It combines the features of quantity of production (the speakers speak for a total of nine minutes), learner control over the topic and language used, repetition, and time pressure to reach a high rate of production through the decreasing amount of time available for each delivery.

(4) The best recording is a useful fluency activity involving a tape recorder or the language laboratory. The learner speaks on to the tape talking about previous experience or describing a picture or set of pictures. The learner listens to the recording noting any points where improvement could be made. Then the learner re-records the talk. This continues until the learner is happy with the recording. This technique can involve planning and encourages repetition through the setting of a quality-based goal.

(5) The ask and answer technique (Simcock, 1990) is a follow-up to reading. The learners read a text to a high level of comprehension and then they work in pairs with one learner questioning the other about the text from a list of teacher-prepared questions. The answers to these questions provide a summary of the ideas in the text. The goal of the activity is for learners to perform the asking and answering in front of the class at a high level of fluency, so each pair practises asking and answering several times before doing their class presentation.

 

Reading: (6) Speed reading and extensive reading of graded readers provide fluency improvement through the features of limited demands because of language control, and quantity of processing. To be effective, speed reading courses need to be written within a limited vocabulary so that learners can focus on the reading skill without having to tackle language difficulties. Speed reading courses also have the added benefit of involving the learners in keeping a running record of their speed and comprehension scores. Research on graded readers (Wodinsky & Nation, 1988) shows that reading only a few books at one level would provide the learners with contact with almost all the words at that level. This shows that graded reading can provide a reliable basis for systematic coverage of vocabulary for fluency development.

(7) Repeated reading is one approach to developing fluency in reading (Dowhower, 1989; Rasinski, 1989). The learners read the same text several times. There are several ways of doing this. One way is to set the learners a new task to do each time so that each reading is for a different purpose. The tasks would become more demanding with each repetition. Another way is to set a time goal for reading the text, say, 3 minutes for a 500 word text. The learners reread the text until they can do it in the set time. An even simpler goal is to get the learners to reread the text a set number of times. Research suggests that 4 or 5 times is most effective (Dowhower, 1989)

 

Writing: (8) Continuous writing is an activity where learners are given a set time (usually 5-10 minutes) to write with the aim of producing a large quantity of writing within the time. The learners can record the number of words they wrote on a graph. The teacher responds to the writing not by correcting errors but by finding something positive in the content of the writing to comment on briefly.

 

Making Fluency Activities

Fluency activities make use of a limited range of features and there are various ways to make sure that these features occur. Table 1 lists these features which have been described earlier in this paper and lists ways of producing them. All of these ways are exemplified in the activities described in the previous section. It is not difficult to think of ways of making other fluency activities working from the list in Table 1. For example, fluency activities for writing can involve repetition (the same information is written for different readers), seeking feedback (polishing a piece of work for publication), and preparation (spoken rehearsal of the ideas that will be written). Fluency activities for listening can involve preparation (reading before listening), a high rate of output (listening to faster and faster deliveries of the same material), and repetition (retelling from "blown-up" books).

 

Fluency and Language Learning

There is considerable evidence to show that fluency activities result in language learning gains as well as skill gains. The study by Elley and Mangubhai (1981) is a good example of this. By dramatically increasing the quantity of material children read, the researchers found that "the average pupil made one-and-a-quarter year's progress in 8 months in Reading Comprehension, and improved almost as much in Listening Skills and English Structures. Growth in Oral Sentence Repetition, Word Recognition and Written Composition was marginally better than that of the Control Group" (p.26). The more narrowly focused studies by Arevart and Nation (1990) and Nation (1989) also show improvement in control of language items when the main learning goal is fluency.

 

 

Fluency and the Syllabus

Research on vocabulary statistics shows that only a relatively small amount of knowledge is needed for successful language use (Nation, 1990). It is important that this knowledge is available for use and therefore a part of class time should be given to fluency activities. Brumfit (1985) suggests "Right from the beginning of the course, about a third of the total time could be spent on this sort of fluency activity, and the proportion will inevitably increase as time goes on."

If fluency activities are included in each lesson and make use of new language items taught in that lesson, then these items should occur at a low density in the fluency material. In reading material this means that at least 85% of the words (Dowhower, 1989) should be very familiar to the learners. A second alternative is to include fluency activities in each lesson that make use of items learned several days or weeks before. It is likely that the optimal spacing of fluency activities agrees with Pimsleur's (1967) memory schedule, where repetitions are spaced further and further apart. A third alternative is to periodically give large blocks of time to fluency activities. This suggestion corresponds to Brumfit's (1985) "syllabus with holes in it". These holes or gaps are times when no new material is presented and there are fluency directed activities.

One of the biggest obstacles to fluency in a foreign language situation is the lack of opportunity outside the class room to use the foreign language to communicate. As teachers we should believe that every problem can be solved through informed and imaginative pedagogy. The purpose of this paper has been to suggest that teachers can not only help learners learn the language but can also help them reach a high degree of fluency in using it.

 

References

Arevart, Supot & Nation, I.S.P. (1990), 'Fluency improvement in a second language' (Unpublished paper).

Brumfit, Christopher J. (1984), Communicative methodology in language teaching: The roles of fluency and accuracy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Brumfit, Christopher J. (1985), 'Accuracy and fluency: a fundamental distinction for communicative teaching methodology', in C.J. Brumfit Language and literature teaching: From practice to principle, Oxford: Pergamon.

Dowhower, Sarah L. (1989), 'Repeated reading: Research into practice'. The Reading Teacher, 42, 502-507.

Elley, W. B. & Mangubhai, F. (1981), The impact of a book flood in Fiji primary schools. Wellington: New Zealand Council for Educational Research.

Maurice, K. (1983), 'The fluency workshop'. TESOL Newsletter, 17, 429.

Nation, I.S.P. (1990), Teaching and learning vocabulary. New York: Newbury House.

Nation, Paul (1989), 'Improving speaking fluency'. System, 17, 377-384.

Nation, Paul (1990), 'A system of tasks for language learning', in S. Anivan (ed.) Language Teaching Methodology for the Nineties, RELC Anthology Series No. 24, Singapore: RELC.

Pimsleur, P. (1967), 'A memory schedule'. Modern Language Journal, 51, 73-75.

Rasinski, Timothy V. (1989), 'Fluency for everyone: Incorporating fluency instruction in the classroom'. The Reading Teacher, 42, 690-693.

Simcock, Moina (1990), 'Ask and answer'. A paper delivered at the Second National Conference on Community Languages and ESOL, Wellington.

Wodinsky, M. & Nation, P. (1988), 'Learning from graded readers'. Reading in a Foreign Language, 5, 55-161.

The Author

Paul Nation is a Reader at the English Language Institute at Victoria University of Wellington. He has taught in Indonesia, Thailand, the United States and Finland. 

© Copyright 2001 MELTA

SQUARING THE CIRCLE: TEACHING EAP TO LARGE MIXED GROUPS

SQUARING THE CIRCLE: TEACHING EAP TO LARGE MIXED GROUPS

Alan Pulverness

Norwich Institute for Language Education

 

 

ABSTRACT

 

This paper highlights core considerations for managing and sustaining the interest of large mixed ability EAP classes . These include providing a  variety of authentic and purposeful learning tasks and staging lessons with flexible timeframes. Other key factors like collaboration, open-endedness and enquiry are elaborated with examples for classroom application. The article recommends the selective use of methodologies from a continuum of approaches that range from sheltered to  deep end strategies with different degrees of instructional scaffolding to be used throughout, according to learners’  needs. The teaching of the five skills (Reading, Writing, Listening, Speaking and Study Skills) is essential to progress in tandem with the profound dimensions of EAP since there is no consensus as to a single ESP/EAP approach. This ensures skill transference, disposition towards study, overall development of competence and ultimately, the students’ academic success.

 

     In a paper entitled “ESP and the curse of Caliban”,  Henry Widdowson invokes the teacher/student relationship between the magician Prospero and the savage Caliban in Shakespeare’s The Tempest. In the second scene of the play, in response to Caliban’s complaints, Prospero regrets having taught him language:

 

Prospero:                                                                                               I pitied thee,

                    Took pains to make thee speak, taught thee each hour

                    One thing or other: when thou didst not, savage,

                    Know thy own meaning, but wouldst gabble, like

                    A thing most brutish, I endow’d thy purposes

                    With words to make them known.

                    […]

 

Caliban’s reply has all the resentment of the colonised language learner:

Caliban:  You taught me language; and my profit on’t

 Is I know how to curse. The red plague rid you

 For learning me your language!

 

 

Widdowson notes that Prospero’s educational programme had been a kind of ESP – “English for Slavery”, if you like. However, not only had the programme failed to recognise the student’s real needs – his learning purposes – but like many learners (including ESP students) Caliban had actually learnt (or acquired) something other than what his teacher thought he was teaching him. (Widdowson comments wryly that “one must assume that cursing did not figure as a function in Prospero’s language course”!) Underlying this example is a serious point about needs analysis. The idea of designing a course to meet real needs by first identifying those needs seems thoroughly reasonable – especially when the needs seem to be so clearly definable. But the limitation of the Prospero approach lies in its being purely goal-oriented – the needs it analyses are based exclusively on the learner’s eventual purposes in using the language – occupational purposes for Caliban, academic purposes for our students. By focusing only on the intended outcomes, it fails to acknowledge the importance of what the learner needs along the way – the language required to learn the language. A more process-oriented approach would go beyond the inventory of items identified in the initial needs analysis to take into account the ways in which the language is learnt. It would thus acquire a broader educational function than just language training.

 

Large Classes

If you are teaching large classes, you will be only too well aware of the challenges involved, and you will certainly have developed your own strategies for coping with these challenges. All classes, of whatever size, entail to some extent mixed levels of attainment. The larger the class, the more problematic this becomes. Demands on the teacher common to any teaching situation–in terms of classroom management, involving and motivating students, attending to individual learning styles – are magnified exponentially in the large class, and in the large language class the situation is complicated further, as the ‘content’–i.e. the language–is also the medium of instruction. But if the problems are common ones writ large, so perhaps are the strategies for coping with them. It should be self-evident, but it is always worth reminding ourselves, that we need to make the most of planning strategies that will maximise student interest and involvement. Thus, the basic desiderata for any language class – varietypaceinterest– are particularly important in the larger class.

 

Variety

Variety of tasks is an of maintaining effective means of engaging students with different levels of attainment, and in the large class, a way involvement. A couple of examples:­

 

 

-   If the focus of a lesson is on vocabulary, some students can work with dictionaries, collecting and comparing definitions, examples, collocations; stronger students can work on occurrences of the items in reading texts, inferring meaning or building up componential analysis charts; while the most competent students can produce their own short texts to exemplify and demonstrate their understanding of the new items. Students can then be re-grouped to share and benefit from the outcomes of each other’s work.

-   It is not always necessary to set up differential tasks. For example, another kind of variety may be achieved, paradoxically, through a process of repetition: students can be asked to write outline notes as a basis for summaries of different texts – or different sections of the same text – and then, without referring back to the original text, to use their notes to report what they have read to a partner, then to another, and another, and so on. At each successive stage, the partner’s questions and requests for clarification should enable students to revise and refine their oral summaries, so that they can eventually produce more reliable written versions.

-   Variety also applies to modalities of classroom interaction: switching from individual work to pair work; switching from teacher-fronted, whole-class activity to group work; switching from what Halliwell in Teaching English in the Primary Classroom (1992) calls ‘stirrers’ to what she calls ‘settlers’ – i.e. from highly active tasks to more reflective phases.

 

Pace

Teachers know instinctively when a lesson has pace–or loses pace–though often this awareness only comes in retrospect. When planning lessons, therefore, it is important to try to predict the pace that will  be appropriate for different stages of a lesson, and the moments in a lesson where a change of pace may be desirable. Setting strict time limits for activities such as brainstorming or gist reading will encourage students to adopt the appropriate cognitive and strategic approaches, whereas other more reflective activities, for example, a discussion or planning an outline for an essay, will benefit if they can be more open-ended.

 

Interest

It should be axiomatic that relevant content will automatically be of interest to EAP students, but if the class represents a range of different disciplines, the issue of relevance becomes more complex. I will return to the question of discipline specificity; but even assuming that you succeed in selecting a relevant topic, intrinsic interest alone will not necessarily ensure students’ continuing engagement, and this is likely to be exacerbated  by  the  dynamics  of  the  large,  mixed-level class. At each stage of the

 

lesson, students need to feel a sense of achievement, and interest needs to be sustained through a varied sequence of purposeful activities. Here we can appeal to communicative principles that apply to any general-purpose class: the importance of creating opportunities for:

 

 discovery learning

 genuine exchange of information

 using the language in problem-solving processes

 

     To these three basic principles I should like to add three more, which seem to me to be key factors in the large, mixed-level EAP class: collaborationopen-endedness and enquiry.

 

Collaboration

Literally ‘working together’, collaboration entails the principle of co-operation, i.e. working together to achieve a common purpose. This implies activities in which each participant– both partners in a pair or each member of a group– has to make a distinctive and necessary contribution towards achieving that common goal. There are many ways in which this principle can be realised,for example:

-      brainstorming activities, in which everyone’s ideas are important

-   problem-solving activities, in which each member of the group has a piece of

information that forms part of what the whole group needs to know in order to find a solution to the problem

-   jigsaw activities, in which members of the group have each heard or read or

researched complementary blocks of information, which they then have to collaborate to put together

-   peer reviews, in which students read and comment on each other’s written work

-   collaborative writing, in which members of the group have to make individual

     contributions to a joint written product

-   more extended workshop activities, such as mini-research projects, surveys and           poster presentations, where both  the process and product are multiplex, and so       accommodate differential contributions from different individuals.

 

 

In large multi-level classes, where the extent to which the teacher can be involved in all the learning activities  in the classroom is physically limited, collaborative ways of working are essential, in order to make the most of the available human resources – i.e. the students. The most practical way of converting this limitation into an opportunity for learning is to create opportunities for students to adopt some aspects of the teacher’s role, both for themselves and their peers. This shift of responsibility pays off not just in terms of efficiency, but should also help to make students better learners, as they are placed in a position where they have to participate more, and develop learning skills, such as negotiation, self-monitoring and self-evaluation, which will be valuable in their specific disciplines as well as their language learning.

 

 

Open-endedness

Much of the work done in language classes, perhaps especially in the domain of EAP, is closed-ended, for example, transformation and slot-and filler exercises with single correct answers, or production tasks, apparently open, but in fact constrained by strict models or genre conventions. This unitary approach can produce a sense of frustration for many students in large mixed-level classes, often denied the opportunity of using the language available to them at their own different levels of competence. The virtue of open-ended language tasks is that they can give all the students in the class a sense of achievement, of being able to use the language effectively. Some examples might include:

 

-     giving students a set of graded questions and allowing them to select the ones that they wish to answer

-     adapting tasks which are traditionally closed-ended (e.g. categorising, matching,

multiple choice) in such a way as to accommodate a number of acceptable answers. The process implied is one of justification, in which the emphasis is not so much on ‘getting the right answer’ as on explaining one’s reasons for selecting a possible answer.

-     students working in groups to compile their own entries to develop an ongoing

lexicon. This also has a strong element of collaboration, as it avoids putting pressure on individuals to come up with ‘the right answer’ and gives everyone the opportunity to contribute towards formulating joint definitions

 

Enquiry

A concept that has gained increasing recognition in language learning theory comes from the Russian psychologist, Lev Vygotsky – the Zone of Proximal Development, or ZPD. Vygotsky defines the ZPD as “the distance between the actual developmental level... and the level of potential development through problem solving under adult guidance....” Put very simply, then, the ZPD refers to the potential area of language development just beyond a learner’s current level of competence. Another way of encouraging students in the large multilevel class to become involved while operating in their Zone of Proximal Development is to foster a spirit of enquiry in the class through an open mode of questioning. This means asking – and getting students to ask – questions that do not have predictable, closed answers, i.e. questions that begin elaboration posed in frames such as Could you explain how…? or Could you explain what you mean by…? A good principle here is to focus on referential questions–genuine questions to which the teacher does not know the answer–rather than display questions whose main purpose is to allow the students to display their knowledge of the language. Nunan (1989) notes, “it is not inconceivable that the effort involved in answering referential questions prompts a greater effort and depth of processing on the part of the learner.”

Thornbury (1996) writing about teacher talk, adds this comment to Nunan’s rather speculative conclusion:

I would go further, and argue that the effort involved in asking referential questions

prompts a greater effort and depth of processing on the part of the teacher. Try

conducting a lesson in which every question is referential! For teachers brought up in

the ‘elicit-standardize-drill‘ school, it can be a salutary experience.

 

Since the language teacher is rarely, if ever, also a subject specialist, the EAP class would seem to be a highly natural environment for referential questioning, as the teacher can ask real questions to which students can give real answers. But asking genuine, enquiring questions should not only be the province of the teacher: it may also become something that students are encouraged to do, and the mixed-discipline EAP class should again offer a natural environment for what is often maintained as a principle in language classrooms, but perhaps not so often put into practice–the genuine exchange of information.

 

Mixed Disciplines: ESAP or EGAP?

EAP has been subdivided, by Blue (1993) and others, into two categories, producing two further acronyms: EGAP (English for General Academic Purposes) and ESAP (English for Specific Academic Purposes). But even if an EAP class consists of students from the same discipline, it is comparatively rare for all the students to be following exactly the same elective sub-disciplines. So the problem of specificity is one that to some extent confronts most EAP course designers and teachers. Research findings in this area are inconclusive – perhaps reassuringly so. In a survey paper published in 2001, Caroline Clapham of Lancaster University points out that the relationship between subject specificity and students’ comprehension is relatively unpredictable, as it may be difficult to know precisely what students have studied previously and difficult, if not impossible, to know what interests and previous knowledge they might have outside their subject disciplines. So while schema theory tends to suggest that comprehension will be more successful when bottom-up text processing is combined with the top-down advantages of contextual familiarity, this does not necessarily provide a strong case for an ESAP approach to selecting texts. Clapham also notes the difficulty of finding subject-specific texts or assessing their suitability, and suggests that genre rather than topic may be a more useful yardstick for text selection. Her conclusion is that “it seems sensible for EAP teachers to teach what Dudley-Evans and St John (1998) call ‘common core’ EAP”, exposing students to a range of EGAP academic texts, covering a range of transferable text functions such as introductions, literature surveys, reports of research methods and discussions of results, which are common to most disciplines. At certain points it will no doubt be necessary to diverge from this common core and give students the opportunity to deal with text functions which are more subject-specific, such as describing technical processes, for example. However, given the difficulty of identifying the right material, the best source for such texts may well be the students themselves, if they can provide examples, such as journal articles or recordings of lectures, which they have actually had to tackle – or will do so – in the course of their studies.

 

finding subject-specific texts or assessing their suitability, and suggests that genre rather than topic may be a more useful yardstick for text selection. Her conclusion is that “it seems sensible for EAP teachers to teach what Dudley-Evans and St John (1998) call ‘common core’ EAP”, exposing students to a range of EGAP academic texts, covering a range of transferable text functions such as introductions, literature surveys, reports of research methods and discussions of results, which are common to most disciplines. At certain points it will no doubt be necessary to diverge from this common core and give students the opportunity to deal with text functions which are more subject-specific, such as describing technical processes, for example. However, given the difficulty of identifying the right material, the best source for such texts may well be the students themselves, if they can provide examples, such as journal articles or recordings of lectures, which they have actually had to tackle–or will do so–in the course of their studies.

 

 

 

Approaches: Methodology

Although there is no consensus as to a single ESP/EAP approach, there is perhaps one controlling principle underlying most approaches and proceeding from descriptions obtained through needs analysis of eventual application – the principle of authentic and purposeful tasks. The ‘invention’ project at the University of Cali, Colombia, is a very good example of this principle in action. Students are required to invent a device related to their major field and to present a model or graph of the structure, function and characteristics of the device invented, including semantic maps with advantages and disadvantages according to the feasibility of the device, unknown vocabulary, and a short written text to accompany the presentation. Clearly, this concept could be elaborated with different genres, such as a report or a technical manual. The invention idea is particularly satisfying as it can conform, if undertaken in groups, to the desirable conditions of project work for mixed levels, creating opportunities for students to make significant contributions to the achievement of a common goal while being able to work at their own language level.

The variable factor in designing tasks for the ESP/EAP classroom is control, and it may be instructive to view the options available to the teacher/materials designer as a continuum of approaches exhibiting varying degrees of control. The more ‘sheltered’ end of the continuum is represented by Phillips (1981), whose approach is summarised in four key principles:

 reality control: the level of task difficulty should be controlled by simplifying the specific purpose of the task and     not just simplifying the level of the language.

 non-triviality: the learner must perceive the learning task as meaningfully generated by the special purpose.

  authenticity: the language acquired by learners must be authentic.

 tolerance of error: errors should only be regarded as unacceptable if they  compromise communicative adequacy

 

The other extreme of this methodological continuum is the ‘deep end’ strategy described by Hall & Kenny (1988). Working on a pre-sessional EAP course in a university in Thailand, they were concerned about preparing learners for the kind of activities that they would actually be faced with in their subsequent studies. The point of departure for their course was therefore to confront their learners with actual tasks that they would eventually have to deal with. The rationale for these ‘shock tactics’ was to encourage “initiative, the sharing of ideas and a focus on the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of investigation rather than on the ‘what’.”

In practice it seems unlikely that the methodology applied in any given situation will be fixed at any particular point along this continuum, but rather that it will tend to fluctuate at different times – perhaps even at different moments within the same lesson – for different purposes. One important implication at the task-based end of the continuum is a variation in the role of the teacher. The more authentic the task, the less likely it is that the language teacher will be in control of the content, and consequently the teacher’s role is bound to shift from being an omniscient repository of knowledge to enabling learning to take place by adopting the role of guide or advisor. Here the notion of scaffolding comes into play.

The concept of scaffolding is part of Vygotsky’s ZPD theory and referred originally to the need that the child has in first language acquisition for ‘social interactional frameworks’. Scaffolding is the term given to the kind of structured support that favours the child’s cognitive and language development, received from parents and other adults. This has been extended (in the work of Applebee & Langer 1983) to the notion of instructional scaffolding. In instructional scaffolding, a skilled language user supports the learner by modelling the language the learner needs for a given task. As with the child, a process of structured questioning that also provides scaffolding helps to extend or refine what the learner already knows. The teacher’s role is not to evaluate the learner’s answers, but through supportive questioning routines, to support, encourage and provide additional prompts. As the learner becomes increasingly competent, the scaffolding can gradually be removed until the point where the learner is able not only to carry out the particular task independently, but also to generalise and transfer his/her newly-gained competence to other comparable

 

 

According to Applebee (1986) there are five criteria for effective scaffolding:

1.   Student ownership of the learning event. The instructional task must allow students               to make their own contribution to the activity as it evolves.

2.      Appropriateness of the instructional task. This means that the tasks should build               upon the knowledge and skills the student already possesses, but should be                     difficultenough to allow new learning to occur. (ZPD)

3.   A structured learning environment. This will provide a natural sequence of thought       and language, thus presenting the student with useful strategies and approaches to           the task.

4.   Shared responsibility.  Tasks  are  solved  jointly  in  the  course of instructional                interaction, so the role of the teacher is more collaborative than evaluative.

5.   Transfer of control.  As  students  internalise  new procedures and routines, they               should  take  a greater responsibility for controlling the progress of the task such               that the amount of interaction may actually increase as the student becomes more             competent.

 

Approaches: The Five Skills

I would now like to turn to some key issues in teaching the five skills (i.e. the four skills + study skills).

Reading

One major problem for EAP teachers–amplified in the mixed-level, mixed-discipline class–is the selection of appropriate texts. It may be difficult to maintain a strong position on authenticity if authentic texts are found to be too complex, while the content level of simpler texts may alienate students whose subject knowledge exceeds the level of the texts. If we go back to the principle that authenticity should reside in the language that students learn rather than in the texts themselves, one way out of this impasse might be to select articles on relevant topics in journal–even popular journal–written for informed, but not specialist, readerships.

      Perhaps the defining contrast between reading skills for the general-purpose learner and the EAP learner is the issue of purpose. EAP students need to be able to read selectively for a specific purpose, to evaluate what they read, and to make use of it in some practical further application, for example, recording or transferring information, making notes to incorporate in a piece of writing, using the information to support an argument, and so on. The implications of this purposefulness are usually interpreted as a need to focus on macro reading skills:

-  predicting,

-       skimming and scanning,

-  distinguishing primary from secondary information

and on micro reading skills :

-  recognising text functions (such as generalisation, definition, explanation)

 

 

-  recognising discourse relationships (such as condition, cause and effect, comparison and contrast)

-       acquiring specialised vocabulary.

 

The emphasis in EAP reading programmes thus tends to be on specific aspects of intensive reading, which will equip learners to cope with the practical reading demands of their particular disciplines. What is perhaps less widely acknowledged is the value of extensive reading for students who need to gain the confidence to deal with substantial amounts of text in their future studies, confidence which can only come from experience. This point is made by Carrell & Carson (1997), and more forcefully by Day and Bamford . They claim that “extensive reading should be an integral, even major, part of preparing students for academic reading”. In addition to boosting confidence, engendering a positive attitude towards reading, and developing vocabulary and knowledge of the world, they suggest that “extensive reading may play a role in developing the capacity for critical thinking,” which is a  key  success factor   in higher education. They cite Grabe (1986), discussing the teaching of reading in an EAP setting:

-  recognising discourse relationships (such as condition, cause and effect, comparison and contrast)

-       acquiring specialised vocabulary.

 

The emphasis in EAP reading programmes thus tends to be on specific aspects of intensive reading, which will equip learners to cope with the practical reading demands of their particular disciplines. What is perhaps less widely acknowledged is the value of extensive reading for students who need to gain the confidence to deal with substantial amounts of text in their future studies, confidence which can only come from experience. This point is made by Carrell & Carson (1997), and more forcefully by Day and Bamford . They claim that “extensive reading should be an integral, even major, part of preparing students for academic reading”. In addition to boosting confidence, engendering a positive attitude towards reading, and developing vocabulary and knowledge of the world, they suggest that “extensive reading may play a role in developing the capacity for critical thinking,” which is a  key  success factor   in higher education. They cite Grabe (1986), discussing the teaching of reading in an EAP setting:

Discovery and creative thinking are emergent processes where the mind […] makes

Non obvious connections and relations between previously independent domains of

knowledge[]…second language students usually opt for ‘safe’ responses. While

there are many causes for this phenomenon; a chief one is the lack of background

knowledge assumptions which form a basis from which to begin more speculative

thinking, and which form a basis for many English language assumptions. The point

is that prior reading experiences are crucial for having the information base to make

non obvious connections.

 

 

Day &Bamford (1998) cite an impressive range of research results from the 1980s and 1990s in EFL and ESL settings across several continents that show significant gains from extensive reading, not only in terms of students’ reading proficiency, as might be expected, but across the board in general language proficiency, and specifically in terms of vocabulary, writing, listening and positive affect.

The success of these extensive reading programmes, in which students were encouraged to read widely for pleasure, suggests a possible reversal of the historical reaction against literary texts for EAP students. Recent research reported by Hirvela (2001) lends some support to the idea that EAP students may derive benefits from reading literary texts (in terms of exposure to different rhetorical styles) that might complement the more obvious value of their reading of non-literary texts. Hirvela’s sample is small and his results are therefore somewhat inconclusive, but he suggests that “students can begin at one end of [Widdowson’s] ‘scale of specificity’– the broad end, involving literary texts and writing in response to them – and move toward the narrow end, where they focus on non-literary texts and write papers that use the texts in ways other than response.”

 

Writing

I would like to focus on two ongoing debates about writing as an EAP skill. The first area of methodological controversy that I want to mention is a kind of mirror image of the debate about appropriate degrees of specificity for reading texts – that is to say whether EAP writing classes should aim to develop general academic writing skills, in the hope that skills and strategies will be transferable to subsequent special-purpose writing tasks, or whether they should be devoted to teaching students to analyse and reproduce the specific written genres that belong to their eventual fields of study. The arguments here are very similar to those we mentioned before in terms of reading, i.e. that specific varieties of academic written discourse are so diverse that it would be difficult for the EAP teacher to deal with them directly–or adequately.

The other, larger debate is about the competing claims of product-focused and process-focused approaches. A focus on product would typically involve:

 

 

•  the identification of specific discourse features in a particular genre

 modelling by reading examples of texts in the appropriate genre

 noticing through tasks that draw students’ attention to characteristic features of the genre

 genre analysis, where students identify major text features

 information transfer and text comparison

 controlled production (text completion, text reconstruction, text re-ordering)

 text production

 

 

The process approach, popularised by White and Arndt (1991), breaks down the stages of writing into brainstorming, drafting, revising, re-drafting, further revising and re-working, further evaluation, and writing a final draft. Here the stages of revision and re-drafting that in a product-focused approach might be indiscernible–or even elided–are privileged, and this implies a central role for the teacher and for peer editors in giving feedback and advice as the student’s text evolves.

In fact, it seems quite possible to me to view the product/process debate as something of a false dichotomy, since it should be possible to adopt a process approach to ‘explode’ the final stage of the product-based writing cycle. In other words, to have a hybridised ‘product via process’ approach.

An issue associated with the implementation of a process approach is the effect of response to student writing. There has been a great deal of research into this question over the past decade, reported recently in a survey paper by Dana Ferris (2001). The conclusions she reports provide some interesting contrasts between students’ responses to teacher feedback and their responses to peer feedback. It appears that students tend to value teacher feedback and try to make use of it at revision stages, though the changes they attempt do not always improve–or even weaken–their writing. Sometimes they actually avoid or ignore feedback from the teacher. Feedback from peers, on the other hand, is enjoyed and valued, though not to the exclusion of teacher feedback, and it is more likely to be considered if it is kept separate from teacher feedback; its effects also tend to vary, depending on the variable nature of the peer interactions involved.

There is surprisingly little research available on the effects of feedback on errors. The research that has been carried out in this area suggests that the best error feedback is carefully prioritised and selective, and indirect–in the sense that the location of errors is identified, rather than the errors being explicitly corrected. The conclusion drawn is that students should be encouraged to develop self-editing skills, and this in turn would seem to lend support to a process-writing approach.

 

 

Listening

With listening, as with reading and writing, one of the most contentious questions is the conflict between the ‘deep-end’ challenge of fully authentic materials (in this case the real lecture, a lengthy stretch of discourse heard only once) and materials that are simplified for learning purposes, perhaps heard more than once, and therefore more easily processable by learners. As anyone who teaches listening will attest, there are important issues of learner confidence at stake here. Learners can be more easily discouraged by the obstacles involved in authentic academic listening than by difficulties in any other domain of language learning. However, there are significant features of the spoken discourse of academic lectures that are absent from the recorded performances of written texts that are commonly available in published listening materials. These include the lecturer’s use of body language, a variety of interpersonal strategies used by the lecturer to establish and sustain contact with the audience and confirm that they are following the discourse, the use of rhetorical questions, and the use of visual aids, handouts and reading assignments. It also seems that this lecture is the exception rather than the rule, in that I prefer to rely on a written text rather than speaking spontaneously or (re)constructing my lecture from notes.

     Authentic lectures also tend to exhibit features commonly associated with unplanned speech, such as hesitations, false starts, reformulations, redundancies, repetitions, fillers and discourse signposts. Most of these features are designed to make the content of a lecture more accessible, and paradoxically, the sanitised versions of lectures, ‘cleaned up’ for commercial recordings are actually rendered more difficult by their absence.

     The solution would seem to lie in a combination of training students to deal with bottom-up elements of comprehending spoken discourse via published materials and exposing them to samples of authentic lectures, with all their useful untidiness. Flowerdew (1994) also suggests a practical measure that attacks the problem from the other side: training the lecturers who teach students to adjust their mode of lecturing, so as to improve their projection and style of delivery, incorporate more discourse signals, announce a ‘menu’ of main points, include regular summaries and plenty of repetition and reformulation.

 

 

 

Speaking

Speaking tends to be the neglected Cinderella among the skills. To some extent, speaking for EAP students bears a reciprocal relationship to listening in much the same way as writing does to reading. That is to say, the skills of structuring and delivery required to give an effective oral presentation are parallel to the features that we want students to be aware of when they are listening to lectures. However, there are other specific speaking skills that can be identified in various academic settings. Jordan (1997) lists asking questions during lectures, seminars and tutorials, taking part in seminar discussions, interacting in collaborative situations, such the laboratory or workshop or project group, and describing data or experimental procedures.

 

      Despite the fact that students tend to be judged most immediately by how well they can cope with the spoken language – and this judgement is often transferred to an informal evaluation of their overall language competence–EAP speaking skills remain somewhat neglected by researchers. Speaking in a seminar situation is complicated by a number of extra-linguistic factors. Lynch and Anderson (1991) mention:

 

 the publicness of the performance

 the need to think on your feet

 the requirement to be able to call up relevant subject knowledge

 the need to present logically ordered arguments

 the fact that speakers may be assessed on their contributions

 

Wilkins’ (1976) distinction between synthetic and analytic approaches to syllabus design provides a useful frame of reference here:

 

 

A synthetic language teaching strategy is one in which the different parts of language are taught separately and step by step so that acquisition is a process of gradual accumulation of parts until the whole structure of language has been built up.

                                   

[analytic syllabuses] are organised in terms of the purposes for which people are learning language and the kinds of language performance that are necessary to meet those purposes.

 

The teaching of EAP speaking skills often tends to reflect the synthetic approach applied to the other skills: breaking up and focusing on the use of the spoken language in discrete elements, such as grammatical structures, language functions, and appropriate microskills. An analytic approach implies using the language holistically to carry out communicative activities, something more akin to the task-based model elaborated by Jane Willis (1996). The TBL(task-based learning) cycle involves preparation, task performance, analysis and reflection (based on recordings of students’ own performance and/or native speakers’ performance of the same or a similar task) and a follow-up repetition of the task–something like the re-drafting stage of the process writing cycle. This would seem to be an appropriate way of addressing some of those features of a seminar discussion that are so important, but often slip into the interstices of the EAP teaching programme.

 

Study Skills

Study skills subsume some of the language skills surveyed above, as they include operations such as listening and note-taking, reading skills for study purposes, oral presentations, seminar discussions, and essay/ report writing. They also extend to research skills, such as finding and using reference sources (these days including the Internet), presentation skills (in writing as well as speech) and processing skills (these days including word-processing). But in addition to these tangible study techniques, academic success is also dependent on a deeper level of affect and attitude and disposition towards study.

 

Waters and Waters (2001) suggest that a problem-solving methodology–where the ‘problems’ are related to the challenges of study itself, might be the most effective way to develop the level of study competence. By setting up tasks which make students consider study problems, directly and indirectly, the long-term object of effective study (the ‘what’) can also become its means (the ‘how’). Waters and Waters argue that a problem-solving approach can potentially:

 

 encourage independence of mind

 foster self-awareness

 increase self-evaluation skills

 build up self-confidence

 develop flexibility and adaptability

 improve capacity for learning in general

 

Waters and Waters propose three types of problem-solving activities to raise awareness of study competence and its relationship to study skills – Direct Study Tasks, Indirect Study Tasks and Skills Transference Tasks. The Direct approach involves the student in tasks which quite explicitly develop particular competences; the Indirect approach ostensibly demands the application of study skills, with the potential for developing study competence remaining implicit; the Skills Transfer approach combines these two, getting students to employ study skills to carry out a task, and then explicitly to discuss the nature of the relevant competences.

      It seems to me that Waters and Waters have identified quite a profound dimension of EAP that goes much deeper than the mechanics of technical language training for academic purposes. Their concluding statement, I think, provides EAP teachers with a challenging goal:

 

…learning to study effectively needs to be seen primarily as a process of making a certain turn of mind personally meaningful in relation to handling academic data, rather than as merely a matter of exposure to and practice of a repertoire of study techniques.

 

STUDY SKILLS

(Techniques for Effective Study)

note-taking             skimming & scanning            using a bibliography

 

                                    •self-awareness

                                    •logical thinking

                                    •critical questioning

                                    •autonomy

                                    •self-confidence etc                                                                                      

                                    STUDY COMPETENCE

                        (cognitive and affective capacity for study)

(based on Waters & Waters (1992))

 

References

Applebee, A. N. 1986. Problems in Process Approaches: Toward a reconceptualisation
      of  Process instruction. In A. R. Petrosky & D. Bartholomae (eds).  The Teaching of 
      Writing. 
Eighty-fifth Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of  Education. Chicago:             University of Chicago Press.

 

Applebee, A.N. and  Langer, J. A. 1983. Instructional scaffolding: reading and writing as
      natural activities. Language Arts,  60: 168-175.

 

Blue, G. 1993. Nothing Succeeds like Linguistic Competence: TheRole of language in
      academic success.  In  Language,  Learning  and Success: Studying through English. G.                

Blue (ed.) Hemel Hempstead: Phoenix ELT.

 

Carrell,  P. L. &  Carson, J. G. 1997.  Extensive and  intensive  reading  in  an  EAP
      setting.English for Specific Purposes, 16 (1):47-60.

 

Clapham,  C.  2001.  Discipline  Specificity  and  EAP.  In  Flowerdew  J.  &  M.  Peacock
      (eds.)       Research  Perspectives  on  English  for  Academic  Purposes.  Cambridge: Cambridge                      University Press.

 

Cross, D. 1995. Large Classes in Action. London: Prentice Hall.

 

Day, R. R.&  Bamford,  J. 1998. Extensive  Reading  in  the  Second  Language Classroom.                      Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

 

Dudley-Evans, T. &  St. John, M. 1998. Developments in English for Specific       Purposes: A
      Multi-disciplinary Approach
. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

 

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