After nearly 9 years in ELT I made the transition to EAP in January 2015 – I am now reflecting on how my teaching practice has evolved:
From negotiated to prescriptive syllabus
Working primarily as a business English teacher in ELT, I had always used the student as my main resource: course design was based entirely on learner needs and expectations, as identified in language tests and needs analyses.
In EAP, expectations are set out in the criteria, with each course adhering to the Scheme of Work. Students know exactly what is expected from them and my role is to constantly remind them of these expectations – both implicitly through the lesson staging, and explicitly by telling them why we are doing such tasks. Of course negotiation is still required: I still need to teach the students in front of me and adapt or create materials to match the emerging learner needs. As an avid supporter of Diane Larsen-Freeman I can still, therefore, uphold the principle of teaching based on comprehensible output – albeit within a tighter academic skills based framework.
Communicative Language Teaching
The most transferable aspect of ELT is how I teach. There is still a lot of moving around in my classroom, as I scaffold activities with students regrouping, sharing and feeding back to the class. Rarely do students work in isolation, although there are times when they do need valuable quiet thinking time – I have built more of this in since Michelle’s Bite to EAP on the Thinking Environment. There are always opportunities for personalisation and expression of ideas, and a strong emphasis on developing transferable skills. In EAP, I am constantly checking in with my students about what they remember about the academic skills learnt in previous lessons, and how they will apply new skills to their learning beyond the classroom.
Since moving into EAP I have been incorporating more differentiation into my planning, as I seek to challenge stronger students and ensure weaker students have the right level of support.
From blackboard to Blackboard
Perhaps one of the main challenges I experienced during the pre-sessional induction was getting to grips with all things IT. Living in Italy for many years, I’d be lucky enough to have a flip chart and pens in some classrooms, but even in two of Rome’s top universities I was using chalk and traditional blackboards – in Beijing too this year. Suddenly there was talk of BEAP, Socrative, Quizlet and flipping things onto Blackboard… thanks to my very patient fellow tutor Jan Benjamin, I soon got used to all things IT. And I plan to book in a session with Wendy to ensure I am up to speed with all the IWB has to offer.
Future Focus: ELF
Reading Jennifer Jenkins’ work on the significance of ELF had a big impact on my ELT practice, whereby I’d help learners understand how international English is evolving. In my EAP classes I’ve observed how an awareness of ELF can promote confidence in seminar skills classes, as students focus more on what they want to say, rather than how they should be saying it. I am interested in exploring this further, as I think it would be beneficial for many of our students as they prepare specialist papers and presentations for an international non-expert audience.
Link to further reading: