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Research in English for Academic Purposes

更新时间:2008-11-15:  来源:毕业论文

Research in English for Academic Purposes
Abstract:EAP is the main branch of ESP and EAP is defined as “any English teaching that relates to a study purpose”. Four types of EAP situation should be considered when we practice EAP teaching in tertiary level context: EAP in an English-speaking country, EAP in ESL (English as a second language) situations, EAP situations in which certain subjects are taught in English and EAP situations where subject courses are taught in the national language. Today’s EAP teaching practice employs a number of approaches to highlight the language and discourse of particular academic genres rather than that in academic text.

Key words: English for Academic Purposes (EAP); English for Specific Purposes (ESP); English for Occupational Purposes (EOP); Settings of EAP; study skills

What is EAP

English for Specific Purposes (ESP), according to whey they take place or discipline and professional area, is traditionally divided into two areas: English for Academic Purposes (EAP) and English for Occupational Purposes (EOP) (Dudley-Evans, T., & St John, M., 1998). So it is clear that EAP is the main branch of ESP and EAP is defined as “any English teaching that relates to a study purpose” (Dudley-Evans & St John, 1998, p.34). Other scholars gave their definitions, too. For example, “EAP is concerned with those communicative skills in English which are required for study purposes in formal educational systems” (Jordan, 1997, p.1).

The history and development of EAP
EAP teaching practice has widely carried out for almost 30 years. Every English language teacher of around none-native students in academic contexts would choose to teach “ with a view to the context rather than only to the language” (Hamp-Lyons, 2001, p.126). The term “English for Academic Purposes” was first introduced in 1974 and put into general use in 1975 (Jordan, 1997). In its history, the British organization SELMOUS ( Special English Language Materials for Overseas University Students) contributed a lot. The published papers of its annual meeting was entitled English for academic purposes (Cowie and Heaton, 1977, cited in Jordan, 1997, p. 1). Later in 1989, SELMOUS became BALEAP (British Association of Lecturers in English for Academic Purposes) and the professionalism in the teaching of EAP at tertiary level was then promoted. Besides, it is Strevens (1977, cited in Hamp-Lyons, 2001, p.126) who considered EAP as an area of ESP. He emphasized the teaching for practical command of language and that language teaching should meet the needs of language learners (Hamp-Lyons, 2001).

Different from general English courses beginning with language, EAP is an educational approach beginning with the learners and situations; most general English courses focus on speaking and listening, while EAP on reading and writing (Hamp-Lyons, 2001). What’s more, EAP courses tend to teach learners formal, academic genres of the language rather than conventional and social genres as general English courses do (Hamp-Lyons, 2001).

EAP courses are usually run by a certain bodies like Language Centers, English Language (Teaching) Centers or Units in UK, or departments with similar names and functions. The situation is also similar in other countries (Jordan, 1997).

Settings of EAP

According to Jordan (1997), EAP exists in different settings. Teachers thus have to do a careful work before designing the course and selecting relevant teaching materials in order to match their teaching situations. Dudley-Evans and St John (1998, p.34) also pointed out that “the key determinant of what an EAP course should contain is whether or not the subject course is taught in English”. For this reason, four types of EAP situation should be considered when we practice EAP teaching in tertiary level context: EAP in an English-speaking country, EAP in ESL (English as a second language) situations, EAP situations in which certain subjects are taught in English and EAP situations where subject courses are taught in the national language.

In an English-speaking country such as UK, USA or Australia, a large numbers of international students are enrolled every year and both their academic and cultural background are often different from that of English-speaking countries. The most remarkable point may be the English language settings they are going to adapt themselves to. Then EAP courses should be designed to analyze and meet the needs of those international students, “helping such students reach their full academic potential” (Dudley-Evans & St John, 1998, p.36).

Meanwhile, EAP work is also done in ESL countries like Zimbabwe, Nigeria and some South-East Asian countries such as Singapore and Philippines (Dudley-Evans & St John, 1998). In those ESL countries, English is mainly used in the education system of all levels though the native language still plays a dominant role in everyday life. Since students of those countries have owned comparatively higher language proficiency, EAP courses then are working to help students acquire study skills and prepare for the specific study at the tertiary level. But one thing to remark is the needs of such students “span the needs of non-native speakers following an English-medium course and those of native speakers in need of developing communication skills” (Dudley-Evans & St John, 1998, p.37). The most successful communication skills course in ESL countries turned out to be the combination of the traditional ideas of EAP and the communication skills for native speakers (Dudley-Evans & St John, 1998).

As for EAP situations in which certain subjects are taught in English. Fro example, in many Middle East countries, there is no English-medium teaching tradition as ESL countries do. Almost all the subjects are taught in their native language at school level though in some countries EAP work have been included at upper secondary school level. At tertiary level, however, only a certain subjects, like science, medicine and engineering, are given in English. But it is also true that the teaching and learning are not strictly English required due to the comparatively lower English level of either lecturers or students (Dudley-Evans & St John, 1998).

In EAP situations where subject courses are taught in the national language, for example in East Asian countries, Latin countries, mainland Western countries, Eastern Europe and so on, national languages are adopted as the medium in teaching and learning (Dudley-Evans & St John, 1998). Take China for example, almost all subjects are delivered in Chinese, no matter what level students are at. The only exception is some university level courses like Technical English and Business English, which are usually considered as EAP applications. English is an auxiliary language.

The teachers of EAP may be either native speakers of English or non-native speakers. “The courses may be pre-sessional…or in-sessional…” (Jordan, 1997, p. 2). To be specific, pre-sessional courses are usually full-time ones and held before an academic course begins (Jordan, 1997). In contrast, in-sessional courses, usually part-time, are delivered during an academic semester and students can take them while studying their major courses (Jordan, 1997).

According to Jordan (1997), the length of courses is not fixed. It can be “‘short’, e.g. 4-12 weeks, or ‘long’, e.g. 6-12 months, or longer” (Jordan, 1997, p. 2).

As far as the method of delivery is concerned, formal teaching programs, self-access situations, distance-learning materials or CALL (computer-assisted language learning) can be the choices for EAP instruction (Jordan, 1997).

If we look into EAP with a micro view, we can see that EAP has two divisions- English for General Academic Purposes (EGAP) and English for Specific Academic Purposes (ESAP) (Blue, 1988, cited in Dudley-Evans & St John, 1998), which can help us achieve a better understanding of EAP. Dudley-Evans and St John defined these two terms as following: “EGAP refers to the teaching of the skills and language that are common to all disciplines; ESAP refers to the teaching of the features that distinguish one discipline from others” (Dudley-Evans & St John, 1998, p.41).

EGAP sees study skills as individual ones bound to respective study activities. For example, there are “listening to lectures; participating in supervisions, seminars and tutorials; reading textbook, articles and other reading materials; and writing essays, examinations, answers, dissertations and reports” (Blue, 1993. cited in Dudley-Evans & St John, 1998). For each of these study activities, some specific skills are involved.

In contrast, ESAP considers the skills work of EGAP as a whole and aims to help learners to make use of those skills in their specific subject tasks (Dudley-Evans & St John, 1998). Very often, ESAP work needs “cooperation with the actual subject department” (Dudley-Evans & St John, 1998, p.42).  

The difference between EGAP and ESAP may lie in the different focuses. That is, EGAP courses are of more general contexts, while ESAP put the emphasis on more specific tasks (Dudley-Evans & St John, 1998).

The common core and subject specific work of EAP are inseparable in the real EAP teaching practice though some scholars hold their opinions. Hutchinson and Waters (1987, cited in Dudley-Evans & St John, 1998) and Blue (1988, cited in Dudley-Evans & St John, 1998) argued that EGAP should be focused on in EAP teaching and ESAP can be acquired by students though individual project work. Dudley-Evans and St John made it more completed and clearer by adding that “the common-core EAP work makes more sense and is more relevant if it supplemented by specific work” (Dudley-Evans & St John, 1998, p.42). In addition, they suggest the three-level cooperation for subject-specific work: Cooperation, Collaboration and Team-teaching. Cooperation “involves the language teacher taking the initiative and finding out what happens in the subject department” (Dudley-Evans & St John, 1998, p.44). While, Collaboration require the language and subject teachers to work together outside classroom. In contrast, Team-teaching refers to their in-classroom cooperation.

Study skills

Study skills, as Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching & Applied Linguistics defines, is:abilities, techniques, and strategies which are used when reading, writing or listening for study purposes. For example, study skills needed by university students studying from English-language textbooks include: adjusting reading speed according to the type of material being read, using dictionary, guessing word meanings from context, interpreting graphs, diagrams and symbols, note-taking and summarizing.

 (Richards, Platt and Platt, 2002, p.451) 

Jordan (1997) gave us a comprehensive list of study skills in his book and classified study skills into eight groups, each of which is matching a certain study situation / activity. The eight study situations are: lectures/talks, seminars / tutorials / discussions / supervisions, practicals / laboratory work / field work, private study / reading (journal and books), reference material / library use, essay /reports / projects / case studies / dissertations / theses / research papers / articles, research, examinations (written or oral) (Jordan, 1997). Take lectures/talks, the most frequently used study activity, for example, the needed study skills are listening and understanding, note-taking and asking questions.

Besides, Jordan (1997) also introduced the two concepts of study skills from another angle: productive skills and receptive skills. Productive skills include speaking in seminar/tutorial and writing in essay/report/dissertation/thesis/exam/private study. Receptive skills refer to listening (and note-taking) in lecture/seminar/tutorial as well as reading (and note-taking) in private study. He interpreted the relationship between these two types of skills as “ the receptive skills are seen as necessary inputs to the productive skills, with each receptive skills having its place with each productive skill, depending on the appropriate study situation or activity” (Jordan, 1997, pp.6-7).

Since students may come from different learning and cultural backgrounds, their needs of study vary widely. For this reason, the study skills are usually adopted and developed in accordance with individual situations and specific study levels (Jordan, 1997).

Approaches to teaching EAP

According to the viewpoints of Paltridge (2001), today’s EAP teaching practice employs a number of approaches to highlight the language and discourse of particular academic genres rather than that in academic text. Meanwhile, the process of academic writing and the context of production and interpretation of academic text are getting much valued, too. The following is the glance at several approaches (mainly to EAP writing).

Content-based approach, as the term suggested, involves teaching the subject and language based on the teaching material at the same time.

The approach of collaboration between subject specialist and EAP teacher, as discussed above, requires the language and subject teachers’ working together, either in classroom or outside classroom.

Controlled composition is one of the approaches to EAP writing and had been playing the dominant role from mid-1940s to mid-1960s (Paltridge, 2001). It focused on speaker or writer’s accuracy and viewed the learner’s native language as the hurdle in their second language acquisition (Paltridge, 2001). Substitution tables, written expansions and completion-types are model classroom tasks that adopt this approach.

The approach of teaching ‘rhetorical functions’ refers to teaching descriptions, narratives, definitions, exemplifications, classifications, comparison and contrast, cause and effect, and generalizations. As a development following controlled composition, this approach focuses on the particular rhetorical patterns rather than grammatical correctness only (Paltridge, 2001).

Compared with above two approaches to EAP writing, the process approach put the emphasis on learners’ autonomy in writing. In other words, the teacher is more like a guide than a controller. What’s more, Paltridge (2001) pointed out that this approach started with the writer and the writing process itself, not the linguistic and rhetorical form. The stages of brainstorming, planning, drafting, revising, editing and proofreading the text are characteristic of relevant classroom activities (Paltridge, 2001).

The genre approach to EAP writing focuses on the teaching of particular academic genres like essays, research reports, theses and dissertations (Paltridge, 2001).

Training students as researchers was promoted by Johns (1988, cited in Paltridge, 2001) as an effective approach to help students enrich and develop their knowledge and skills in writing texts. According to Paltridge (2001), the role of learners, tutors, supervisors and examiners should be taken into account. To identify key topics and concepts of the specific area and to explore the corresponding writing convention are also involved in this approach (Paltridge, 2001). By adopting it, we can enhance the autonomy of students’ learning and help them explore further in their area.

Conclusion

By examining the definition and the development of EAP, we can get a clear point of what teaching goals EAP courses tend to achieve. The settings of EAP include brief introductions of several key issues and factors that may affect the EAP teaching practice in specific situation. The last two parts, study skills and approaches to teaching EAP, involves concrete teaching content and several ways of how to arrange EAP courses as well as their respective features.

EAP work is no doubt playing a more and more important part in a world-wide range due to the increasing demand for study skills training. As a language teaching approach, it has been proved a necessary and effective sector contributing to the English language education.

 

【References】

[1]Dudley-Evans, T., & St John, M. (1998). Development in English for specific purposes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[2]Hamp-Lyons, L. (2001).  English for academic purposes. In R. Cater & D. Nunan (Eds.), The Cambridge guide to teaching English to speakers of other languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[3]Jordan, R.R. (1997). English for academic purposes: A guide and resource book for teachers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[4]Paltridge, B. (2001). Linguistic research and EAP pedagogy. In J. Flowerdew & M. Peacock (Eds.), Research perspectives on English for academic purposes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[5]Richards, J. C., Platt J., Platt H. (2002). Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching & Applied Linguistics Beijing: Longman & Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press

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