Progress & Plausibility

Are we, as EAP professionals, ‘just’ language teachers? I think the answer has to be no. It is our responsibility to provide for our learners an induction, of sorts, into the practices of the Academy. We need to demystify the road that lies ahead. This means we need to engage our learners not just in language practice, but also in academic practice.


lang as acad

I think such a view has important knock-on effects for our sense of self within the universities of which we are part. Once we see language work not as a precursor to academic work, but rather emerging from it, it helps pull departments closer and it helps us to explain how and why we can genuinely contribute to what departments do with their students on degree programmes.

Taking an EAP-as-academic-practice view also changes the language we speak. In the past some of the departments we work with misunderstood what we did as being essentially only sentence level work for writing and fluency/pron work for speaking. We now talk to them about synthesis of reading, thesis-driven essay structure, writing literature reviews and empirical research reports. We all know this is what we do, of course, but talking this talk with academics and with university management has transformed the opportunities we now have to connect and collaborate with the other units across the university.

lang vs acad

We now contribute to sessions in the Doctoral Training Programme. We’ve designed a well-received pre-UG induction into writing and plagiarism avoidance for (all) Geography students. We have high-level committee representation and thus increasingly a voice in institution-wide conversations of teaching and learning – for both international and home students. We are not needing to wave the flag quite so much, and people are now beginning to approach us first.

It’s an ongoing enterprise and we have plenty of work still do to; however, changing perceptions has established and enhanced our plausibility internally and this has led to great progress. Ultimately, this is good not just for our unit but also, of course, for the students (non-native and native), who are increasingly aware that we exist and that we can help improve, not just linguistic proficiency, but also understanding aspects of the academic process.

So this is PPP for EAP unit image management: Perception. Plausibility. Progress.


I’m sure others have similar stories to tell, so do share, if you have a moment.


This post is a summary of some of the thoughts and experience presented at the recent AULC conference on ‘Collaboration’, which took place at Durham University, 10-11 Jan 2013. Our slides are available here.

Posted in Communities of Practice, Identity, Ontologies of EAP | Tagged , , | 14 Comments

Demand High EAP

Those of you keeping up with New Movements online and off in the World of EFL will know of Jim Scrivener and Adrian Underhill’s relatively new endeavour, Demand High ELT. In their own words, this movement asks:

  • Are our learners capable of more, much more?
  • Have the tasks and techniques we use in class become rituals and ends in themselves?
  • How can we stop “covering material” and start focusing on the potential for deep learning?
  • What small tweaks and adjustments can we make to shift the whole focus of our teaching towards getting that engine of learning going?

Just before Christmas there was a new post from Adrian entitled ‘Demanding Higher in a Conversation Class’. In this post he argues for employing the tool of minimal interference during a student discussion, to allow for teacher upgrades to student performance. At one point he says:

Let me play devil’s advocate for a moment: These students have not paid their time/money to come and have that debate on public transport. If that was their overriding focus they’d go elsewhere for such a debate. They have come to learn English, and they don’t want me tiptoeing round a mediocre conversation about transport out of desperate fear of stopping the flow. (my emphasis)

The point is clear enough and the post is somewhat of a challenge to what might be considered standard practice in fluency-oriented TEFL tasks, but the phrasing here suggests a phenomenon that I see almost everywhere in EFL:  a separation of language and content. I don’t mean to single out this post particularly, of course, but it provides a useful springboard into why this matters for EAP.

It seems that notions of language use in EFL represent largely the development of language-as-system, not the development of language-as-reflector-of-personal-meanings. In the view expressed in the post above, aboutness appears not to matter. Content (‘a debate on public transport’) serves merely as the (essentially unimportant, replaceable) container for system and skills work.

For the EAP context I think it is misleading to construe language as separable from context and content. Three decades of work from the likes of Mike McCarthy & Ron Carter (e.g. 19911993) and, in particular, Michael Halliday & colleagues (e.g. 2004) show us that language and context are co-constituting. In EFL, we seem to get away with ignoring this, perhaps because future communicative needs tend not to be as clearly defined as for students heading to university departments. In EAP, however, I think making the same mistake is dangerous and risks turning EAP into what I call chEAP – a form of teaching practice that underserves students as preparation for the Academy.

During the summer, I was sitting in on a seminar discussion class with students heading ultimately to the Law School. The theme was the death penalty. The teacher did a wonderful job of warming up the students, eliciting some foundational ideas, creating a spidergram of these on the whiteboard and then getting people started on the debate. What happened, however, was that the students quickly latched onto a famous case in China with which they were all familiar (it was a monocultural group) and this become the basis for most of the discussion that took place.

In a language-as-system view this is unproblematic. Students have been ‘practicing their fluency’ and the teacher might have Demanded Higher by intervening sotto voce to provide some on-the-spot pronunciation and word choice refinement (etc). In a very short time, however, when students are in their academic departments, it will not be nearly enough simply to speak; students need to have something contentful to say. Contributions cannot just tread-water comfortably in the safe terrain of personal anecdotes. Collective contributions should, in principle, advance the awareness and knowledge of the group. Seminar participation, like academic reading and writing, needs to be about knowledge building (Scardamalia & Bereiter 2003, inter alia).

I strongly believe we need to be (re)creating a climate of knowledge building in the EAP classroom. For this very reason, the students in the class I was watching had all been required to read 2-3 academic papers on the death penalty. They had encountered ideas that may well have gently rocked and challenged some of their existing awareness, such as the suggestion that the capital punishment system in certain parts of the world is inherently racist. Yet none of these notions or examples emerged in the discussion. I think the students themselves thought their job was ‘just to speak’ and not to co-construct and co-extend understandings in the service of collective knowledge building. They didn’t think that content mattered much beyond staying on topic.

The teacher and I talked about these things after the class and we came up with a visual way of representing what had happened. We drew a simple graph like this:

EAP seminars as knowledge building

EAP seminars as knowledge building

In knowledge building terms, the students had ended up plateauing very early (red line). We agreed, however, that if they had brought in ideas from reading and had worked on these together, they would have engaged in plenty of ‘language practice’, but would also perhaps have pushed their academic knowledge forward (blue line). We also agreed that drawing a variation on this graph might actually be a useful activity to do with the students (‘How far did our discussion advance our understanding of the issues? What more could we have done?’).

Like Adrian, I think there’s also a time to interfere minimally during a spoken discussion, but for a different reason to those he lists. I think we can Demand Higher in EAP by pushing students towards more challenging content. In the class above, the teacher needed to interrupt to remind students of a theme, a case study or a theory from their reading. Challenging ideas (central to academic practice, of course) force students to stretch the linguistic resources they have to fit the new requirements of context.

Once students start truly engaging with ideas beyond collective everyday experience, however, accuracy is likely to break down – and I think this may be a time to contribute as a participant, but it is not a time to interrupt. The skill of the EAP teacher needs to include recognising that systemic work on language should probably happen in the moment only where content is fairly familiar – where cognitive load is relatively low. Where students are actually battling with ideas, wrestling with concepts (as they should be), we need to refrain from interrupting, except perhaps where misunderstanding is taking students too far down the wrong path.

I got the impression that most students left this particular discussion with essentially no more awareness or knowledge of the death penalty debate than they had before the session started. While procedurally everything the teacher did would have ticked all the boxes in a DELTA observation, I think this session partly underserved the needs of the students.

Most people would agree with me that EAP should always be demand high. EAP teachers need to be thinking in their planning about appropriate levels of challenge, not just their Use of The Board or degree of Student Centredness. The mistake, I feel however, is to see ‘demand high’ only in linguistic terms. EAP should be demand high in academic and conceptual terms too. Merrill Swain, writing about advanced language use, helps us think in this direction:

[I]t is too simplistic to think of language as being only a conveyor of meaning. Rather we need to think of language as also being an agent in the making of meaning. (Swain 2006: 96, emphasis added)

By taking content seriously (e.g. in a seminar class), students are able to engage in what Swain calls languaging – speaking for thinking and knowledge building (not just for language practice). Our students need to be placed in supportively scaffolded situations where they are using language to mediate problem solving, to talk over data, to co-extend their awareness of a theoretical notion, or to share their understandings of a conceptually challenging text.

Drawing original inspiration from Vygotsky, Swain summarises:

Speaking and writing […] do much more than convey a message. They serve as tools of the mind, mediating the cognition and re-cognition of experience and knowledge. (Swain 2006:106)

I think it is crucial that we see EAP practice in these terms. This, for me, is appropriately Demand High EAP (and, in fact, the overarching ethos of Demand High ELT would appear to allow for this view). Such an approach helps avoid what I have, here and elsewhere, dubbed chEAP. This term is knowingly pejorative, because I think our learners deserve better. It is our responsibility to aim for a teaching & learning preparation that engages students in forms of academic participation that are broadly consonant with those they may encounter in their departments. Crucially, this means putting content at the centre of EAP practice.

Content should not be an empty container for language work, but rather the driver of its development.



Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C. (2003) ‘Knowledge Building’. In Encyclopedia of Education. (2nd ed., pp. 1370-1373). New York: Macmillan Reference, USA.

Swain, M. (2006) ‘Languaging, agency and collaboration in advanced second language proficiency’. In H. Byrnes (Ed) Advanced Language Learning: the contribution of Halliday and Vygotsky. London: Continuum.

Posted in Academic Speaking, EAP Student Learning, Knowledge Building, Teacher Talk | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Building e-AP Awareness

I get the impression that if and when we talk about the intersection between EAP and technology, we tend to think mostly of student learning. This was certainly the case at the recent one day conference held at Southampton University in the UK on blending technology and EAP. It was a great day, but what was interesting to me was the complete absence of talks relating to technology and EAP teacher learning.

So what does e-AP knowledge and learning look like for EAP teachers?

I think there are two kinds of e-AP tool: those that connect fairly directly to teaching practice, and those that can help inform, organise and build EAP teacher scholarly knowledge. I’m interested in both and believe that both are necessary for effective practitioner development. I’ll share a few thoughts here on the first and deal with the second another time.

A useful notion to draw on in thinking about e-AP practice is Mishra & Koehler’s (2005; 2006) Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (see also @yearinthelifeof’s vlog introduction, @sharonzspace’s overview and application and a recent #EAPchat). TPACK

TPACK. Reproduced with permission, © 2012 by

Koehler and Mishra extend Shulman’s (1986; 1987) notion of pedagogical content knowledge into the digital age, by considering the knowledge required of teachers at the intersections between the 3 knowledge areas of content, pedagogy and technology. This leads to useful distinctions being made between technological knowledge (TK), technological content knowledge (TCK) and technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPCK or ‘TPACK’). There are two aspects of TPACK that I think are important for EAP teacher practice and development.

Firstly, as in Shulman’s original PCK, TPCK is seen as knowledge that develops in situated ways, emerging from contextualised problem solving. In their 2005 paper, Koehler & Mishra describe TPCK development through collaborative staff learning-by-design for course development. For EAP practitioners, therefore, this means we also need to collaborate, experiment and problem solve. We should get our hands dirty with e-AP tools…since this is essentially knowledge-in-action (Schön 1983).

Secondly, TPACK for EAP means knowledge that develops to enhance EAP practice through technology. Technology should not be a just a newer, more convenient container for the same things we used to do; there should surely also be co-enhancement of practice:

“[T]echnology is not merely applied to the pedagogy of the past, but rather the introduction of technology has implications for how we teach and what we teach.” (Koehler & Mishra 2005: 144)

An EAP teacher may regularly use an interactive whiteboard as a blank canvas to record language, as they did a regular whiteboard (=TK), but not see how the IWB can be used for the public display and interactive engagement with an academic text (TPCK). Just as Nicky Hockly noted recently of The Younger Generation, teachers who regularly use technology do not necessarily do so effectively (2011: 324).

I think this is where the TPACK distinctions are useful, as they help separate knowledge that probably precedes pedagogical practice (TK; TCK) from that which may or may not develop through practice (TPCK). Setting up a Facebook site or a blogging space for EAP learners is not a demonstration of TPCK. It is TK only. A teacher understanding how academic blogging may change relationships with knowledge, readership, dissemination, notions of academic style and publication, however, raises this to TCK – and this can, of course, then serve further as possible input for learners (their own (T)CK). Using both forms of awareness for the situated and effective enhancement of EAP learners’ processing and production of academic texts (BALEAP 2008: 8) probably requires some TPCK. One way of a teacher developing such knowledge-in-action might be through scaffolding a group blogging project that centres around collaborative reflection on and critiquing of a selection of journal papers on a theme of disciplinary relevance to learners.

Technology for too many of us is a bolt-on extra in professional practice. We may be accused of being mere digital visitors among more adept digital residents (White 2008), but I don’t think this distinction helps to explain our problem here. An EAP professional may use FB every day in the spaces between work, but not see its use in education (or may even think it’s inappropriate). Bruno Latour (2007) and other Actor Network Theory (ANT) thinkers would probably tell us that any tool (such as FB) that is a stable part of one network of practice (keeping up with friends) is not necessarily part of another (teaching EAP).

In ANT terms, these tools need to become translated into stable networks of professional practice. EAP and e-AP must “…come together and connect, changing one another to form links…” (Fenwick & Edwards 2010: 9). Technology has to become part of our EAP practice ecosystem.  This takes effort and relies on the interactions between actors. Following ANT, these actors include the tools themselves. A clunky, inflexible and unintuitive VLE package, for instance, will likely resist becoming much more than a repository for lesson handouts and thus is unlikely to help EAP teachers develop.

There is probably a dependency relationship in the uptake of technology for the enhancement of teacher learning and pedagogy (TK/TCK >TPCK). Practitioners need first to turn technology into techknowlogy, before it can be enrolled into pedagogical practices.

One example, of course, is the area of building and exploiting open educational tools and resources. TPACK is useful again here, since it reminds us there are different levels of awareness that may present challenges to enrollment. Knowing how to create a searchable database of texts is TK. Awareness of Creative Commons and how this changes our relationship with notions of knowledge ownership and content is TCK. Both of these knowledges take time to develop, of course, but it may be an extra leap into enrolling such tools and awareness into our EAP courses and into individual practitioner routines. What are the most realistically effective ways of achieving this, I wonder.

And this is only one area. So what are the other e-AP tools we need to get to grips with? How do they genuinely enhance pedagogy in ways that were not possible before? How do we best encourage colleagues to work on their TK and their TCK, in order to provide the foundations for TPCK? And many of my colleagues are already overworked, so where will the time come from in an already fuller than full-time working week? These are questions we need to work on.



BALEAP (2008) The Competency Framework for Teachers of English for Academic Purposes.

Fenwick, T. & R. Edwards (2010) Actor-Network Theory in Education. Oxon: Routledge.

Hockly, N. (2011) ‘The Digital Generation’. ELT Journal 65(3): 322-325.

Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2005) ‘Teachers Learning Technology by Design’. Journal of Computing in Teacher Education. 21(3): 94–102.

Latour, B. (2007) Reassembling the Social: an introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford: OUP.

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M.J. (2006) ‘Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: a framework for integrating technology in teacher knowledge’. Teachers College Record 108(6): 1017-1054.

Schön, D (1983) The Reflective Practitioner. Basic Books: New York

Shulman, L. (1986) ‘Those who Understand: knowledge growth in teaching’. Educational Researcher 15(2): 4-14.

Shulman, L. (1987) ‘Knowledge and Teaching: foundations of the new reform’. Harvard Educational Review 57(1): 1-22.

White, D.  (2008). ‘Not ‘‘Natives’’ & ‘‘Immigrants’’ but ‘‘Visitors’’ & ‘‘Residents’’’. TALL blog. Available at (accessed on 7 Dec 2012).

Posted in e-AP, EAP Teacher Practice | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Ontologies of EAP

I spent the afternoon in Edinburgh on Friday. About 25 EAP professionals got together for the inaugural meeting of ‘EAP in the North’. The format was informal and open, but we had agreed to focus on sharing our contexts and the freedoms and constraints these bring. A key question some of us moved towards was:

How do the colleagues we work with, the materials we use and the institutions we are part of colour and construct our views of EAP?

This is the kind of question that I’m very interested in. As an external examiner of Pre-Sessional courses since 2009, I have had the privilege to visit a number of EAP units across the UK, view materials, talk with course directors and observe teachers at work in their classrooms. What has become clear is that, just within my own national context (and, to be honest, even within my own unit!) EAP is a Many Splintered Thing. This sense was reinforced on Friday afternoon. While there were, of course, many overlapping views of what ‘EAP’ is and what it needs to be, institutional contexts construct in important ways the reality of what EAP becomes.

At my own institution I have worked with departments and with central admissions over the last 3-4 years to agree Faculty standards for direct entry and for pre-sessional entry. For a 12 week pre-sessional our Science Faculty students can still join us at IELTS 5.5 (all skills), but most of our Humanities and Social Science students now need at least an IELTS 6.0 in all skills (MA TESOL need 6.5 for three months of PS). Listening to many colleagues yesterday, this puts us in a relatively privileged position. Students are already at CEFR B2, so we don’t have to think about UK Border Agency visa hurdles and can focus on teaching students over testing them. The university trusts our course and our assessments and thus we have no need to go anywhere near IELTS type content or assessment. We can prepare our students via discipline-appropriate texts and tasks, and use internally developed marking criteria to report exit levels on our own terms.

This is not everyone’s position. The very first session on our long pre-sessional shows students how and why an IELTS style of ‘academic’ writing is something they need to move away from, yet in other contexts, EAP courses are required by the university structures above to continue to use IELTS type assessments on exit. This means course time must be spent on teaching to this test (and thus not so much on preparing students for the reality of the academic road ahead). We have written all of our own materials, as we are less than enamoured with most of what is on the textbook market. However, others may not have this freedom and may be working with a prescribed textbook. One or two colleagues yesterday felt that EAP textbooks were more than adequate for their students and thus ‘why reinvent the wheel?’ We had to disagree – but then we would. We have the freedom and we make the time to do something different.

The placing of an EAP unit within an institution (school of education? Autonomous Service unit? Part of central services? Within modern languages? Linguistics? Careers and study skills?) changes how we are viewed and thus, perhaps, what we are allowed to become. The qualifications required of EAP teachers (CELTA / DELTA / DELTA + MA / MA only) and the experience of those in coordinator roles changes the nature of the expertise in a department, and thus attitudes to materials, staff development observations and relations with the rest of the university. International student recruitment, tied inevitably to market forces and to the symbolic capital of individual institutions, changes the profile of the student body we work with. How far, I wonder, are our conceptions of EAP, at least institutionally, market-driven? If you need to take students at IELTS 4.5, then you’re going to be interested in low-level EAP. For one or two of my colleagues, however, working at this level is not ‘EAP’ at all…

Informally on blogs and other online platforms, formally in conference discussions and in journal papers, we all talk of ‘EAP’…but it is increasingly clear to me that the iceberg of beliefs and assumptions beneath the waves looks very different as we cross teachers, as we cross contexts. This is likely to be all the more true as we move to English-medium tertiary education outside Inner Circle contexts, to lingua-franca contexts, where there may be no native speakers involved in the EAP delivery, to certain Third World contexts, where constraints on access to resources and expertise will deeply colour the nature of what gets called EAP.

Notwithstanding the inherent issues of power and differential distribution of wealth and expertise in some of the above (a conversation for another day), I don’t believe we necessarily need to reconcile (all) these differences.  While continuing and evolving collaborations and sharing of practice across individuals and institutions will, no doubt, result in some alignment (and The Competency Framework for Teachers of EAP gives us a starting point for one such conversation…), we need to recognise, after Pennycook (2010), that practice is always local. We can never fully reconcile the differences beneath the waves, precisely because the local assemblies of people, principles and practice make local ontologies of practice inevitable.

The same is at least partially true of what students need to learn. Corpus mining of academic spoken and written texts, such as Nesi & Gardner’s (2012) Genres Across the Disciplines, and the pedagogical implications that emerge (e.g., in this case, Andy Gillet’s emerging website based on corpus insights from the book) are invaluable to our understanding of disciplinary variation. However, perhaps we need also to be preparing our students for the local, not just for the notionally disciplinary.

In our pre-sessional teacher induction last year, we had staff brainstorm their views of good academic writing, before then handing out example assignments to discuss from Law, Chemistry, TESOL and Classics. Assignments chosen were deliberately slightly leftfield. The Law assignment, for instance, required students to write a judgement as if they were the judge. The TESOL assignment was a concept map + commentary. We cannot, of course, prepare our students for every type of writing that might come up, but becoming more aware of local enactments of disciplinary understanding, locally developed reading lists, collaborative project tasks, and local assessments that emerge from these are surely essential in light of the above.

For some, this may be a no-brainer in an in-sessional context, but perhaps not so much on a pre-sessional course. If we can explore with learners the kinds of writing they are actually going to produce, maybe we can also avoid veering towards misleading maxims as ‘never use ‘I’ in academic writing’ or ‘the passive is more academic’, and instead towards more nuanced conversations about how and why writers (need to) make the choices that they do.

The insight that, just like language practices (Pennycook 2010), EAP practices are local and emergent, serves further to remind us of why EAP professionals need to be engaging with scholarship – and with each other across contexts.  Local assemblies and institutional cultures may black-box what we do and thus hinder or prevent critical engagement with what has become The Norm. Through scholarship and stepping outside our own physical localities (either into other real or virtual spaces) we raise the likelihood of meeting other ways of thinking, other ways of practising.

This helps to ensure that we continue not only to be, but rather to become. I have often (and recently) met an idea here or there in a book chapter, or in chance conversations with like-minded colleagues, that has proved somehow transformational in how I perceive EAP practice. This is one of the key aspects of my work that I find most satisfying. I’m always learning, shifting, changing in my sense of What To Do.

I’ll share one or two of these in a future post, but for now, what about you? Was there a particular journal paper or book chapter that stared a seismic shift in your thinking? Was there a critical incident in your classroom that you interpreted in light of a blog you read that changed how you thought about your students? Was there a conference conversation that influenced how you thought about yourself as an EAP professional? And are there crucial aspects of your local context that have coloured your personal ontology of EAP?

Posted in Communities of Practice, Ontologies of EAP | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

Writing for Thinking (or why EAP professionals should blog)

The web is replete with EFL bloggers. Thousands of them, many truly excellent. People narrate their classes, reflect on their practice, share lesson plans and resources, and get together regularly online for discussions of best practice.

So why is it that EAP teachers don’t  blog? It seems to have taken me about a year to get started (I’ve been threatening it since last Christmas…). Perhaps it’s lack of techknowlogy. Perhaps it’s a problem of time. Maybe, as in my case, it’s about confidence, fear of ‘loss of face’ – the public I in the public eye. As university professionals do some of us think blogging is not Proper Writing? Or are too many of us just Behind the Times. I’m not entirely sure. One thing I am now sure about, however, is that more of us need to be doing it more of the time.

I have three reasons. Here they are:

1| Writing4community

Teaching can be a lonely profession. How often and how widely do we get to share practice? Our EFL heritage provides us with some our classroom methodology and management, but do we agree on what EAP looks like? How much of our EFL heritage should we be drawing on in EAP? Is there ever a time for us to be ‘lecturers’? Is there perhaps a Third Space between these two, a way of thinking and practising that is unique to EAP? I have my own views (and I’ll write about these another time), but I think these are conversations more of us need to be having more of the time – and online is a good place for this.

Departmental staff development is great, as are conferences such as the one-day PIMs happening in the UK. These can never be replaced, but it can sometimes be hard to make the time (and find the money) to attend conferences, and it is often a challenge to get a staff team together at time that works for all. Online we can meet minds from a greater diversity of practice. We can break out (if need be) from institutionalised ways of thinking and internal politics that may not always be conducive to a developmental ethos.

This is beginning to happen. Nottingham University’s Centre for English Language Education (CELE) have an excellent blog that has been running since June (@AlexanderDing et al.). I do hope that their new MA TEAP students will also become bloggers and share their practice. Tyson Seburnt (@seburnt) has spearheaded the #EAPchat movement on Twitter (though this remains frustratingly small) and hosts his own website and blog. I hope we’re on the edge of something bigger here, at a tipping point – at a TEAPing Point :-).

2| Writing4dissemination

I have an increasingly strong belief that EAP teachers need to be engaging in scholarship. We are (most of us) preparing our students for English-medium tertiary education and this involves more than just language proficiency. It means engaging with research, with long complex texts, and with ideas that challenge what we think we think. EAP teachers should, in some way, be doing the same. How can we claim to understand our students’ needs without this?

The unfortunate reality, however, is that not everyone has access. If you are not within a university environment, you may not have free access to JEAP or English for Specific Purposes (though EAP-linked pioneers in the Open Education movement, such as Alannah Fitzgerald are trying to change that). You may also feel that you don’t have the time (though I’ll stick my neck out and suggest that you should be making the time). But one or two of Those That Can are blogging about it. A wonderful example is The EAP Archivist (@SusieCowley). Susie takes an EAP-linked journal paper she has been reading, summarises the key content and then reflects critically on how this might impact her own and/or our collective sense of classroom practice, what students need and the EAP profession.

This puts theory and theorisation of practice Out There for others. Again, I think more of us should be doing this – and I hope to be doing some of this myself. EAP teachers may engage in Action Research, but this may not necessarily involve interaction with theory and with the literature. As EAP professionals I think we need to be (as Amy Tsui puts it) both theorising practice and ‘practicalising’ theory (Tsui 2003). Like Susie, we could be doing this online, disseminating our thoughts and encouraging an EAP community of practice that engages publicly with ideas for the enhancement of our practice.

3| Writing4thinking

The main TEAPing point for me personally has been the realisation that writing creates thinking. Writing is not simply a ‘brain dump’ for ideas; it gives rise to them. I talk to my MA TESOL students about this all the time now: Write now. Write often. Not just to ‘take notes’, but because languaging our ideas ‘re-cognises’ them (Swain 2006). As Vygotsky helped us see, language is a mediator of thought.  I think I am a better EAP professional because I write – and I’m hoping that the leap into doing this publicly will only enhance this. If nothing else, building a blogging routine provides the personal opportunity to language a bit more often. If you write yourself (whether privately or publicly), I’m sure you know exactly what I mean.

As Liana Silva (@literarychica), talking of academics writing, put it yesterday in Guardian Professional,

Even in informal media such as Twitter or Facebook [or blogging] we write to get our ideas across or to interact with other academics. And even though we can argue that academic writing is not the same as tweeting, the rules of engagement are similar: we value clear, well-argued writing in each case. We value thoughts that are well articulated. We value creative, interesting posts that steer away from the clichés. Therefore, I think the most important advice I can share […] is this: think of yourselves as writers. (Liana Silva, Guardian Professional, Fri 18 Nov 2012)

So, do you theorise your EAP practice and ‘practicalise’ the theory you meet? Do you write it down (somewhere)? And what impact(s) does this have on your beliefs / teaching / materials writing / programme management?

And am I wrong to say that EAP professionals should be engaging in scholarship??


Swain, M. (2006) ‘Languaging, agency and collaboration in advanced second language learning’. In Heidi Byrnes (ed.) Advanced Language Learning: The Contributions of Halliday and Vygotsky (pp. 95–108). London: Continuum.

Tsui, A. B. M. (2003) Understanding Expertise in Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Posted in EAP Teacher Practice, TEAP | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments