Explorations in EAP
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.
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.
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.