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Alexander, 0. Argent, S. and Spencer, J. (2008) EAP Essentials: A Teacher’s Guide to Principles and Practice

Reviewed by Michelle Evans

8 September 2014

This EAP teacher guide is an accessible and practical introduction to EAP teaching. It can be used by those at the beginning of their EAP teaching career as well as more experienced EAP professionals. The structure is reassuringly familiar to many course books used by EAP teaching teams across the UK. Indeed the contents page offers a clear link to the key EAP domains that most teachers engage in as part of their competency – building journey though the guide is not itself explicitly aligned to any EAP teacher competency framework.

The first chapter of the guide focuses on the context of EAP before discussing the role of text analysis in EAP and course design issues. The next four chapters are dedicated to reading, writing, vocabulary, listening and speaking. The last three chapters explore student critical thinking, student autonomy and assessment. Each chapter is supported by classroom materials that can be copied from a CD Rom and adapted for various EAP contexts. This aspect of the guide should be a great support for those new to EAP teaching in particular or those undertaking pre- sessional teaching. While there is a risk these materials could be used as ‘off the shelf’ undifferentiated photocopied classroom sheets, the authors directly encourage teachers to develop authentic subject specific work tailored to meet the individual needs and interests of students.

The guide aims to bridge the gap between theory and classroom practice but in a way that reflects the lived experience of EAP teachers, who often learn on the job with support from more experienced EAP teaching colleagues. The support and guidance is provided not only by the text but via a series of reflective ‘tasks’ which are based on or related to authentic ‘case study’ experiences that EAP teachers and students commonly encounter in their practice. The learning impact of the guide stems from the complementary integration of tasks to support the case studies. These practical and reflective tasks are often subtle in their reference to the underpinning theory yet they are also plainly clear in terms of what is deemed ‘good practice’. Outcomes or answers to the tasks are often found in the text itself. The text content is clearly presented and written with an authority based on substantial experience and knowhow of the EAP classroom and students in the UK. The range of tasks in each chapter is comprehensive enough to cover the most important EAP teaching endeavours.

The first of these tasks in chapter one centres on the context of EAP by explaining how it differs to general English language teaching and the expectations of students and teachers at university level study. This is particularly useful for those making the transition from ELT to EAP and for those engaging in text analysis work. The text analysis activities and commentary in the second chapter introduce and extend the skills of teachers and their students. This learning begins with a supportive checklist or criteria that teachers can use when selecting texts to analyse with students. In addition, a number of bullet pointed scaffolding activities help teachers to translate the text analysis principles into classroom practice. These activities are linked to the most common student writing problems, such as establishing cause and effect or writing cohesive texts for example. In this section, the discussion and tasks related to rhetorical function are particularly useful in explaining the more transferable writing practices that students can develop and use in different genres, which differ considerably. The role and pedagogical implications of academic corpora and electronic concordance tools are outlined later in the book, as part of a vocabulary discussion.

The chapter dedicated to reading includes a discussion about selecting and creating authentic texts, and offers a brief outline of key reading strategies that students can develop within and outside the classroom. This section is supported by the following chapter on vocabulary. At this point in the guide, there is a useful evaluation of the role and limitations of using Academic Word Lists to teach vocabulary. It also highlights how teachers can create their own corpus based on the needs of their students, which may be allied to English for Specific Academic Purposes (ESAP) approaches. Supporting resources in corpus creation are signposted and can be used to find more detailed guidance on creating academic corpuses.

When it comes to guidance on EAP writing courses the material is thorough and outlines the most common concerns and expectations about academic writing from student, lecturer and EAP teacher perspectives. Process approaches and drafting are discussed and supported by an exploration of teacher feedback strategies. This feedback is clearly differentiated from the summative assessment issues that are explained in detail later in the book. A transcribed example of a ‘good’ individual conference illuminates how teachers can adopt the role of a questioning reader to support student autonomy. The impact of institutional feedback practices and the wider sociocultural context is left implicit within this discussion but teachers are encouraged to consider these factors elsewhere in the book, for example in the section that reflects on how speaking during group discussions can be culturally sensitive and based on student expectations and prior educational experiences.

The chapters on critical thinking and student autonomy can be applied to native and non- native English users. The student autonomy section of the guide offers a number of autonomy – supporting strategies that can be used outside and within the classroom and it offers teachers the opportunity to reflect on whether their own classroom practises support this aim. The classroom learning materials and scaffolded teaching ideas found throughout the entire guide provide a succinct introduction to EAP teaching principles and best practice. There is an opportunity for the material to be overtly related to more professional objectives like BALEAP’s Competency Framework for Teachers of English for Academic Purposes (2008). This would assist those seeking EAP teacher accreditation via professional portfolio work. Overall however this guide is a ‘must – read’ for those new to EAP teaching but also useful for those seeking to brush up on their practice in specific EAP areas.


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

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