Julie Moore, part of the writing team for the new Oxford EAP series, looks at some of the challenges involved in making the move from teaching General English to English for Academic Purposes.
When I got a job teaching on Bristol University’s pre-sessional EAP course some six years ago, I already had plenty of General English teaching experience under my belt. I was excited at the prospect of teaching a group of intelligent, motivated students with a clear goal at the end of the course. What I wasn’t quite prepared for was the huge culture shift involved in moving from general EFL teaching to an EAP environment.
I’ve spoken before about some of the differences and issues that teachers from a general ELT background come up against when they make the move into teaching EAP. Many of those differences can actually be seen as advantages, the main one being that an EAP syllabus is much more focused and clearly defined than many General English courses. Because you’re working with a very specific genre, academic English, there are clear sets of skills to be taught – reading academic texts, listening to lectures, participating in seminar discussions – and a well-defined, well-researched language register that students need to master.
For me, one of the big challenges though was getting used to the content-driven nature of EAP. In a General English classroom, you don’t care too much what the students talk about as long as they’re communicating ideas as proficiently as possible for their level. In EAP, what you say matters almost as much as how you say it. You find yourself teaching not just language skills, but thinking skills, how to develop a thesis or structure an argument. At first, you’re desperately trying to remember back to how you did things when you were at university, and getting to grips with a whole new set of terminology. Once you get into the swing of it though, it can be a really interesting, stimulating environment in which to teach.