IATEFL 2016 You tell me! Practical ideas for student-led tasks in ESAP (Anne Heaton)

Well, I had been planning to go to the ELTJ debate about teacher training, after lunch, but then my interview slot with IATEFL Online clashed with the start so instead I am attending Anne Heaton’s talk on student-led tasks in ESAP. Anne is Associate Director of Pre-sessional English Courses at Coventry University.

Anne starts by talking about the general to specific continuum. You could use this activity in an EGAP class to get students used to the idea. Start with some gaps in the chart for the students to fill in:

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Thinking more specifically about general to specific in my subject we are going to take “EAP” as our subject. We are going to look at the same activity.

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The best way to do it is using post-it notes which they can then freely move around. This means you can add in different layers/categories to the spectrum/chart. We tried it out:

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These are the principles of the tasks we are looking at today:

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Where Ann works, there are 8 intakes a year and within that 1000 student enrolments. They have two large pre-sessionals, one pre-September and one pre-January. Students have a wide variety of destination subjects (60). As there are so many students, tutors with a wide range of experience end up working there at busy times. Until 2014, the courses were EGAP institution generic courses. There is an even split between postgrads and undergrads. The majority are from China, followed by Middle East. BA in International Business is the biggest subject and B.A. in Business-related subjects make up the majority of students. Same with the post-grads.

Ann outlined the differences between EGAP and ESAP:

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It is set up as a dichotomy but the two co-exist in reality. In 2014 they decided to make a move towards an ESAP approach. Not to lose the EGAP but to sit ESAP alongside it. Difficulties included establishing collaboration with subject specialists but information is needed from them as we aren’t experts; dealing with ‘odd’ subjects; deciding how to group students when there is a mix of undergrad and postgrads; managing the issue of teachers feeling underprepared to teach.

They have re-named it EIMS (English in my subject) to emphasise it is language not content. This is a typical timetable:

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They use a parallel structure so that the same task type or skill will be introduced across all EIMS groups but it will be tailored content-wise to the specific subject. As much as possible, they get students to generate the ideas, students positioned as experts in their subject. Students can tailor an activity to their specific interests.

Our next task was:

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Different reporting verbs can be used to indicate the writer’s stance in relation to what is being quoted. Agreement and disagreement are introduced and continued differently. In the ESAP classroom students would have looked at a similar activity in their EGAP lessons and might do something like this in relation to their own subject to practice it and make it more motivating. All the teacher has to do is find a contentious view within the specific subject and it can generate a lot of discussion. The teacher can also get the student to come up with the view as well. It works well set as homework so that students have time to think about it. Students within a subject will come from different backgrounds. Students can be allowed to put forward their own views or from the literature. They write it on a piece of paper, teacher collects them all and redistributes so that students respond to the view using reporting verbs.

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One thing that they are looking to do more now from this year is to look at different genres of academic writing. The pre-sessional course focuses almost exclusively on essays because they occur in all disciplines and are the most frequent genre overall. Most EAP lecturers tend to come from a background where they are familiar with essays. Therefore they are easier to teach and to test. But Ann wants to move to a wider genre focus. The approach is to use the students as “chief investigator in their discipline” (De Chazal).

This is what students will have to do:

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Students can look in the British Council writing for a purpose website to find out more and there are activities to help them. They are also encouraged to use corpus tools to help inform themselves, such as Sketch Engine, where searches can be narrowed by text type:

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Student feedback has been positive so far.

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