The occasional ramblings of a freelance lexicographer

Monday, May 19, 2014

EAP2014 Potsdam, Berlin

Last weekend, I had a great trip to Berlin to attend a one-day EAP conference at the University of Potsdam.  I had a really interesting day, chatting to lots of colleagues teaching in the university sector in Germany and learning more about what EAP entails in their context. It’s always fascinating to get different perspectives and I think I took two main points away from the day about EAP in Germany:
-  a lot of EAP teaching is to single-discipline groups (ESAP) , with an expectation that it will use texts/materials from that discipline (a point I’ll come back to below)
- German students have a tendency to overcomplicate their academic writing, trying to produce structures which would be considered ‘elegant’ in German academic style but which just don’t transfer into English. An interesting angle for the focus of language work in this context.

I was there to lead a workshop on the topic of “Writing your own: How to create effective EAP materials”, with ideas taken from my training module for ELT Teacher 2 Writer (How to Write EAP Materials). We started off by looking at a few general ideas and principles to bear in mind when writing your own EAP materials, especially around thinking carefully about your audience (both students and teachers) and your aims.

Then participants worked in groups to come up with ideas to exploit a short text (an abstract from an academic article).  I wasn’t quite sure how it’d go, but everyone did an admirable job of plunging straight into an academic text on a Saturday morning and came up with lots of good ideas and discussion.

For me, one of the most interesting things was that a lot of the groups were very focused on the topic of the text. As an EAP writer, especially writing for mixed-discipline groups, although I do think about the topic of the texts I choose, I’m generally much more focused on the features of academic writing it illustrates (organization, style, language, academic conventions, etc.) – as they relate to my aims for the lesson.  Many of the teachers in the workshop started from the perspective of how the topic of the text would be relevant (or not) to their students and what discussion it might generate. This seemed to link to many of the comments made about teaching single-discipline groups and how difficult it was to work with law/engineering, etc. texts which they (as English teachers) found difficult to understand. I wonder whether this points to lessons dominated by content (revolving around comprehension questions and discussion) rather than general features of English in an academic context? Food for thought perhaps?

We finished off with a look at a few tips and tools to help with writing your own materials and in particular, to help in selecting language to focus on, such as AWL highlighters and one of my favourites tools, the advanced search facilities available on the CD versions of learner’s dictionaries.

I certainly enjoyed the session and found it very interesting to see which points produced the most discussion and comments both during the workshop and in chatting to people afterwards. Thanks so much to everyone who came along and contributed! It’s certainly a topic I’d really like to do more workshops on … now I just have to find a way of financing some more!

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Blogger Lizzie said...

Hi Julie,
I hadn't realised the EAP module on ELT teacher 2 writer was you - hadn't made the connection. I saw your talk at IATEFL, and really enjoyed it - I'm very interested in learner autonomy and am trying to get into teaching EAP. I've been planning to buy the EAP module for a while, as I'm interested in materials development and will be teaching EAP over the summer for the first time so I thought it would be interesting and useful. I'm even keener now that I know you're behind it!
I wrote up my notes from your talk ( http://reflectiveteachingreflectivelearning.com/2014/04/04/julie-moore-how-do-engineers-say-that-encouraging-academic-independence-in-elt-session-1/ ) - it would be great if you could have a look and let me know if I have misunderstood/misrepresented anything you said.
Best wishes,

11:42 am  
Blogger The Toblerone Twins said...

Hi Lizzie,

Wow, I'm really impressed by your report on my IATEFL talk - how did you manage to take such great notes?! I'm really glad you enjoyed it too and that it seemed to chime with some of your own ideas :)

If you do get the EAP materials module, then do let me know what you think - feedback's always good.

And good luck with your EAP teaching in the summer too - where are you going to be working?
Best wishes,

12:00 pm  
Blogger Unknown said...

Sounds like Potsdam was very interesting. Absolutely EAP should be content driven - it has no meaning if not. I appreciate the problem when it comes to EGAP. In this case materials should celebrate interdisciplinarity.

2:40 pm  
Blogger The Toblerone Twins said...

I agree Susie that EAP material should be content-driven, but I got the impression that many of the teachers in the workshop expected to spend their whole lesson discussing the topic of a specific text - which is surely the role of the subject tutor, not an EAP tutor. Whilst content is important, my point was that the role of the EAP teacher (and writer) is to draw out the general features of a text (be it language, organization or other discourse features) and teach transferable skills that students can then apply to any text.

3:10 pm  
Blogger Anne Hodgson said...

Thanks for your great workshop and your summary, Julie! It was a pleasure to take part in your workshop. I agree, we may be doing more ESP here in Germany, yet we are often enough faced with mixed groups and so need an approach or approaches to teaching writing that encompasses, and sometimes compares, the genres in the disciplines represented in the class. Paul Abbott had an interesting talk on teaching universal features for successful academic writing, and contrasted teaching English for natural science, with teaching English for the arts. Thanks again for making the trip here, hope to see you again at some other conference! All the best, Anne

12:17 pm  
Blogger Lizzie said...

Hi Julie, I (recently-ish) posted a reply to your reply to my comment (it took a while because I hadn't realised you'd replied!) - did you receive it? In a nutshell, it said I'm going to be working at Sheffield uni this summer, and planning to buy the EAP materials module in early June. Re feedback, was thinking about reviewing it on my blog, possibly. And also thanks for looking at the summary! :-)

9:59 am  
Blogger The Toblerone Twins said...

Hi Lizzie,
Yes, I remember reading your follow-up comment, but not sure where it's gone ... sorry, I hope it didn't get accidentally deleted!

Good luck in Sheffield - from what I've heard they've got great teacher support, so it should be a really good environment to work in :)

10:14 am  
Blogger Lizzie said...

Oh that's cool, as long as you had it!
Just popped into my head to wonder, seeing all your conference-related postings... - are you going to the MATSDA conference at the end of June by any chance? I'm going (although it's right after my induction and right before I start work!) and I shall be speaking! :-)

10:18 am  
Blogger The Toblerone Twins said...

No, that one's not on my schedule, I'll be doing some talks in Frankfurt that weekend. Hope it's an interesting one and your session goes well.

10:28 am  
Blogger Lizzie said...

Sounds exciting! Look forward to reading about it... :-)

10:33 am  

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