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!
Labels: EAP, ELT T2W, How to Write EAP Materials, Potsdam 2014