Innovation in EAP

It’s already a week now since the in EAP ConferenceInnovation: The Key to the Future that took place at the University of St Andrews. I had the privilege to attend the event with two other members of staff from the University of Leicester and the other lucky delegates who came from all over the country, and even from as far as Japan, to gorgeous St Andrews, in Scotland.

I was there mainly to present on TEAP, the distance learning postgraduate degree programme to train teachers of general English to become tutors of English for Academic Purposes. A colleague and I have developed the course structure and materials and we have now not only students working in the UK, but also based overseas, mainly in the Middle East, Far East and Central Asia. In my presentation I discussed the main challenges faced by distance learning course designers and the strategies we have adopted to promote student retention, reduce technical demand on students, and create a socially engaged online learning community. I also discussed the pedagogical principles that have guided us, how we have tied the BALEAP Competencies Framework to our syllabus, and how we have operationalized it in our course materials design. Then I briefly showed the audience some of the online tools we are using, and how we structured the modules and units. Special thanks to everyone who attended and came up with questions at the end – it was an interesting conversation.

Many thanks to the conference committee for the warm reception and for organizing such a well-thought-out and interesting event. Among the presentations I attended I would like to highlight the one given by Susie Cowley-Haselden, also from the ELTU, where she shared her initial findings from her ‘development of a bespoke approach to teaching EAP borne out of Academic Reading Circles, dialogic teaching, and the belief that what occurs in the EAP classroom should be both student and content driven’.  I have also attended Alison McManus from Durham University Foundation Centre, talking about how she has been using fairy tales and literature in foundation courses ‘as a springboard from which a huge range of EAP skills  can be taught in a creative and innovative way’. What I found particularly interesting in her presentation is that I could clearly identify the rationale behind her course design and activities since my own approach to the teaching of literature and language in the Erasmus modules is based on similar theoretical and pedagogical principles.  There is always too much going on at the same time in these events and, unfortunately, I ended up missing Gary Riley-Jones’ presentation on key understandings of criticality, which I really wanted to attend.