Top Tips For Teaching English For Academic Purposes

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What is EAP? EAP is English for Academic Purposes.

What is English for Academic Purposes? Classes in English for Academic Purposes prepare non-native English speakers for attending classes in an English-speaking academic setting.

EAP students need English because they are going to attend (or are already attending) an English-speaking tertiary institution – a college or university. This may be in their own country where the language of instruction is English and the content matter is in English. Or it may be in an English-speaking country. 

EAP students may need to score a certain band on an academic test, such as IELTS or TOEFL, in order to be accepted into an institution. Or they may need support during their course of study.

EAP students differ from General English students in a few ways.

  • They are generally a lot more serious than General English students .
  • They have a clear goal: academic success.
  • They have high motivation. Their academic success depends largely on their success in English, and this is not a gamble they want to take. 

Teaching EAP is an important class and it’s your duty to take these classes seriously.

Why is English for Academic Purposes important?

As you can imagine, EAP classes are important for learners. They essentially are preparing them for success in an English-speaking academic environment, which is no mean feat for a non-native speaker.

EAP classes help students:

  • Develop critical thinking
  • Improve academic writing skills
  • Foster effective communication in academic settings
  • Boost confidence in academic settings
  • Increase chances of academic success

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Top tips for teaching EAP lessons

Tailor your teaching EAP lessons to your EAP students’ specific needs

The first step is to do a thorough needs analysis

You may be fortunate in that all your students are preparing for the same goal – studying in the same field or preparing for the same exam, but you probably won’t be that lucky. Instead, you may need to think how you can juggle the different needs of all your students.

What do I teach in an EAP class?

Popular topics for English for Academic Purposes classes include:

  • Essay writing
  • Understanding lectures
  • Doing research
  • Writing research proposals
  • Writing research reports
  • Understanding academic texts
  • Presentation skills
  • Note-taking
  • Referencing and citation

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Use appropriate materials

The same goes for finding materials for your lessons. 

Your first port of call should be authentic texts. For EAP students, this is not necessarily video clips of popular series or magazine articles, but rather textbook texts or academic lectures – even TED talks can be useful. 

You want to find magazines or books which are focused on the particular fields relevant to your students. These will include language which is more academic or specialised than usual and so more suited to your students.

Effectively, you want to use materials in your class that are designed for students and not specifically EFL students. This will be what your students will be dealing with when they are at university so it makes sense for them to get to grips with them now.

How do I choose appropriate EAP materials?

If you know what your students are going to study you can find materials related to their topics of study. If you know your students are going to study at a US institution, you can make sure you teach American English

If you know your students are going to be attending lectures, you can make sure to include plenty of listening activities. 

Make sure you find out exactly what your students are going to be using English for in order to prepare the most suitable lessons for them.

Read more: Which English? English In The EFL Classroom

Give your students autonomy

EAP students are more motivated to do hard work than other students. This means that they should be able to decide on the content of their lessons. Nobody knows better than they do what they need and giving them the autonomy to get involved in the planning of the lesson will increase their motivation even further.

Of course, you don’t just hand the reins over to your students and go and sit in the corner. Your students can’t be expected to plan an entire lesson. 

Instead, get specific feedback from them of what they want in their lessons, allocate lessons to each student and ask them to find appropriate resources for you beforehand to plan a lesson around.

Read more: How To Make Your Classroom More Learner-Centred

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Have fun!

Life is too short for boring English lessons! Even if you find the subject matter a bit dry, stretch your creativity muscles to make your lessons as interesting as possible. Even though these lessons are by their nature quite serious, you can still plan and prepare effective lessons which are engaging and enjoyable.

The bottom line? EAP students are not the same as your General English students. So your lessons shouldn’t be the same either. But they should still be equally as effective and interesting as your usual EFL lessons.

But interestingly, research has found that instruction in EAP benefits younger learners, too – ie school-going learners. Studies have shown that a knowledge of Academic English helps students in reading by helping students understand relationships, perspectives and logic. Similarly, in writing, Academic English practices help students construct coherent and cohesive arguments, and edit their work.

This research suggests that perhaps we should regularly incorporate aspects of teaching Academic English into all of our English lessons in order to improve our students’ overall English proficiency. Food for thought!

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