Academic cultures

Shifting the focus from students’ national academic cultures to target academic dsciplines when characterising learning styles

One of the aims of EAP programmes is to help international students adapt to the teaching and learning expectations of the academic culture they wish to join. It is assumed that the study practices they experienced in their own country will be different from those in the new context. In particular, their expectations about using and referencing ideas from authoritative sources may be different. I recently reviewed a teacher development framework, which recommended that EAP teachers take account of differences in academic cultures when analysing needs, preparing lessons and giving feedback to students. But I wonder how useful or even possible it is for EAP teachers to understand differences between academic cultures in ways that can be applied in a classroom.

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Observation of teaching

An observation of your teaching by colleagues you trust can be an opportunity to explore your teaching approach in a safe space.

I work for an institution with a BALEAP-accredited pre-sessional programme and one of the requirements for quality assurance is that teachers undergo a regular formal observation of their teaching. Teachers find the experience stressful, even though we try to follow recommended procedures for the observation, with pre- & post-observation discussions, observees selecting the focus and sensitive handling of any issues that arise. Teachers who regularly return to work on the programme also find the formal observation intrusive, amounting to a lack of trust in their experience and professionalism. I’m keen to explore ways to make the experience less stressful for new teachers and more rewarding for returning teachers. To this end, I thought I should experience an observation of my own teaching, so I asked two colleagues to take me through the formal observation process.

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Retrofitting a syllabus with Graduate Attributes

Graduate attributes such as a sense of research-mindedness, an orientation to problem-solving and a tolerance for ambiguity can bring an EAP syllabus closer towards the expectations of the academy.

I was asked to do a CPD workshop recently on how to incorporate graduate attributes into an EAP syllabus. Graduate attributes are ‘the skills, knowledge and abilities of university graduates, beyond disciplinary content knowledge, which are applicable to a range of contexts and are acquired as a result of completing any undergraduate degree’ (Barrie, 2006).

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Needs analysis

Needs analysis identifies the evidence to justify a syllabus and deliver the most efficient teaching.

I’m about to start teaching the second semester of a Foundation Programme in which a new group of students joins a cohort that have already been studying for one semester. So I’ve been thinking about how to accommodate these two different groups in order to balance their competing needs.

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My EAP Practice

My definition of EAP practice and the underlying approaches to text and scholarship.

I’ve started this blog as a retirement project because I’m planning to leave the institution where I work in a year or two but I’ll want to keep a connection to the practice of EAP. What I’ll miss most when I retire will be the interaction with EAP students in a Higher Education (HE) context, together with the opportunities to design materials, tasks and lessons based on authentic academic texts and purposes. I hope this blog will enable me to reflect on my own practice in EAP before I finally take the retirement plunge.

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