A sense of research-mindedness

Introducing research philosophy for low proficiency EAP students

The BALEAP Competency Framework asks EAP professionals to ‘recognize the importance of applying to their practice the standards expected of students and other academic staff’. One of the fundamental standards concerns the role of research in building new knowledge and underpinning teaching at university. ELT teachers moving to EAP contexts often have only a rudimentary understanding of academic research and scholarship. They tend to conceptualise research as finding out what they don’t know rather than exploring what a discipline doesn’t know and wants to discover. The former is the kind of research done by journalists or by undergraduate students, who often ‘rediscover’ some of the key research outcomes in their discipline by repeating the seminal studies. This kind of research – also done through a literature review – is important at the outset of a research project to uncover gaps in disciplinary knowledge, which can justify research aims. However, the research that is most valued at university attempts to achieve greater understanding of the world in order to make better predictions about the future.

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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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