20 Myths about EAP

According to the highly reliable and academically valid online resource known as Wikipedia:

An urban legend, urban myth, urban tale, or contemporary legend, is a form of modern folklore consisting of stories that may or may not have been believed by their tellers to be true. As with all folklore and mythology, the designation suggests nothing about the story’s veracity, but merely that it is in circulation, exhibits variation over time, and carries some significance that motivates the community in preserving and propagating it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urban_legend (accessed 21/5/12)

We therefore thought that with this blog, an interesting place to start would be with some of the urban myths and tales that currently exist in the world of EAP.

So please find below our ‘top 20 myths of EAP’ that are tutor and student generated.  Please note that they are presented in no particular order and simply represent the ones that we seem to hear most often.

What is interesting to us is to what extent these myths are based in ‘truth’, why these myths have developed to the extent that they have, and what they say about the current state of the teaching and learning of EAP:

  • Wikipedia is a reliable and valid resource for academic information
  • Preparing students for the IELTS test is teaching EAP
  • EAP can’t be taught at lower levels
  • Students can be characterised according to culture – e.g. Chinese students can’t do critical thinking, Arabic students can’t spell or write, Asian students don’t participate in seminar discussions.
  • The best way to learn academic vocabulary is to learn all the words in the Academic Word List
  • Rote learning has no place in university study
  • Every paragraph should start with a topic sentence
  • Formative tests motivate students to learn
  • Hedging means being tentative in your writing, so using words like ‘might’
  • All academic writing follows an introduction-main body-conclusion structure
  • The key role of the EAP tutor is that of gatekeeper to the academy
  • Being an autonomous learner means being able to work on your own
  • EAP tutors should only give students feedback on their grammar and vocabulary – the content of what they write can’t be assessed
  • Cohesion is achieved through the use of discourse markers
  • The four skills must be taught and tested separately
  • EAP students need to be taught study skills
  • Professional development is optional
  • Tutors don’t need to know much about academic disciplines in order to teach EAP
  • ‘I’ is never used in academic writing
  • Critical thinking is a skill that can be taught

We hope that this list will inspire you to respond with your own comments and thoughts, as well as with any more myths you feel need adding to this list, or by ‘busting’ any myths that are in fact true.


Why blog about Teaching EAP?

Why blog about teaching EAP?

Three of us –  Julie King, Martha Jones and Alex Ding – have been working on developing a new MA in Teaching English for Academic Purposes at the University of Nottingham. As we have been developing this MA, we have explored and discussed a host of issues regarding teaching English for Academic Purposes and, collectively, we have come to the conclusion that there is a great deal we query, question and critique. We would like to share our thoughts and to engage in debate with EAP practitioners, researchers, TESOL teachers, those who have an interest in higher education and, importantly, those who wish to become EAP practitioners.

We are all experienced EAP practitioners and teacher educators and have our own views and perpsectives on EAP, academic literacies, language, education, ideology, teacher development, academia, students, assessment, …. the list is long! A blog is the best way, we feel, to reach a wide audience and generate discussion.

Most importantly, we feel that there is a need to provide an open, topical, critical and engaging place to debate those issues which concern us as practitioners.

When will we post?

A new blog entry will be posted every two weeks starting on the 25th of May (every second Friday)

Who will contribute to the blog?

We hope to balance contributions from the three of us with contributions from you. If you have something to say, an opinion to express, or research to discuss get in touch. We have a  limit of 1.000 words, or 10 minutes of video. Importantly, all posts will be written in an engaging but nonetheless rigorous manner. These posts are not rants but carefully constructed personal perspectives and views aiming to challenge and provoke.

We look forward to the debates!

Julie, Martha and Alex