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.