EAP Stories

Inspired by the Teaching EAP blog post discussing the requirements of teaching English for Academic Purposes, I realized that many teachers who teach EAP come from different backgrounds and have different teaching experiences.  When you look at job ads for EAP posts, you very often see that universities look for teachers with an MA in TESOL or Applied linguistics, a Diploma, experience teaching Ielts, sometimes they are interested in publications and so on. Today’s post will give you teacher stories. I asked EAP teachers from around the world to tell me their stories about how they got into EAP and the requirements they had to fulfill. I would like to thank each and every one of them for sharing their stories. So, here are their stories.

Deirdre McKenna-EAP Lecturer at Arts University Bournemouth

I first started teaching English in 2003 with young learners in a Hagwon in South Korea. At 22 years old, I was armed only with my degree in Psychology, a sense of adventure, and no clue about classroom management, lesson planning or teaching methodology. After that year I thought ‘never again’, and had no intentions of becoming a teacher. After a few more travelling adventures, the reality of paying the bills set in, and I decided to give English teaching another go and headed back to Korea in 2006. This time I got a job for a government run ‘English Village’, working with high school students. As well as teaching, I had opportunities to work on developing lessons, materials and workbooks, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Gradually, I started to feel like teaching was something I was good at, and I suppose I learned on the job, and by observing more experienced colleagues. I stayed there for 3.5 years, and at that stage moved on to do my CELTA. Looking back, it seems like a very back-to-front way of doing things, but it happened that way as I had never planned on teaching English long-term.

 Getting an A grade in my CELTA course in 2009 boosted my confidence, and I then moved into teaching adults, with business English in Germany for 2 years. During that time, I also tutored a couple of university students, which I really enjoyed. I then did my Trinity TESOL diploma in 2011, and began thinking about how to diversify as a teacher by moving into EAP, seeing as I had experience with both YLs and adults. My first opportunity to get into EAP was through a 10 week pre-sessional with Newcastle University (INTO) in the summer of 2012. Working with university students just felt like the best fit to my teaching style, and I decided to pursue a career in this area. After my experience with Newcastle, I started my MA in Applied Linguistics and TESOL, and began applying for more EAP posts. It was a real struggle to find anything suitable, and I spent about a year applying for jobs and teaching business English part-time. A full time EAP tutor post came up with the University of Nottingham, Ningbo, China (UNNC), and I joined the department in March 2013. Although I hadn’t really wanted to go to China, I hoped that this job would provide me with the experience to get my foot in the door in the UK. During my time there, I had the opportunity to teach on a range of courses, and became the Strand Leader for the ESAP for Architecture component, which involved curriculum planning and materials development. I absolutely loved working there, especially being surrounded by experienced EAP professionals. After almost two years with UNNC, I was hoping to move closer to my home in Ireland and began applying for jobs in the UK. I successfully interviewed for the EAP Lecturer post with the Arts University Bournemouth, and moved in January 2015 to begin my new role. I think they were particularly interested in the curriculum design work I had done for UNNC as my current role involves similar aspects. I have now almost completed my MA and I am looking forward to continuing on my EAP path.

 Vedrana Vojkovic Estatiev Online Tutor at the University of Zagreb (Croatia)

EAP – a course officially called Academic Writing at the institution where I work – is compulsory for undergrads in their first semester of university. I first taught the course at the University of Zagreb in 2008. It was entirely unplanned; as I recall they had an extra group of students they needed an instructor for, and a colleague asked if I was interested. I was given a copy of R. R. Jordan’s Academic Writing Course, and got on with things as best I could. I think everyone initially assumed it would only be for a semester, so there was no talk of qualifications or requirements, although I seriously doubt I would have been asked to teach if I hadn’t had teaching experience with adult learners and a degree in English literature. When it eventually transpired that I would stay on, I had to qualify as a lecturer. There was a list of requirements, including a minimum number of teaching hours at a higher education institution (which had luckily added up by then), as well as a certain number of publications and/or translations. I also had to teach a demo class. At that point I hadn’t taught one for seven years, so I was really stressed! Happily, everything went well.

You can also read Vedrana’s blogs here

 Clare Fielder English Language Lecturer within the Dept. of English Studies at Trier University (Germany)

I would say that, at least in Germany, universities seeking to employ new teachers are in general more interested in the qualifications you hold than some other language teaching institutions might be. I have the impression that some universities are moving towards requiring a PhD (or equivalent) from new teaching staff, which I think is unreasonable, especially for less theoretical subjects like teaching languages. I teach ESAP; English for Literary Studies and Linguistics, to be precise, and am employed as an English Language Lecturer within the Dept. of English Studies. I worked previously at language schools and secondary schools in the UK and Germany, so moving to working at a university was when I suppose I became an EAP teacher – though I didn’t think of it in those terms at the time! I just saw it as teaching English, but to a group of people with a different set of needs from my business English or summer school learners! To get my job, I had to be a native speaker of English, hold an MA (or equivalent) in a relevant subject area (i.e. languages, literature, translation, etc.) and hold a teaching qualification from an internationally recognized institution (i.e. they checked whether it was just a 2-week online course, or whether it included sufficient teaching practice). Relevant teaching experience (i.e. to adults, advanced levels) was also a bonus. I think the qualifications required of me were appropriate.  I would say that both my MA and my Dip TESOL help me to do my job well; one because it allowed me to gain insight into academic work and conventions in this field, and the other because it encouraged me to think about the best pedagogical practices for my teaching context. I can see that a PhD would also do the former, but I’m not convinced it would do the latter.

Clare’s blog posts can be found here

Anastasios Asimakopoulos English language tutor in the ELTC, University of Sheffield

I guess I was ‘initiated’ into EAP as a master’s student. Doing a pre-sessional EAP at the time didn’t even cross my mind as I had met the language requirements for admission to university. So, I remember going through the marking scheme in the student handbook, trying to figure out what all those criteria meant. I think it was a workshop I attended that sort of helped me get my head around academic writing. It was a one-off session on critical thinking, and there were lots of students from various courses, not just TESOL. The next thing I remember was buying the book Critical Reading and Writing for Postgraduates, which I read from cover to cover before starting writing my first assignment. The rest is just history: I got sucked into hedging, paraphrasing, summarizing, synthesizing, cross-referencing, blah, blah, blah. I became so interested in academic writing that by the time I was finishing my master’s I was only applying for EAP jobs. I have a BA in English Language and Literature, an MSc in TESOL and a CELTA.

Gemma Lunn Pre- sessional EAP tutor at the University of Reading (UK)

How I got into EAP?

My teaching career started at Oxford House in Barcelona in 2008. Over the following 5 years I taught a range of abilities, class types and age groups in Barcelona, England and then South Korea. I was teaching in a middle school in South Korea and for various reasons was keen to move into a university environment. I enjoyed teaching young teens and the job was great fun but after two years it wasn’t providing the right challenges for me. I applied for University jobs in South Korea but only had one offer because I didn´t have an MA. I remember being annoyed at the time because I knew people teaching English in universities with MAs in totally unrelated subjects who had less experience and teaching qualifications than me (I had just completed the Trinity Diploma, surely I was far more qualified!) However, now I´ve done an MA I can see the value and realise why it is a must for university jobs. So realising I´d have to get an MA if I wanted to pursue the university path I decided to come back to England and do just that.

I decided to study an MA in Applied Linguistics at The University of Reading, mostly because of the excellent (and fully deserved) reputation but also handily as my parents live nearby so I could stay with them whilst studying. I absolutely loved every minute of the MA, even those at 3am when I was close to tears trying to finish an assignment! It has proven to be invaluable, both in terms of personal learning and for my career.

As well as an MA I knew I also needed some more EAP experience in order to get a permanant position in a university. Everyone had told me that summer pre-sessional courses were the best way to do this. So whilst finishing my dissertation I taught at the University of Manchester for three weeks on one of their pre-sessional courses. Even though it was a short course it turned out to be a perfect introduction as the students already had the required grades so it was more of a crash course in EAP (for me as much as for the students!) with slightly less pressure and marking than longer courses!

During that summer I was also applying for EAP roles in nearby universities and was lucky to get offers from Royal Holloway and Brighton. Both of these roles were not with the universities themselves but with companies (Study Group and Kaplan) who manage foundation and / or in-sessional courses for the universities. I think this is a good step into university teaching as getting a full time position directly with the university is not that easy. I took the position with Study Group at Royal Holloway, University of London and have just finished an academic year as an EAP Tutor there. The year was a massive learning curve, but a very enjoyable one and it was great to use all the skills and knowledge I acquired from my MA. Still, I know I have a lot more to learn which is a great position to be in. This summer I´ll be going back to the University of Reading, but as a teacher rather than a student.

 You can read Gemma’s blog posts here

Stephen Bruce EAP Coordinator at Dublin International Foundation College

In many respects, I would consider myself an EAP novice. I wouldn’t have thought so a year ago but having visited my first BALEAP conference this year, I now see many gaps in my knowledge and huge scope for me to improve. I use my blog as a way to do this; to develop my understanding of teaching, specifically in relation to teaching EAP. And from blogging and tweeting, I have met people in EAP who have spent far longer than I have thinking about what it means to teach EAP. I mention this at the outset because I feel far less comfortable referring to myself as an EAP teacher than I would, say, an ELT teacher. It seems harder to put my finger on what exactly an EAP teacher is, or does. And yet, that is my job description and here I am offering an account of how I moved from ELT to EAP.

For the first half of my teaching career, I was a general English teacher. In 2001, after finishing an MA in Philosophy, I did a 100 hour TEFL cert at the TEFL Training Institute in Dublin and subsequently took off for Italy. In 2004, I did the RELSA certificate which is the Irish equivalent of the CELTA. At this stage, most of my teaching was exam focused, especially IELTS. The fact that most of my students were heading to university via IELTS meant that the English I was teaching became more academic. In 2011, I did an M.Phil. in English Language Teaching at Trinity College Dublin. Pretty soon after finishing the M.Phil. I applied for a job as an EAP teacher. In all honesty, I hadn’t really heard too much about EAP at this point. Of the many acronyms in this industry, EAP has been slow to gain traction in Ireland.

Despite my ignorance, I’ve been working as an EAP teacher since 2012. Initially, I found it really difficult. Many of the students already had high levels of English and I worried that I wasn’t of any use to them. Others had lower levels of English and I struggled with how best to accommodate these different levels. It was only when I got stuck into what they would have to do at university and worked back from there that I felt confident that I could offer worthwhile lessons.

Still, I think the concept of what an EAP teacher is can be hard to pin down. I sometimes look enviously at the chemistry or physics teachers. God love them but they’ve a lot of content to get through but at least it is quite clear what that is. In EAP, we also have loads to get through (e.g. critical reading) but with less clear objectives (how do you know when/if they’ve got it?). As a result, there is always a nagging sense that we could be doing more and doing it better. But I suppose that was the case teaching ELT as well. I heard one talk at BALEAP, by Dr Justin Alam, which described an EAP (or ESAP) teacher as like a really good, enthusiastic student, the one in the class that others borrow notes from. I liked this. I am not an expert in Business or Science or Engineering. But I know how to learn (I think) and I know how academia works (at least I know more than my students). Seeing myself in this way helps me to avoid some of the stress I had starting out in EAP. I no longer worry that I have to be an authority on the subjects my students will go on to study. But at the same time, I have scope to take an interest, read up on these different areas and familiarise myself with the discipline and its norms. That way there is far more substance to my lessons and they are hopefully more relevant.

Stephen’s blog posts can be found here

 Ola Bakri Assistant Lecturer, Cairo (Egypt)

I taught academic English course couple of years ago. That was for grad students studying towards their Master’s degree. I truly enjoyed the course with the students because we had a good rapport. However, for them the course was easy!

The course contained the regular stuff of academic English, such as paragraph writing and punctuation etc. The course was boring to students a bit because they think they know this stuff. When I graded their writings I discovered they need this stuff, but they do not like it!

The course I would say was successful, but I would do more writing exercises and more writings. Also, I would include more of critical thinking exercises. My qualifications back then were a Master’s in Education from Sask, Canada.I think that was my first exposure to academic English. Now, am teaching academic English to undergrads in a private university in Egypt. It’s different, because we teach them the basics. So, what’s your story?

My story- Pre- sessional EAP tutor at the ELTC (University of Sheffield, UK)

Back in 2011, my friend Anna and I were discussing summer school work in the UK. You see, I live and work in Greece, but I always wanted to go to the UK to teach. Maybe because the UK reminds me a bit of my mother land Australia. Anyhow, Anna suggested that I apply for EAP jobs. I never thought I would be able to get a job teaching English at a university but I thought, ” OK! I will do it. Worst case scenario? I will get rejected.” So, I sent my CV and cover letter to universities that were hiring EAP teachers. I only applied to places that were asking for teachers who had experience in teaching  Ielts  and an MA  (I had both, as well as lots of years of teaching experience). I was so happy when Into Newcastle shortlisted me and I got an interview. Before the interview I read up a bit more on EAP and prepared for the interview. I got the job and I started teaching EAP in 2011. Ever since I have been going to the UK and working as a pre-sessional EAP tutor. Apart from Newcastle University, I worked for Bristol University and this year I will be doing my second course at the University of Sheffield. After I started working as an EAP tutor I also got my Delta. My module 3 was an EAP specialism.

I love teaching EAP because my students are adults who are preparing for their studies. I feel like I am part of their new adventure in life. I like to learn from them. My students are mostly Asian and their educational background is completely different to what I am used to. Also, EAP is fairly new for me, so it challenges me. The fact that I have taught at different universities has allowed me to see how different universities approach EAP. Induction programs for these courses have been amazing and very informative. I have learnt a lot from these different contexts, and this informs my teaching.

So, there you have all the EAP stories. Feel free to share yours in the comments section below.

Till next time…

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