Category Archives: Commentary

July 1 – Creativity in EAP


What does it mean to be creative in EAP? One side of the coin is the creativity demonstrated by teachers in their flexibility regarding the widely varying needs of our students; another side is the creativity that we encourage of our students in what they do with the skills we teach. It’s the latter I find more fascinating a topic.

Key questions that came from the chat:

  • Is this creativity preparing our students for the tasks they will do in their disciplines?
  • Does it relate to successfully completing weeder courses (i.e. early year massive courses designed to weed out the weak)?
  • How do we create platforms for our students to use their creativity while at the same time keeping them grounded on realistic university tasks?
  • Is there a place for creative assessment?

Read today`s transcript here.

What are your thoughts?


June 17: Peer feedback on EAP writing

Photo by Adam Simpson,

Photo by Adam Simpson,

Morra & Romano (2008) report on findings regarding student attitudes towards peer feedback on ESL & EAP writing and discuss the implications of these and similar results on the pedagogy of peer feedback. A few lines I thought were poignant, the first of which is regarding training to give feedback:

An interesting tendency observed in many studies of peer feedback in ESL and EFL settings is that students’ attitudes toward their peers’ reviews and comments seem to be conditioned by the amount and quality of training and preparation they receive in class previous to their actual participation in peer-response groups; that is, the more planned instruction the students receive, the better they seem to respond to the activity (Berg, 1999; Ferris & Hedgcock, 1998; Hansen & Liu, 2005; Hu, 2005; Mittan, 1989; Rollinson, 2005; Stanley, 1992). [20-21] 

Giving students appropriate training and guidance on how to go about reviewing their classmates’ texts stands out as a crucial point when trying to generate a positive attitude toward peer feedback. [26]

And this regarding fear of giving/receiving feedback from peers:

Students also revealed that they avoided making critical comments in order to prevent conflict with their classmates. Some of them feared their writing being mocked publicly in the classroom. Teachers reported that, at the end of a peer-feedback session, most

students put away their compositions in their folders and never revised them. [21]

Together with appropriate and gradual training, the organization of small groups appears to be an effective technique to put peer feedback into practice since it might help to lower apprehension and fear and eventually lead to establishing a relaxed and stress-free atmosphere. [26]

And lastly this on combining feedbacks:

…there appears to be much to be gained from combining oral and written feedback in peer-response groups and from complementing peer feedback with final teacher feedback. [26]

Source: Morra and Romano (2008).  University Students’ Reactions to Guided Peer Feedback of EAP Compositions. Journal of College Literacy and Learning 35:19-30.

To follow along with our Twitter discussion, please read through the transcript:

Maybe you have thoughts and experiences with feedback on writing?


June 3 – Useful webtools for EAP

Photo by @grahamstanley

On June 3, we discussed web tools and other technologies that have been useful in our practice in some measure. Click to read Julie Moore and Leo Selivan‘s choices, which focus on dictionaries, corpora and other lexical tools. Others mentioned during the chat included:

Just the Word – – input a word to retrieve collocation and frequency information about it.

Learner Corpus bibliography – – includes citations to a number of books and articles on this topic (600+).

PONS Online dictionary – – online dictionary that translates words into many languages as well as shows translation of different ways of using that word

Papermachines –,  & Cobra – – corpus-based tools

Jing – – giving writing feedback to students by recording your screen as you comment

Podcasts – CBC Metro Mornings ( & Definitely Not the Opera (

Of course, there’s always ELTpics – a crowd-sourced photo gallery of usable images for the classroom.

Read the full transcript here.

Burning question: If you find a web tool particularly useful in your practice, please list it in the comments with a little summary of its main function and/or blog about it. 🙂

May 6 – Teaching genres rather than standard essays – do we know how?

Today we discussed how writing for different genre fits into our EAP courses. Issues that arose over the two chats included:

  • What genre actually is
  • What essays actually are
  • Where we get samples of authentic genre writing from for our students
  • The relationships we have with content-course professors
  • The level we pitch genre analysis and writing at
  • If 5-paragraph essays hold any useful weighting
  • ESP coursebook authenticity in their samples and genre teaching

If you’d like to comment on any of these issues or any others related to this topic, maybe you’d also like to check out the transcripts from the chats too:

1st chat (9AM EST / 2PM UK):
2nd chat (3PM EST / 8PM UK):

April 15 – The issue of skill transferability

Photo by @escocesa_madrid via
Do students transfer skills from one activity to another?

Today’s chat involved the issue of skill transferability. More specifically, two focal questions began things off:

  • How immediately transferable to students’ actual academic study should EAP be?
  • How do we make students see the transferability better?

Read the transcript here:

The final burning question left with everyone to consider:

  • What is one activity you’ve used with students that emphasised the transferability of a taught skill to their content courses?

Feel free to blog about these topics on your own blogs (then link back here) or discuss in the comments here.

April 1 – balancing cultures of learning

This week we tried out two new times as voted on an earlier Doodle: 9AM (EST) and 3PM (EST). With Easter weekend ending today, those lucky enough to have the day off, took it.

Photo taken by @purple_steph via

Our topic today was the balance between accommodating students’ cultures of learning and the countries they plan to study in.

Transcript here:

To generate commentary, consider this question and a number of possible answers:

Please feel free to discuss your opinions in the comments below or on your blog.

Linear grammar

The March 4th addressed the subject of how the linear progression of grammar differs in teaching EAP to general English. This was one of the best attended and most productive chats yet. A big thanks to @JenMac_ESL, @SeburnT, @JimScriv, @Stiiiv, @yearinthelifeof, @BrunoLeys, @muranava, @leoselivan, @eltknowledge, @whistlepunch and @Lexicojules for joining in the discussion.

During the chat several themes emerged. The following tweets have been selected as the most interesting and / or the most representative of all made. Every participant is represented here. The tweets are grouped according to their relevance to each theme that emerged, rather than being a chronological representation of the chat.

Full transcript:

Emerging Language
Should we work linearly or should we allow language to emerge as and when?

‘I guess a lot depends on teaching context & [students] starting level as to how you tackle grammar in an EAP class.’

‘I think dealing with emergent [language] is the norm in most EAP contexts. I’d also say grammar & vocab get blurred.’

‘Problem with “emergent grammar” is “where does it emerge from?” Also should we rely on “random” to make a life-changing syllabus?’

‘I don’t like preemptive language syllabuses at all, not for EAP. Strong belief in emergent approach.’

‘You ask: “Why (un)cover structure/form/meaning until found needed?” Because we as [teachers] might be expected to have that insight.’

‘Agreed – we should have a good idea of what’s good for them and what they will definitely need – accelerate it!’

‘My plan is to work with teachers to draw EAP grammar out of text in the moment, not to bolt on token lessons on the passive.’

‘Emergent shouldn’t mean at random or founded on serendipity. I know Ss will not miraculously come up with new grammar.’

Grammar focus
What is our grammar focus? Do we even have one?

‘Yes, the joy of EAP is we have a clear context/aim within which to teach grammar.’
‘I find I teach less standard categories of grammar in EAP – more mixed [language] for a purpose, e.g. hedging, thesis statements, etc.’

‘Whatever the level, [students] need to see that [grammar] is a contextualised choice, not a case of just ‘right’ and ‘wrong’.’

‘Do we include vocab when we talk about grammar in EAP?’

‘Definitely – AWL, for instance, connects so well to grammar in this context (in my opinion)’

‘I think Michael Lewis made a good point about chunks, for that matter.’

‘Research has suggested, several studies have shown + become example earlier. Certain lexis attracts Present Perfect.’

‘Corpus research shows that ac genres use very few perfect tenses. They are used, just much lower priority.’
‘Yes, that’s why I’d spend more time on noun-based grammar than [traditional] verb-based stuff.’

‘Yes – get on to teaching nominalisation as a ‘somewhat’ priority.’

‘Yes! If you want to write academically, don’t passivise, nominalise!’

One interesting point that came for the discussion of grammar was SFL (Situational Functional Linguistics)

‘SFL is crucial for teacher awareness for EAP grammar (any grammar), I think.’

‘What I love about SFG/SFL is that it deals with lexico-grammar, and not just grammar…and sees it as a system. Great for ESP/EAP.’

‘SFL … deals with lexico-grammar, and not just grammar… and sees it as a system. Great for ESP/EAP.’

Something that was only briefly mentioned but is nonetheless significant was the availability of suitable published materials.

‘I wonder if in any other subject (even other languages) [teachers] would argue against selecting & teaching useful stuff [students] need!’

‘The classic corpus ref is Biber et al – Longman Grammar of Spok & Writ English – more recent work still bears it out.’

‘Biber’s ‘Real Grammar’ is a lovely book to use at upper level – highly recommend it.’

Starting point
A lot of the discussion revolved around the point at which we should start teaching EAP, and consequently what we expect learners to know about the language prior to this starting point.

‘Doesn’t this beg the question of whether High Beginner is really EAP though?’

‘I’d expect Ss coming to EAP to already have an overview of basic grammar, so would expect to review/build, not present new.’

‘I don’t think it’s about “introducing” a grammar point. It’s about addressing its need when needed.’

‘Sorry – high beginner isn’t EAP – but our curriculum is built from this level up and through to EAP.’

‘I do not think EAP is an appropriate term for beginners/high beginners, etc.’

‘How can a learner hedge, make thesis statements etc without the foundation grammar?’

‘They should have foundational grammar before an EAP program in most cases, no?’

‘Ah … a slippery argument! They don’t need G because “someone else” has taught it? Ok – if we are only talking High level.’

As we were discussing the linear teaching of grammar, it wasn’t surprising that the issue of how grammar fits into the curriculum should come up.

‘It is a curriculum that has served us well but doesn’t necessarily match any published text series available.’

‘I like the Ken Hyland ‘get ’em going on simple pres/past active&passive’ and you’ve won more than half the battle.’

‘I like the idea of point of need but in a program where testing from level to level is standardized across multiple classes.’
‘[The] hope is to identify core needs in the curriculum doc then support emergent needs through responsive classroom teaching.’

‘If content serves to drive student desire to express themselves, this can drive [grammar] dev. We can step in to tweak at point of need.’

‘Our [curriculum] moves [students] through discrete point grammar, sentence level and discourse level as well as receptive / productive grammar.’
‘I agree that students want to know what they need to learn, what will be taught. Are we defining that correctly?’

‘The curriculum for our last level of EAP doesn’t include any discrete point grammar.’

Did we come to any conclusions?

‘Linear grammar, bad. Foundational grammar, need. Context-dependant grammar, good. Haha.’

Please add your thoughts to this chat in the comments section below. Also, please join us for the next chat on Monday, 18th March.

Using Wikipedia (or not) in EAP activities


Today we discussed the use of Wikipedia either as a teaching tool or as inspiration for wiki-related and website evaluation activities. You can read the transcript here.

Potential readings & audio

Badke, W. (2008) “What to Do with Wikipedia,” Online 32, no 2.

By Stevie Benton (WMUK) (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons (This is an interview with David White from the University of Oxford’s Department of Continuing Education. He speaks about his research related to Wikipedia and perceptions of the free encyclopaedia.)

Binkley, P. (2006) “Wikipedia Grows Up”, Feliciter 52, no. 2, 59-61. [alt:]

Geisel, N. (2011) The Wikipedia Dilemma, TeachPaperless. [blog] posted November 24, 2011.

Seburn, T. (2013) “A wiki activity to introduce insight into Wikipedia,” 4C in ELT. [blog] posted January 30, 2013.

Blog / comment points

  1. How can we use Wikipedia as a teaching tool?
  2. Do you know of any example ways other teachers have used Wikipedia with their students?
  3. Other points of view?