This is a slightly unusual post for me in that it has emerged out of a presentation I gave at the recent BALEAP conference at Nottingham University. The presentation was entitled ‘EAPtising the Academy: informing and transforming teaching practice’ and I described a peer observation programme I have set up at the University of Leicester. The ‘peers’ were myself and lecturers from the university’s Media and Communication department. I initiated this programme to explore teaching practices within English language teaching and within HE and to see how they might inform and transform each other. It struck me that as the postgraduate cohort were almost exclusively non native speakers then perhaps the language classroom may have something to offer the seminar room (seminars in particular because a student had once said to me that she did not contribute in Management seminars as she was not asked to and because she did not understand the colloquial language used by the native speakers in the room). My aim was to see if, together, EAP tutor and discipline lecturers could maximise levels of student interaction. We found that we could.

There is a link to the presentation at the end of the post.

In the presentation I asked participants to discuss the following two questions:

Question 1: What other ELT techniques could encourage interaction in the discipline ‘classroom’?

Question 2: The time is right to bring EAP and discipline communities together – how? when? where?

Participants were then invited to graffiti their thoughts on a scroll placed around the room. I could have taken a photograph of the scroll as sensibly suggested by Paul Roberts from York University (indeed a picture from the scroll is on the link to this post on the homepage), but I thought if I transcribed the comments I could then comment on them myself and invite others to do the same. So please do.

Thank you to those who took part in the session and for your invaluable contributions.

  • Comments from participants are in bold (where names were tagged with comments I’ve included them), my comments follow.

1. Is team teaching a logical follow up? e.g. dissertation writing workshops I would love to see this happen more and as a result of the peer observation programme we will at least share materials, which is a step in the right direction.

2. Subject tutors like Beverley Lewin’s book “Writing Readable Research” 2010 London: Equinox (D. Cobbett @ Sheffield)

Difficulty of getting lecturers to engage. Happy to allow us to watch them and learn more about their discipline, but time involved in coming to watch us is an issue for them. Time is an issue. Initially I had intended to ask the lecturers to keep a journal of pre/during/ and post reflections on the observations, but realised that this was just too much to ask. Lecturers appreciated having laptops supplied in the observation so that comments and reflections could be typed up and then emailed to me within the session.


  • Sharing good practice ideas and staff development sessions. This is a good idea and may be more fruitful in encouraging some lecturers who are underwhlemed by the seminar experience (namely the silence) to try new techniques to encourage interaction.
  • Comparing materials and asking for feedback
  • Observations sound great – very achievable Yes they were achievable, perhaps more so than trying to arrange meetings to compare materials or even to try to do so via email. I think we all like to observe classes if given the opportunity.

The how/ where/ when is very complex (Paul Roberts @ York) Yes they are. I’m not sure I know how to make them less so.

“ELT expertise” is actually shared by good teachers eg in “53 ways…” books. We (EAP teachers) should be a bit more modest. Remember there is crap EAP too. My intention was not to say that EAP teaching equates good teaching and that discipline teaching is bad. This discussion is about encouraging interaction, not who are the better teachers. I do not think it is immodest to say that there are tools we are equiped with in initial English language teacher training that would, if adopted on a wider scale, generally improve the student experience. The Media lecturers who observed me agree.  I am not suggesting that there are not already discipline teachers already doing these things, I know that there are, I have seen some of them teach.

Use ideas from Joan & Caroline’s plenaries – help lecturers go from ss ‘lived experience’ to abstract academic ideas. See links to abstracts here

‘Sell’ the need to lecturers I think the promise of a more interactive experience for all is a good draw.

Need a ‘champion’ at senior management level in order to achieve cross-disciplinary work and to set the wheels in motion. In some cases, certainly. I think though the answer lies in finding a sympathetic ear within the discipline. In my case the deputy head of Media and Communication is incredibly supportive and receptive, as are the staff who volunteered to observe me.


  • Tasks based on reading theories / case studies with Pre/ During/ Post task e.g. writing
  • Encouraging specific responses e.g. by nominating to elicit ‘ideas’ / theories roles.
  • Student led review / response


  • lecturers could develop pre-reading tasks for their sessions, based on the subject specific material. Couldn’t the EAP tutor help here too?
  • Engaging students in groups, getting them to brainstorm and give presentations of their discussions at the end.
  • Information gap tasks. E.g. sharing a reading etc.
  • Group work possible even in large lectures.
  • Encouraging active listening techniques e.g reformulation
  • Even if student group is too large for the lecturer to know all names, encourage students to get to know each other in groups. Absolutely!

I think that the best time to communicate is during interactions and not during lectures. Isn’t a lecture an interaction?

The best place to communicate is during seminars It is also the best environment in which to learn, engage, enthuse – or at least it should be.

Q1: We’ve repurposed PPP /\, ARC \/ and TTT >< to give Business lecturers refined ways of planning interactive lectures. s.e.kirk@durham.ac.uk (@stiiiiv) Great idea! Would love to hear more about how, why and when this happened. Also what effect has it had?…. Steve?

We’re having the same challenges in Canada. So gratifying to hear we’re all in the same boat – on the cusp of an exciting transition that will benefit our students. Wonderful initiative you have undertaken with your project. Julia Williams. This is exactly why I wanted to have us talk in my session. Conferences should be all about us interacting with each other and feeling reassured and inspired. EAP can only move forward if we work out the way together, in a dialogue.

What’s wrong with silence?

Lecturers uncomfortable with silence need them to speak – use of zappers! Who zaps who?

Cultural thing? E.g. Chinese ss don’t speak unless invited to speak I think lecturers could really gain from understanding (academic) cultures of non native speakers. Often the difficulties they face are incorrectly attributed to language rather than culture.  

Large seminars – do home students speak? (some v. shy) Do int students need to? Fail if not? Couldn’t ELT practices help shy native speakers too?

Feed in strategies then ss must use one/more in real seminar, then record in journal, then EAP tutor uses coaching strategies for a greater success next time.

*I have also observed some very good practice in academic subject sessions (Chemistry lab & classroom)  e.g. use of names, eliciting of lab processes, descriptions. Absolutely – isn’t it great to share it?

Communicating with ac. depts first time: start by inviting finding keen individuals who will be positively oriented to the idea. Doubters may join later. This is certainly what has happened so far in this project.

EAP practitioners to sit in on departmental symposiums + lectures etc. to see what problems students actually have when presenting or listening to lectures. This enables the EAP practitioner to gain such an insight. Invaluable in my experience.

Invite subject lecturers to BALEAP YES.

Would be interesting to see interactions in seminars where NS and NNS are mixed. Also to see interactions in seminars which only have NSs. That would be interesting. I attended Paul Roberts’ session after mine “Constructing rather than describing oral EAP” which was a very interesting take on this. Maybe the slides will be here soon?

Ideas from ELT – use of time limits – more task based activities?

Group discussion boards between insessional teachers, subject specialists and ss?

Co-taught seminars (post-lecture?) I would love to see this happen. I have approached the Media department about running ARC sessions within the department and see if I can’t get some native speakers involved too. Students need to engage more with their reading. The deputy head of the department loves the idea. Maybe launching ARC as an extra curricular activity as I’m intending to do this autumn may be a step in the direction towards co-taught seminars.

Shadowing scheme –     EAP – dept.   Dept. – EAP If only time would permit. There will have to come a time (very soon, I hope) when we have to initiate activities such as this. We have to invest TIME in improving the experience of students. Before we can do that, we need to gain a much more in depth understanding of each other (EAP practitioners and subject lecturers).

EAP tutors included in assessment process And vice versa! See this post on Teaching EAP blog. Carol Bailey from Wolverhampton University mentioned exploring co-marking assignments via turnitin at the BALEAP PIM in Southampton (slides are available here). Certainly something to aspire to!

Are lecturers reluctant to take advice from us? Aren’t we all when it comes to our teaching?

Thanks again to those who took part, I have certainly taken away some good ideas from this session.

You can see the presentation here:  http://prezi.com/6nr4fcifpczr/untitled-prezi/


One thought on “EAPtising the academy – BALEAP session

  1. Wow. So much wonderful idea-generation here! I’m very happy to hear ARC being discussed, used and modified as possible ways to intervene in reading. We’ve been connecting them a bit differently to writing assignments (e.g. short papers based on role discoveries / short answer practice for exams, etc.). I’ve been meaning to update ARC stuff on 4C about these aspects. 🙂

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