My approach to unit four will be a bit different. I will focus
mostly on my MISTAKES and what I have learned from them. I have
always found that we learn more from failure in any aspect of life
than we do with success. I have always wanted to read more articles
on peoples' classes and programs that didn't go well! I will also
adopt a "nuts and bolts" approach focusing on specific
practical discussions. I won't cite any further readings but will
adopt a personal perspective. My imaginary audience will be the
inexperienced ESP teacher who starts a new class in ten days. They
found out about the class yesterday.
I will try to organize my thoughts around a few principles. Bear
in mind that these are notes on teaching I wrote for this week rather
than a "finished" article so please bear with me. Tasks
are included after most principles to help teachers work through
or apply them to their own context. Comments, personal experiences
along the same themes or disagreement are most welcome.
How can you develop materials that will meet your students'
specific needs? How can you adapt existing ESL materials to meet
ESP needs? How time and cost effective is it to develop specialized
DO NOT REINVENT THE WHEEL
When I first started teaching, I found that I was making an excessive
number of my own handouts for academic writing. After searching
the Internet more effectively, I saved myself a great deal of time.
I have used this expression numerous times in my workshops on teaching
writing. Writing teachers in particular have a tendency to make
handouts that are already available through the web. I remember
just last week reading a post from a teacher who had created a website
on basic punctuation. The pride and enthusiasm came through vividly
in her email. But she had wasted her time. I knew of at least five
websites that had already done a better job. In the case of ESP
it is harder to find specific materials but there are a number of
places where you can find pages or materials to adapt.
TASK: recommend one website that has materials or pages that a
teacher could use almost immediately.
IF YOU BUILD IT THEY MIGHT NOT COME
When I first started using the Internet for teaching about four
years ago-I have been teaching for five years-I used to collect
webpage resources for students. I used to spend a fair amount of
time browsing and collecting them. However, only a small number
of students used them. If you are supporting traditional classes
with webpages then make sure the webpages are actively integrated
into the course if you really want the student to view them. Otherwise,
you might have to lower your expectations on how effective "optional"
resources are. Typically teachers like myself get a bit too excited
about internet materials when they first start using the Internet
extensively. Also, many teachers do not realize that many students
have difficulty being able to skim for information or stay on task
online. Instead, many end up following links and losing track of
the purpose. I gave this link to my students simply in order to
browse it quickly to become familiar with types of paragraph organization
but many of them had difficulty staying on task or being able to
skim for information for their needs in engineering writing: http://www.mhhe.com/mayfieldpub/tsw/para-dev.htm
TASK: examine your website or course materials. Is there a clear
rationale and purpose for all of the sites you have recommended?
Will your students be able to stay on task or will they get lost
in the number of links and become frustrated? Remember that unlike
most other types of text, students do not have to read webpages
in the way that you intend.
ASK YOURSELF IF THE TECHNOLOGY OR THE WEB IS DRIVING YOUR TEACHING
INSTEAD OF THE CONTENT OR OBJECTIVES
I found myself pausing after adding a link to some internet writing
material one day. I looked at it again and really questioned if
I would use the same material if I found it on the page of a textbook
and photocopied it. Although I do use internet resources extensively
I am backing away a bit from this approach. The Purdue University
Writing Website http://owl.english.purdue.edu/
is often recommended as an outstanding resource. And to some extent
it is. However, the quality of the entries are uneven at best and
you can find better material in any basic writing handbook for most
of the topics. I also question the use of bulletin boards for some
class activities and students discussions. I tend to think that
the bulletin board technology is driving the activities rather than
the other way around. If teachers have to mandate that the students
post X number of times per week how authentic is the communication
TASK: Look at some recent materials you have made using internet
resources. Are you finding good webpages and then thinking how you
can use them in class, or are you deciding on the criteria and objective
for a task or unit first and then looking for the websites? Do the
same with some of the technology you are using to teach. Are the
teaching objectives or the technology driving the class?
LET THE STUDENTS DO THE ADAPTING AND SOME OF THE MATERIALS CREATION
Some say that there is no better way to learn than to teach. If
so put it into practice! Establish the criteria for completion of
the assignment and the objectives but let the students come up with
the content. If you have a vocabulary lesson then have the students
choose five new vocab words and example sentences and then teach
them to the others in the class and have the members of the group
write example sentences in context. Check the results as marking
for homework. Let some students adapt some materials themselves.
Teaching them how to learn is more valuable than the inadequate
amount of material you will be able to cover in one semester. In
my experience students like task-based work even if they find it
DO NOT TRUST YOUR GENERAL ENGLISH INSTINCTS
I have continually been surprised by the many differences between
advice in general writing classes compared to looking at authentic
engineering texts. Have a look at the two files I uploaded on using
the Internet and PDF files to check grammar. I have found these
two computer searching techniques very useful to check on authentic
language. I developed the PDF searching technique and have found
it to be much more user friendly and usable than current concordance
programs. They are still rough drafts.
If you have already made all the materials and chosen the vocabulary
and content, what do you do if your students already know it? Even
if they know much if not most of the material then you are still
wasting their time. I strongly disagree with almost all of the articles
or texts that I have read on syllabus or course design. How can
we adopt a learner-centered approach if we have already decided
how and what we are going to teach if we haven't even met the students
yet? Test them first and then teach to what they don't know. This
can be difficult for the students to get used, and for the teacher
to manage but I have always gotten better results with this approach.
For example, have students write a formal email request. See if
they need help with the basic format of email writing, then teach
to those problems.
CONSIDER LEARNING STYLES WHEN DEVELOPING MATERIALS
I found that my preference for more creative or exploratory learning
was not always what many of my students wanted. In fact, in Korea
the old functional charts that students used for substitution drills
are quite popular. Authentic tasks followed by functional charts
of writing structures that focus on their weak points are what I
tend to use now. Know your local environment. The more I teach the
simpler my materials have become and the more visually appealing
they have also become:
TASK: Ask your students to take a learning styles inventory test
or simply integrate feedback at every stage of the materials design
process. You may be surprised at what your students prefer compared
to what you think is best. This is especially important in an EFL
environment. Meeting them halfway is probably the best option as
the students may not be aware of different ways of learning.
DEVELOP A MODULAR APPROACH TO MATERIALS DESIGN
I realized last year that I had more of a collection of good handouts
rather than a systematic approach to meeting the objectives I wanted.
I am now reorganizing my materials in modular form and it has helped
me to fill in some gaps. We all reuse materials but try to organize
your materials around self-contained modules so in a given course
you can quickly use different combinations of modules or adapt them
quickly. Much like an online learning approach. I have a fixed series
of activities I repeat for almost every class on computer-assisted
writing. In the future I will be able to combine different modules
depending on the goals and level of the class. A module is self-contained
whereas a unit is part of a larger text or syllabus.
HIRE AN ASSISTANT
There is only so much you can do in a day. If you are in a teaching
situation where you can do editing work or other types of work to
supplement your salary then consider using some of that money to
hire an undergraduate assistant to help you with routine tasks,
formatting materials, or maintaining homepages etc. When my department
cut my part-time assistant position, I kept her on anyway. It is
worth it for me and it has kept my productivity much higher than
if I had tried to do everything myself. Too many teachers are not
good at delegating because they are too used to having to do everything
TASK: imagine that you hire an assistant for as little as four hours
per week. How much more effective would you be? Would if be worth
it for you financially if you just edited one paper or taught one
extra hour of class a week?
DO NOT ASSUME THE STUDENTS WANT ESP!
Don't assume they will like relevant content, they may be looking
for a break for English class. I have had many successes but my
most recent class has been a case in point. I thought that they
would be more willing to put in the time to learn to write a real
research paper then they were for a non-credit class. This is the
most disappointing aspect of ESP for me. You can work really hard
and have really great authentic stuff and some of the students might
not care because they don't like their major anyway. In Korea, University
Entrance exams and prestige and life success are so tied to educational
status that they play a guessing game. They often choose their major
based on which university they think they can enter rather than
their interests. A shocking number of students in Korea would choose
another program if given the chance.
How can you work with colleagues in the specific field to develop
DEVELOP ECONOMIES OF SCALE
Try to think in terms of more than one course when designing materials.
I have reused materials and recommended my own materials to teachers
in other departments. That way you get more use out of the materials.
This is especially important for clear skills like resume writing
or presentation skills that have to be done in more than one department.
I developed the following guide for resume and cover letter writing
in conjunction with a Korean professor who was teaching a course
on international volunteer and Internship opportunities. Using this
approach you may also be able to tap into further resources such
as assistants or computer resources in departments that are better
funded you're your own English department. In my case the Engineering
and Business departments:http://ctl.hanyang.ac.kr/learning/professional_writing/resume.htm
USE THE SAME MATERIALS IN MULTIPLE MEDIA AND LEVELS
I have used the same materials for my presentations to faculty,
my graduate writing classes, and my departmental website. Use your
departmental website to promote your own ESP work and to seek out
further partnerships and synergy by making the most of your materials.
Many of my materials are available in mulitiple formats such as
PDF, Powerpoint, WORD etc. and can be used for different teaching
DEVELOP PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS WITH COLLEAGUES BEFORE CLASSES
Try to get "Champions," professors who support and appreciate
(understand!) the importance of ESP to support you BEFORE you start
a course. After a string of successes, I perhaps got a bit complacent
and forgot my own rule and my lastest course has not gone as well
as I had hoped, in part because of a lack of "buy in"
from faculty and the department. In some cultures such as in East
Asia it might be better for you to have your students or other faculty
members introduce you to other professors. As there are not that
many native speakers on my campus, I rarely have difficulty meeting
people in an EFL environment.
TASK: do you know colleagues, content professors in other departments
well enough to phone them and invite them to lunch? If not work
on your campus networking. It has been essential in my experience.
FIND DEPARTMENTS THAT ARE USED TO WORKING WITH OTHERS
I currently work at the Center for Teaching and Learning. I am
the only English teacher on campus who does not work in the English
Department. This is by choice. The CTL must work with every other
department and it has given me opportunities to meet and collaborate
with others that would be more difficult if I only worked in the
English Department. See if your campus has other centers that are
naturally interdisciplinary and see if you can collaborate with
A final resource
The following website is really a great example that everyone should
definitely have a look at when considering creating their own website
and starting a major project developing their own customized online
materials for ESP/EAP/CBI. Three years in development, I think I
will let the results speak for themselves: http://www.eflwriting.com/