ESL2ESP session - Jan 17-Feb 27

Week 6: Topics of Interest and Topics from EOP

February 21- 27

Anne Lomperis is the guest lecturer for this week.

Discussion Points:

Dear All,
This is Anne Lomperis chiming in, your guest lecturer for Week 6. As Margaret van Naerssen, the guest lecturer for Week 1, was kind enough to mention early on, I have been out of the country on a consultation across January-February, so am just getting tuned in (and getting over lingering jet lag…!).
Thanks to Buth for pulling together biographical data on me from the 'Net, since I was too busy to do this before I left. However, I have just sent her a new version of bio info which I believe she will be posting shortly. I just point this out so you can get more background on me from this new bio posting.

One relevant point to make about my professional background is that I work almost exclusively in EOP, as opposed to EAP. Thus, the topics about which I can best contribute to this discussion will be from that specialty area. More on this later.

1. Topics of Interest to Group Members

However, in as much as this is our last week, I am also very interested in hearing from all of you about any topics that you feel haven't been covered and which you would still like to be covered. So, please do send these in. I have no illusions that I can address all these topics, but I might be able to speak to some. Beyond that, though, I think it is important for the record, especially since the site is going to be staying up (not sure how long), that we do identify these topics for future reference, at the very least. Thanks for your input, then.

2. Topics from EOP

a. Background Perspective on Best Practices (BP)
In terms of EOP topics, I would like to say just a few introductory words about the Best Practices for Workplace Language Training. These have been posted earlier, and I understand there has been some concern that they are a bit overwhelming, too long, too prescriptive, etc. I'd like to try to offer a little more perspective on these Best Practices and how they came to be. (See my bio for my role in this.) I think often of a theme from the late Peter Strevens who wrote about ESP in terms of moving from practice to principle. Those of us who have been involved in ESP (and EOP, in my case) for a long time can likely recall when we knew very little about what we were doing. Back in 1982 when I got started in this specialty in the hospitality industry, I was skinning my knees in many directions; I was very engaged in the very new practice of doing EOP. Over time, I could actually start to pull these more and more refined practices into "principles." This _expression of practice into principle is what we hoped to do with the Best Practices. They are our very best hope to try to save a lot of people a lot of skinned knees. And we tried to be very comprehensive about this - because we wanted to save not only skinned knees, but elbows, noses, etc. - You get the drift. What has been particularly satisfying for me, now that we have written the Best Practices, and I am taking this organized framework into my subsequent consulting, is that I find the principles have very practical applications as well. So we have come full circle. Practice to principle to practice.

b. Example Related to Organizational Needs Assessment (ONA)

Let me give you an example. One of the BP has to do with conducting an Organizational Needs Assessment, or ONA. This is an NA process done very early in working with a client and it is focused at the highest levels of management. We need to educate our client in terms of the relatively new field of language training in the workplace - for improved job performance. There will be program design issues to address, co-worker issues, productivity issues, etc., etc. This helps to establish our credibility that we know what we are doing, because we know what issues are going to come up and that they should be dealt with from the beginning. And that they have to be dealt with by top management.

If you pull our target population off the floor for English training for 1 hour a day on company time, for example, less work will be done. Who picks up the slack? Can you realistically ask co-workers to cover things and work harder? What if they get resentful and start advocating for preferential training of their own too? So, we are into the need for policy decisions right away. And upper management has to make these policy decisions and set them, and get cooperation from line managers down the organizational structure. It works much better going down from the outset, than trying to push it up from the bottom later on.

And what if the Training Dept, or Human Resources, or wherever else the language program is going to be housed, makes a program design decision that runs counter to good language training principles. I was once asked to do a language training program for a cruise line. The program would last 6 weeks - with only 1 hour of training per week - that is, 6 total hours of training. Okay, I trust you all can fill in the reason for multiple gasps…!! So, no, I do not accept the decision of the Training Dept. in this case. In corporate language training, I always say, "Know when to lead and when to learn." We language types have a great deal to learn from corporations, but we also must see ourselves as equal professionals at the table and lead when it is professionally responsible to do so.

The ONA is also extremely important for achieving buy-in at top management levels. If there are going to be so many issues to deal with, is the whole program going to be worth the hassles? Here is where we can be very convincing with cost-benefit analysis (CBA) and return on investment (ROI) data. Although I have just been doing CBA and ROI since 1999, my experience has been that a workplace language training program almost always brings a positive result in CBA/ ROI. Thus, any manager who can do basic math sees that it makes no sense to keep wasting corporate money, when much less of an investment in language training will stop or reduce the money they are losing now from job performance limited by low English proficiency levels.

So, ONA, done when it should be, at the outset, can really help a program get off on sound footing. Conversely, I have found that many times when I am called in to evaluate or help fix a program, a major step that was never done in setting up the program and making subsequent program decisions was an ONA. What you don't take care of at the beginning is very likely going to show up and bite you in the backside later. So, there are all sorts of issues (messes) to address after the fact - when it is harder to undo things. And, lest we forget our ultimate focus, the learners have most likely been the most impacted and the most hurt.
So, the point here is that the Best Practices, such as one of them known as ONA, can really help us if we use them upfront. On the other hand, when we are called in after the fact, we can also use the BP to diagnose why something may be going wrong. Thus, the BPs are also useful for figuring out how to fix things later. The Best Practices represent both a guiding principle to help keep from skinning your knees to start with. But, if you find that a client's program has a good case of skinned knees when you get onsite, the Best Practices can also be applied in practical ways to diagnose what the program didn't do - what they left out in the process of getting set up well. So, the BPs can be useful as a comprehensive checklist to get set up well - or a comprehensive checklist to diagnose why things aren't working well after the program has gotten set up. So, they represent both a guiding principle and a practical application.

Further, I have also found that I really need to check the comprehensive list of BPs. When I might be tempted to skip over something, I think a little longer and realize that there is likely some dimension of each BP that is relevant to include when I am either planning a program from the outset or reviewing a program that has run into trouble. For example, I have dealt with a few programs that have been set up internally within a company. At first, I thought I would not need to deal with the BP of Marketing. I didn't have to come knocking on the company door to "sell" the program. It was already "sold" and in operation. What I have now learned to look at, though, is *internal* marketing. Who, internally, had to be sold to put the program in the budget? How did they get convinced? Is this persuasion based on sound knowledge of EOP program principles? What are we going to have to do to keep the program funded? Etc., etc. So, what I have learned for this BP is that, while I may not have to address external marketing, I sure as heck better address internal marketing. So the Best Practices give me pause for not missing something important I might not otherwise have thought about.
Okay, enough for one posting.

I would be interested in feedback as to whether more elaboration on any of the above - or any other EOP applications of the Best Practices - is of interest to the group. For any of you working with corporations, or workplace organizations of any type, please let me know what issues you have run into in your work.

And don't forget to let us know of other ESL-to-ESP topics that haven't been covered, which you would like to see addressed. Thanks.
Signing off for now.

Best wishes to all,


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