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- EAP Outcomes, Instruction and Future Directions at the University Level in Korea
EAP Outcomes, Instruction and Future Directions at the University Level in Korea
Richard Prasad is an Assistant Professor in Seoul, South Korea. Email: email@example.com
Chris Kobylinski is an Associate Professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul, South Korea. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This paper is a follow up to a previous study that examined how English for Academic Purposes (EAP) is being instructed in South Korean universities. This paper gives an overview on how English for General Academic Purposes (EGAP) courses are being delivered at two universities, examining the rationale for such courses, teaching methodologies, and outcomes, and how these can be applied to the needs of students. It also introduces a proposed progression from EGAP to a more skills-specific English for Specific Academic Purposes (ESAP) for science and engineering students. While limitations and barriers still exist, suggestions for future research into outcomes, methodologies, and resource development to facilitate EGAP and ESAP are offered,
The Context of EAP
It is important to understand what EAP is and how it fits into ELT (English Language Teaching) before we explore why EAP is needed and how EAP courses can be designed and taught. Gillet stated that EAP “refers to the language and associated practices that people need in order to undertake study or work in English medium higher education” (2011). EAP developed out of ESP (English for Specific Purposes) and shares some shared goals with CLT (Communicative Language Teaching). The basis of CLT and EAP is a goal of communicative competence (Richards, 2006; Savignon, 2007), but the setting and the purpose of this competence differs. For EAP, the communication takes place through academic discourse in disciplines of study, and has different expectations and conventions (eg. Hyland 2018, 2006). Both CLT and EAP hare a broad focus of language function over form, but they emphasize different language functions and for different purposes; EAP focuses on “communication practices [that] reflect different, disciplinary-oriented ways of constructing knowledge and engaging in academic study” (Hyland, 2018).
EAP itself is split into two very different categories. EAP can be split into two branches, English for General Academic Purposes (EGAP) and English for Specific Academic Purposes (ESAP). EGAP, also known as a common-core approach, “involves the acquisition of general academic language, as well as study skills including strategies for reading, writing, speaking and listening effectively’ (Anderson, 2014). ESAP, on the other hand, is “referred to as a subject-specific approach … focus[ing] the learners on language skills specific to a particular subject of study” and utilizing authentic texts and discourse (Anderson, 2014). Furthermore, the distinction between EGAP and English for Specific Academic Purposes (ESAP) lies in the greater emphasis ESAP places on instruction of format, move analysis and language elements for discipline-specific texts, such as research articles for publication. This is part of the broader goal of EAP instruction, to assist learners in becoming critical practitioners of the discourse within their chosen fields (Hyland, 2015).
EAP uses a variety of methods and techniques to illicit academic responses and encourage learners to critically engage with content in their fields, in both skills instruction and strategies. Some of these methods and techniques can be used by both the students and teachers. As Green (2015) pointed out, the idea of “hugging” (emulation) and “bridging” (transfer) were originally intended as strategies for students to employ in this process, but in effect these strategies can be utilized in instructional approaches. He cited student responses to instructional practices facilitating critical thinking and analysis, and their perceptions of how these could be applied in their own fields. Both he and Wilson (2016) cited the value of such approaches in critical reading; Wilson further cited the value of this in helping learners develop “a more intense engagement with the content of their reading– an indication of a developing critical disposition.” In the case of writing instruction, modelling of texts has perhaps the most potential as an instructional focus, through the blending of explicit instruction with student-led collaborative analysis. Wette (2014) describes how the process of modelling where “whole-class collaborations … produced jointly constructed texts, and facilitated cooperative pair or group composing and editing activities” led to greater learner understanding of the expectations of specific text types, and autonomy in the production of these texts. This is supported by Wingate (2012), who identifies the effectiveness of student models as subjects of analysis, employed in “genre-based literacy pedagogy … using the cycle of deconstruction, joint construction and independent construction.” These fundamentals of instruction emphasize engagement and critical thinking of tasks in the EAP classroom, and also lead towards an important distinction for EAP as it applies these methods to more discipline-specific content and sources.
For ESAP, with its objective to help learners meet the diverse discourse needs of various fields, the breadth and depth of research in the areas can be extended to important principles and practices in writing instruction. From Swales’ (1990) initial description of genre-based writing pedagogy, this type of instruction has been applied to the analysis of various text types and instruction in their production, with emphasis on the “importance of collaboration, or peer interaction, and scaffolding, or teacher-supported learning” (Hyland, 2007). This has been extended to the teaching of writing in the sciences, beginning with Stewart (1991) initially citing “the teaching of explicitly structured writing (e.g., report-writing) [as] important not only as a means of teaching students how to express and present information effectively…[but] also [as] a means of facilitating the development of scientific thinking”, and reiterated by researchers like Winberg (2010).
Swales’ (2004) Create a Research Space (CaRS) model for analyzing introductions to research articles in the social sciences has become the model for more refined approaches of scaffolding instruction. The emphasis on research articles and their moves and discourse patterns is the focus of much research on writing instruction in the soft sciences, but the extension of such examinations to research articles in engineering is less common. A move analysis of engineering research papers (Maswana, 2015), has been complemented more recently by Flowerdew (2016), who presents the value of a combined genre-based and lexico-grammatical analysis approach, where learners “match lexico-grammatical patterning to specific move structures” in samples of grant applications in the sciences. Previously, Flowerdew discussed using corpus-linguistics to facilitate ‘identifying useful lexico-grammatical patterns for particular rhetorical functions” (2015) for discussion sections, and Bakhtiarvand et al. (2019) cited the value of genre-based instruction for writing abstracts. But there remains little research into applying the CaRs model to writing introductions for articles in the hard sciences, as discussed by Khaw & Tan (2018) in their adaptation of the CaRS model. Overall, the knowledge of genre and specific rhetorical moves provides the basis for learners to produce such moves in their own writing, and thus represents an important area of development in EAP instruction.
In the Korean context, many tertiary level institutions have transitioned away from CLT-based courses in favor of courses that are labelled as EAP. Not only is it a shift of context and approaches, it is also a shift into a muddled debate over what the goals and outcomes should be. The stated objectives of tertiary-level EAP courses in Korea are to “address … the students’ more specific needs”, including academic achievement, and “to reflect students’ needs related to their majors and future jobs” (Lee 2014). However, it has been argued that university administrators have sought to change many English programs because of government evaluations and rankings (Lee, 2014) and this transition hasn’t always been seamless.
This paper examines the situation in two different universities in South Korea. The programs of both universities are designed to teach EAP classes to undergraduate students that are non-English majors. While on paper, both situations would seem to be similar, they are in fact very different and are so because of a myriad of issues.
University A offers a course titled Communicative English, that despite its name is meant to be an EAP course. Incoming first year students who don’t major in English are level tested and divided based on their scores. The courses are divided into three levels. While three levels are offered, only the bottom two levels are mandatory courses. Students that score high enough to be in the highest level, can choose to take Communicative English or to take another language or elective.
Communicative English is a five-skills course that focuses on listening and speaking in the first semester and reading and writing during the second semester. The classes are capped at 30 students and most classes at the start of the semester are full. Students are allowed to pick their class at their level, and this means that classes are made of students studying various majors. While teachers are given some autonomy over course objectives and curriculum design, there is a prescribed textbook that must be used.
University B offers a single required course called Professional Academic English (PAE) as its English Communication requirement, which also falls into the category of an EAP course. It is described as an Academic Writing and Speaking course, with the objective of helping students develop proficiency in English as it relates to their majors, to assist with their academic and professional futures. It usually targets undergraduate students in second year and above, with exceptions made for first year students from certain Engineering departments. Eligibility for these classes is based on the initial English entrance exam, for all but the bottom 20% of scorers. Each university department can reserve classes exclusively for their own majors, and class size is limited to 20, and classes are often at capacity after the initial registration period. In reality, classes may also end up with a mix of majors, and sometimes far smaller than capacity. Curriculum, outcomes and assessment are standardized, and a specially published in-house textbook is used as the primary resource.
Course Objectives & Outcomes at University A
As previously stated, the course objectives and outcomes of the EAP course at university A are determined by the instructor, yet guided by the school. The course is designed to prepare students to study in an English-speaking environment. Also, the course should have a midterm and final assessment and the teacher must use the prescribed text book. Beyond that, the individual teachers, have the ability to design the curriculum and assessments. While this sounds like the teacher has a lot of flexibility, there are many limiting factors that force teachers into designing an EGAP course. Since there is some degree of teacher autonomy at university A, this section will focus on the class the author teaches, and might not be reflective of other Communicative English courses at the same university
First, because the classes are made up of students from various majors, the class must focus on general academic vocabulary, structures and topics and not specific ones. This is reinforced by the prescribed text book which provides the teacher with general topics, general academic vocabulary, and general language skills. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it doesn’t always prepare the students for the topics they will cover or the skills that they will need in their future courses.
During the first semester, the main focus is on listening and speaking skills. Each chapter in the book provides the students with authentic listening tasks in the form of broadcasts and conversations. In order to better prepare the students for authentic listening activities that students might face in the classroom or on standardized test, other listening activities are supplemented into the course. These activities include a guest speaker, short lectures, and listening activities that are found on standardized tests. While these activities are often more difficult than those in the book, they offer students a chance to experience things that they will hear in an academic setting.
The text book provides a variety of speaking opportunities in the form of debates and presentations, and these are altered to meet the needs of the students. While the listening tasks in the book are often too easy, the speaking tasks are often too difficult and time consuming for the student and the course. In order to better meet the needs of the students and to provide them with ample time to improve their public speaking, they don’t do a debate or presentation at the end of every chapter like the book suggests. Instead, the speaking activities are scaffolded and modeled at first. Also, the length of the speaking tasks is reduced and the tasks are usually performed in front of partner or small group instead of the whole class. It isn’t until after the midterm that students are expected to be able to speak for an extended length in front of an audience. This approach has been adopted, because many of the students aren’t accustomed to presenting in their own language to large groups and most aren’t familiar with any presentation skills.
During the second semester, the course focuses on reading and writing. Very little modification is done to the reading tasks in the book, because they are very appropriate and beneficial. In addition, the book also does a very good job of teaching different reading skills and offers students a variety of reading comprehension and discussion questions, that prepare them for standardized tests and future classes.
While the reading is very appropriate, the writing tasks are not. It expects students to already know how to write an essay and glosses over many important skills and structures. In order to better suit the needs of students, various writing models are given and students are taught some very basic concepts that most aren’t aware of. The course begins with email writing and ends with an essay. This is divergent from the book which starts with an essay and continues on with various types of essays. One limiting factor with this course is because students are from various majors, most of the writing assignments are general, and might not be what they will face in the future. In order offset this problem, the course focuses on supporting opinions with details, the importance of writing quality paragraphs, and the emphasis on avoiding plagiarism. The logic behind this is that if the course can’t prepare the student for the exact assignments that they might receive, that it should attempt to give them the tools needed to tackle those future assignments.
Course Objectives & Outcomes at University B
If one considers that English for General Academic Purposes (EGAP) instruction is the focus on skills that are transferrable across disciplines, the EAP courses at University B represent a different approach. These courses rely on student knowledge and interest in topics from their fields, and take this concept of transferring skills that are practiced in class and asks students to apply them to content related to their major in course outcomes. This is a departure from the more typical formats of EAP courses at most Korean universities, where content (usually from textbooks) is used only as a basis for instructing skills, but also sometimes does not directly relate to students’ areas of study. This is also related to another key distinguishing feature of the courses at University B: the use of student models to demonstrate target outcomes. These are presented for analysis and used to illustrate target skills, such as the use of research and citations to develop and support ideas in both writing and speaking. The following paragraphs will outline how the teaching approaches to these courses can help students develop their ability to independently transfer these skills to coursework in their fields, and how these may be refined in the future as EGAP evolves into English for Specific Academic Purposes (ESAP), ie. discipline-specific instruction (and use of content) in the development of academic communicative competency.
The EGAP courses at University B have 3 standardized outcomes, selected because of their commonality to most disciplines: a problem-solution essay and presentation, and a compare-contrast presentation (usually done in teams.) It should be noted that these assessments are themselves not specific to a particular discipline, but they offer suitable frameworks for the academic writing and speaking skills that form the primary focus of the course, including expectations in an English-speaking academic environment on format, language elements and content, and appropriate research and referencing. The basis of instructional approaches is to demonstrate skills through the use of analysis of student models, providing a framework which students can emulate in assessments for this course, and transfer the skills acquired to similar tasks in their own major.
As an example of an instructional approach that has been utilized for writing, following the analysis of a student model essay, activities such as supplying missing elements in a paragraph, modeling the outline of a “problem” and “solution” paragraph, and using a mainstream source to demonstrate how to utilize research in planning and outlining an essay are employed. These steps collectively represent a transition from “hugging” to “bridging”, both in terms of instructor input and student products (Green, 2014). Explicit instruction in language elements, structuring topic and concluding sentences and outlining paragraphs can be utilized by students in collaboratively produced outlines of their own, based on a selected topic (Wette, 2012). Similar approaches are used in the analysis of presentation scripts; again, using a student-produced model, a “map” of the presentation is created and used to demonstrate how main ideas were illustrated and supported, as well as critical assessment on how well this was done. This is reinforced by the instruction of language elements to support specific functions in presentations and collaborative planning and practice of these elements. In turn, this is extended to the practice of portions of academic presentations, using selected topics. For the essay and presentations, which are on student selected topics related to their majors, a scaffolded outline and checklist are used to ensure students monitor and assess their own content and organization. These approaches can be refined though the design of tasks at each stage, from demonstration to emulation, and a greater emphasis on fostering and assessing student engagement and perceptions of these approaches.
From General to Discipline-Specific
As mentioned, the 3 assessments for the EGAP courses described above were chosen because of their applicability to a broad range of disciplines, but they remain a foundational step for the practice and acquisition of skills, which students would be expected to apply to the specific needs of their fields. In order to make the transition to connect such courses to the communicative expectations in particular fields, an EGAP course would need to be designed around tasks and expectations from those fields, and formal assessments would need to reproduce discourse in those fields. A variation of this EGAP course catering to electronic engineering students is also offered at University B, where assessments are modified to reflect disciplinary expectations, thus representing a rare case of an EAP course that ties directly to disciplinary, and by extension, student needs. As before, little by way of content from that engineering field is introduced, apart from student models for analysis; students are asked to bring ideas based on their knowledge of content from their studies. However, the basis of the course, a technical proposal for a specific problem and final assessed outcomes related to this, have been identified as relevant by the department, and specified as a priority for their students.
Specifically, formal assessments include both explanations of technical processes and the identification of a particular issue and how it can be addressed – these are both elements of technical proposals, and are introduced and instructed in sequence. Students are asked to develop and research a technical solution for an issue of interest they identify, and first define and explain the technological basis of their idea, and then present this technical solution in the context of a short technical proposal. In explaining technical processes, students are tasked with both descriptive and process writing and speaking; the identification of a “problem” and “solution” is persuasive writing and speaking.
For the purposes of this course, assessments and instruction are divided on this basis - explicit instruction in writing technical definitions and describing processes are including in writing instruction prior to the first written and spoken assessment, including a model for and practice with descriptions of mechanisms, processes, and composing extended technical definitions, with associated language forms. Writing technical arguments is then emphasized in the second major assessment, producing a short technical proposal (which includes the context and issue to be addressed, as well as a persuasive discussion of the solution.) In terms of specific language skills and elements used in developing technical arguments, the course utilizes a step-by-step method illustrating how to develop main claims and identify, evaluate and utilize evidence to support this position. It should be noted that the format of a technical proposal is introduced in general terms, with the emphasis being on students developing proficiency in the writing skills mentioned above. In both written and spoken assignments, appropriate referencing and citing of sources is instructed and is part of evaluation.
Where this course could be developed further is in the use of examples of target texts for analysis, both formal as well as student models. The format of a technical proposal is a commonly used model for writing instruction, and a critical analysis of the descriptive and/or process and persuasive elements of an example text, as suggested in Winberg et.al (2010) provides an important foundation for development of student proposals. On a practical level, this course is intended for first-year engineering students; many students possess only limited knowledge of their fields. But given the chance to explore topics and resources, many are able to dig deeper into areas of interest. In order to assist with this, instructors need to be familiar with such topics and engineering-related resources, and possibly would also be required to select short example readings on these topics – the benefits of this for helping students access content through reading was outlined in Procaro (2013). This element of Content-based Instruction (CBI) is perhaps the most challenging role for an EAP instructor, requiring the identification and analysis of example texts that can illustrate particular features for instruction.
This course is modelled on existing engineering communication courses abroad, in Western and Asian English-speaking countries. In this sense, it shows how the future direction of EAP instruction at Korean universities can be tied to the discourse needs of particular disciplines, and also indicate areas for future development.
The Future: English for Specific Academic Purposes Course Proposal
The principle of greater specificity in outcomes and content necessitates instruction of content to certain extent, with attendant discipline-specific language – here is where a distinction arises between EGAP courses, described above, and ESAP courses. In order to provide a more discipline-specific academic writing course for science and engineering undergraduate students, with the objective of introducing formal research writing, a course currently under development at University B aims to use example texts as models for the instruction for research analysis and synthesis, and explicit instruction on the writing of specific sections of research articles. Based on a previous course offered at University B for engineering students from English-as-medium-of-instruction countries, the outcomes for this course would be a research article summary with an accompanying oral presentation on data description, and the use of a research synthesis matrix which would serve as the basis for an introduction section (including a literature review) of a proposed research topic.
The course requires students to identify an area of interest they would research (ideally collaboratively). The sequence of this course would involve collaborative exercises in brainstorming and narrowing a research topic, an introduction to the format and functions of each section of research articles, as well as the use of example articles to illustrate principles of summarizing and frameworks of analysis. Once brainstorming a possible topic and the identification of a preliminary research question has been done, students will be asked to begin assembling research on their topics. The initial assessment would require written and oral summary of an article related to these selected topics. Summarizing a research article has been specifically mentioned by faculty across various disciplines at University B as a requirement in upper year courses (done in Korean, most of the students’ first language) – including a description of data. In addition to an example text, explicit instruction in features of summaries and language used in describing data will be used to facilitate development of this competency.
This leads to the next major assessment of the course: using a research matrix and writing the introduction for a proposed research article using research collected by students. The research matrix will be employed as a tool for critical assessment of the research collected – this is intended to foster critical and analytical thinking, and various strategies for organizing this research into an outline for an introduction will be explored. Instruction on the structure and content of an introduction will be based on selected example texts to illustrate how a research topic is framed, and how sources are utilized to outline and justify a research question, followed by using Swales’ CARS model and move-step analysis as a framework for writing (Swales, 2004), adapting it in a way similar to the problem-solution patterns discussed by Khaw & Tan (2019). Because formats of research articles differ widely even across sub-disciplines of fields like engineering (Maswana, 2015), the course will target general principles of organization but also illustrate more specific language elements to accomplish certain functions in text. The main outcome, producing an introduction, reflects the intended purpose of the course, namely focusing on how research can be organized and used to outline a particular research topic. In order to provide student models as examples for analysis, previous work submitted by students may also be used. Overall, this course is very much a pilot project, as it requires significant new skills instruction in English to EFL learners, as well as the development of resources and teaching methods to illustrate the skills and process of developing ideas to produce this higher level academic writing.
Although teachers in the program at university A would like to make changes, they are limited by the administration. If the classes continue to be 30 students from various majors and if they are required to use a prescribed text book, they must continue to teach an EGAP course. The best that they can do is to continue to do needs analysis and to adjust the course to best meet the general needs of students.
The current and proposed courses at University B rely on student-selected topics for the major assessments, which can prove to be difficult for lower-year students. For the variation of the EGAP course described above, the requirement of a suitable topic for a technical proposal may require monitoring. In the case of the proposed ESAP course, its reliance on topics and content from specific disciplines poses an obstacle in the selection of example texts. These can be addressed through the creation of a database of possible topics, ideally done in collaboration with faculty in those disciplines, with accompanying sources with basic descriptions of topics. Of greater concern are administrative obstacles and resistance of discipline faculty to collaboration with EAP instructors.
These two cases demonstrate the variation of rationales and outcomes as Korean universities focus on EAP-based courses as the new mainstay of their EFL programs. Regarding the objectives of tertiary-level EAP courses in Korea, the importance of recognizing the needs of the students is paramount, yet remains underprioritized and underexplored by universities. In attempting to meet these needs, EAP practitioners will be challenged to further adapt and refine their approaches in the classroom, whether in the teaching of skills for transfer or explicitly instructing the format and expectations of more specific discourse and communication. Developing resources and refining teaching approaches in the broad structure of genres like technical reports and the specific moves and language elements in specific sections of research articles are avenues for future development. The potential avenues to develop EAP instruction in the engineering fields in particular reflect expectations of similar courses in other countries, but developing teaching approaches and the process of adapting resources to accomplish this in an EFL environment require innovative re-imaginings of genre-based pedagogy, and pose key challenges for EAP practitioners at the tertiary level in Korea in the future.
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