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ESP and why it’s not: learner motivation, teacher competence, and indigenous assessment criteria

  1. ESP and why it’s not: learner motivation, teacher competence, and indigenous assessment criteria Shona Whyte BCL, CNRS, Université Côte d’Azur (Nice, France) Valorizing practice: grounded histories of language learning and teaching Bremen 15 November 20191
  2. Language learning and teaching for what? • modern foreign language studies as a gateway to cultural enrichment • languages (English) for specific purposes for access to international science or commerce • general language (English) certification as a basic skill 2 Valorizing practice Bremen 15 /11/2019
  3. ESP and TENOR (Abbott 1980) • modern language studies as a gateway to cultural enrichment • English for Specific Purposes: ESP for academic or occupational purposes • Teaching English for No Obvious Reason as a compulsory subject 3 Valorizing practice Bremen 15 /11/2019 @neil_mcm
  4. outline i ESP and TENOR ii learner motivation iii teacher competence iv assessment criteria 4 Valorizing practice Bremen 15 /11/2019
  5. outline i ESP and TENOR ii learner motivation iii teacher competence iv assessment criteria 5 Valorizing practice Bremen 15 /11/2019
  6. an English controversy 6 Valorizing practice Bremen 15 /11/2019
  7. a little light mud-slinging 7 Valorizing practice Bremen 15 /11/2019 ESP practitioners tend to become partisan and dogmatic about particular issues in ESP I know of at least three applied linguists of high repute who have also been known to exhibit naïve notions based on inadequate teaching experience Kennedy (1980) Abbott (1980)
  8. Fundamental problems in ESP Chris Kennedy 8 Valorizing practice Bremen 15 /11/2019 whyte@unice.fr Valorizing practice Bremen 15 /11/2019 ESP and TENOR Gerry Abbott
  9. Gerry Abbott • 1935-2019 • University of Manchester (1965-1992) and British Council in Amman, Uganda, Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar (Beaumont 2019) • The Teaching of English as an International Language (Abbott & Wingard 1981) • articles in ELT Journal, English Today, System; PhD by publication • a socialist and a humanist, wrote poetry and autobiography • outsider, contrarian stance in ELT My own view of good teaching is that it is a subversive activity, in that it actually fosters the questioning and challenging of authority Abbott (2003) Valorizing practice Bremen 15 /11/2019 9
  10. Chris Kennedy • taught overseas with the British Council • combined lecturing in ELT and applied linguistics in the UK with international secondments • directed the Centre for English Language Studies at the University of Birmingham, full professor • president of IATEFL (1991-93) and chair of the British Council's English Teaching Advisory Committee. • publications in ESP, and ELT, often in terms of change management or innovation. 10 ESP has already made a valuable contribution to ELT theory and practice. It is a creative force which has effected a rewarding amount of research and innovation in syllabus and materials design, and which will continue to play an important role in second language learning and teaching. Kennedy 1980 Valorizing practice Bremen 15 /11/2019
  11. 11 ESP is not so scientifically rigorous as its proponents claim, and it is ethically questionable to reduce teaching goals to meeting the perceived needs of the market or workplace some of ESP's champions in applied linguistics lack the pedagogical credentials to command respect among teachers, while the return on ongoing teacher investment in materials development is not guaranteed the actual needs and motivation of ESP learners may not be reducible to practical short-term goals and many learners around the world fall outside its rather narrow confines Gerry Abbott
  12. a grounded history of ESP • debate over learner needs and motivation • language teacher concerns in materials development, and content expertise • tensions between theorists (applied linguists) and practitioners • conflict between language policies and educational values • issues of ESP assessment 12 Valorizing practice Bremen 15 /11/2019
  13. outline i ESP and TENOR ii learner motivation iii teacher competence iv assessment criteria 13 Valorizing practice Bremen 15 /11/2019
  14. Learner motivation, communicative competence and LSP • “What people want to do through language is more important than mastery of language as an unapplied system” (Wilkins 1972) • ESP “should focus on the learner and the purposes for which he requires the target language, and the whole language programme follows from that” (Munby 1978: 2) • “Perhaps the current interest in teaching language for ‘special purposes’ may eventually reveal the challenge to curriculum designers: that all learners regard themselves as learning a language for some special purpose” (Breen & Candlin 1980) • "if there is a need, it should be satisfied" (Kennedy 1980) 14
  15. Dimensions of communicative competence (Hymes 1972) 15 COMMUNICATIVE COMPETENCE PERFORMANCE Knowledge Ability for use Actual use & events 1 What is possible Systemic possibility “GrammaKcality” (in terms of syntax but also culture, communicaKon) •MoKvaKon •AffecKve & voliKve factors •CapaciKes in interacKon (e.g., composure, presence of mind, stage confidence) •Behavioural record •Imperfect or parKal realizaKon of individual competence •InteracKon between individual competence, competence of others, and properKes of events 2 What is feasible PsycholinguisKc reality Constraints on memory, percepKon 3 What is appropriate SituaKonal judgement Acceptability in context 4 What is performed Actual occurrences
  16. Communicative competence in LSP (Whyte 2019) 16 Knowledge Strategies for use linguis1c comprehension grammar discourse organisaKon expression vocabulary argumentaKon intelligibility pronunciaKon delivery fluency pragma1c appropriateness interacKon management accommodaKon engagement empathy content scienKfic performance demeanor occupaKonal non-verbal behaviour professional overall impression
  17. Fundamental problems (Abbott 1980) • externally defined needs "may not be very strongly felt by the learner" • students may have a different motivation (oral communication or 'Social English'), or indeed no immediate instrumental motivation • learners may show little enthusiasm for their own subjects, meaning a related ESP course will share in this aversion: "if the subject is for any reason 'unwanted,' the language tends to be 'unwanted' too" 17
  18. Abbott’s Paradox (Abbott 1981) • Proponents of communicative methods often say or imply that it is not very respectable to get your class to do oral drills, which are condemned as ‘meaningless,’ ‘boring,’ or uncommunicative • In a monolingual group, the greater the wish to communicate orally, the greater the urge to abandon English and use the mother tongue • in a multilingual group, the greater the wish to communicate, the greater the use of ‘stem-form’ English [or] ‘interlanguage pidgin’ • Are drills really so useless? Granted that they are not sufficient, are they not necessary as a preparation for acts of communication? 18
  19. outline i ESP and TENOR ii learner motivation iii teacher competence iv assessment criteria 19 Valorizing practice Bremen 15 /11/2019
  20. Teacher competence • “since we are inviting the learner, directly or indirectly, to recognize the linguistic components of the language behavior he is acquiring, we are in effect basing our approach on the learner’s analytic capabilities” (Wilkins 1976) • EFL teachers have traditionally relied on intuition and eclectic approaches and should continue to do so (Kennedy 1980) • ESP teachers include "retrained" scientists and others who "willingly re-educate" and/or collaborate with subject- specialist teachers (Kennedy 1980) 20
  21. ESP problems (Abbott 1978,1980) • “the preparation of tailor-made "ESP materials for 'one-off' purposes" is tiring for teachers, without necessarily resulting in attractive activities for learners” • problem of “level of knowledge of a specific subject (or occupation)" and the heterogenous classes they are expected to teach. Unreasonable "to demand that every ESP teacher be a polymath" • “I would just like everyone involved in the ESP industry to be more ready to admit that its processes are full of uncertainties, and to be less prone to constructing pseudo-scientific justifications” 21
  22. EFL as education (Abbott 1987) • “efforts in Europe towards establishing systematic ways of providing language instruction for specific purposes (LSP) have influenced our ideas about syllabus specification quite profoundly - perhaps too profoundly” • “the new methods and materials currently advocated tend to assume more favourable conditions (e.g. smallish classes) and facilities (e.g. access to a photocopier) than actually obtain in most secondary schools “ • “education must not be allowed to become a mere governmental training-ground for the work-force it thinks it needs.” • proposals to adapt fledgling CEFR (van Ek 1976) by focusing on content and including monologue 22
  23. outline i ESP and TENOR ii learner motivation iii teacher competence iv assessment criteria 23 Valorizing practice Bremen 15 /11/2019
  24. LSP Testing • high-stakes tests (gatekeeping - Fulcher 2013): physicists, students (EAP), veterinarians, medical doctors, airline pilots • performance tests: content, method, assessment criteria • inclusion of indigenous criteria (= views of occupational experts, non- language specialists, linguistic laypersons) • use of actual examples of test performance and thematic coding of commentary • Elder, McNamara, Kim, Pill & Sato 2017, Douglas 2001 24 Valorizing practice Bremen 15 /11/2019
  25. physics conference presentation problem characterise academic talk involving L1 and L2 speakers participants academics, researchers, graduate students at lab meetings method observation, conversation analysis, grounded theory for categorisation findings ➤ focus entirely on content: effective presentation of scientific material ➤ no attention to L1 or L2 speech Jacoby 1999, Jacoby & McNamara, 1999 25 Valorizing practice Bremen 15 /11/2019
  26. problem hypothesised mismatch between linguist and lay interpretations of oral competence participants lay judges of Chinese College English Test- Spoken English Test (monologue) and Cambridge English (paired interaction) method thematic coding findings ➤ discrepancies between lay and language testers’ criteria ➤ overall impression + content (1/3 grade); linguistic resources (1/10) English for academic purposes Sato 2014, Elder et al. 2017 26 Valorizing practice Bremen 15 /11/2019
  27. problem evaluate special Rural and General Practice option in veterinary programme via Individual Process Assessment (role-play) participants veterinary professionals, veterinary students, applied linguists method comparison of categories across three groups findings ➤ veterinary experts used most explicit and widest range of categories ➤ applied linguist and student views differed Veterinary consultation Douglas & Myers, 2000 27 Valorizing practice Bremen 15 /11/2019
  28. problem Overseas English Test failed to identify proficient International Medical Graduates participants medical professionals method comparison of indigenous criteria with language testing specialists findings ➤ discrepancies between doctor and linguist criteria ➤ revision of test to include new categories and delete irrelevant rubrics medical consultation Pill 2013, Elder et al. 2017 28 Valorizing practice Bremen 15 /11/2019
  29. problem Korean English Proficiency Test for Aviation perceived as poor indicator of professional competence participants pilots and air traffic controllers method professionals’ feedback on recordings of abnormal/emergency/distress situations findings ➤ discrepancies between pilot and language test criteria ➤ communication errors by both L1 and L2 speakers PIlot-traffic controller exchange Kim 2012, Kim & Billington 2016, Clark 2017, Elder et al. 2017 29 Valorizing practice Bremen 15 /11/2019
  30. 30 Content specialists (including average speakers who are not linguists) are generally able to agree on what constitutes effective communication in a specific domain and how to evaluate particular speakers. They generally do so with little reference to particular formal linguistic features, suggesting that they may be intuitively working with a broader model of communicative competence. Whyte (2019)
  31. Some conclusions • learner motivation is often nebulous and fluctuating; ESP often imposes external goals dictated by needs of industry or commerce • teacher competence in own contexts goes beyond intended curricula in pedagogical technique but also learner needs/benefits • assessment criteria developed by ESP teachers and testers don’t meet real-world requirements; content specialists employ a broader understanding of communicative competence 31
  32. ESP and why it’s not: learner motivation, teacher competence, and indigenous assessment criteria Shona Whyte Université Côte d’Azur 
 (Nice, France) Valorizing practice: grounded histories of language learning and teaching AILA research network HoLLT Bremen, Germany 
 November 2019 Photo by Filip Zrnzević on Unsplash 32 Valorizing practice Bremen 15 /11/2019