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Teaching English for Specific Purposes: A no man's land area of activity: Investigating ESP courses administered in Iranian Universities

Abbass Eslami Rasekh

Assistant Professor

Department of English Language and Literature

University of Isfahan

abbasseslamirasekh@yahoo.com

Shahla Simin

Ph.D Candidate

Department of English Language and Literature

University of Isfahan

shahlasimin@yahoo.com

Abstract

Teaching English for Specific Purposes (TESP) is a fairly recent development in EFL; it is a language course with a needs oriented approach to TEFL responding to future job or study needs rather than general interest. The teaching of such courses requires an interest in the specialist area and flexibility needed in transferring from TEFL to EAP. To develop and administer a course of ESP/EAP, the researcher teacher often has to have a variety of skills: choice of appropriate materials, evaluation procedures, syllabus and a suitable methodology good for managing learning strategies, promoting practice, and conveniently shaping the input to the EAP courses. The EAP administered in Iran for various university students majoring in various courses are designed either parallel to their professional studies (called in-study courses of EAP) or for post-study students (advanced EAP courses for MA and PhD students), the content of which is based on students' future study requirements (e.g. note taking from books and lectures, answering exam questions for the training course, reading, and writing, etc.). Since EAP courses are to be administered repeatedly for groups of students who have the same needs and approximately the same proficiency level, research with the goal of discovering whose area of activity teaching such courses is, seems to be an inevitable research issue in Iran, calling for inquiry. The fact is that both content teachers and English teachers share in their common knowledge of English, but the knowledge of the subject is unique to the subject teacher and the knowledge of pedagogy is to EFL teacher.

Subject teachers at present teach true EAP courses designed for students in every specific major of study and EFL teachers from English departments currently teach semi-EAP courses designed for students in five major divisions of science: social, medical, pure, educational and engineering sciences, This study is an investigation into the problem of which group of teachers, subject or EFL, are entitled to do the true EAP teaching, by first evaluating the quality of the EAP courses currently presented. The work is undertaken to a) describe the shortcomings of the present EAP administration based on a survey using questionnaires presented to both current and past students, EFL teachers, and subject lecturers; the aim is seeking information for the state of affairs of the currently administered EAP courses. Structured interview is used for developing enlightening lines of inquiry with both students and subject as well as language lecturers. The collected data are analysed statistically to display the present situation of the work. The same method of data collection is used for collecting relevant information and opinions regarding the function of methodology, syllabus, and effective materials accurately prepared based on a proper analysis of the needs of the students. Finally, having examined the gap between the present situation and needs analysis data, possible solutions are introduced based on previous research contributions. The questions used for the solution phase will address issues related to the dilemma: a) relegating the job to EFL departments, b) using team teaching, and c) using collaborative teaching programs through the involvement of both subject and EFL teachers. The descriptive method of data analysis and the qualitative analysis of the interview data reveal: a) there are shortcomings in the present EAP administration which call for improvement, b) collaborative teaching will not only result in the production of good quality materials with regards to both conceptual content and language, but also bear teaching outcome that removes the problems resulting from the absence of pedagogical expertise.

Key words: ESP, TEFL, EAP, needs analysis, syllabus design, methodology, materials preparation.

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