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ESAP courses: An innovative vista in language learning.
From needs analysis to evaluation

Stavroulla Hadjiconstantinou                        Eleni Nikiforou          

Abstract

High competence in languages is a priority for professionals in the European Union (Council of Europe, 2001). The current trend in tertiary education dictates the development of specialized English language courses which equip students with life-long learning skills and abilities. The University, realizing the urgent need for language courses that would assist language learners not only in their academic but also in their professional lives, supported the development of new specialized language courses.

This paper will describe the four stages of a curriculum development project conducted at the University. To satisfy the academic and professional needs of the students, the Language Centre of the University undertook the challenge of creating new English for Specific Academic Purposes (ESAP) courses following the needs expressed by the departments of Architecture and Biological Sciences for new courses which would help their students develop and improve their language skills. This study emphasizes the necessity for ESAP courses and gives an overview of ESAP approaches and the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR,). It discusses the development phases of the project (needs analysis, syllabus design, implementation and evaluation) in relation to the following language learning approaches: Communicative Language Teaching (CLT), Task-Based Learning (TBL), and Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL).  The authors conclude with the implications resulting from the implementation and evaluation of the courses in the development of ESAP courses in tertiary education.

The curriculum development project, which began in September 2008, consisted of four phases: (1) Needs analysis (2) Syllabus design (course development) (3) Implementation (4) Evaluation. In this paper the development of two courses namely English for Architecture and English for Biology will be described.

Data were collected through questionnaires, semi-structured interviews, and instructors’ journals. During the needs analysis phase, the students and academic staff of the two departments as well as English language instructors of the Language Centre were invited to complete questionnaires to provide insight into identifying students’ academic and professional language needs. In addition to the questionnaires, semi-structured interviews were conducted with the faculty of each department. The English language instructors provided feedback on the language competence level of the students in the specific departments. Data analysis revealed the various needs expressed by each department and student expectations from their language courses. The development phase required setting the aims, objectives and the learning outcomes for the courses, selecting and developing materials, and finally designing the syllabi. The implementation phase involved the pilot testing of the courses. Finally, in the evaluation phase synchronous and asynchronous evaluation of the developed courses was carried out through students’ questionnaires and instructors’ journals.

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