Thursday, July 05, 2012

Thoughts on Thematic teaching in English for Academic Purposes

Language Through Content

At a macro-design level, one way to organize an English for Academic Purposes (EAP) curriculum is through thematic language through content organization. In this curriculum design structure, the conditions for language acquisition are created in the context of complex meaningful content from various disciplines across the undergraduate curriculum. This promotes the teaching of language and content together to provide a framework for language, concepts, and learning strategies. Thus, an EAP course can use the content of the various disciplines at a research intensive university to improve students’ general knowledge while at the same time fostering an increase in English language proficiency. This approach makes content a vehicle for reading, writing, listening and speaking skills while at the same time integrating grammar and vocabulary development. From this, a powerful framework for learning is created to contextualize the academic objectives of the EAP courses.

The Spiked English Language Proficiency Model

As students work through a thematic unit of inquiry, their English language proficiency in relation to the content studied spikes so that they become competent users of English within the thematic area under study. While a student’s general English language proficiency might be that of a high intermediate student, within a completed thematic unit of inquiry, the same student may function as an advanced user of English. As students work through the various thematic units of inquiry, spiked thematic proficiency multiples through a variety of academic disciplines creating an ever expanding linguistic framework upon which to map new knowledge and language (see Figure 1).

Figure 1
The Spiked English Language Proficiency Model