chapter  17
English for academic purposes
ByNigel Harwood and Bojana Petric´
Pages 16

English for Academic Purposes (EAP) ‘is usually defined as teaching English with the aim of assisting learners’ study or research in that language’, but is also a ‘theoretically grounded and research informed enterprise’ (Hyland 2006: 1). Ideas about the nature of language, learning, and teaching all impact on the theory and practice of EAP (Basturkmen 2006). Hence, the roles and responsibilities of the EAP practitioner are manifold: ‘needs assessor, specialized syllabus designer, authentic materials developer, and content knowledgeable instructor, capable of coping with a revolving door of content areas relevant to learners’ communities’ (Belcher 2006: 139). EAP instruction takes place with a range of learners, in a variety of contexts: (i) in higher

education settings in English-speaking countries; (ii) in settings where English has official status and is used as a medium of instruction; (iii) in settings where certain school/university subjects are wholly or partly taught in English (e.g. medicine); and (iv) in settings where all tertiary education is taught in the L1, but English is recognized as an important additional language for study, and where certain learning materials and texts can only be found in English (Dudley-Evans and St John 1998: 35). Although EAP is traditionally associated exclusively with tertiary education, this perception is being eroded, with a recent special issue of Journal of English for Academic Purposes devoted to EAP in secondary education (see Johns and Snow 2006). EAP should not be exclusively associated with the non-native speaker of English either: the increasingly diverse student population means that some native speakers will lack the necessary academic communication skills (Hyland 2006). EAP, together with English for Occupational Purposes (EOP), is a branch of English for

Specific Purposes (ESP). Depending on the type of academic subject matter, EAP can be further divided into more specific sub-types, e.g. English for Medicine or English for Engineering. However, as Flowerdew and Peacock (2001) argue, the distinction between EAP and EOP is not always straightforward as many aspects of EAP are aimed at preparing students for their future careers in their disciplines. For instance, an English for Engineering course will typically cover both skills necessary for academic study (EAP), such as reading engineering textbooks and writing assignments, but also skills for engineers, such as writing technical reports, which can be classified as EOP. Flowerdew and Peacock (2001: 12) suggest that EAP should be

subdivided into ‘EAP designed to help students with their studies and EAP directed towards professional preparation’. While both EAP and EOP are carried out at the university, their goals are different in orientation in that the former is purely academic while the latter has a vocational dimension.