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ENGLISH FOR SPECIFIC PURPOSES ON THE WORLD WIDE WEB
Department of Applied Linguistics,
MariaCurie-SklodowskaUniversity, Lublin, Poland
1. Introduction - foreign language teaching in tertiary education in Poland
Teaching English for Specific Purposes is widespread in many countries of the world, also in Poland, however, with teachers facing many obstacles and trying to come up with creative solutions to the problems of teachers and students. Nowadays, in the era of Information Technology present in every sphere of life, teachers of ESP more and more frequently use computers and the Internet to facilitate teaching and enhance the learning experience provided to students. The aim of this article is to describe the situation of ESP teachers in Poland, prove the urgent need for new ways of delivering instruction and to show the solutions to the problems in the form of a Web-based coursebook supplement, which is a series of classroom lessons or self-study activities using the Web resources to learn English.
In introduction, it seems necessary to evoke the foreign language teaching context at Polish universities by highlighting its main characteristics. The current situation of learning a foreign language at a tertiary level is the continuation of language instruction from the secondary school, students leaving school around the intermediate level and starting the tertiary English at this level. Due to the strong student pressure to study English, it is the case that most students learn the language, even if their starting language level is lower than intermediate, with the extreme cases starting as absolute beginners. This has a detrimental effect on the quality of language instruction by creating mixed-ability groups. When starting classes with first year students, ESP teachers administer placement tests to diagnose students' abilities and distribute them among language groups, but the priority is the main subject organization, which may result in a situation when all students on a given year have to attend a single language group. Currently the average amount of language instruction is 120 hours, distributed among four semesters of studies, however, with plans to decrease it. Language groups differ in size from 10 to almost 30 students, with mixed ability groups when it was not possible to organize a few language level groups.
When comparing secondary and tertiary language education, one can see much smaller language exposure (around 450 hrs vs. 120 hrs), change of student attitude (where English is not seen as one of the major subjects to be obligatorily taken at school-leaving exams, but rather an add-on to main faculty subjects), language level (with groups being more heterogeneous), change in the role of the teacher (the teacher becoming more of organizer, facilitator, materials writer, while less of a resource and a teaching aid), availability of materials (where instead of a variety of multi-level coursebooks with accompanying materials one has little choice as for the textbook, being forced into the role of materials writer).
2. Language needs and expectations of language students
When devising any language learning course, it is absolutely essential to start with creating a learner profile and investigating the target learner's expectations about the different aspects of the course (Nunan, 1995; Harmer, 1991). Learner needs, apart from logistical considerations, administrative considerations, psychosocial considerations, are what a course designer has to take into account, according to Richards and Rodgers (1986). As Nunan (1987) suggests, the modern classrooms should experience a shift from a teacher-centred curriculum, decided upon in advance by the teacher, to a learner-centred one, where the purpose for learning, individual differences, learning styles preferences, interests determine to a large extent the content and methodology of the course.
For the purposes of the current research, a survey was carried out in a group of first-year archaeology students, intending to investigate their attitude towards learning the foreign language and the expectations as for the course. As it turned out, language needs of students are multifold, and sometimes hard to reconcile. On the one hand, learners expect the development of general language proficiency, including gaining mastery in reading, listening, writing and speaking, enlarging vocabulary, perfecting the use of the grammatical system and enhancing communicative abilities. Another aspect of language instruction is learning English for a given purpose, with the specific aims of getting to know specialized vocabulary, enlarging one's knowledge of the subject matter by reading in English and being able to use the language in the prospective job by becoming prepared for some common situations such as going for an interview or conducting professional correspondence. Finally, students would like to become proficient enough to do research for their B.A./B.Sc. or M.A./M.Sc. theses, so they must be able to find and evaluate English language sources, read and understand articles and books, translate, analyse, synthethise. As can be seen, with such a wide array of needs and relatively little amount of language instruction, the teacher must be careful with choosing contents, materials, methods, mode of work, to motivate students to work on their own and showing them effective ways of looking for information.
3. ESP materials on the Polish market an analysis.
At this point, it is necessary to present the results of a thorough analysis of ESP materials accessible on the Polish market. As shown in the findings of some research into teacher attitude to the coursebook (Krajka, 2002), for many teachers the coursebook equals the language teaching method, and when selecting materials they might not even realize that they adopt a certain set of beliefs about the learning objectives, techniques, procedures, the teacher's role and the learner's role. In order to raise the consciousness of teachers, many researchers suggest a more thorough coursebook evaluation (Harmer, 1991; Cunningsworth, 1984; Sheldon, 1988; Williams, 1983). The problem of coursebook evaluation and, in consequence, its adaptation or supplementing becomes especially up-to-date in the case of ESP materials, where, as can be seen in the analysis below, the accessibility of materials differs according to the discipline studied.
There are numerous coursebooks that can be used by teachers of English for business, economics, marketing and related disciplines. Similarly to general English coursebooks on the secondary level, they are developed in many language levels, with a multitude of accompanying materials and sufficient teacher guidance in teacher's books, teacher resource books, tests, video cassettes and coursebook-related software (Market Leader, Powerhouse, First/New Insights into Business from Longman Pearson Education, In Company, Business to Go by Macmillan, English for Business Communication, English for International Banking and Finance from Cambridge University Press or International Express by Oxford University Press).
The teachers of English for science have fewer materials at their disposal, with only some basic titles on one level, providing reading development and ESP vocabulary, however, without developing all the skills equally and with much less focus on grammar (Oxford English for Information Technology, Basic English for Computing, Oxford English for Electronics from Oxford University Press, Infotech published by Cambridge University Press, English for Science from Longman Pearson Education).
A similar situation is with tourism/hotel/catering, where individual titles might not be the sufficient source of input for classes of different language needs and especially on lower language levels, and such coursebooks as Check In, May I Help You, Ready to Order (Longman Pearson Education), Highly Recommended, High Season (OxfordUniversity Press), Test Your Professional English series: hotel and catering (Penguin Longman), English for Tourism, English for International Tourism (Longman Pearson Education), Going International, First Class, At Your Service (Oxford University Press) are not likely to form a satisfactory source of teaching materials for Polish ESP teachers.
When teaching English in faculties related to culture, such as history, culture studies, social studies and political studies, one could make profitable use of cultural readers of various kinds, such as The World of English, Britain Explored, An Illustrated History of Britain/the USA, Britain/America in Close-up, Life in Modern Britain/America (Longman Pearson Education). Though usually containing texts, reading comprehension questions, vocabulary exercises and questions for discussion, they could hardly be used as core materials for the development of language from pre-intermediate level upwards.
In comparison with the faculties given above, coursebooks in other areas are either accessible as single titles (law with Test Your Professional English series from Penguin Longman or medicine with Test Your Professional English series from Penguin Longman and English in Medicine published by Cambridge University Press), while there are a number of faculties where there are no coursebooks or other language materials on the market, nor are there any plans for that. European studies, biotechnology, philosophy, library science are just a few examples of faculties where coursebooks are not available, and teachers must look for some other ways of finding materials and running lessons.
Due to the inadequacy or non-existence of ELT materials for some specific purposes, university teachers can adopt a variety of solutions, with the following ones most frequently implemented by ESP teachers in Poland:
The focus of the present paper is to discuss the last two solutions, where the teacher uses the Web-based component alongside the general English coursebook, as lessons using the Internet as a basis for conducting lessons or self-study activities. This is so due to enormous amount and wide accessibility of varied material and flexibility of mode of work.
4. Supplementing a coursebook with Internet-based activities
According to McDonough and Shaw (1993), the basic principles of adapting materials are the following:
All these, according to McDonough and Shaw, may be accomplished using the following techniques:
Apart from these techniques, it is possible to adapt the coursebook in some more ways:
5. Creating Web-based coursebook supplements
In the light of what has been said above about the language needs and expectations of ESP students in Poland, it seems justified to combine the two elements: general English teaching to provide sound grammatical and lexical base, as well as to develop the skills, and a Web-based coursebook supplement, with Internet lessons, self-study projects and other activities, giving the ESP input. The idea of making Web-based coursebook supplements (Krajka, 2001a; Krajka, 2002) is justified by the necessity of finding alternative ways of providing language input and materials for ESP instruction due to the inaccessibility of published commercial ELT materials for many faculties.
Implementing the idea of using a Web-based coursebook supplement should increase the quality of ESP instruction for the following reasons:
At this moment, one should not be overenthusiastic about the use of the Internet in teaching ESP and regard Internet-based instruction as a panacea for all classroom problems. The teacher starting to implement the online component needs to overcome a number of common problems and difficulties:
The process of creating a Web-based coursebook supplement can be described as follows:
As can be seen, the steps of the process as given above demand the shift in the role of the teacher, from a language provider to a materials writer, from a teaching aid and a resource to an organizer and a facilitator.
When making an ESP Web supplement, the true interactive nature of the Internet needs to be exploited, by including such tools as:
When thinking about the activities, depending on whether it is possible to conduct the lessons in-class or not, the teacher could include both standard communicative language activities (dialogues, role plays, simulations, question-answer, reading and multiple choice), and Web-based ones, such as interpersonal exchanges (keypal exchanges with a similar ESP class, electronic appearances, ask a question); information collection and analysis (treasure hunts, telefieldtrips, focus discipline research); Web publishing and editing (collaborative writing, class webpublishing) and online problem-solving (WebQuests, simulations and games, online research modules). For more on these, see Luzon Marco, 2001a; Luzon Marco, 2001b; Brown, 1999.
The important element of a Web-based coursebook would be developing learner autonomy by placing some responsibility for learning on students, letting them become materials writers, making decisions on the content and contributing to the learning process (see Krajka, Grudzinska, 2002). One way of doing this would be to include the idea of authoring software that could be implemented both by the teacher and students. The former could use either authoring multimedia programs (Hot Potatoes, Wida Authoring Suite) or Web-based services (Puzzlemaker, http://www.puzzlemaker.com, Headline Makers, http://lang.swarthmore.edu/makers/index.htm) to create self-study Web-based reading and listening comprehension questions, self-study grammar quizzes, self-study ESP vocabulary quizzes and self-study subject area research questions (for a fuller discussion and a step-by-step tutorial of Web-based authoring tools, see Krajka, 2003). On the other hand, given the wide accessibility of such authoring tools and their user-friendliness, the teacher should involve students in the process by making them create quizzes of various types for the rest of the class, such as self-study ESP vocabulary quizzes, self-study subject area research questions and self-study reading comprehension tasks. Thanks to that solution, the teacher will be able to get a much larger learning impact by getting a wider range of exercises and tasks, while the students will learn how to make important decisions of isolating main language points, prioritizing, synthesizing, analyzing.
6. A Web-based coursebook for archaeology students a case study
6.1. The description of the coursebook
In order to demonstrate the practical application of the ideas outlined above, a case study will be presented. The teacher has a class of 24 students, with their level of English varying from pre-intermediate to intermediate+. The students study archaeology, and according to the curriculum of studies they have English for 2 hours a week, 30 weeks a year, for 2 years, giving a total of 120 hours over two years. The course does not end in a written exam, but in an oral questioning (zaliczenie). The classes are sometimes separated by more than a one-week break due to archaeology fieldtrips. As there is no specialized coursebook for English for archaeology, the teacher uses a general English coursebook, Wavelength Pre-Intermediate (Longman Pearson Education).
When making the Web-based coursebook supplement, the next stage (after coming up with a student profile and making a thorough language needs' analysis) was to examine the coursebook and isolate different threads of its syllabus. Wavelength follows a hybrid syllabus, combining a grammatical thread, a topical thread, a functional thread. Table 1 shows the grammatical material of the book divided into units.
Table 1. Wavelength Pre-Intermediate's grammatical thread.
Alongside the grammatical thread of the syllabus, the book also features a topical thread, where texts and recordings are grouped around certain themes:
Table 2. Wavelength's Pre-Intermediate topical thread.
The coursebook used also has functional elements, with requests, offers, answers (Unit 1); giving opinions, agreeing, disagreeing (Unit 2); showing interest (Unit 5); asking for information, giving directions (Unit 6); telephoning, asking for repetition (Unit 9); giving advice in Unit 11; making complaints (Unit 13) and miming, talking round words (Unit 15).
6.2. Wavelength's Web-based coursebook supplement
The final section of the present paper attempts to take the above considerations into account, and to propose a tentative outline of a Web-based supplement for the students of archaeology, whose aim it would be to provide ESP grammar and vocabulary input, make use of the appeal the Internet has for students, use the almost infinite amount of materials and fast access to them.
Since the coursebook has 6-page long units, each subdivided into 3-4 lessons of 45 minutes; after every four units there is a 1-page intensive reading and listening section and after every four units there is a 1-page grammar and vocabulary revision section, then the Web-based supplement will have two Web-based lessons made for each unit, with possible extensions for self-study; a Web-based project; self-study quizzes; an intensive Web reading section and a writing task, all every four units. In this way the amount of Web-based instruction and standard coursebook instruction will be balanced in the ratio of 1-4.
For the topical thread of the coursebook, the careful consideration has been carried out, and the topics that are as close as possible to the ones of the coursebook, but pertaining to the ESP area of study, have been found. Table 3 compares the original topics with their ESP extensions.
Table 3. The corresponding topics of the coursebook and the Web-based supplement.
A similar procedure was carried out using the functional thread, where the social English expressions and the situations they were presented and practiced in were related to the ESP discipline of archaeology students, with the following result:
Table 4. The functional thread related to the ESP discipline.
The other components of the Web-based coursebook supplement, namely the intensive reading sections, writing tasks and projects, added as an extension unit after every four units, were devised in accordance with the topics, structures and functions in the four units, so that they served as consolidation of the language material introduced in some situation relating to the students' future profession. The results can be seen in Table 5 below.
Table 5. The Web-based extension units.
To conclude this section, it must be said that the ideas presented are very much the work in progress. It is the author's sincere belief that it will be possible to develop similar Web-based coursebook supplements and evaluate the usefulness and the impact they make on language learning. What can be observed at the moment is that such collections of Internet lessons are fairly easy to produce due to a great variety of materials on the Net and inexpensive in terms of production, with the medium being a website or a CD-ROM, in comparison with any book edition. If a teacher makes a coursebook supplement with reference to a given class, then it is possible to address the needs of an individual class, and also to modify the already existing coursebook supplement to suit the interests or level of this class. It seems that because Web-based coursebook supplements enable the general language development, provide ESP vocabulary input, give students the practice in the ESP professional world, at the same time building their computer skills and exploiting the powerful motivation of the Internet, developing learner autonomy and giving students the influence on the course of learning within the frames set by the teacher, such teaching materials should be developed by teachers either for classroom instruction or for self-study.
7. Conclusion. ESP on the WWW perspectives for the future.
In conclusion, it could be said that it does not seem to be the question of whether or not to use the Internet and computers in learning English for Specific Purposes, because most teachers and students are convinced as to enormous benefits given by the use of modern technologies in the classroom. At the moment, a few scenarios for the future relationships between classroom teaching and Internet-based teaching can be envisaged:
The above, of course, place power in the hands of different players in the field. Any of these scenarios will eventually lead to a much better situation of ESP teachers, facilitate their work, equip them with materials of better quality and in bigger quantity.
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Dr Jaroslaw Krajka works at the Department of Applied Linguistics of Maria Curie-Sklodowska University, Lublin, Poland, where he has classes in methodology of teaching English and Computer-Assisted Language Learning, as well as teaches English at StefanBatoryPallottineSecondary School in Lublin, Poland. He has recently defended his Ph.D. entitled The Internet as a Coursebook in EFL. He is a teacher trainer for The British Council Poland and the Editor-in-Chief of the electronic journal Teaching English with Technology, published by IATEFL Poland Computer Special Interest Group (http://www.iatefl.org.pl/call/callnl.htm).
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