What is it about?

Exploring English for Academic Purposes (EAP) teachers' cognitions and their actual pedagogical practices in EFL contexts is a fresh and under-researched area, especially in Middle Eastern countries such as Iran. Likewise, there is a pressing need to address the aforementioned issues in educational contexts where EAP courses are taught independently by two groups of teachers with different specializations; i.e., language instructors and content teachers. Accordingly, this study explored the similarities and differences between language instructors' and content teachers' cognitions, and practices in teaching reading, speaking, writing, and listening at Iranian medical sciences universities. A wide range of instruments including a questionnaire, observations, semi-structured interviews, and field notes were utilized. Sources included a representative sample of 128 language instructors and 190 content teachers. The results indicated inconsistencies between the two groups of teachers. The findings suggest that close cooperation between language instructors and content teachers is highly necessary in order to enhance the teachers’ choice of methodological options in EAP instruction. The findings also accentuate the urgent need for developing more systematic EAP teacher education programs.

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Why is it important?

The findings on the degree of emphasis by EAP teachers on teaching the four language skills, and reading comprehension in particular, revealed differences between language instructors and content teachers. While language instructors implemented routine practices of teaching reading, speaking, and listening, content teachers’ patterns of activities were mainly limited to bottom-up reading activities and word-by-word translation of academic texts. Also, unlike content teachers, language instructors practiced routine classroom activities which were based on eight out of the thirteen reading principles proposed by Grabe (2004, 2014). Emphasizing writing was found as a non-routine practice for both groups of EAP teachers.


The current study may promise implications for the EAP community. The disjunction between theory and practice in EAP education and the absence of collaboration between the language instructors and content teachers who teach EAP courses are echoed in the literature and is more conspicuous in contexts like Iran, where the curriculum is suffering from long-lasting incoherence and inconsistencies which are rooted in its underlying higher-level sociocultural and political context (Atai, 2002; Tavakoli & Tavakol, 2018). As the results of this study indicated, all EAP teachers who were interviewed, said they have no cooperation in teaching EAP courses. As Stewart and Perry (2005) hold, the nature of EAP courses necessitates close cooperation between language instructors and content teachers. Cargill and O'Connor (2006) also found that the participants in their study regarded collaborative teaching as very effective. Thus, the Iranian MHME and medical university officials may plan and implement in-service workshops to enhance EAP teachers' professional knowledge and encourage cooperation between language instructors and content teachers. As suggested by Cargill, O'Connor and Li (2012), the teachers may try any levels of collaborative teaching recommended originally by Dudley-Evans (2001): cooperation (language instructors seeking information about what is needed from content teachers); collaboration (language instructors and content teachers working together outside the classroom); or team-teaching (both attending the class). Obviously, collaboration between EAP teachers presupposes institutional and administrative support as well as funding. Moreover, teacher education programs for EAP teachers should be set up so that teachers may update their pedagogical knowledge and realize, among other things, the importance and the benefits of collaborative teaching and feel willing to collaborate (Cargill et al., 2012).

Dr Reza Taherkhani
Bu Ali Sina University

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This page is a summary of: Exploring the cognitions and practices of Iranian EAP teachers in teaching the four language skills, Journal of English for Academic Purposes, November 2018, Elsevier,
DOI: 10.1016/j.jeap.2018.09.007.
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